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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

The Low Carb Lie

The Low Carb Lie

Fitness journals often advice you to follow a Low-Carb diet. These diet fads seem to be extremely effective in reducing body fat. The problem is just: they’re not.

On April 17th in 2003, an overweight physician died due to an injury-induced blood clot in his brain. The name of this person was Robert Atkins. Robert Atkins was the founder of the Low Carb Diet. Prior to his death, Robert suffered from a history of numerous heart attacks, congestive heart failure and hypertension. Mr. Atkins was not a healthy human being, but a genius marketer.[1]

I’ve fell prey to the Low Carb diet trend before. For a period of one month, I’ve barely eaten any carbohydrates. I did lose some pounds originally, but gained it all back. On top of that I felt awful. I had to make myself a promise to never try this diet again.

The same story goes for numerous clients of mine: They achieve a motivating, short term weight loss. Followed by a rapid weight gain after stopping the diet.

The Low Carb diet doesn’t make any sense scientifically speaking and may even increase your risk of death. [2] But which diet should you rather pursue? And why you should play the long game.

Weight Loss Does Not Equal Fat Loss

At the beginning of my diet, I did lose weight rapidly. Over 5 pounds in the first week. I felt amazing and energized after watching the number on my scale. But a reduced weight is not what I was truly after. I wanted to lose belly fat. But in this endeavour, I failed.

Losing weight and burning body fat is not the same thing. At the beginning of my diet, my body was burning through its carbohydrate reserves. Carbohydrates bind to water in your body. If your body burns your reserve of carbs, you’re also losing pounds of water. This will make you lose weight, but not fat. [3]

I remember a client telling me that she’s simply not losing weight. There was no decrease in the weighing scale for weeks during my coaching. Then I asked her if she remembered her original goal, which was to fit in her old bikini again. This was a goal she did achieve a couple of days prior. My client reached her goal, but was blinded by the weighing scale.

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You should never care about a number on the weighing scale, and neither should your friends and family. You want to look and feel better. You want to lose body fat and not decrease an irrelevant number on your weighing scale.

    What About Insulin?

    Insulin is what most people fear when it comes to dieting. And it’s something that you truly should avoid, because it is the one hormone responsible for filling your fat cells. It’s also what Dr. Atkins wrote in one of his books ‘New Diet Revolution’ , where he entitled a whole chapter to the hormone that will make you fat. [4]

    But don’t believe that carbohydrates are solely responsible for an insulin release in your body. In fact, meat protein has the same insulin release as pure sugar.[5]

    Having said that, vegetarians have lower insulin levels than meat eaters.[6] If you put people on a Low Carb Diet, their insulin levels even increase. On top of that their LDL-cholesterol, the bad cholesterol, rises dramatically.

    A Low Carb Diet is not only inefficient, it is also not healthy for you. You’re increasing your risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes while starving yourself.[7] Consumer Guide gave the Atkins Diet zero out of four stars for being “outright dangerous”.[8]

    Not even weight loss and regular exercise negate the disastrous effects of the the Low Carb Diet. You damage your body with this diet fad.[9]

    Diabetes – Preventable?

    As the Harvard Health Letter puts it in 2003: The Atkins diet is not a healthy way to eat.[10]

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    Partly because it can increase the risk for diabetes. There are basically two different types of Diabetes. Diabetes type 1 and Diabetes type 2.

    Diabetes type 1 is called the juvenile diabetes. Over 85 percent it occurs under the age of 20.[11] While a big part of diabetes type 1 may be due to genetics, eating animals was associated with an increased risk.[12] Not only in the diet of the infant, but also in the diet of their mothers during pregnancy and lactation.[13]

    This is based on the hypothesis of the increased rate of glycotoxins (AGEs) in the diet or the rate of paratuberculosis bacteria.[14]

    Diabetes type 2 is a common disease in our current day and age. What used to be merely affecting old people, diabetes type 2 was originally called senile diabetes, now even affects people in their teens. About 1 in 3 US adults have prediabetes. Yet only 1 in 10 know it.[15]

    Lifestyle intervention reduced the diabetes incidence by 58 percent, taking of the medicine Metformin reduced diabetes by 31 percent. This meant, that the lifestyle intervention was more successful in reducing the diabetes occurence than the drug metformin.[16] Also don’t forget about the side-effects on the drug – such as nauseau and diarrhea – which were nonexistent in a lifestyle intervention.

    In a study with 500 people, the high-risk test subjects that went on a full plant-based diet reduced the risk of diabetes occurrence by 100%. The authors concluded that ‘Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by changes in the lifestyles of high-risk subjects’.[17]

    Low Carb Forces Your Body In Survival Mode

    Carbohydrates are the most important fuel for your brain. We have evolved over millions of years with glucose as the preferred fuel for our main controlling organ. On the Low Carb Diet you’re facing a pure survival situation. Because of your body burning through your carbohydrate reserves, your brain is being set on red alert. Your nervous system is not getting the right nutrients that it needs.

    Following that survival situation, your brain is shutting down systems that are not important for survival. Your body has to minimize it’s energy expenditure, because it thinks that you’re starving. Your muscles will be fatigued more quickly. Plus you will have a difficult time concentrating. As noted in the journal of obesity, people on a ketogenic diet suffered a significant drop in cognitive performance.[18] After one week, the scientists noted that the mental processing and flexibility worsened to the level of modest neuropsychological impairment.[19]

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    To make matters worse, in a survival situation your body is even holding onto its fat storage, because fat is energy stored for scarce times. Times when your brain is in survival mode. This is the last thing that you want when you’re following a diet.

    Following a low carb diet is not sustainable. Yes you will lose some weight originally due to fewer calories in your diet, but it will be gruel and not effective.[20] You will not be able to keep the weight off in the long-term. Unless you’re willing to dramatically decrease your quality of life.

      The Crucial Switch

      Think long-term and think logically.

      You have to realize that you need to consume a proper amount of carbohydrates to achieve your full mental capacity. Once I’ve switched to more carbs in my diet, I’ve seen a tremendous improvement. I had more energy , trained more efficiently and lost more weight.

      I never imagined that I’d once write this advice. Following a Low Carb Diet was the best way according to my friends and fitness professionals to get a sixpack. But it doesn’t make sense scientifically speaking.

      Fats contain more calories pound for pound. Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, fat contains 9 calories per gram. You can consume twice the amount of carbohydrates to get the same amount of calories, as you will get by consuming fat. This means, that once I’ve made that switch to more carbohydrates, I was able to eat bigger meals without having to starve myself.

      I also felt fuller on a low fat diet. There’s only a few grams of fiber on a low carb diet. The initial phase of the Atkins diet only contains about 2 grams of fiber per day, that’s less than 7% of the minimum daily recommendation.[21] There are veggies and some fruits in the low carb diet, but this is definitely not enough to feed a healthy bacterial culture in your gut. Having a healthy microbiome influences your health, your well-being and also your cravings. I realized that I had fewer cravings for sweets on a low fat diet. I also felt more satiated.

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        Play The Long Game

        If you’re currently following a Low Carb diet you should ask yourself: Is this truly working? Are you losing fat or are you just losing water? Tip: Use tape measurements to make sure that you’re on the right path.

        Instead of advising you to completely alter your nutrition and following the next diet trend, I want you to make a new approach. You need to play the long game. Realize that your weight loss will not come over night. Never buy into professionals that guarantee you immediate results. They’re trying to steal your money.

        Instead of following a new diet fad, I want you to focus on incrementally changing your diet for the better. This far outweighs the results of a rapid diet change and eliminates the Yo-Yo Effect. Focus on eating more good foods instead of cutting out unhealthy foods.

        Try to eat a little bit healthier today than you did yesterday. And tomorrow? Simple, do the same thing again. One year from now you will not be able to recognize yourself in the mirror. Eat two apples for a snack today instead of one. Ask for an extra portion of carrots in the restaurant. Over time your gut microbiome will change, you will crave healthier foods and you will feel energized.

        Realize that your weight loss will still not come easy and fast. But it will be way easier than starving yourself and putting your body in survival mode. Play the long game.

        To watch a fully animated, free video on that topic from the author, click here: The Low Carb Lie – How To Diet Successfully

        Reference

        [1] Atkins Death Report: Rival Diet Doc Leaks Atkins Death Report
        [2] Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine 68(2001):761.
        [3] Archives of Internal Medicine 112(1963):87
        [4] Atkins, RC. Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution. Avon Books, 1999.
        [5] Peter Petocz: Insulin Index of Food
        [6] NCBI: Taiwanese vegetarians have higher insulin sensitivity than omnivores
        [7] World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, and the Prevention of Cancer: a global perspective. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research, 1997.
        [8] Berland, T and L Frohman. CONSUMER GUIDE Rating the Diets. Publications International, Ltd., 1974
        [9] Research Gate: Unrestricted Paleolithic Diet is Associated with Unfavorable Changes to Blood Lipids in Healthy Subjects
        [10] Harvard Health Letter 28(2003):1
        [11] NCBI: Chapter 1: Epidemiology of Type 1 Diabetes
        [12] NCBI: Nutritional factors and worldwide incidence of childhood type 1 diabetes.
        [13] NCBI: High meat consumption is associated with type 1 diabetes mellitus in a Sardinian case-control study.
        [14] NCBI: Maternal intake of fatty acids and their food sources during lactation and the risk of preclinical and clinical type 1 diabetes in the offspring.
        [15] NCBI: Awareness of prediabetes–United States, 2005-2010.
        [16] NCBI: Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin.
        [17] NCBI: Prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus by changes in lifestyle among subjects with impaired glucose tolerance.
        [18] International Journal of Obesity 19(1995):811.
        [19] International Journal of Obesity 19(1995):811
        [20] Obesity Research 9(2001):1S
        [21] Gastroenterology 118(2000):1233

        More by this author

        Florian Wüest

        Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

        Your Body on Caffeine Addiction: 70 Cups of Coffee in 7 Days The More Protein You Eat, the Faster You Build Muscles? The Low Carb Lie How I Learned the Importance of Cardio the Hard Way Fat Cells Used to Be Our Friends, Now They’re Enemies

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        Published on January 14, 2021

        How to Create a Healthy Meal Plan for the Week

        How to Create a Healthy Meal Plan for the Week

        Meal plans are a great way to cut down waste, make shopping for food quicker and easier, and help you to stick to healthy choices. But where do you start? What makes a healthy meal plan for the week, and how do you know what to include?

        Firstly, there is no healthy meal plan that works for everyone. At different stages of your life, you will need different levels of nutrients, but there are some general principles that you can follow, and then adjust as necessary. Here’s how to create a healthy meal plan for the week.

        The Backbone of Your Healthy Meal Plan

        For the vast majority of adults, these practical tips should be the backbone of your meal plan:

        • A range of fruits and vegetables
        • Whole grain carbohydrates (brown rice, brown bread, millet, bulgar wheat, etc)
        • Fermented food such as kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut
        • Unsaturated fats such as extra virgin olive oil, rapeseed oil, avocados, and nuts
        • Two portions of oily fish such as salmon per week (or nuts and seeds if you don’t eat fish)
        • A handful of nuts and seeds a day
        • Aim for 30g of fiber a day
        • Eat a range of beans and pulses (such as chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, and lentils)
        • Drink approximately 8 glasses of water a day[1]

        Calorie Counting

        A calorie is the energy required to raise the temperature of 1g water from 14.5 to 15.5°Celsius. This is calculated in a laboratory, by burning the food. However, the food is not “burnt” in our bodies, and people’s metabolism and energy expenditure vary, so it’s a very rough estimate.

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        The absorption and, therefore, how much energy is available for you to use, is also affected by how the food is processed. An example of this is sweetcorn. If you grind it down into a powder and make a tortilla, you will absorb far more calories than if you eat whole sweetcorn kernels. Instead, you will see most of the kernels untouched, in the toilet!

        Another concern with calories is that instead of thinking about nutrient quality, it promotes prioritizing quantity. For example, there is a huge difference in the number of nutrients you could consume in 500 calories of fruit and vegetables, versus 500 calories of ice cream.

        Also the number of calories you need varies according to so many factors, such as age, gender, lifestyle, and activity level, that it is hard to accurately predict exactly how many you need. Instead, I prefer to recommend a general principle of how to balance your plate and a reminder to eat mindfully when you are physically hungry, not because of an emotional trigger.

        How to Balance Your Plate

        When thinking of your healthy meal plan, for each meal your plate should contain approximately:

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        • Fruit and vegetables (1/2 plate)
        • Whole grains (1/4 plate)
        • Lean protein (1/4 plate)
        • A spoon of unsaturated oil

        This will help you when you think of each meal to work out what to include and approximate portion sizes.

        An Example Day

        Breakfast

        • Overnight oats, with chia seeds, quinoa and milk or fortified plant based milk
        • A piece of fruit

        Snack

        • A handful of mixed nuts

        Lunch

        • Grilled tofu with a mixed salad and bulgar wheat
        • A piece of fruit

        Snack

        • Apple slices with nut butter

        Dinner

        • Chicken / tofu / salmon with miso brown rice and spring greens
        • OR vegetable curry, daal, and brown rice
        • OR stuffed aubergine with mixed vegetables and millet or quinoa
        • A piece of fruit

        How to Adjust Your Meal Plan

        There are certain phases when more or less nutrients are needed, so it is important to consider your changing needs.

        When You’re Pregnant

        During your pregnancy, you should limit oily fish to once a week, and only 2 tuna steaks or 4 medium sized cans of tuna per week, because of the risk of pollution.

        You should also avoid the following food groups:

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        • Raw or undercooked eggs
        • Unpasteurized cheese
        • Raw or undercooked meat
        • Pâté
        • Swordfish, shark, and marlin
        • Homemade ice-cream with raw egg
        • Soft-serve ice cream from vans or kiosks
        • Vitamin A supplements
        • Liquorice root
        • Alcohol

        When You’re Breastfeeding

        While you are breastfeeding, your body needs more calcium (1250mg), selenium (70mcg), and iodine (200mcg). Ensure that you include these in your meal plan.

        When Going Through Menopause

        Menopause

        changes your long-term risk of disease, so it is important to focus on items that help support bone and heart health. The framework above already sets out a diet to support long term heart health, but for bone health aim for:

        • 1200mg calcium per day
        • High-quality protein at every meal
        • Foods rich in vitamin K
        • Foods rich in phosphorus
        • Foods rich in magnesium

        Organizing Your Shopping

        Once you have completed your healthy meal plan for the week, you can save the ingredients that you regularly need to an online shopping list, in order to make repeat ordering simpler. Some recipe books also now have a QR code so that you can easily synchronize the ingredients needed with your online shopping.

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        Try to eat seasonal fruit and vegetables where possible, but canned beans, frozen, dried, and freeze dried fruit make great substitutes for fresh, retaining most of the nutrients.

        Final Thoughts

        Creating a healthy meal plan for the week may be daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll become a fun addition to your weekly planning, and one that will ultimately improve your overall lifestyle. Try to use the general feedback above and adapt it to your own specific needs. Enjoy looking for new and exciting recipes to include in your plan!

        More on Healthy Eating

        Featured photo credit: Ello via unsplash.com

        Reference

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