Have you been struggling with bad eating habits or been trying to make a decision on how to eat “healthier”? We’re here to help! Over the next month, we’ll be releasing a blog post each week from CHT’s own Robert Langston that goes in depth on 5 of the most common dietary trends. This week’s article is the 3rd in the series and focuses on Low Carb Diets.
In this edition we will see how a Low Carb diet stands up against the objectives of Health, Performance and Aesthetics. We’ll also look at the ease of implementation of this approach. You can also check out our review on the Standard American Diet.
For our purposes, we’ll define a low carb diet with the following macro split 40/10/50 protein/carb/fat. Depending on the practitioner, a low carb diet can be populated with either S.A.D types foods or with nutrient dense whole foods as long as the macronutrient split is maintained. No foods are inherently “off limits” but whole foods are generally encouraged. It’s important to note, if the diet does consist mainly of processed S.A.D foods the diet will lean more towards to the results of a S.A.D. For reference, let's define carbs as any of the follow: starches, grains, wheats, pastas, fruits, and vegetables.
Most people require some level of carbohydrate intake to function at their best long term. This is especially important for active people that workout. Here are some of the reasons why our health objectives are less than stellar on a low carb diet.
Increased cortisol levels and decreased levels of testosterone in people that exercise regularly. Various research studies have shown that when subjects follow low carb diets, their testosterone levels go down and cortisol levels go up. Chronic high cortisol levels cause wasting away of muscle, bone and promote fat storage.
Significant hormonal disruptions in women. Consuming too little carbs (especially while living an active lifestyle) can lead to...
Bone density loss
Irregular or stopped menstrual cycles
Muscle break-down due to the reduced secretion of insulin which is an important hormone for building muscle. Insulin helps carbs enter our muscle cells and this replenishes our muscle glycogen stores creating an anabolic (muscle building) environment. Low carb intake leads to low muscle glycogen which creates a catabolic (muscle losing) environment.
Athletic and gym performance decreases from the lack of carbohydrates in the diet. Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source of our bodies. One reason for a low probability of reaching the performance objectives is the decrease in thyroid function as a result of reduced T3 levels. T3 is the primary thyroid hormone, it plays an important role in metabolic processes, weight loss and blood sugar management. Decreased T3 levels lead to a constant sluggish feeling, which make performing in daily life/sports sub optimal.
Some people are able to reach and maintain these objectives for the short term on a low carb diet. However, maintaining these objectives for the long term on a low carb diet (1 year+) is unlikely. A lot of people looking to lose weight are attracted to low carb diets because of the initial weight loss (which is mainly from glycogen and water). The unfavorable effects of this diet ironically work against the weight loss goals that attracted people to it in the first place.
This is not an easy and convenient diet to follow. The physical and emotional effects of low carb diets eventually take their toll on most practitioners. Feeling sluggish with decreased physical performance and questionable body composition results (the reason most follow this approach) all while in a less than stellar mood is enough to make most people quit. Top this off with having to implement some type of meal prep/calorie counting system to ensure you’re actually following this diet correctly. The majority of people are just not that interested in counting calories, measuring portions, planning meals in advance, cooking in bulk and having awkward social eating moments. All-in-all, low carbs diets can be used as a short term advanced strategy for some people that earn a living off the appearance of their body. It’s important to note, the people that would use a low carb diet for this objective have years of experience with meal prepping, and planning meals, measuring food.
Thank you for reading this edition of “You Can’t Outwork a Bad Diet”. Please be sure to leave questions in the comment section below and we will be sure to answer them for you! Our next article in the series will come out next week and provide insight on the Paleo Diet.