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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

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        Florian Wüest

        Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

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        Published on April 8, 2021

        6 Health Benefits of Beetroot Powder (And How To Choose A Good One)

        6 Health Benefits of Beetroot Powder (And How To Choose A Good One)

        Beetroots are vegetables rich in nitrates, antioxidants, and polyphenol compounds that have a role in improved cardiovascular function and exercise performance.[1] However, beetroot juice has limitations with storage and taste preference, and so other more convenient forms have been investigated. One of these forms is beetroot powder.

        What Is Beetroot Powder?

        Beetroot powder is made by dehydrating or drying out thin slices of beetroot (to remove all the moisture) and then grinding them into a powder. If you don’t like the earthy taste of beetroot, then beetroot powder might be an alternative since it is more concentrated than fresh beetroot but with a relatively neutral taste. One fresh beetroot is the equivalent of approximately one teaspoon of beetroot powder.

        Powdered beetroot can be added to sauces, smoothies, pasta, gnocchi, curries, cakes, muffins, or anything you choose to add nutrients and color to. Watch out that your urine may change color too! Due to the natural sugars in beetroot, it can also be used as a natural sweetener. Beetroot powder is even used in natural cosmetics.

        Beetroot Powder VS. Other Beetroot Products

        One study looked at the total antioxidant potential, phenol compounds, sugars, and organic acids in beetroot juice, cooked beetroot, powder, and chips. They found higher amounts of total antioxidant potential and organic acids in the chips and powder compared with the juice and cooked beetroot.[2] However, it’s important to consider that it is a lot easier to take larger quantities of beetroot when powdered or juiced than just eating it and this means ingesting much more sugar.

        6 Health Benefits of Beetroot

        While beetroot may have potential health benefits, it’s not clear if these are temporary or have long-term effects. More research is needed to answer this question and what the optimal dose is. Most studies have focused on beetroot juice, with only a handful of studies investigating beetroot powder. There hasn’t been evidence so far to support the benefit of beetroot powder on blood flow.[3]

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        Despite that, beetroot contains several different compounds with different properties. Here are the six health benefits of beetroot powder.

        1. Beetroot Powder Is Rich in Nitrates

        Firstly, beetroot powder is rich in nitrates. Nitrates have important roles related to increased blood flow, gas exchange, mitochondrial efficiency, and strengthening of muscle contraction.[4] By causing relaxation of the smooth muscles that encircle arteries and veins, nitrate leads to the dilation of these blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure. Nitrate medications are used for people with high blood pressure, angina, and heart disease to relax blood vessels, widening them to allow greater blood flow.[5]

        A meta-analysis that combined 22 different trials and analyzed the results together found that additional beetroot juice significantly decreased blood pressure.[6] However, there isn’t evidence to support the long-term effects.[7]

        2. Beetroot Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

        Secondly, beetroot contains antioxidant polyphenol compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants are molecules that have the ability to neutralize free radicals and protect against cell damage that can lead to chronic diseases. Eating a diet high in antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of chronic disease.[8] Different polyphenol compounds are different colors, that’s why you will often hear about eating a rainbow of fruit and vegetables.

        3. Beetroot Has Anti-Cancer Effects

        Beetroot also contains betalains that have been found to have anti-cancer effects in cellular models in the laboratory.[9] Clinical trials are now needed to assess if there are potential anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects and the nature of these effects. While the anti-cancer effects of beetroot in humans aren’t known yet, including them in your diet may help and is unlikely to risk harm.

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        4. Beetroot Powder Is a Great Source of Vitamins C and Folate

        Beetroots are also a great source of vitamins C and B9 (folate). Vitamin C and folate have many important roles in our bodies. Vitamin C is required for the biosynthesis of collagen, which acts as a scaffold in the skin and ligaments. It is also has a role in wound healing and protein metabolism. Folic acid is vital for the production of healthy red blood cells, and cellular growth. Inadequate intake of vitamin C over a 3 month period can lead to scurvy, and smoking can further reduce the bioavailability.[10]

        5. Beetroot Contains Essential Minerals

        Beets also contain the minerals iron, manganese, and potassium. Iron has a vital role in the transportation of oxygen by healthy red blood cells. Over 40% of children worldwide have iron deficiency anemia and women of childbearing age are also at increased risk because of menstruation.[11] Potassium may actually prevent the harmful effects of eating excess salt (sodium chloride). Manganese has several roles including metabolism, bone formation, and the immune system. Beetroots are a great way of including all these micronutrients in your diet.

        6. Beetroot Powder Is a Great Source of Fiber

        Fiber is such an important component of our diet, with most of us needing to eat much more to reach the recommended daily amount of 30g. For every 10g of fiber you eat a day, you may decrease your long-term risk of bowel cancer.[12]

        Fibre also acts as a pre-biotic, providing food for the friendly micro-organisms in your gut called the microbiota. There are trillions of micro-organisms in your gut that are now known to play a key role in inflammation and both mental and physical health. Eating beetroots can help to increase your fiber intake and support a healthy gut community.

        It’s clear that for relatively few calories, beetroot contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, nitrates, and antioxidants. For these reasons, beetroot is labeled as a “nutraceutical” and supplementation has become increasingly popular.[13] While most studies have looked at the effects of beetroot on blood vessel dilation, there are still many unanswered questions about other potential benefits.

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        How to Choose a Beetroot Powder

        Like all other supplements, there is very little regulation. Therefore, it is very difficult to be sure exactly what is included in the supplement or assess the quality. My recommendations for choosing a supplement are to check for a product license and always buy from a reputable company.

        There are, however, no agreed benchmarks for quality or efficacy. How much and how often are also unknown at this time. Try to avoid powders that have added preservatives, sweeteners, or artificial flavorings. Consider whether an organic powder is worth the extra money to you. I would avoid powders that have added silica to avoid clumping. Some supplements now use 3rd party companies to verify the contents.

        There isn’t an agreed dose of nitrate or beetroot powder, so while some powders do contain nitrate content, it is difficult to know exactly what this means in practice. The higher the nitrate content, the more likely it is to have a beneficial effect on raised blood pressure. But if you don’t have high blood pressure, it’s difficult to know if more nitrate is beneficial.

        In summary, look for:

        • organic beetroot powder
        • tested for quality by a 3rd party company
        • is free from preservatives, sweeteners, and artificial flavorings
        • avoid powders containing silica
        • buy from a reputable company
        • look at the nitrate content

        How to Make Your Own Beetroot Powder

        First, wash, peel, and grate your beetroots by hand or using a food processor. Then, place them on a tray, spread them out, and cover them with parchment or grease-proof paper to protect them from direct sunlight.

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        Leave to dry until there is no moisture left and shake intermittently so that it dries evenly. When it snaps instead of bending and feels dry, it is ready for the next stage.

        The drying stage can take up to four days depending on the air temperature. To speed up the drying process, you can do this on low heat in a saucepan for 15 to 25 minutes or in the oven at no higher than 180 degrees Celsius or in a dehydrator. If you use the oven or on the hob, just be careful not to burn the beetroot.

        The final step is to grind the dried beetroot using a grinder. It can then be stored in an airtight container, avoiding sun-light for up to one year.

        Should You Try Beetroot Powder?

        Beetroot is a great vegetable that contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, nitrates, and fiber. The nitrates present in beets may lower your blood pressure in the short-term, but the long-term effects are not yet known. More research is needed to know about other potential benefits such as the effect on cancer.

        So, while beetroot powder may have health benefits unless taken in excess, it is unlikely to have significant side effects. Large doses of beetroot, however, are associated with an increased risk of kidney stones.

        If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, taking beetroot supplements is best avoided as there isn’t sufficient safety information. Beetroots do also contain fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols or FODMAPS for short. These are types of carbohydrates that are hard to digest and can cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in some people. FODMAPS are thought to act as prebiotics, feeding the friendly micro-organisms that live in your gut (microbiota). So, for those people who can tolerate them, they are beneficial for a healthy gut.

        More Resources About Beetroot

        Featured photo credit: FOODISM360 via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] NCBI: Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables and beetroot) via the nitrate‐nitrite‐nitric oxide pathway
        [2] SpringerLink: Comparison of total antioxidant potential, and total phenolic, nitrate, sugar, and organic acid contents in beetroot juice, chips, powder, and cooked beetroot
        [3] Maastricht University: Effects of Beetroot Powder with or without L-Arginine on Postprandial Vascular Endothelial Function: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial with Abdominally Obese Men
        [4] PubMed.gov: Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review
        [5] PubMed.gov: Nutraceuticals with a clinically detectable blood pressure-lowering effect: a review of available randomized clinical trials and their meta-analyses
        [6] PubMed.gov: The Nitrate-Independent Blood Pressure-Lowering Effect of Beetroot Juice: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
        [7] PubMed.gov: Medium-term effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on systolic and diastolic blood pressure in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis
        [8] NCCIH: Antioxidants: In-Depth
        [9] NCBI: Red Beetroot and Betalains as Cancer Chemopreventative Agents
        [10] Healthline: Beetroot 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
        [11] NCBI: The impact of maternal iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia on child’s health
        [12] Cancer Research UK: Does a high fibre diet reduce my risk of cancer?
        [13] PubMed.gov: The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease

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