When it comes to losing weight, there is no shortage of diets to choose from. One of these options is definitely the low carb diet. What’s it about? Is it effective?
It is a type of “restrictive” diet, as it limits the intake of one of the main macronutrients. In this way, it is able to ensure a rapid weight loss.
This loss is supported by the fact that, in the absence of carbohydrates, the body uses fat as its main source of energy, which in turn stimulates weight loss. Let’s see together what is true and what is not of the low carbohydrate diet.
Physiological mechanisms of the low carbohydrate diet
The human body uses glucose as its main energy molecule. Glucose can be obtained in two ways: through the consumption of foods rich in carbohydrates or through endogenous mechanisms that obtain glucose from fatty acids and amino acids.
A low carbohydrate diet takes advantage of this second metabolic pathway which takes place in the liver. When glucose levels drop and glycogen stores are depleted, a process called gluconeogenesis begins.
Glucose is derived from the energy function from amino acids and fatty acids. First, plasma is used.However, when plasma levels drop, the burning of fat and muscle tissue begins to supply the body with the energy it needs.
However, except in conditions of malnutrition or long fasting, the body gives priority to the destruction of adipose tissue over that of muscle tissue.
Does the low carb diet work?
We often tend to compare a low-carb diet with a low-fat diet – weight loss is similar. However, there are people who prefer to limit carbohydrates in their diet, as it takes away the appetite.
The physiological mechanisms of hunger are closely related to the effectiveness of these diets. Appetite is regulated, in part, by a hormonal mechanism. Ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates hunger and depends on the levels of glucose circulating in the blood and therefore on insulin.
When you consume carbohydrates, especially if the quantities are high or if they are carbohydrates with a high glycemic index, there is a spike in blood sugar. This spike is followed by reactive hypoglycemia or postprandial hypoglycemia, which lowers blood sugar levels and stimulates appetite even after eating.
Therefore, low-fat diets are more likely to cause hunger. To alleviate this effect, fibers are usually used.
However, on the low-carb diet, the glucose curve remains stable. On the other hand, fat intake induces satiety in the stomach, because it delays gastric emptying. As a result, the feeling of hunger decreases.
It is not a suitable diet for everyone
The low carb diet is not suitable for everyone. For example, it’s not good for diabetics, who have to be especially careful about managing the blood glucose curve.
On the other hand, not everyone responds well to this type of diet. During the first few days without carbohydrates, even some abstinence may appear. This condition can lead to vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea, which cause many patients to abandon the diet.
However, once the adaptation process is complete, the results are generally quite positive. Also, as mentioned above, a low-carb diet allows the individual to have less appetite than a low-fat diet, even in low-calorie conditions.
The situation of those who play sports is worth seeing in detail. In the case of endurance athletes, there are usually not too many complications, as the glucose used during the exercises comes from the transformation of fatty acids. However, the situation changes in the case of strength training.
Fiber is also important
Probably the most important deficiency in this type of diet is the low fiber intake. Scientific studies link fiber intake to prevention of certain types of gastrointestinal cancer. Therefore, failure to take it can be harmful to health in the medium and long term.
In this type of situation it is convenient to increase the intake of vegetables other than fruit (as they contain sugars). Furthermore, supplements based on prebiotics can be of interest to ensure the biodiversity of the microbiota.
The low-carb diet can be effective for weight loss, thanks to its effects on satiety. However, it must be supervised by a specialist, since being a restrictive diet, it is susceptible to deficiencies.
An alternative would be to follow a low-carb diet, rather than limiting them completely. Ultimately, it all depends on the situation and goals of each person, as well as on the opinion of the nutritionist.