LOW CARB WEIGHT LOSS
You’re here reading this because the idea of low-carb dieting caught your attention. You’ve heard that eating low-carb can help you lose fat while helping to retain as much muscle as possible, and it absolutely will (1). The concept behind eating low-carb is to switch your body’s fuel source from carb-provided glucose to ketones created by eating fats (2). For more about exactly how and why this works to help you burn stored fat check out this page on the scientific specifics.
So, now we all know how eating good fats and limiting carbs works to cut stored body fat. Eating low-carb has many benefits beyond just weight loss (3), but for the purposes of this article we are discussing fat loss. Low-carb eating is the answer to yo-yo dieting or fad diets because low-carb really works to trim you down and drop the pounds (4). But there’s one major misconception that many new, low-carb dieters cling to. They often believe that as long as they stay within the rules of low-carb, limiting their carbohydrate intake to less than 20g per day, they can eat as much as they want. This isn’t the case. Calories still matter. At the end of the day, weight loss is still just a math game, more calories expended than consumed (5). You still need to figure out your calorie baseline and shoot for fewer calories than that number in order to lose weight.
CALORIES PLUS LOW-CARB
Experienced low-carb eaters will tell you that on the ketogenic diet they are less frequently hungry, always feeling full. This is where the misconception that you can eat as many calories as you’d like comes from. They aren’t full because they never stop eating, they’re full because low-carb naturally limits ghrelin, the hormone that tells your brain you need more food – hunger (6).
Low-carb dieting is fantastic for people who are always hungry and never get that sated feeling because it fills them with good fats that gives their system a lot of work to do, keeping them fuller, longer (7).
The biggest issue with the low-carb calorie connection is that low-carb foods that are high in fat tend to have significantly higher calories. The problem for new, low-carb eaters is that they fall back on the way they've always done things and they will eat the same volume of food even though they no longer need to. This leads to calorie counts that negate any weight-loss effects. The best way to counter this is to let technology do the work for you, track your calories and carbs with a tracker.
As you move through your low-carb journey, you may find that the weight that was peeling off in regular intervals has suddenly stopped and decided to stick around. This is called a stall. And if you know what to do, stalls can be broken rather quickly. Intermittent fasting is one way to crack a stall (limiting your food and caloric intake to a designated window of time during the day and fasting for the remaining majority) (8). Changing what you eat to shock your system is another strategy that’s used, and upping water intake is another.
But the best way to break stalls is to understand them. They come from adjusted calorie deficits. When you first start and you calculate your calories to lose weight, you are calculating a deficit in to make sure you eat fewer calories than you expend. But as you lose weight, your body won’t need as many calories as it did when you had those extra pounds. Suddenly, your deficit calorie number is too much for your new, trimmer body. You need to recalculate your BMR based on your new weight to find out what your new calorie limit is.
Do that and you’ll find your stall quickly breaking.
(1) Anssi H Manninen. Very-low-carbohydrate diets and preservation of muscle mass. Nutrition & Metabolism2006 3:9. Published: 31 January 2006.
(2) Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN. The Ketogenic Diet: A Detailed Beginner's Guide to Keto. www.healthline.com. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ketogenic-diet-101. July 30th, 2018. Accessed: Sep. 24th, 2018.
(3) Hussein M Dashti, MD PhD FICS FACS, Thazhumpal C Mathew, MSc PhD FRCPath, Talib Hussein, MB ChB, et al. Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. Exp Clin Cardiol. 2004 Fall; 9(3): 200–205.
(4) Antonio Paoli. Ketogenic Diet for Obesity: Friend or Foe? Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Feb; 11(2): 2092–210.
(5) Strasser B, Spreitzer A, Haber P. Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(5):428-32. Epub 2007 Nov 20.
(6) F. Levin T. Edholm P. T. Schmidt, et al. Ghrelin Stimulates Gastric Emptying and Hunger in Normal-Weight Humans. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 91, Issue 9, 1 September 2006, Pages 3296–3302.
(7) Alexandra M Johnstone Graham W Horgan Sandra D Murison, et al. Effects of a high-protein ketogenic diet on hunger, appetite, and weight loss in obese men feeding ad libitum. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 87, Issue 1, 1 January 2008, Pages 44–55.
(8) Iain Templeman, Dylan Thompson, Javier Gonzalez, et al. Intermittent fasting, energy balance and associated health outcomes in adults: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial. Trials. 2018; 19: 86.