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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Low Carbohydrate Diets

"Low carbohydrate" diets are very popular. On this diet you consume very little carbohydrates which accomplishes two things.

  1. Reduces insulin secretion. Insulin is an "energy storing" hormone. When you consume carbohydrates (especially simple carbohydrates like sugar) your body releases insulin from the pancreas. The insulin tells your body to store energy (fat). If you don't consume carbohydrates then your body will not release as much insulin. Therefore you won't store fat.
  2. A meal high in fat and protein will keep you full for a longer period of time because those nutrients take longer to digest. Therefore you will not consume as many total Calories.
There is no set definition for what a "low carbohydrate diet" is. There are some sources that say a diet less than 50% of Caloric intake coming from carbohydrates is "low carbohydrate". Other sources point more toward how many grams of carbohydrates you consume a day.

The Atkins diet, perhaps the most popular low carbohydrate diet, recommends you consume only 20 net carbohydrates (total carbohydrates minus fiber) during the first phase of the diet for optimal weight loss. After the first phase you slowly introduce certain carbohydrates into your diet. Different people will introduce different amounts of carbohydrates depending on your sensitivity to carbohydrates.

EveryDiet.org states that a "low carbohydrate diet" is one that 25-39% of your Caloric intake comes from carbohydrates. A "very low carbohydrate diet" is one that 0-25% of Caloric intake comes from carbohydrates.

During my one month "One Ingredient Diet" I consumed an average of 141.7g of carbohydrates a day. All of these carbohydrates coming from fruits and vegetables. This accounted for 25% of my Caloric intake.

So did I eat a "low carbohydrate diet"? It depends on what definition you use. According to Atkins I was consuming about 80 net carbohydrates (I consumed about 42g fiber per day) more than I should have for optimal weight loss. According to EveryDiet.org I was definitely consuming a "low carbohydrate" diet.

My opinion?

I believe I consume a moderately low carbohydrate diet. My diet would be considered "low carbohydrate" by many because of the USDA's dietary recommendations. The USDA would like 45-65% of my Caloric intake to come from carbohydrates. The USDA also recommends I consume 35g fiber every day. I consumed an average of 42g fiber per day while also reaching most of the dietary recommendations for all vitamins and minerals (there are 5 vitamins/minerals that I fell just short of the recommendations. I will discuss this in Friday's post).

So what exactly would the USDA like me to consume in order to reach their carbohydrate recommendations? I am already reaching their fiber, vitamin and mineral recommendations. I guess I should start eating more white pasta, bread and sugar. Oh, wait... I did that in the past and got FAT!

Is my "moderately low carbohydrate" diet the reason I lost weight? I believe this was a big factor. I believe I am insulin resistant, or at least headed there. When I keep my intake of high glycemic carbohydrates low my weight goes down.

Tomorrow I will discuss another weight loss theory; "Eating Fat Makes You Fat".

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