Our bodies get their energy from 3 types of macronutrients. These are proteins, fats (lipids), and carbohydrates (sugars). Each nutrient type has its place in our diet. The goal of low-carb diets which reduce the consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods is to reduce weight and body fat. Restricting the consumption of sugars causes the distribution of macronutrients to become unbalanced.
Principles of a low-carb diet
Low-carb means “fewer carbohydrates” in other words a low-sugar diet.
There are two types of carbohydrates:
- Complex carbohydrates, which are slow-digesting sugars: They produce energy slowly but over a long period of time. They are found mainly in all starchy foods such as pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, and legumes.
- Simple carbohydrates, or fast sugars. They produce energy very quickly, taking less time. They are found in fruits in the form of fructose and in other sweet foods such as candy, chocolate, soft drinks, and cakes.
The main goal of this diet is weight loss. The goal is to deny the body starchy (slow sugars) and fruits and sweet foods (fast sugars) and force the body to get its energy from elsewhere. When we reduce our carbohydrate intake, we increase our fat and protein intake.
This diet favors the increase in consumption of the following types of foods:
- Meats (Red and white)
- Other vegetable proteins (Soy, Lentils, Beans..etc)
- Nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, etc.)
- Dairy products (although they do contain some sugar in the form of lactose)
- Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, flax, etc.).
Benefits of a diet without carbohydrates
This diet meets its objectives, as this type of diet often leads to very rapid weight loss.
In addition, this diet significantly reduces the consumption of sugary products. This is a positive aspect since their consumption is becoming increasingly important nowadays and our intake of quick sugars is increasing exponentially compared to our low requirements.
Abstaining from sugar also breaks the vicious cycle of sugar: the more you eat, the more you crave it. So these uncontrollable cravings can, in some cases, be greatly reduced.
In addition, the unrestricted consumption of other foods rich in fats and proteins means that you are full and do not feel hungry between meals.
Disadvantages of this type of diet
Energy needs are not met
Slow sugars, mainly from starchy foods, are our main source of energy. They are our fuel and on average should cover half of our energy needs. The need for fast sugars is relatively small and accounts for 5-10% of our total energy intake. A balanced diet with 2-3 servings of fruit per day and 2 dairy products meets this need by providing about 50 g of sugar.
Starchy foods and fruits are sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber, in addition to energy.
Limiting them may initially cause problems with transit, digestion, sleep and fatigue. But most of all, by restricting these foods our energy needs will no longer be met and the distribution of nutrients which should be 50% carbohydrates, 35% fats, and 15% proteins, will be completely out of balance. As a result, our intake of fats and proteins will exceed our needs.
Restriction of Carbs should be short term only
As with all restrictive diets, where food intake is severely restricted, this can limit social and family life. The diet may also have little variety and therefore be rather monotonous. Denying oneself this or that food often leads to frustration, deprivation and craving, and is therefore very difficult to maintain in the long run. The perfectly normal fact that one is unable to do this can cause feelings of guilt and affects one’s image and self-esteem.
Fast weight loss but is it sustainable?
Weight loss after carbohydrate restriction is often very rapid. The initial weight loss is mostly due to water loss which is not for the long term. After the initial water loss, the body’s search for fat and protein can lead to a loss of muscle mass.
This causes the basal metabolism to be unbalanced and lowered. As a result, our bodies start to burn fewer calories and slow down. This can lead to a cessation of weight loss and sometimes even to a much greater weight gain.
Recommendation and Precautions
You should be very careful before starting this carbohydrate-free diet. It is not suitable for children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, athletes or women with high physical activity, the elderly, and people with special needs.
A low-carb diet does not meet the needs of a balanced diet. The fact that carbohydrates are not consumed or are greatly reduced means that the body’s nutritional needs are not being met. This can lead to a number of complications: weight gain, nutritional deficiencies, fatigue, eating disorders, and much more.
The Opinion of our Doctor
Everyone is different and has different needs. This type of carbohydrate-free diet may be appropriate for some people within a certain framework and for a certain period of time. It is effective in the short term. However, in the long run, it is more complex and can lead to eating disorders. To achieve good and sustainable weight loss, it is important that you meet your nutritional needs which vary according to a number of factors. All food sources are important. None of them will make you gain weight and none of them will make you lose weight. It’s all a matter of balance, and everyone has their own balance. In most cases, it is not advisable to skip one food group and eat too much of another. If you want to lose weight, you should consult a health professional who can give you individual and appropriate advice.
Have you tried a Low-carb diet before? Could you share your experience with our Gilmore Health community in the comments area below!