Your office mate won’t stop talking about it. Celebrities swear by it. It sounds promising but you’re not sure if you can really pull it off… The low-carb diet. It will mean drastically reducing – or cutting out entirely – carbohydrate-heavy choices like pasta and bread and replacing them with high protein foods, natural fats and lots and lots of vegetables.
Here’s what you need to know about shifting toward a diet that is low in carbs to help you lose weight and get healthier.
What are carbs and what is their purpose?
Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient whose most important function is to supply your body with energy. Your body breaks down most of the carbohydrates you consume, converting them into glucose, which is absorbed into your bloodstream to create energy. This energy helps you maintain vital functions, but by themselves, carbs cannot supply all of the nourishment you need for ideal long-term health.
Simple or complex?
Without getting into the chemical composition of carbohydrates, know that carbs can be classified as simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates (also known as simple sugars) are found in many natural foods like milk, fruit, and vegetables. Consumption of simple carbohydrates raises your blood sugar fairly quickly. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are long chains of sugars that create starches that take longer to break down.
There are two types of complex carbohydrates: refined and natural. Complex refined carbohydrates are found in foods like white bread, cakes, white pasta, cookies, candy, soda and sugar-sweetened drinks. Complex natural carbohydrates are found in healthier foods like whole grains, beans, and nuts.
Too much glucose
Things start to go wrong when your body breaks down carbs and produces more glucose than it needs. It transports that glucose to your liver and skeletal muscles, storing it in the form of “glycogen.” Consuming lots of carbs elevates your blood sugar, causing your body to release more insulin to help glucose enter your cells.
The problem is that your body can only store a limited amount of glycogen. So, what happens to the rest? It gets stored as extra fat.
Why choose a low-carb diet?
Adopting a low-carb diet lowers your insulin levels, so your body burns stored fat for energy and you start to lose weight. In addition to weight loss, lowering your intake of carbohydrates can also prevent or improve health conditions like metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure.
Don’t do anything drastic
Carbs are a fundamental energy source for your body. If you are going to adopt a low carb diet, it’s important that you’re smart about it. Consult your doctor before you make significant changes to your diet, especially if you have chronic health conditions. At our weight loss resort, our guests consult with their personalized medical team to get a clearer perspective on how a low-carb diet will work with their unique metabolism and personal health considerations.
Suddenly eliminating carbs can cause you to see a few side effects, especially if carbs have been a significant staple in your diet. Cutting carbs might cause headaches, fatigue, skin rashes, bad breath and constipation or diarrhea. These temporary symptoms are a result of your body adjusting and should not be an excuse to maintain a high-carb diet. However, if any of these symptoms persist, contact your doctor right away.
One way to kick-start a low-carb diet is to attend a weight loss resort, where you will enjoy satisfying meals that are full of simple carbohydrates and complex natural carbs. Chef-prepared meals and nutritional guidance from experts can help you identify where you are overloading your system with carbs, and how you can adopt new eating habits that provide your body with high-quality fuel.