Reducing the amount of carbohydrates in your diet is one of the best ways to lose weight. It tends to reduce your appetite and cause “automatic” weight loss, without the need for calorie counting or portion control. This means that you can eat until fullness, feel satisfied and still lose weight.
Why Would You Want to do Low-Carb?
For the past few decades, the health authorities have recommended that we eat a calorie restricted, low-fat diet. The problem is that this diet doesn’t really work. Even when people manage to stick to it, they don’t see very good results. An alternative that has been available for a long time is the low-carb diet. This diet restricts your intake of carbohydrates, like sugars and starches (breads, pasta, etc.), and replaces them with protein and fat.
Studies show that low-carb diets reduce your appetite, help you eat fewer calories and lose weight fairly effortlessly, as long as you manage to keep the carbs down. In studies where low-carb and low-fat diets are compared, the researchers need to actively restrict calories in the low-fat groups to make the results comparable, but the low-carb groups still usually win.
Low-carb diets also have benefits that go way beyond just weight loss. They lower blood sugar, blood pressure and triglycerides. They raise HDL (the good) and improve the pattern of LDL (the bad) cholesterol. Low-carb diets cause more weight loss and improve health much more than the calorie restricted, low-fat diet still recommended by the mainstream. This is pretty much a scientific fact at this point.
How to Figure Out Your Need For Carbohydrates
There is no clear definition of exactly what constitutes a “low carb diet” and what is “low” for one person may not be “low” for the next. An individual’s optimal carb intake depends on age, gender, body composition, activity levels, personal preference, food culture and current metabolic health. People who are physically active and have more muscle mass can tolerate a lot more carbs than people who are sedentary. This particularly applies for those who do a lot of high intensity, anaerobic work such as lifting weights or sprinting.
Metabolic health is also a very important factor. When people get metabolic syndrome, become obese or get type II diabetes, the rules change. People who fall into this category can’t tolerate the same amount of carbs as those who are healthy. Some scientists even refer to these problems as “carbohydrate intolerance.”
Guidelines That Work 90% of The Time
If you simply remove the unhealthiest carb sources from your diet, wheat (including whole wheat) and added sugars, then you’ll be well on your way to improved health.
However, to enjoy the full metabolic benefits of low-carbohydrate diets, you also need to restrict other carb sources. Even though there is no scientific paper that explains exactly how to match carbohydrate intake to individual needs, I have personally found the following guidelines to be very effective:
100-150 Grams Per Day
This is more of a “moderate” carbohydrate intake. It is very appropriate for people who are lean, active and simply trying to stay healthy and maintain their weight. It is very possible to lose weight at this (and any) carb intake, but it may require you to count calories and/or control portions.
Carbs you can eat:
• All the vegetables you can imagine.
• Several pieces of fruit per day.
• Some amount (not a lot) of healthy starches like potatoes, sweet potatoes and healthier grains like rice and oats.
50-100 Grams Per Day
This range is great if you want to lose weight effortlessly while allowing for a bit of carbs in the diet. It is also a great maintenance range for people who are carb sensitive.
Carbs you can eat:
• Plenty of vegetables.
• Maybe 2-3 pieces of fruit per day.
• Minimal amounts of starchy carbohydrates.
20-50 Grams Per Day
This is where the metabolic benefits really start to kick in. This is the perfect range for people who need to lose weight fast, or are metabolically deranged and have obesity or diabetes. When eating less than 50 grams per day, your body will get into ketosis, supplying energy for the brain via so-called ketone bodies. This is likely to kill your appetite and cause you to lose weight automatically.
Carbs you can eat:
• Plenty of low-carb vegetables.
• Some berries, maybe with whipped cream (yum).
• Trace carbs from other foods like avocados,
nuts and seeds.
Be aware that a low-carb diet is NOT no-carb. There is room for plenty of low-carb vegetables.
I had never eaten as many veggies as when I first started on a low-carb diet.
It’s Important to experiment:
We are all unique and what works for one person may not for the next. It is important to experiment and figure out what works for you, in addition to having a discussion with your physician. If you have a medical condition, make sure to talk to your doctor before making any changes because this diet can drastically reduce your need for medication.
A former Department of Criminal Justice Services Close Protection Specialist, Firefighter and EMT, Amee Patrick has always used her strength, experience and compassion to help others. As a physical educator and performance coach for many contracted agencies, Patrick now trades in her steel toe boots for her favorite pair of kicks and inspires adults and kids to lead healthier lifestyles locally.