No diet issue has created more confusion and controversy than the low carbohydrate vs. high carbohydrate debate.
Contrary to what certain diet "guru's" tell you, carbohydrates are not fattening.
It's a flat out LIE to say, "carbohydrates are fattening." What's fattening is eating more calories than your body can use at one time.
However, it's true that some people lose weight more quickly on a low carbohydrate diet (that's not the same thing as saying carbohydrates are fattening.) It's also true that almost every bodybuilder or fitness competitor uses some variation of the low carb diet to prepare for competitions.
Despite these facts, very low carb diets are not the ultimate answer to permanent weight loss. At worst they are unhealthy. At best they're a temporary tool that should be used only for short periods to achieve specific fat loss goals (preparing for bodybuilding competition, for example).
1) Very low carb diets are difficult to stick to. If you remove most of your carbohydrates from your diet for a long period of time, you're setting yourself up for a relapse. The more you cut back the carbs, the bigger the rebound will be when you put carbs back in. That's why 95% of people gain back all the weight they lose on a very low carb diet.
2) Very low carb diets are often unbalanced and missing many nutrients. It's still up for debate whether low carb programs like the Atkins diet are unhealthy, but few people would argue that the optimal diet for long term maintenance is one that has balance between protein, carbs and fats and includes a wide variety of foods, not an overemphasis on one food or food group.
3) Very low carb diets may be unhealthy. Many low carb diets allow large amounts of saturated and processed fats. (No toast or pancakes are allowed, but bacon, sausage, butter and whole eggs for breakfast are just fine). In the absence of carbohydrates, you can eat fat with protein and you'll still lose weight (fat doesn't necessarily make you fat). But it's probably not wise to eat large amounts of saturated fat and it's never wise to eat processed fats or trans fats. Although the effects of low carb, high fat/protein diets on various health markers is still up for debate, most people would be best to opt for a diet that is low in fat (below 30% of total calories) and moderate in carbs and protein.
4) Very low carb diets cause your energy levels to plummet. Not only will you feel tired and irritable without carbs, but your training will also suffer: Low carbs = low energy. Low energy = poor workouts. Poor workouts = poor results.
5) The weight loss on a very low carb diet can be deceiving. You will definitely lose weight if you don't eat carbs, but much of the initial weight loss will be muscle and water. Suppose you lose 5 lbs in one week on a low carb diet: That sounds impressive, but if one pound is fat, two pounds are water and two pounds are muscle, what did you accomplish? Your goal should never be weight loss. Your goal should be fat loss.
Most people will lose fat simply by adding a regular exercise routine to their schedule and by "cleaning up" their diets. By "cleaning up" your diet, I mean that you've mastered all the nutritional basics like eating small frequent meals, controlling portion sizes, cutting down on unhealthy fats, avoiding sugar and refined foods, etc.
Low carb diets can accelerate fat loss. But if you choose the low carb approach to dieting, the best method for most people is to decrease your carbohydrates moderately and add in some of the "good fats."
Cutting out carbs completely is not necessary, it's probably not healthy, it's hard to stick to, and it's no fun! It's usually not wise to go to extremes in anything and that's as true for nutrition as anything else in life: moderation is the key.
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