What is the low carbohydrate diet? A lot is being written about low-carb diets. Carbohydrates are said to be the source of obesity and even harmful
What is the low carbohydrate diet?
A lot is being written about low-carb diets. Carbohydrates are said to be the source of obesity and even harmful to your health! Whether that is so remains to be seen. In any case, it is clear that there are many advantages to the low-carbohydrate diet. In this article we explain what a low-carbohydrate diet entails and what you can expect from it!
A low-carbohydrate diet is actually little more than a diet in which the number of carbohydrates (or actually the number of kcal from carbohydrates) is limited. By limiting carbohydrates, more protein and fat are automatically consumed.
One who has no doubt been one of the most influential individuals in the popularity of the low-carb diet is Robert Atkins. His Atkins diet is one of the most famous low-carb diets. It was not the first low-carb diet, but it was the first to spread so widely. Many products from the Atkins line are still being sold and the method remains popular. Of course there are also other low-carbohydrate diets such as the mayo diet. With these diets, you eat products that are high in fat, high in protein and low in carbohydrates.
What are carbohydrates?
Food is composed of many different substances. In addition to vitamins and minerals, food also contains energy. That energy comes from a number of different components. The energy suppliers in food are carbohydrates, fat and protein. Alcohol also provides energy, but is usually not included in this list. The different macronutrients, as the energy suppliers are called, all have different functions and functions in the body. In this article we will only discuss what carbohydrates do for us.
The function of carbohydrates is simple, they provide energy. Carbohydrates consist of several simple sugars. In the digestive tract, carbohydrates are converted into those simple sugars, after which they can be used in the body. For example, the liver converts fructose and galactose (different types of linked simple sugars) into glucose. Glucose is a form of sugar that is ready for use by the cells in our body. For example, glucose is an important source of energy for the brain cells. For more information, read our article on carbohydrates.
Why start a low-carb diet?
Almost all of us eat too much sugar. The guideline for an adult is 50 grams (table sugar or sugar added to products, excluding grape sugar or milk sugar) per day. On average, we Dutch eat about 100 to 150 grams of (added) sugar per day. According to the Diabetes Fund, this concerns 80% of the Dutch population. According to them, this is also a problem because consuming too much sugar increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes. There are estimates that as many as 40% of new type 2 diabetes cases could have been prevented by lifestyle changes.
So a good reason to follow a low carbohydrate diet is to promote your health. Maybe you want a healthier lifestyle or you want to lose some weight? Weight loss is also a frequently cited reason for switching to a low-carb diet. In addition, there are many tasty recipes that fit in with a low-carbohydrate diet, which makes maintaining the diet very easy and even a bit of fun.
Benefits of a low-carb diet
A surplus of carbohydrates (so actually a surplus of energy) is stored in the body in the form of fat. This is quite easy and is therefore a reason that many people choose to limit the number of carbohydrates, so that they are not stored in the form of fat.
In addition, there are those who claim that maintaining a low-carb diet promotes health. Frequently mentioned health benefits are the reduction of risk factors that cause cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. The reduction of these risk factors is mainly because you can lose a lot of fat and weight when following a low-carbohydrate diet.
Another advantage that many people overlook is that with a low-carbohydrate diet you automatically have to leave many unhealthy snacks. Sugar is a carbohydrate and is found in many different snacks. From chips to smarties, you will find carbohydrates in it. If you limit the carbohydrates, those snacks will fall off first. You are more likely to end up with unroasted nuts, for example, which have a good influence on your health.
How come you lose weight when following a low-carb diet?
What people seem hard to understand is that every diet works because it creates a negative energy balance. When more calories are burned than are consumed, you usually lose weight. There is no further secret to why you lose weight, this is it. Because you get less energy than you need with your daily activities, your body will get that energy from somewhere else. Your body does that with the fat reserves. After all, your fat reserve is energy that is stored for times when less energy comes in.
You already create a negative energy balance and fat burning with a shortage of 300 to 500 kcal per day. Your energy needs depend on various factors such as your gender, age, height, body weight and activity level. This is easy to calculate online. If we take as an example a woman with an energy requirement of 2200 kcal, she loses weight with an intake of 1700 to 1900 kcal. 300 to 500 below the daily requirement.
With the low-carbohydrate diet you will also create a negative energy balance. First, you will reduce the number of carbohydrates, which saves energy. A gram of carbohydrates provides about 4 kcal. Furthermore, many products that contain carbohydrates are very calorie-dense. Which means that they provide a lot of energy for their weight. For example, a snicker contains much more energy than the same weight of carrots.
The theory behind the low-carbohydrate diet also states that too much sugar ensures that your blood sugar remains high. This causes an increased level of your insulin levels. They would then ensure that your body does not break down fat to get energy. So your fat remains and you get all your energy from carbohydrates. An additional problem with this is of course that, as described earlier in the article, we now eat far too many sugars. So double problem!
Cutting carbohydrates therefore ensures that you do not get too many carbohydrates. You no longer have a surplus that is stored as fat with the bonus that you would burn more fat due to a lower insulin value. You will see this on the scale and the mirror.
Are you no longer allowed carbohydrates at all?
A low-carbohydrate diet does not mean that you should immediately cut out all carbohydrates from your diet. You must continue to eat a limited number of carbohydrates because your body needs them to function properly.
Carbohydrates are found in many foods and drinks. Most natural carbohydrates are found in plant foods, such as grains. What you see in many products is that the manufacturer adds sugar for the taste. The best known examples of products with added sugars are soft drinks and sweets.
There are different types of carbohydrates. Exactly what the type of carbohydrate is called depends on the chemical compound or what the source of the carbohydrate is. For example, a carbohydrate from fruit is called fructose. Carbohydrates and sugar are used interchangeably. We speak of multiple carbohydrates when the carbohydrate has multiple compounds. This takes a little longer to break down and therefore gives your body energy over a slightly longer period than the fast sugars.
Your body uses carbohydrates as mentioned above as an energy source. Sugars and starch are broken down into the smaller variant, simple sugars. This happens in digestion. These sugars are then absorbed into your blood, where it is called blood sugar (glucose). You can see it as that the energy of the carbohydrates is now in the blood. This energy is released into the cells of your body with the help of the substance insulin. Part of that energy is immediately burned. The extra energy (glucose) is stored in the liver, muscles and other cells for later use. Do you really have a lot of energy left, then this is stored in the form of fat.
How many grams of carbohydrates are you allowed per day?
There are actually no specific rules for this. The amount of carbohydrates you need in a day depends on several things. For example, how healthy are you and how active are you during the day? Your age and metabolism also play a role in how many carbohydrates are ideal for you. How many carbohydrates you will leave out also depends on what your goal is. For example, do you just want to meet the health standard of no more than 100 grams of carbohydrates per day or do you want to lose weight, and how quickly do you want to lose weight?
It is also important to take into account that it is still a question of how many carbohydrates are in all types of food. It’s hard to cut out as many carbohydrates as possible overnight. It takes time to figure out what to leave out and how much to leave out. We’ve prepared a few helpful guidelines for this:
80 gr to 140 gr per day
If you start with a low-carbohydrate diet, this is a good starting point. It is not extremely low, but enough to lose weight. You can get used to eating less carbohydrates, which some people may have trouble with. With this intake you can eat small amounts of rice, pasta and potatoes. Are you unable to lose weight with this amount or is your weight stable? Then reduce your intake to 50 to 80 grams of carbohydrates per day.
50 gr to 80 gr per day
At this amount it is easy to lose weight and still meet your need for some carbohydrates. With this amount you should be able to get results for a longer time. You can still eat vegetables and two pieces of fruit per day.
25 gr to 50 gr per day
People generally lose most of this amount. You limit the carbohydrate intake which you will see in the total number of kcal consumed. This works mainly in the short term because it is very difficult to maintain, but can be used to boost the motivation to lose some weight quickly.
Which products are you allowed to eat?
With a low-carbohydrate diet, the focus is of course on eating products with a low carbohydrate count. This shifts the balance to products that are higher in fat and protein.
So you will eat more meat, vegetables, poultry and eggs and limit the intake of grains, beans, fruit, bread, sweets, pasta and starchy vegetables.
If you read this this might feel like a huge limitation. There are many substitutes on the market for the low-carbohydrate diet. Here you will find a number of recipes where you can replace rice, potatoes and bread without really missing them. You can also use products such as smart pasta or smart rice. Read more about the smart products here.
Are you curious about even more low-carbohydrate products? Then take a look at these two lists:
- List with low-carb vegetables
- List with low-carbohydrate fruits
A diet works because it creates a negative calorie balance. In any case, it will continue to work in the short term. In the long run, studies often show that people develop over time