Low Carb Diets For Weight Loss

There are many ways we can lose weight; we just need to ensure we are consuming fewer calories than we burn. But obviously, you need more direction than that! You can choose a high carb diet, lower carb diet, or something in between. This blog will focus on how a low carb diet can help you lose weight, and why you might choose to follow one to reach your fat loss goals.

low carb for weight loss

"Low-carb" might mean different things to different people. 
One person's low carb might be higher than another, but in the ketogenic diet, for example, low carb is roughly 20-50 grams per day.
 
There are many reasons people follow low carb diets, and they are:

1. They don't like eating carbohydrates
2. They get tired from eating carbohydrates
3. They prefer the taste of fats and prioritise them
4. They think carbohydrates make them fat

Points 1-3 and perfectly fine reasons to follow a low carbohydrate diet. But number 4 is totally incorrect!

Number one is self-explanatory, if you don't like eating carbs, hey, don't let us stand in your way! If you don't like them, don't eat them.

low carb diets
Number two is perfectly viable. This isn't all just in your head.

In fact, it's in your pineal gland.

But let's back it up for a sec: every time we eat carbohydrates, we raise our plasma level of the amino acid tryptophan

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in animal and plant-based proteins.

And it's significant because it helps our body produce serotonin, which is the precursor to melatonin in our pineal glands.

And it's the melatonin created here that finishes off the job of making us sleepy.

This of course can be advantageous if you WANT to feel tired before bed. But some people don't want this during the day.

There are ways to counteract this, though. 

Research right here in Australia reveals that high glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates make us more tired. 

I’m sure you’ve felt that after a large slice of cake!

It's also important to note that consuming protein with carbohydrates is a better strategy for not feeling as tired.

This is because the consumption of protein brings along with it all the other amino acids too, which compete with tryptophan for uptake into the brain.

So, instead of it being a race of just tryptophan headed for the brain, it becomes a race between tryptophan and all the other amino acids from your protein (there are 20 amino acids altogether).
 
And that's a race a lot harder to win for tryptophan, and you don’t, therefore, get as tired. 

So you can have a high GI sweet at lunchtime if you're consuming fats and protein with it; it should reduce the magnitude of how tired you feel.  

So, that’s how carbs make you tired. If you want to avoid it, consume protein with them, and opt for low GI carbohydrates where you can!
low carb weight loss
Now to number three, some people prefer fats over carbohydrates for taste. And that's fine.

Some would rather indulge in butter, cheese, full cream milk, olive oil, and other sources. Whatever floats your boat.

But keep in mind that fats have 9 calories per gram, so you have to factor that into your total unique daily intake of macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs) for weight loss. 

This leads us to number four; carbs don't make you fat. I mean, they will if you eat them to therefore consume more calories than you burn, but that isn't the point.

The point is that carbohydrates, in the absence of a calorie surplus, don't make you fat.
 
So, if you can eat 1900 calories before you gain weight, then eating 1800 calories from carbohydrates won't make you gain weight. Now of course you wouldn't do that, but I mention it to make a point.

This is referred to as the "carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis of obesity", and has been disproven by scientists many times. 

One example is in this review where 32 studies were examined, and the conclusion was that low or high carbohydrates diets made no difference in weight loss. 

The science is clear, whether you opt for low carb or high carb, the fat loss results are the same.

This is good news if you want to follow a low carb diet: you won't be at a disadvantage.

To conclude, you can opt for a low carbohydrate diet if:

- You don't like eating carbohydrates
- You get tired from eating carbohydrates
- You prefer the taste of fats and prioritise them
 
But don't follow one if you think carbohydrates inherently make you fat, because they won't! 

A low carb diet is a perfectly viable option for weight loss; so if you find that easiest to follow then go right ahead!

The best diet for weight loss is the one you can stick to long term. 

 

References

MADRAS, B., COHEN, E., FERNSTROM, J. et al. Dietary Carbohydrate Increases Brain Tryptophan and Decreases Free Plasma Tryptophan. Nature 244, 34–35 (1973). https://doi.org/10.1038/244034a0

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St-Onge MP, Mikic A, Pietrolungo CE. Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality. Adv Nutr. 2016;7(5):938-949. Published 2016 Sep 15. doi:10.3945/an.116.012336

Xie Z, Chen F, Li WA, Geng X, Li C, Meng X, Feng Y, Liu W, Yu F. A review of sleep disorders and melatonin. Neurol Res. 2017 Jun;39(6):559-565. doi: 10.1080/01616412.2017.1315864. Epub 2017 May 1. PMID: 28460563.

Herrera, C.P. (2010). The glycemic index (GI) and sleep: Efficacy of a high GI mixed macronutrient meal to improve sleep quality.

Fernstrom JD, Wurtman RJ. Brain serotonin content: physiological regulation by plasma neutral amino acids. Science. 1972 Oct 27;178(4059):414-6. doi: 10.1126/science.178.4059.414. PMID: 5077329.

Osilla EV, Safadi AO, Sharma S. Calories. [Updated 2021 Sep15]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-.

Hall KD, Guo J. Obesity Energetics: Body Weight Regulation and the Effects of Diet Composition. Gastroenterology. 2017 May;152(7):1718-1727.e3. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.01.052. Epub 2017 Feb 11. PMID: 28193517; PMCID: PMC5568065.

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