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Last Updated on February 2, 2018

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

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        Published on November 14, 2018

        Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

        Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

        With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

        For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

        In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

        Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

        Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

        It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

        For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

        Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

        Symptoms of Fatigue

        Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

        • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
        • mental blocks
        • lack of motivation
        • headache
        • dizziness
        • muscle weakness
        • slowed reflexes and responses
        • impaired decision-making and judgement
        • moodiness, such as irritability
        • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
        • reduced immune system function
        • blurry vision
        • short-term memory problems
        • poor concentration
        • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

        Causes of Fatigue

        The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

        • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
        • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
        • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
        • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

        Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

        Medical Causes of Fatigue

        If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

        Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

        Anemia

        Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

        Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

        There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

        Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

        Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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        This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

        Diabetes

        Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

        Sleep Apnea

        Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

        Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

        Thyroid disease

        An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

        Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

        • Lack of sleep
        • Too much sleep 
        • Alcohol and drugs 
        • Sleep disturbances 
        • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
        • Poor diet 

        Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

        • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
        • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
        • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
        • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

        Psychological Causes of Fatigue

        Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

        • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
        • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
        • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

        How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

        Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

        1. Tell The Truth

        Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

        To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

        Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

        The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

        One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

        • How you feel
        • What time of day it is
        • What may have contributed to your fatigue
        • How your mind and body reacts

        This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

        2. Reduce Your Commitments

        When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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        If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

        When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

        Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

        3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

        If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

        Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

        If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

        Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

        Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

        4. Express More Gratitude

        Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

        It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

        Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

        5. Focus On Yourself

        Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

        There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

        But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

        We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

        6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

        Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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        Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

        The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

        Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

        7. Take a Power Nap

        When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

        Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

        This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

        8. Take More Exercise

        The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

        Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

        The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

        You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

        9. Get More Quality Sleep

        To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

        Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

        My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

        10. Improve Your Diet

        Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

        Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

        On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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        To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

        Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

        Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

        11. Manage Your Stress Levels

        Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

        When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

        Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

        My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

        12. Get Hydrated

        Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

        Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

        If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

        The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

        The Bottom Line

        These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

        If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

        Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
        [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
        [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
        [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
        [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
        [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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