Many people can lose weight on low-carbohydrate diets; however, anecdotal evidence suggests that if you return to your previous style of eating after you’ve lost the weight, you are likely to gain the weight back. Most low-carbohydrate proponents suggest that low-carbohydrate eating is a lifestyle, and that in order to be able to sustain weight loss, you need to continue eating a restricted carbohydrate diet as a way of life.
Low-carbohydrate diets limit simple and complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrate foods restricted on low-carbohydrate diets include sugar, candy, baked goods, whole grains, fruits, starchy vegetables and potatoes. Instead of high-carbohydrate foods, low-carbohydrate dieters eat primarily non-starchy vegetables such as spinach and animal proteins such as beef and fish.
Conventional theories of weight loss suggest that if you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight. Many low-carbohydrate plans disagree with the calorie hypothesis. While it is possible to lose weight by burning more than you eat, low-carbohydrate proponents suggest that calories aren’t important if you eat the right foods.
According to Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories, low-carbohydrate diets bring about weight loss as the result of insulin control. When you eat carbohydrates, your blood glucose rises. Your pancreas releases insulin in order to control blood glucose. When insulin is present, your body cannot burn stored body fat. When you control insulin by limiting carbohydrates, your body burns stored fat for fuel. This state is called ketosis; low-carb proponents believe it is the primary reason for weight loss during the diet. If you don’t follow the diet carefully, then you are no longer in ketosis, and the more conventional rules of weight loss such as burning more calories than you eat apply.
You can lose weight as effectively on a low-carbohydrate diet as you can on a low-fat diet. A recent two-year study at Temple University showed that dieters on both low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets lost equal amounts of weight when combined with behavioral support. Similar studies have yielded similar findings that seem to indicate that low-carbohydrate diets are effective for weight loss.
Low-carbohydrate diet experts agree that once you’ve lost the weight, you will need to stay on a modified carbohydrate maintenance diet in order to control insulin so that you maintain your weight loss. Many diets suggest that maintenance is for life, and if you revert to high-carbohydrate eating, you will regain weight. In order to find your maintenance level of carbohydrate intake, Generally, diets recommend gradually increasing carbohydrates until you stop losing weight, and then maintaining that level of carbohydrate intake.
Critics suggest that low-carbohydrate diets may be unhealthy because they are low in fiber and high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can lead to increased risk of cancer, heart disease and intestinal disorders.
No matter what type of diet you use to lose weight, if you return to previous eating habits, then weight regain is very likely. The Diet Channel suggests that cycles of weight loss and regain trigger a starvation response that is part of the body’s adaptive process to deal with long-term starvation. This can result in weight loss becoming more difficult with each additional cycle of loss and regain. Always check with your doctor before going on a diet.
- Good Calories, Bad Calories; Gary Taubes
- Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution; Robert C. Atkins, M.D.
- Temple University: Temple Research Studies Long Term Effectiveness of Low-Carb versus Low-Fat Diets
- Enter the Zone; Barry Sears, Ph.D. and Bill Lawren
- The Diet Channel: Yo-Yo Dieting: Break the Yo-Yo Diet Cycle; Kathleen Goodwin, R.D.
- Nick M Do/Photodisc/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.