Why People Choose to Go Low-Carb for Weight Loss

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Why People Choose to Go Low-Carb for Weight Loss

Now more than ever, cutting carbs is the first thing many people do when embarking on a weight-loss plan. But does this strategy work? And, does it matter what kind of carbs you take in?

3 CLAIMS FOR WHY LOW-CARB WORKS (AND, ARE THEY TRUE?)

There is no common consensus as to why a low-carb eating plan can help with weight loss. Here is a quick-and-dirty summary for why some claim that low-carb eating can help you shed pounds:

1. Carbohydrates trigger insulin to enhance your body’s fat-storing ability.

During digestion, carbohydrates are absorbed into the bloodstream as glucose (aka blood sugar). In response, your pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that opens the door to your body’s cells, allowing glucose to get inside. This is important because your body tissues and organs (especially your brain!) use glucose for fuel. Insulin is stimulated by the food we eat in varying degrees, and carbohydrates stimulate insulin more than any other macronutrient. Protein stimulates insulin to a lesser extent, but fat doesn’t stimulate insulin at all. 

What does this mean for weight loss? The release of insulin after a high-carb meal signals a shutdown of fat burning while the body uses the glucose from the carbohydrates for energy. This mechanism is what fuels the low-carb debate. Except there’s one problem. The notion that stimulating less insulin so you can burn fat doesn’t pan out in the research. The problem with this claim is that you’re always burning fat at rest, and, depending on your intensity, during exercise, too. Insulin’s effect on fat burning only occurs after a meal. A number of factors more directly affect your body-fat composition than insulin. This includes energy balance (how many calories you eat versus how much exercise you get), strength training, hormonal factors and genetics.

2. Low-carbohydrate foods help control cravings.

This claim definitely has some meat to it. It’s something I say to my clients all the time: The more sugar you eat, the more sugar you want. Cutting back on sugary sweets and refined carbohydrates can help decrease your cravings for them over time. But, an even more effective (and easier!) strategy is to eat more protein. Studies show that protein helps you feel full for longer periods of time, which can reduce food intake overall and even reduce cravings. In fact, one study showed that eating a high-protein breakfast (40% protein) caused a decrease in food cravings and late-night snacking. This appetite-controlling effect is seen without purposely limiting calories, allowing you to feel full on less food.

3. It takes more energy (aka calories) to digest protein.

This claim is also true. Similar to its satiating effects, protein also increases your energy expenditure. It does this by something called the thermic effect of food. All foods require energy to digest, and protein uses up the most. It takes about 20–35% of the calories in protein-rich foods just to digest it. Depending on your protein intake, this can amount to a significant calorie savings each day. The potential danger of eating too much protein is that it can be taxing on your kidneys.

So what’s really behind the weight loss seen on a low-carb diet? It’s likely a combination of factors, including the ones mentioned above. Additionally, when someone undergoes a lower-carb eating plan they may choose more quality carbohydrates (e.g., fruit, veggies, whole-grains) in lieu of refined carbohydrates (e.g., white bread, sweets, pasta).

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EATING LOW-CARB

If your weight struggle centers around cravings for too many sugary snacks and other refined carbohydrates, a low-carb, high-protein diet may be effective for you. Increasing protein while limiting refined carbohydrates and sweets can help increase satiety and thwart cravings. If you do choose to follow a lower-carb eating plan for weight loss, here are three things to consider:

1. Focus on food quality.

Before getting started, take a good look at your overall diet quality and find areas where you can make an upgrade. Switch to nutritious protein sources like lean cuts of meats and poultry; fish and seafood; low-fat dairy and eggs. Seek out rich sources of omega-3 fats like salmon, sardines, flaxseed and walnuts. Enjoy plant-based fats like avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil. Limit your intake of fried and highly processed foods. Increase your vegetable intake, and make sure to get some leafy greens every day. And don’t forget about fermented foods! One or two servings per day of low-sugar yogurt, tempeh, sauerkraut or kimchi can help balance your gut bacteria.

2. Watch your protein sizes.

For improved portion control, try practicing the plate method. Strive to make half your plate leafy greens and vegetables. Then balance the remaining half with lean protein, healthy fats and high-fiber carbohydrates like beans, quinoa or berries.

3. Choose higher-quality carbohydrates.

It’s not necessary to completely avoid carbohydrates while on a lower-carb diet. Start by reducing or eliminating highly refined carbohydrates (e.g., white flour, white bread, snack foods) and sugar (e.g., soda, candy, sugary cereals). Then, begin increasing high-fiber foods like leafy greens, vegetables, low-sugar fruits, whole grains and beans. Getting enough fiber is super-important for weight loss while on a low-carb diet. It’s not only essential for optimal digestive tract health (yup, it keeps you “regular”), but it also helps slow the release of carbohydrates into your bloodstream. This effect helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and keep your appetite (and those sugar cravings!) under control.

Related

  • Sarah Nicole Henderson

    I appreciate the effort of this post, but as a MFP user who has successfully used the low-carb approach, it is a bit misguided in some areas. First of all, no one I know who is doing low carb claims that it burns more calories. That’s completely illogical. While you can burn calories eating protein, how much of those calories are already accounted for in the BMR?

    Also, the claim about insulin spiking is important, but not for reasons of weight loss. People who are diabetic or pre-diabetic with insulin resistance benefit highly from eating low carb because blood sugar levels are more or less constant. There are also much better ways to get fiber from the diet on a low carb plan than whole grains (how are grains low carb?). Vegetables are actually an important part of eating low carb. Good luck trying to control your blood sugar with grains.

    • Christina

      It’s really not illogical. It all has to do with physiology and the effort it takes for your body to break down the food you eat into energy it can use or store.

      • Sarah Nicole Henderson

        Which should be accounted for in the BMR. If not, I would like to see a source refuting that.

  • I’ve been on the Always Hungry? diet for a few weeks, and while I’m not losing weight quickly (about 1.5 pounds a week), I’m not hungry and craving junk food all the time either. I didn’t have any refined carbohydrates at all for two weeks – no bread, crackers, cereals, potatoes, baked goods or alcohol. I didn’t have carb cravings those first two weeks either and I’m quite a carboholic. After two weeks, I went onto “Phase 2” of the diet where I could have things like steel-cut oatmeal. Suddenly, I had irresistable cravings for junk food again. So I try one grain a day – quinoa and brown rice don’t make me have carb cravings. I’m eating more fruits and vegetables than ever, but am still not a big fan of them (except for sauteed carrots).

    • Bfierce

      Just an FYI, 1.5 to 2 pounds of weight loss per week is exactly right for losing weight safely and effectively keeping it off. (Congrats for finding your way!)

    • Marie Noybn

      ditch the grains altogether, increase your fat intake and keep the fruits to berries and low glycemic fruits in moderation and you will see your cravings vanish once more.

      • ManzyPanz

        what plan do you recommend/are using?

      • That’s basically what the Always Hungry? diet has you do. I don’t have carb cravings very much at all.

  • mmmpork

    “Low Carb Diet” can refer to a few different diets. Some, like Keto, are extremely low carb (<25 grams per day) whereas some variations of the Paleo diet target 150 grams per day.

    The goal of a super low carb diet (<50g per day) is to alter your metabolism so you use fat to build glucose (becoming ketogenic). This diet has traditionally been used for epileptics and some neurological disorders. It's about as controversial as the Vegan diet since it's not consistent with any traditional human diet and involved cutting out major dietary sources. While Keto converts cite the Masai and Eskimo as real life examples of this type of diet, most modern members of these groups do not follow traditional low carb diets and the information we have about their past diets is anecdotal at best.

    There's simple logic behind the success of low carb diets, which is if you replace high calore carbohydrates with lower calorie meats and vegetables, you'll be in a calorie deficit which leads to weight loss. However it's important to note that one needs a calorie deficit in order to lose weight no matter what diet you're following. By cutting your carbs to 150-200 per day, you'll naturally cut your caloric intake significantly as well, so it's an easy strategy for creating a deficit.

    I followed a super low-carb Paleo diet (<75g p/day) and only lost weight when I introduced a calorie deficit through intermittent fasting. I personally went off of the diet because long term (3 years) it made me hypothyroid, insulin resistant (which I'm not normally), and caused IBS and nutrient malabsorption. Since coming off of Paleo and bringing grains back into my diet, my blood sugar response is normal, my IBS is gone, and my levels of B12, magnesium, etc are back to normal without supplementation.

    There is very little scientific information about the long term affects of super low carb diets. So, do what diet works for you, but make sure you're working with a doctor and monitoring your body for signs that the diet may be having negative impacts.

  • Chellyb

    I’m definitely a low carb fan. It curbs my cravings which helps me to eat for nourishment and not because it’s there.

  • Ronald Scott

    Except maybe you should talk about the science behind it, because it’s science driven. When you cut carbs to an extremely low amount (sub 25g for most people) your body switches to a state of dietary ketosis and burns fat primarily for fuel instead of glucose. Our brains prefer ketones (from burning fat) which is why nearly everyone on a ketogenic diet can tell you that their brain fog has lifted and they feel so much better even before losing weight. Oh, and fat keeps you full, not protein.

  • In all article written here clearly mentioned proper meaning of fat

  • Becky Moon

    My experience is that whole grains trigger cravings for more carbs and sugar. Again in my experience, on a scale of 1 to 10, sugar might be a 10 and refined grains a 9.5 and whole grains a 9 – maybe less than sugar but so slight as to be unnoticeable. I am beginning to think this applies to many people with the genetic pre-disposition for diabetes but maybe not for other folks. I have tested my blood sugar after whole grains and the result is very similar to refined grains.

    • lifeseyephoto is me

      Do you know any sources for learning about losing weight when you’re pre/diabetic? I’d like to know how it’s different against ppl who are not insulin resistant.

      W/a Smile, Tiana

      • DenverTeach

        You should read Dr. Jason Fung, an endocrinologist from Canada. He gives great advice and combines intermittent fasting with a high fat low carb diet. It is thoroughly researched. The problem with the above advice is that it may be true for people without metabolism issues. I focused on getting my fasting glucose readings down instead of weight-loss. The weight-loss was a bit product, went from a 38 waist to a 30. Lost 55 lb . Pre-diabetic need to avoid high protein diets as they spike insulin as well. My A1c went from 6.4 to 5.2. After being Pre-diabetic for 8 years, I am 8 months later no longer prediabetic. I had followed the typical advice above for years, but my A1c kept keeping up.

      • patstar5

        Read the book “wheat belly” by Dr. William Davis. He actually has a new book out called “10 day detox”, it’s basically is a 10 day meal plan that gets you started eating grain free, it limits carbs to 15g per 6 hour period.
        I lost 25 lbs on calorie restriction, I lost 50lbs doing no grains and low carb. Grains do increase appetite, especially wheat, this is why it’s in everything! It makes you eat more which means more profit for food manufactures.

      • Duke O’Dool

        Read “why we get fat” by Gary Taubes

      • Iammudita

        Eat mainly plant based foods that are not man altered. So eat as much vegetables you can think of and add a tiny amount of meat. I mean keep eating them until you feel so full you have no interest in eating anything else.

        Think how asians eat overseas (before they joined the western world) except for the rice because even a small amount of rice affected my insulin back then (now I can eat WHITE Basmati only without it affecting my insulin but that took 9 months of eating like a flexitarian)

        Not only did I fix everything wrong Pre-diabetes, Cholesterol, Extremely High Blood Pressure, Leaky Gut, Fatty Liver but I also have the body of athlete now (I’ve never had a body of an athlete not even as a teenager).

        Walk walk walk, get awesome music – download it and walk. Did i mention walking. It moves that stuck energy that’s creating the lack of sweetness in your life.

        Plant based baby, the whole way with only a little bit of meat

        If a fatso lard ass whale who wouldn’t even walk much can do it, anyone can.

        Also for those of you who suffer PMS (I did), plant based food fixes the crankies

        Eat chocolate every Saturday. Eat a lot of it once a week and then make sure the next meal is about 1 hour of eating it and make sure you get really full on vegetables and a little bit of meat.

        Supplements – I had a copper overload so I couldn’t take a multivitamin, I had to do it this way.

        How do you know you have a copper overload “you’re stressed, worried or sad”

        Krill Oil – You need to fix the Omega ratios. Eat Walnuts too.
        Magnesium – you need to move all the calcium from your blood into cells

        Vitamin D – to stop being cranky which makes you emotionally eat foods that spike your insulin (or else get outside and get some real sun)

        Zinc – if you’re always angry, sad or fearful (there is no need to buy another bottle once this bottle empties, take it at night as it can cause nausea)

        Liver Detox supplements to push out all the toxins making your body sick (after you finish the bottle, there is no need to buy it again).

        Drink heaps of water – it doesn’t have to be filtered or alkaline, just normal water is fine. It helps filter your kidneys which leaves the liver to do it’s job. Clear out the toxins causing the inflammatory response..

        Take a deep breath everytime something startles you

        Take 4 deep breaths every time you’re impatient.

    • Creative LC Fusion

      I agree, Becky Moon!

    • rickd785

      Yes same for me low carb breads and AK Maks lead to nothing but trouble for me.

  • Becky Moon

    What you say matches my understanding, but if you’re insulin resistant or not producing insulin, is your brain really getting the glucose it needs anyway? If not, then ketones might seem like a welcome relief to not being able to get the glucose that’s in the blood but not making it to the brain.. My worry with low carb, though, is that it’s hard to make up the calories without going high fat and high fat increases insulin resistance..

    • Marie Noybn

      high BODY fat increases insulin resistance, NOT high dietary fat!! In fact, fat slows the absorption of glucose, giving insulin more time to work. As a type 1 diabetic whos been on a low carb HIGH FAT diet for years and has seen my insulin needs drop DRAMATICALLY, and more quickly even than can be attributed by body fat loss, you can trust me on that.

      • Becky Moon

        I have seen studies that suggest that dietary fat specifically increases insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can be readily induced in animals in the lab with a high fat diet. Perhaps body fat is a big factor – maybe (much) bigger than dietary fat – but it doesn’t appear to be the only factor. Also, as a type 1, you may not predisposed to insulin resistance the same way as a person with the genetics for type 2 ( or pre type 2). I will dig up the info if you like, but it isn’t too hard to find it in a search. Since I lose pretty easily on high fat, I have considered using it to get myself to get to a normal weight, then transitioning to moderate fat to further prevent insulin resistance.. Still gathering info.

        • Duke O’Dool

          There is no reputable study showing a high fat diet causes insulin resistance. A diet high in grains and sugar WILL for sure cause insulin resistance.

  • A910

    I have tried to lose weight with weight watchers, slim fast, fasting, 21 day fix meal plan, almost every “cleanse” you’ll ever hear of, NOTHING has ever worked for me long term except low carb. The body was never meant to ingest starchy sugary carbs like breads pastas cakes etc.

    I keep my macros at 10% carbs 45% fat 45% protein and I’ve lost 16lbs since January 1st. I’m not starving, I’m not having cravings anymore, my GI system has regulated, I have fewer headaches, and I have a ton of energy. I get my carbs in with almonds/nuts, fruits and veggies, the healthy kinds of carbs. I stay at about 20-25 carbs per day. Once a month I have a cheat meal (not a whole day, just one meal on one night) and often times I can’t even finish a whole bowl of pasta anymore, whereas before going low carb I could easily demolish BOWLS of it in a sitting.

    Low carb/paleo eating brings us back to our hunter/gatherer roots, back before there was bread or grains and our bodies ran off of foods produced naturally by the environment we lived in. This is how the body was truly meant to be fueled!

    • Marie Noybn

      And you look Beautiful.

    • Amy W

      And WW is now extremely high protein, low carb, low sugar with their new SmartPoints program. Just found that out this week after re-joining. :/ Pretty rough. But — in the end, it’s a good thing!

  • Elliott Hankin

    Eating too many fermented foods is carcinogenic

    • MostlyLucid

      That is a highly debated statement that you just threw out there as fact.

  • MostlyLucid

    I increasingly find it hard to trust anybody who throws out the statement of “healthy whole grains” without at least a disclaimer. It is a hotly talked about subject as to the actual healthiness of whole grains.

    • Marie Noybn

      I know, right? No such thing as “healthy” grains, whole or not. Leave em for the birds. I dont even like for my cows and chickens to eat grains, i prefer the cows eat grass, hay in the winter, and the chickens eat bugs and whatever else they forage for themselves in my yard, with a few scratch grains at night to get them back in the coop. They are fat and sassy and lay GREAT eggs hehe.

  • Brandon Cohen

    You’re missing an incredibly important trend in America that discredits this statement you make, ” The problem with this claim is that you’re always burning fat at rest, and, depending on your intensity, during exercise, too. Insulin’s effect on fat burning only occurs after a meal. A number of factors more directly affect your body-fat composition than insulin. This includes energy balance (how many calories you eat versus how much exercise you get), strength training, hormonal factors and genetics.”

    A ‘meal’ is not a unit of measure. If you consume 2000 calories a day, what percent of that is considered a ‘meal’? How far apart must the consumption be for your body to decide whether or not you ate a ‘meal’ or ‘snack’? Your body doesn’t rationalize a ‘meal’ like your mind does; it understands percentages of nutrients as trends over time.

    In 2007-2008 people over the age of 20 consumed ~24% of daily calories and ~37% of daily total carbs, in snacks. ~40% of that sample consume 3+ snacks a day.

    That is more than 10% of an average American’s daily carbs coming from EACH snack they eat!

    I know my body doesn’t disregard that ‘snack’ because it is only 2:45pm and not 6:30pm.

    Your advice is not as sound as it could be. I understand you would like to make people feel better about eating carbs, but we need to be responsible to our bodies and lifestyles, more so then to our feelings of satisfaction.

    Unless someone is an active person, there isn’t much reason for them to consume carbs other than for quick energy when necessary (like in the morning).

    I’ve lost 45 lbs in 2 months simply by eating less and reducing my carb intake to under 60g a day. It makes you appreciate carbs more when you need to pick and choose which mean most to you 🙂

    Not everyone is me or needs to do this, but you really pointed out poor examples or reasons not to, AND reasons so to low carb. You didn’t even mention reduction of Diabetes risk. Most people with Diabetes who switch to a carb free diet improve their physical health significantly — Much more so then exercise.

    My advice for anyone out there wanting to change ONE thing in order to lose weight, live healthier, and live longer?

    Consume 10-30% less calories daily.
    Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.

    Thanks,

    • Marie Noybn

      and the best way to reduce calories without feeling like you are gonna starve is a low carb, high fat diet ;). It took me about six months to lose 75lbs on a low carb high fat diet, but more importantly ive kept it off for 7 years now, including having a baby and dealing with chronic illness (that ive had most of my life, M.E.) and diabetes, and MOST importantly, the LCHF diet brought my A1c from 12 to 5.5, and my fasting blood sugars from 400 to 80. And we mustn’t forget that its not high protein but high FAT which is the real key to this way of eating, and to being satisfied and able to keep on it. Im bedridden now, so im not really losing weight anymore, but ive at least kept it off, which, i suspect, would have been entirely impossible with any other way of eating. And my diabetes is finally under control. (Though of course I still have to take my insulin, but its much less than I took on a standard ADA diet, MUCH MUCH less.)

      • Diane Kennedy

        Any particular plan you followed? Atkins, or???

        • Georgia Lewellyn

          There is really no “plan” per se that encourages high fat, low carb (HFLC) eating, which is a right shame because it really is extremely effective for weight loss and diabetes control/prevention, as well as correcting cholesterol imbalances, reducing chances of Alzheimer’s and cancer, and a number of other beneficial effects related to insulin and insulin resistance (I’m an obesity and metabolism researcher). If you’re thinking, “but I’m not insulin resistant/pre-diabetic,” know that somewhere between 30 and 50% of Americans (and even more if you only consider overweight and obese Americans) are and 90% don’t know it, because standard lab values ONLY show glucose (which is normal to slightly elevated in insulin resistance) and not insulin (which is high, causing the problems you see). Anyways, to answer your original question, HFLC encourages fats (including animal fats and foods from plants naturally high in fat; think meat (not just “lean” meats but all meats; chicken thighs, sausage, and bacon, as long as its not burnt/blackened, are all good), full-fat cheese, whole milk, sour cream, eggs, olives and olive oils, avocados, nuts, etc. – just not vegetable oils) and discourages carbs (in order of worst to “less bad”: sugar, which should be almost entirely eliminated from your diet with the exception of the occasional treat; refined grains; and complex carbs/whole grains, which can make up up to about 20% of your total calorie intake before you should start being concerned by them). Basically the higher the glycemic index the less you should be eating it. The diet is neutral towards protein – a lot of sources of animal fats especially are high in protein, and these foods are encouraged, but it doesn’t specifically require that you eat more protein. 60% fat/20% protein/20% carbs is the general model. I personally do bacon and eggs for breakfast, salads with a nice fatty dressing and some cheese and/or avocado and/or olives for lunch (I don’t have a lot of money so this is a big factor in what I end up eating for lunch), and some chicken thighs and veggies for dinner. Normally I end up throwing in some brown rice or something at some point just in an effort to keep costs down. I’ll also do beans with plenty of bacon grease (from breakfast) or olive oil in place of meet for dinner. It can get expensive fast, but as long as you are conscious in your efforts to replace carbs with fats wherever possible, you’ll be better off.

          • Adam

            “Really no plan per-se”… you are describing the Paleo or Primal eating plan to a T, with few minor discrepancies. Also, the Wild diet is very similar to what you’ve described.

          • jlynn33

            There is now – the Always Hungry? program from the book of the same name by Dr. David Ludwig. Worth checking out.

          • Becky Moon

            I think of high fat as over 30% (that’s the level I remember being associated with insulin resistance). When I attempted hflc it was more like 60g or less carb 50% fat, and the rest protein. My current experiment is to alternate low carb days (but with fat under 30% and closer to 20%) and higher carb days (120g) for weight training and 2 “free” meals a week (which have tended to be fairly high carb). I am not monitoring blood sugar, but I have been slowly losing weight without heavy cravings and finding it much easier to stick to than the old hflc.

        • Nicholas Naughton

          Check out the wild diet. Atkins was seriously flawed and not actually well rounded. You can’t eat just bacon and lose weight, but you can definitely eat it and it’s delicious. Basically it’s easy in theory but takes work to practice. Eat whole foods, lots of veggies and fruit, and make sure your protein in grass fed if possible. High quality everything is best. For the weight loss gains it’s worth it. Absolutely no sugar or grains, and you’ll learn why. I’m just a practitioner but it’s changed my life and from the comments I’m reading on here everyone is basically doing the same type of diet.

          • Duke O’Dool

            You haven’t read the new Atkins diet, I take it. It has been updated. It adds vegetables and fruits. Pretty much the same as the wild diet.

        • Becky Moon

          Originally it was from a trainer who gave me a list of veggies and protein sources and a few fats with some rules ( total sugars, even natural of less than 20g daily, total carbs less than 100g daily although I found it hard to get even to 60g as i had difficulty getting down enough veggies to make it that high). It was called “Diet Rehab” and Was a 21 day program. For a somewhat hefty fee I got daily emails with a motivational video and “missions”, reported to him twice daily: morning was a picture of my feet on my scale and a meal plan for 3 meals and 2 snacks and in the evening a texted photo from My Fitness Pal with the macro breakdown along with my total sugar, what I did for exercise, and total calories (I set my own goal he really left that up to the client. I must say regardless of the exercise and food choices, it really helped me to have the daily accountability and encouragement. I think he is onto something with the daily texts.

          When the 21 days was over, I used info from Jenny Ruhl’s page and Dr B’s info but slacked off after a few months.. I went from 194 to 156 at my lowest.

        • Becky Moon

          Oops maybe you didn’t mean me, but oh well hope it’s helpful.

        • Marie Noybn

          well atkins influenced me as thats where I first learned about low carb and what foods contain what amounts of carbs, but really i just keep my total carbs down to around 20 grams a day plus or minus what i think of as “incidentals” like the half grams found in cheese or small amounts of cream etc, and eat the rest to hunger. The cool thing is im rarely hungry anymore. I dont eat ANY grains, very little to any starch, my carbs come from low glycemic fruits like berries and low starch veggies. The majority of my calories come from fat ::grin:: I dont stint on the heavy cream, the cheese, the coconut oil, the nuts, eat the skin on the chicken and the fat on the meat. If i must have crunchy i choose pork rinds, if i want the occasional sweet, i indulge myself with stevia sweetened chocolate creamcheese or very occasionally sugar alcohol sweetened candy, but I dont recommend that till you are well settled in as it can spike cravings.

      • Becky Moon

        An interesting study I read about found that protein invokes a very mild insulin response (in normal folks not necessarily diabetic), carbs obviously invoke a greater response, but the greates insulin spikes happened when protein and carb were combined. I think high protein can be ok so long as you are very limited on the carbs during the same meal ( or within a few hours either way).

  • rockand roll soldier

    Low carb works. And it’s healthy- meat and veggies!!

  • Marie Noybn

    the brain USES glucose first, because its easily available, that doesnt mean it RUNS best on glucose… Similar to our bodies on fast food… we may go to that first because its there and easy, but do we really function better on it? I dont think anyone would say yes. And clearly we dont have to be starving to use ketones, or all of us on very low carb diets would be dead by now, or at least be a lot skinnier LOL. The brain uses ketones when they are available and glucose is not. No matter how many calories the body is consuming or how well nourished it is. Nothing to do with starvation.

    • Becky Moon

      I think a diabetic might function better on ketones than glucose that they can’t use due to lack of insulin or insulin resistance, but it is not without problems and I have found it difficult to be completely compliant with. Oddly, I have found adding some fruit and very small portions of beans or more carb sense foods to low carb is working better for me than all the weight I gained back because I couldn’t maintain the will power for low carb. It’s still not high carb by any means… But I feel much better and don’t have the cravings I used to fight.

    • patstar5

      So if you would eat coconut oil even while not on a low carb diet would the ketones go to feed your brain?
      I think a ketogenic diet would be great for Alzheimer’s.

      • Jacalynn Foster

        actually, ketogenic diets are recommended for those prone to seizures. Your body must be in ketosis to produce ketones, so if you are consuming more than 25-30g of carbs per day, eating coconut oil is not going to do much for you.

        • patstar5

          Doesn’t your body go into ketosis while you are sleeping? That’s why alot of people say to do intermittent fasting, you can get the health benefits while not following a specific diet.
          How com low carb and high fat diet that are out of the ketogenic range (50-120g) still result in health benefits?
          Your body is going to get so much energy from carbs but what about the rest?

          • Jacalynn Foster

            Yes, your body will go into ketosis if deprived of carbohydrates for at least 8 hrs? whether sleeping or not.
            Agreed on intermittent fasting.
            I am talking about constantly being in ketosis – that is a ketogenic (low-carb) diet to me.
            If you were to eat coconut oil for breakfast for example, as soon as you ate a meal high in carbohydrates for lunch, your body would switch to that as a fuel source, because that is the most efficient source of energy present.
            Any diet that limits the amount of processed carbs and sugars are going to result in health benefits… It would be difficult to exceed 120g of carbs eating mainly fruits and vegetables every day.
            I don’t understand your last question.

          • patstar5

            Wouldn’t your body still be producing ketones while not in ketosis?
            The energy has to go somewhere, I have a hard time believing that eating coconut oil does nothing to your ketone levels.

          • Jacalynn Foster

            Ketones is an acid or a hormone that your body produces when it is burning body fat as its primary source of energy. Eating food high in fat does not cause your body to produce ketones if you are not limiting your carbohydrate intake in conjunction. The reason being is carbohydrates break down as fuel much quicker than stored fat. Your body will use the carbs first because it require less energy to do so and it is readily available.

  • Ian

    I have lost over 21 lbs. I’ve been following the “slow carb diet” ala Tim Ferriss “The Four Hour Body”

    I feel great! It works!

  • E. C. Chang

    Mostly, listen to your body. I am also borderline diabetic. I cut out refined sugar and starch altogether and only got my carbs from vegetables and a moderate intake of fruit. I lost 40 lbs fairly easily, and my numbers look a lot better.

    If you crave a lot of starchy or sugary foods, try cutting them from your diet for awhile and see how your numbers look. Do be sure you replace the carbs with an alternative energy source, particularly healthy plant-derived fats like what’s found in nuts and avocados. Cutting sugar and starch can be pretty rough initially (it’s kind of like going through withdrawl, from what I understand), but I at least felt a whole lot better afterwards.

    • Becky Moon

      I guess you mean listen to your body but don’t necessarily obey, lol.

      • E. C. Chang

        Heh! I suppose what I really meant was listen to your body’s responses to various classes of food, what makes you feel energized and what makes you feel heavy and sluggish. Don’t listen to the corner of your brain that tells you it wants a package of Oreos and 3 boxes of mac ‘n cheese for breakfast.

  • Dan

    My advice as a rd read up on true paleo and dr. Weston price who did his research without food industry backing it’s completely unbiased see what he has to say

  • caboose357

    Keto for life. No carbs, no more 90 extra lbs.

  • patstar5

    I was 250lbs the beginning of 2015. I started using myfitnesspal and just tracked calories. Through calorie restriction, I lost 25lbs but I was hungry and my appetite seemed to increase after eating “healthy” whole grain breakfast cereal.
    Well I started reading up and decided to go on a ketogenic diet. I started in July, in December I weighed 180! I’m also in college, while most students gain weight, I lost! Now I weigh around 175lbs and I’m still on keto.
    I have learned that “healthy whole grains” the government pushes causes increased appetite, weight gain, auto immune diseases, gut issues, and can lead to insulin resistance…. Modern wheat is the worst grain to consume.
    So I’ve decided to give them up for life. Our ancestors lived without them for a million years, humans have only recently been consuming them. I just wonder why the government pushes to consume “whole grains” when it contributes to diabetes and obesity…
    I’ve been thinking of upping my carb intake, I keep below 50g though I’ve heard 150g could technically be low carb… I was thinking of increasing it so I could incorporate sweet potatoes.
    I recently got my mom to go on low carb, she’s a type 2 diabetic. She’s been able to cut her metformin in half and has lost a few lbs. Hopefully she’ll be able to get off of all her medication within a few months.

    • Moo

      Discovery of farming grains is what keeps human alive. Maybe we should stop that, and just let people starve. Maybe stupid people will die off cuz they refuse to eat grains.

      • patstar5

        Well tons of people die due to obesity and diabetes. So many Americans suffer from auto immune diseases and gut issues as a result of grain consumption.
        I’ll rather not put poison in my body and give the pharmaceutical companies my money.

      • Buckeyemuss

        It’s very unfortunate that the grains farmed immediately following said discovery are a long, long way from what is farmed today. Wheat has been so genetically modified from it’s”early days”, it is completely unrecognizable today, but its effects are not.

      • Stephanie Blair Holbrook

        Moo, you obviously have not read much about pre-history. As an archaeologist, I can attest that human height dropped about 6 inches in populations that became dependent on grains. Plus, their skeletal remains showed much malnutrion. Growing grains was the worst thing that happened to human health.

    • Rasiel

      If you like sweet potatoes but still want to stay low carb, try Kabocha! It’s a squash/pumpkin, but it has a similar taste and texture. Not perfect, but a good substitute!

    • Stephanie Blair Holbrook

      Great job! I keep my carbs below 50 and eat a similar diet. I feel great.

      I think Danielle Omar might work for the food industry or drug companies because she promotes diets that are harmful to people’s health.

  • Landon

    I am not going to reference data because at the end of the day trends in this domain are largely bassed on pseudo science and are enormously subjective. I use to b 260 pounds and now I am 170 pounds and in the best shape of my life. I eat pasta n pizza like its my job 1 meal a day 5 days a week. The other two days I give my gut a break. I only eat 1 real meal a day. Other than that I lightly snack on very healthy mostly organic foods n drinks that have as much protein as possible. I go to the gym 5 days a week and do 90% cardio 10% lifting (ironically this makes me physically capable of lifting heavier weight more times than the misguided socialized macho men doing the opposite routine).. Stop following trends and listen to your body, we r all different and trying to find an objective solution is sad because it is taking up so much of your mind space better spent elsewhere. At the end of the day all of this is just suppose to b a means for u too feel better, b healthier, thinking more, acting more, and do and achieve other things. It’s Not suppose to take over your life in and of itself. If you can learn to b mindful in the present moment and self aware of the things that actually feel good then so much less thought to this entire realm is necessary.

  • Georgia Lewellyn

    As an obesity/metabolism researcher, I have to comment here that Ronald is correct in stating that the brain does prefer ketones, but will do fine on glucose. Ketosis is fine. Ketoacidosis (which is essentially impossible to attain unless you are Type I Diabetic) is an extreme form of ketosis and is extremely dangerous. The difference is the exhaustion of the blood’s buffering capacity, NOT the levels of ketones.

    • Becky Moon

      Would you please point me to some studies that support what you are saying? I am familiar with the difference between ketosis and ketoacidosis. I have seen some info on ketosis improving certain conditions and anecdotes about it not being harmful or less good than the brain using glucose, but I haven’t seen a study about normal brains running better in ketosis. Thanks in advance.

  • Duke O’Dool

    The brain does much better on ketones. You are misinformed.

    • Becky Moon

      Am I supposed to take your word for this or do you have some references for me? I understand that the brain can function on (mostly) ketones. It may be that it functions better than it does for a diabetic who can’t take in glucose due to resistance, but what sort of studies are out there to suggest that the brain runs better on ketones in general? I have seen a little about the brain running less well but not even much of that.

  • Sean Hurley

    Though I can agree that low-carb is not for everyone, it is a sustainable diet with many more options than others. The main trick is to eat the right carbs like veggies and go from super low (20-25/day)and gradually increase your carb intake as you lose weight (top out around 150-175/day) so that you are at a sustainable level that helps you maintain your goal weight. I have lost 110 lbs and gone down 4 pant sizes in 8 months 90% of my carbs come from veggies though I do have some bread or rice products now once or twice a week. I would not call low carb a “diet” but more of a lifestyle choice that is much more flexible than people think it is and it doesn’t mean you can never have your burger on a bun again or never have a slice of pizza again. Some low carb diets that encourage you eat like a cave man are slightly more restrictive but if just cutting the calories is not working I recommend checking out some of the low-carb plans out there.

  • Duke O’Dool

    Problems with this article: her advising to eat whole grains, and low fat. Horrible advice for someone that wants to be healthy. So tired of these “dietitians” advising the BS “whole grain” “low fat” mantra.

    Humans should NOT eat grain, and we should eat plenty of healthy fat. And this includes saturated fatty cuts of meat from grass fed organic beef.

  • Creative LC Fusion

    Interesting article. As a person with Type 2 diabetes, low carb works for me and many others with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Grains, beans (garbanzo beans shown in the picture), starches and starchy vegetables, such as peas, corn, potatoes including sweet potatoes (and carrots, also shown in the picture) are not low carb…and I know some will say, “But they have fiber and don’t raise your glucose level as much” and I say, why raise my glucose level and then worry about lowering it? My goal is not to ‘manage’ my diabetes, but to not have to use medication to lower my glucose levels, that I can control by diet.

  • Nicholas Naughton

    It’s all a bunch of mis information and strangely all of what we need to know is right in front of us. I’ve been studying and practicing a high far, 0 carb diet, no sugar at all, no grains at all, and I’m losing weight finally. It’s pounds literally falling off me. 11 pounds in two weeks. I have incredible energy, smile more, and I can fit into clothes I haven’t worn for 2 years or more. It’s called a wild diet and I wanted to say that it’s all about what you put in your body. GMO corn and wheat make it that we basically can’t eat grains at all anymore or you at least have to be careful about it. Eating a high fat diet makes sense and for the FIRST TIME in my own pursuit of health, I can eat and actually lose weight. I can’t eat certain things, like sugar and grains, but I can eat lots of other delicious things and if you can adjust to this type of diet after 3 weeks you won’t ever need to go back because you’ve never felt better. Plus, you’ll never count a calorie again because t actually doesn’t matter.

  • Mark

    I reduced my alcohol consumption to once per week, and dropped my carbohydrate intake to 60 grams per day + 3 days/wk at the gym, and I dropped 35 pounds in 5 months. Just sayin. You can have all of the intelligent, scientific debates you want about “does low-carb work” but ultimately the proof is in the results. If you want to lose a lot of weight and are not concerned about muscle retention, nothing will do it better or faster than a VLC diet.

    • Duke O’Dool

      Agree 100%

  • Duke O’Dool

    The author really needs to read “why we get fat” by Gary Taubes…..and “Keto Clarity” by Dr Eric Westman and Jimmy Moore. And then “The Primal Blueprint”

    • Dana Coltrinari Burke

      Keto Clarity is a GREAT resource, and lists many studies in its references. I highly recommend it, and the Livin La Vida Low Carb FB page/website.

  • Gail Wood

    I’m hypothyroid, and keto (low carb, high fat) is the only way I can lose weight from a thyroid crash and maintain a healthy weight. I just logged a 5 lb. weight loss this past week. 5 POUNDS IN ONE WEEK. It works for me – I can’t speak for anyone else. The one thing that I would avoid in this article is the “low-fat dairy.” Eat full fat dairy! I tend to eat less than 20g carbs per day, and I also practice intermittent fasting: eat dinner around 8 p.m. and then fast until noon or one the next day. My macros are 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbs, and I eat like a king – full fat in everything makes it delicious! Check out some keto websites and recipes if you’re interested!

  • Jamie Tyson

    Low fat is an awful recommendation. It shows a lack of understanding of how and why low carb work and how the body is fueled. Eating low carb without sufficient fat intake can be extremely damaging to the human machine! Please don’t spread such misinformation!

    • Rasiel

      Seriously, this! You can already see the damage done in the comments, people whining that no one has energy on low carb… but that’s because they haven’t broken that mindset that fat=bad! yet! Fat is actually good for you!

  • Casey Hewes

    Great article. Would you mind referencing the research behind this quote?

    “The notion that stimulating less insulin so you can burn fat doesn’t pan out in the research” Thank you again

  • Linda Meers

    I have to disagree with the author. I’ve started my low carb/high fat way of life back on June 1st. I was a size 18, constantly tired and borderline diabetic. By September, I had lost a total of 60 lbs, my energy has skyrocketed and I’m now in a size 4. I eat less than 20 g of carbs a day. My carbs come from green veggies- spinach, kale, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower. They are the only veggies I eat. Carrots, corn and the other veggies are HIGH in sugar. As is fruit and milk! I eat plenty of eggs, bacon, fatty meats like ribeyes, but I also have chicken everyday. I do not eat ANY processed foods.Like another commenter said, it’s going back to the hunter/gather days.
    I had my cholesterol checked and everything was in the normal range. No longer borderline diabetic (which was my main concern as my entire family is diabetic) and no more c-pap for my sleep apnea (which I no longer have!!) There is a ton of research on it. There’s also great support groups on FB, I personally belong to the low carb high fat group. It’s all about the macros and keeping it in check

  • Patrick Corley

    What you fail to put out there is this: with higher protein levels the body can convert the excess protein over to glucose….also your body can and will run just fine off oF a super low carb diet…it’s a proven fact that your body can adapt to run off ketones….

  • BuzzPreston

    There’s some good here, but enough bad to place this author in the MFP Whacko Bin. Low Fat? Come on, she need to catch up on her reading of serious authors like Gary Taubes, Robert Lustig, Stephen Sinatra, etc. My god, even Suzanne Sommers has a better grasp of sound nutrition principles that Danielle Omar.

    In May of 2012 I weighed 226 pounds. By January of 2013 I was 160. I did it with the following nutrition profile. 2000 calories, 25% protiein, 10% Carbohydrate and 65% fat. I did not exercise at all because of Doctors orders relating to a previous health issue that I was recovering from. Once I reached my goal weight, I was given the all clear for exercise and began walking and doing light HIRT. About 10 of the 66 pounds I lost were muscle, so replacing it was a primary goal. I have maintained that nutrition profile ever since, and today, I am 170 and still wearing my size 32 Levi’s. I now do 90 minutes of HIRT, and 60 minutes of HIIT Intervals a week. I’m 73 years old and in better health than ever before.

    Following the My Plate format is the USDA’s formula for enriching Big Food, Big Med, and Big Pharm. It is the same profile that Kansas Food Lots us to FATTEN livestock for market.

  • Edie hudson

    There is a difference between “healthiness” and “weight loss.” If you want to lose weight all you have to do is eat less than you burn. It doesn’t matter the source. A nutritionist lost 27lbs in 10 weeks ONLY eating processed sugary foods like cakes and cookies. Because he maintained a calorie deficit and only ate 1800 calories per day he lost weight. CARBS WONT KILL YOU PEOPLE. CALM DOWN. People should stop making weight loss seem like a complex thing.

  • Dana

    The real reason people lose weight on a low-carb diet is their body goes into ketosis (starvation mode) and begins to burn fat off versus carbs. Your metabolism will slow, mood will change, and you will begin to feel fatigued. You can’t trick your body long-term, I know no people who have sustainably been long term because each one of our cells runs on carbohydrates-our organs, our hearts, our brains. When you deprive your body of it, you will binge and binge- gaining back 3X the weight. Do not be fooled, your body doesn’t like to be tricked. Loose weight naturally by eating lots of fruit and vegetables, limit fats and protein. Look at the stats, it’s all there.

    • Rasiel

      If they feel fatigued, they are going TOO low carb. You can’t just cut out carbs and call it a day. You have to replace it with healthy energy sources from somewhere. The first time I did low carb, I couldn’t think straight and I felt weak all the time. I eat a lot more fats now. It keeps my energy levels up. I don’t have any mood problems. I’m sorry for your friends, maybe they didn’t find the right balance or it just wasn’t for them. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for everyone, when managed properly. The learning curve is high, but sustainable once you figure out what your body needs.

  • jlynn33

    This is a great summary of the work of Dr. David Ludwig – he describes a good program for health and weight loss (if you need it) in his book Always Hungry? published in January. He has a great FB community going if you want to check that out. He’s an endocrinologist at Harvard and has been part of a lot of the studies behind these claims.

  • LHorton

    Quinoa, good or bad? Very filling and easy to add to many dishes like soups, salads and a great side dish topped with spinach, garlic, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes, cooked or raw.

  • Mia R

    The low-carb/Atkins diet is NOT the way to go! I know none of you are going to believe just a random commenter, but I encourage you to do more research on the topic. A low-carb diet may help you lose pounds fast, but trust me, you guys want more. You cannot live a healthy lifestyle and maintain that weightloss on a low carb diet – the pounds will come right back. On a low-carb diet, you are killing your metabolism! Your whole body runs on glucose and all the cells need glucose to function. I went on a low-carb, high protein diet and went straight into an eating disorder. I saw results at first but then binge ate on junk food and the pounds came back. So i “dieted” again, lost a little weight, then binge ate. My metabolism spiraled and I was so unhappy. I recently went vegan and live a high-carb, low-fat, WHOLE FOOD diet and trust me, its the best. I eat potatoes and lots of carbs and my body thanks me. Sometimes it isn’t always about a number on a scale, but its about how you feel inside. Society has trained us to think lots of protein is the way to go and to eat low-carb, but it isn’t. Do your research! I don’t want to be one of those preachy trolls, but I have had a bad relationship with food and with my body. Its easier to trust a MFP article than it is to believe a random person, but if you get anything out of this, its that I encourage you to research more before screwing with your body, health, and mind!

    • Derasinal

      Just because you, admittedly, have a disordered relationship with food and thus had issues with binge eating when on a low carb diet doesn’t mean people without those issues will have any problems. Low carb works perfectly well for many, many people without causing binge eating or other disorders as you experienced. It also enables many, many diabetics to get off of their diabetic medications as well.

    • Rasiel

      I’m sorry to hear you picked up an eating disorder. I already have tendencies to overeat carbs, so I binge too. But that’s why I stay on low carb. It keeps me from binging, when I plan my meals to keep me full. Yeah, i still crave those things I like to have. But they’re bad for me. If I could live solely on cake, I’d totally do it… But it’s on me to put down the second piece on a holiday, not the lifestyle I’d been living up until it. I choose to maintain eating this way because 99.9% of the time I feel better on it. It’s always when I come off of it that I feel like crap, and that tells me the problem isn’t the diet (btw Diet can mean way of eating, not just ‘weightloss plan’), but the foods that make me feel horrible and gain weight.

  • Mark V. Flores

    Thank you for the update on the low carb eating lifestyle.

  • Becky Moon

    I have read his book and watched many of his books. It’s all very interesting. According to what he says, I should likely be on insulin, but my doctor refused to even give me metformin until I’d attempted weight loss (I did lose weight on low carb, so there’s no way she would give it to me now). Anyhow, I eventually couldn’t stick to it and gained a lot of the weight back – and more of it in my abdomen than I had before. I do believe what he says works if you can stick to it, but I couldn’t, and I suspect it has made me gain fat more easily than before. At this point, I am exploring criticisms/refinements to what Dr Bernstein has to say. I am curious to look into more about protein spikes. I may have glossed over that in my original reading.

  • Rasiel

    This article (and the first point it makes) completely skips the fact that it isn’t JUST about lowering insulin responses, but that if you stay in a certain range of lower carbs, your body is going to produce ketones. Those ketones are part of the body using fats for fuel and not depending on glucose. Please do more research before dismissing low carb. A lot of different diets have merits, but this is sloppy in the way it doesn’t point out everything behind what a low carb diet entails. For me personally, it’s not just to lose weight, but a lifestyle change. I recently decided I wanted to eat like I used to, just for a day, because my family had a party. My willpower is not so great, however, and in trying to ‘live it up’, I realized my body was having none of it. I had such a sugar crash from eating processed high carb foods again that I had heart palpitations and got really sleepy. My body doesn’t want all those carbs anymore! I feel better without them!

  • Rasiel

    I’d say both of you have a point, let’s not lose sight of the fact that a lot of us feel MUCH better on low carb. I agree, the brain fog goes away. I get brain fog when I eat too much rice/bread/pasta. It actually makes me pass out!

  • Stephanie Blair Holbrook

    I really think Danielle Omar needs to read up on Ancel Keys, and the diet-heart health hypothesis. There is a paper in the British Medical Journal (BMJ 2016;353:i1246) that highlights the bad science involved in demonizing saturated fat and its association with heart heath.

    A low carbohydrate diet is what the human body was designed to eat.