Restricting your carb (i.e., sugar) intake is not magical in affecting weight loss. What really matters overall is your caloric intake relative to your activity level. In other words, burning more calories than you eat will cause weight loss. If you consume more calories than you burn as energy you will gain bodyweight. If you consume less calories than you burn as energy you will lose bodyweight.
Why all the attention to low-carb dieting? The truth is that there is no simple solution to losing weight (hence the existence of the multi-billion dollar diet industry). You should not think in absolute terms by categorizing fats or carbs or proteins as being the enemy in terms of losing bodyweight. But having said this, at least 130g of carbs are needed daily in order to meet the basic energy needs of your body to function. Remember, your brain is fueled entirely by glucose. If your carb intake is significantly reduced, your ability to think, remember and concentrate will be compromised. In this case, your body will resort to converting amino acids and glycerol into glucose to meet your brain's demand for sugar to function. Plus, drastically cutting down carb intake may:
- reduce thyroid output
- increase cortisol output
- decrease testosterone
- impair mood
- cause muscle catabolism
- suppress immune function
- decrease metabolism
In order to eat a low-carb diet, you must eat more protein and fat to compensate for the calorie differential. Both carbs and protein consist of four calories per gram but protein is much more satiating (appetite-suppressing) than carbs. Thus, eating more protein may lessen your overall caloric intake and therefore allow you to lose bodyweight. Protein requires more energy than carbs for digestion to occur. Thus, you actually burn more calories (without exercising) by simply eating more protein than you do eating carbs. But protein is also important as a macronutrient that is needed by your body to spare your muscles from being catabolized for energy. In addition, protein also helps to maintain your resting metabolic rate which may enhance fat burning. Not eating adequate carbs does not endanger the survival of your body because your liver can readily covert lactate and glycerol from fats as well as amino acids from protein into a carbohydrate source (i.e., glucose) of fuel when it needs it.
So it's not really about eating less carbs but rather eating more protein and fat that may help you to lose bodyweight. Of course, excess protein and fat that is not used for energy in the absence of carbs can be stored as bodyfat. Eating this way when you're living a sedentary lifestyle will most likely cause bodyfat storage. Thus, be sure to exercise regularly in conjunction with a gradual increase in your protein and fat intake to lose bodyweight and bodyfat the healthy way. Remember, moderation is the key to a healthy, long-term eating plan--not extreme dieting. Be flexible in your diet plan and always listen to your body. It never lies.
Brian Danley, CFT
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."