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Why Very Low Carbohydrate Diets are Not the Best Diets E-mail
Written by Lynn Glenn   

angryladyLow Carb Diets are probably one of the most popular fad diets available today. Low carb diets were first made popular by the Atkins Diet. Other diets have also utilized the low carb diet philosophy, including the South Beach Diet and The Zone.

The premise of the low carb diet is simple. The dieter will cut out all food that is high in carbohydrates and eat food low in carbohydrates. Advocates of very low carb diets claim eating low carb foods will result in massive weight loss while being able to eat your favorite foods, such as hamburgers, steak, eggs and cheese.  Very low carb diets are still very popular because most people see immediate weight loss. There are many issues however with low carb diets.

Why Low Carbohydrate Diets are not the Best Diets

There are several reasons why very low carb diets are not the way to properly lose weight and maintain health.

  • Very low carb diets often allow "bad foods". While very low carb diets restrict process foods, a good thing, this type of diet often places emphasis on high fat foods like meats which can contribute to heart disease.  
  • Very low carb diets restrict important foods.  Eliminating carbs removes many food choice, both healthy and unhealthy, including healthy anti oxidant rich fruits and vegetables and whole grain food.
  • Carbohydrates are needed as energy sources for the brain and the kidneys. If the body is deprived of carbohydrates, then it will break down the amino acids from protein in order to make glucose for these functions (in a process called gluconeogenesis).
  • When the body is depreived of carbohydrates your energy is limited. If energy is too low, workouts are limited. Adding new muscle becomes limited and ultimately less muscle means fewer calories burned and a slower metabolism which in the long run will derail a successful weight loss plan.  Carbohydrates are the body's best source of instant energy. Make sure that you include enough carbohydrates in your diet to sustain the energy level you need to make it through the day.
  • Low carbohydrate diets may cause muscle loss. When glycogen stores are severely depleted through dietary restriction, your body can also burn protein for energy, converting muscle tissue into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. Carbohydrates have a protein-sparing effect - they help ensure that you don't burn up muscle for energy. Extremely strict very low carbohydrate diets invariably cause muscle to be lost along with the fat.
  • The weight loss on a very low carbohydrate diet can be deceiving. Much of the weight loss on a low carbohydrate diet is muscle and water. But if you distinguish between the types of weight lost, these results are often quite negative. For example, if one pound is fat, two pounds is water and two pounds is muscle, a five-pound weight loss doesn't look so good after all.
  • Low carbohydrate levels affect your mood and mental state. The low carbohydrate diet is infamous for producingist2_5224913-woman-yelling-at-computer "brain fog" because your brain and central nervous system function almost exclusively on glucose. When you deprive yourself of carbohydrates for any prolonged period of time, you will often become tired, weak, moody, irritable and an all around grouchy.
  • Very low carbohydrate diets can be unhealthy. Many low carbohydrate diets suggest eating large amounts of fat, including saturated fats. In the absence of carbohydrates, you eat fat with protein and still lose weight. But it's unhealthy to eat large amounts of saturated or highly processed fats for an extended period of time.
  • Very low carbohydrate diets are difficult to stay on. By their very nature, low carbohydrate diets are restrictive and difficult to follow. On a very low carbohydrate diet, you are only allowed to eat protein, meat and fat with limited amounts of low calorie carbohydrates. Extremely restrictive diets require tremendous willpower and almost always set you up for cravings and bingeing. Many people fail simply because they can't faithfully stay "on the wagon." 
  • Weight/fat re-gain is almost inevitable. If you lose weight on a very low carbohydrate diet, the odds of keeping the weight off are overwhelmingly against you. The lower you drop your carbohydrates, the more your body will rebound when carbohydrates are re-introduced.

Making Low Carb Diets Work

  • Eat a balanced diet that includes protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Protein, carbohydrate and fatscarbohydrate-counting each have a role in how a human being functions and stays alive. Protein is required for tissue replacement and repair. Carbohydrates supply the fuel required by our cells to function. Fats also supply a quality source of fuel for the body. Make sure that you include enough carbohydrates in your diet to sustain the energy level you need to make it through the day.
  • Include low glycemic high fibrous carbs in your diet. By including low glycemic high fibrous carbohydrates you can improve protein utilization, increase the variety of food in your diet while not adversely affecting your insulin levels or your diet.
  • Cycle your Carbohydrates. By cycling your carbohydrates (e.g., 300 grams one day, 150 grams the next day, 400 grams the following day, 100 grams etc.) you are able to keep your metabolism burning stored fat, while keeping your energy levels higher, and also preventing your body from burning muscle and slowing down.
  • A moderate reduction in carbohydrates all it takes. A moderate reduction in carbohydrates is often all it takes to help to control blood sugar and insulin better. It's really just a matter of balancing carbohydrates with protein instead of eating mostly carbohydrates and small amounts of protein.
  • Drink water with low carbohydrate diets. With low carbohydrates diets, make sure you are drink at least eight 8oz glasses of water daily. The large amount of water keeps the kidneys working "overtime" eliminating fluids, and actually helps to prevent water retention.
  • Gradually add extra carbohydrates back in to your diet. With low carbohydrate diets when you have reached your desired weight, it is necessary to GRADUALLY add extra carbohydrates back in to the diet. During the course of the diet, should learn the difference between complex carbohydrates, and simple sugars.Complex carbohydrates provide sustained energy, which is preferable to the rapid bursts of energy provided by simple sugars. Good examples of complex carbohydrates are found in fruit, nuts, grains, potatoes, rice, etc. Simple sugars are basically foods that contain good old fashioned white sugar. Good examples are candy, cookies, pie, soft drinks, etc.

Bottom Line on Proper Weight Loss

Use the more traditional weight loss method with eating a reduced-calorie balanced diet that includes recommended amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Following a balanced diet with a variety of foods including grains, fruits & vegetables, dairy and meat/fish, low in total fats, saturated fats and trans fat in addition to being physically active will result in long lasting weight loss and improved health.

About Lynn Glenn  


Lynn Glenn
Lynn Glenn
Lynn Glenn is a 61 year old natural athlete from Southern California who started training at the ripe young age of 48. After catching the "bodybuilding bug", Lynn Glenn became interested in living a healthy lifestyle and started writing about hot topics in the areas of health, fitness, weightlifting, and nutrition. Lynn is a feature writer for several health and fitness websites including, and

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