by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
While I’m not here to bash any form of diet, as there are uses for most of them, I want to explain the drawbacks of utilizing low-carb diets. As with anything, there are pros and cons, and I simply want to make you aware of them so you can make the best decision for your situation.
Back in the day, the Atkins Diet was HUGE. Nowadays, people left and right are swarming to the Ketogenic Diet as well as the Paleo Diet. While there have been tons of success stories from all the diets I just mentioned, they also come with some negative aspects that can cause many to fail. In fact, they could cause you to gain weight — the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.
In an effort to not completely brush low-carb diets off to the side and deem them a terrible idea, there are some benefits that can come along with them, such as:
- Enhance weight loss
- Decrease appetite
- Lower triglycerides
- Increase good cholesterol
- Improvement of blood pressure
- Reduction of blood sugar and insulin levels
Reading the above, I may have sold you on why you should be utilizing the various low-carb diets out there. However, they do come with a downside, as almost all diets do. Here’s what you need to know from the negative side of the spectrum.
1. Low-Carb Diets Are NOT Sustainable for MOST
Let’s be clear here. Low-carb diets are called that because they are low in carbohydrates. That makes sense, right? But do you really know what that means? Major restrictions. Have you ever gone low-carb before or tried one of these low-carb diets? If not, be prepared to find yourself cranky and in a bad mood for quite some time. For most, they never get past this stage and quit before they really even start.
Sure, you will have those who are mentally strong and push through it, but when people start feeling “off” or see a reduction in performance (either mentally or physically), they tend to stop. And let’s face it, at the end of the day, most people enjoy carbs. Donuts, pizza, pastries, bread, potatoes, cereal, the list goes on and on.
Now, I’m not saying it’s ok to eat those all of the time (I like the motto “everything in moderation”), but the fact is when following low-carb diets, you’re not going to really have room to add in all of those delicious foods as you’re going to want to fill your carbs up with vegetables.
2. Your Body Needs Energy
Our mind and body need fuel in order to function optimally and perform at a high level. The main source of energy that the body utilizes is carbohydrates. And if you exercise or play sports, it becomes even more crucial. While the body can pull energy from the fat and protein you consume, it’s not as efficient as consuming carbohydrates from your diet. Plus, you want the protein you consume to be used for muscle repair and recovery.
While not all carbohydrates are equal, you want to focus on consuming complex carbohydrates rather than simple carbohydrates. If you decide to go the route of following the guidelines of low-carb diets, they will recommend to you that the only form you consume would come from complex carbohydrates — like brown rice, whole grains, quinoa, and of course, green leafy vegetables.
3. Lowers Your Daily Fiber Intake
One aspect of nutrition that, unfortunately, not a lot of people focus on is fiber intake. Fiber is responsible for helping to keep your bowel movements normal, controlling blood sugar, allowing you to feel satiated longer, lowering cholesterol, and overall allowing you to maintain a healthy weight.
Some foods that contain a good amount of fiber include apples, avocados, strawberries, bananas, broccoli, beans, quinoa, oats, and almonds (to name a few).
A diet that is high in fiber helps to maintain good gut bacteria, which is needed for digestion and overall health. And on top of overall health, as mentioned above, fiber is incredibly important when it comes to weight maintenance as well as weight loss (fat loss). Those who tend to overeat can find fiber extremely helpful as it can help you say full much longer, which can prevent cravings throughout the day — leading to snacking on unhealthy food choices (even binge-eating).
The Truth Behind Diets
Here’s the honest truth when it comes to low-carb diets and all the other fad diets out there — they are hard to implement as a lifestyle. We are creatures of habit. We like what we like. And when we don’t get what we like, we crave it. This causes individuals to cheat on their diet and can cause them to never get back on track. It can become a downward spiral.
No matter what diet you choose in order to lose weight, the bottom line is that they all have one thing in common — they put you in a caloric deficit. THAT is what you should be focusing on. Don’t focus on eliminating entire macronutrients. Instead, focus on hitting your numbers that allow you to put your calories for the day below your maintenance. It’s literally as simple and as difficult as that. Essentially, it’s a numbers game. Eat more than your maintenance, and you gain weight. Eat less, and you lose weight.
I recommend using something like MyFitnessPal to track your food. It is a free app that allows you to download it to your phone and track everything you eat during the day to make sure you are hitting your calories and macros. I strongly hate the word “eliminate.” And with all of the fad diets out there, just like low-carb diets, you are essentially eliminating carbohydrates or lowering them to a point where you don’t get the benefits from having them in your diet and using them to your advantage.
Low-carb diets can help you lose weight quickly. But in the long run, the success rate decreases as a normal lifestyle is reintroduced. You simply can’t (or at least it’s challenging) follow such diets your entire life. You need to find a happy medium where you understand what your body needs and from what sources.