Very low carb or ke­to­genic di­ets are trend­ing, and the humble car­bo­hy­drate has been down­graded to ‘junk’ sta­tus. But is a very low carb diet good for ev­ery­one?

LOSE IT! - - Contents - BY: NICKY PERKS

Un­der­stand what they do to un­der­stand how to man­age them

while it is true that re­duc­ing carb in­take is an ef­fec­tive di­etary ap­proach, the ques­tion ev­ery­one needs to ask them­selves is, ‘Does my level of carb re­stric­tion ben­e­fit me in all ar­eas of my life?’ In other words, are you slim­ming down with­out los­ing mus­cle mass, are your energy lev­els good, do you sleep well at night, do you feel strong when you work out, have your hunger and crav­ings re­duced, do you feel happy, and is your diet easy to sus­tain? Never sac­ri­fice health for fat loss. Your goal should be to achieve both.

There’s no deny­ing that cer­tain peo­ple thrive on a ke­to­genic diet and the fat loss and ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits they ex­pe­ri­ence mo­ti­vate them to ad­here to the fairly re­stric­tive pro­to­col. Oth­ers try it, ob­tain lack­lus­tre re­sults and end up worse off than be­fore.

Ac­cord­ing to nu­tri­tion coach­ing and ed­u­ca­tion web­site Pre­ci­sion Nu­tri­tion, restrict­ing carbs tem­po­rar­ily can be very ef­fec­tive for quick weight loss, but keep­ing carbs too low for too long can slow down your metabolism and el­e­vate your stress hor­mones. You can feel spaced out, slug­gish, cranky – and pos­si­bly even sick. Pre­ci­sion Nu­tri­tion doesn’t rec­om­mend tak­ing your nu­tri­tion to ex­tremes – un­less you have ex­treme goals. ‘Strate­gic mod­er­a­tion’ is its pre­ferred ap­proach.

Women seem to be far more prone to hor­mone dis­rup­tion from se­vere carb re­stric­tion than men. ‘The Pa­leo Mom’, med­i­cal re­searcher Dr Sarah Bal­lan­tyne, is not in favour of ke­to­genic di­ets for ev­ery­one, and be­lieves that they are nei­ther nec­es­sary nor ben­e­fi­cial un­less you are us­ing them ther­a­peu­ti­cally for cancer, epilepsy or Alzheimer’s dis­ease. One of her con­cerns is that too few car­bo­hy­drates from veg­eta­bles and starchy tu­bers could mean an in­suf­fi­ciency not only of fi­bre, which is im­por­tant for main­tain­ing good gut health, but also of cer­tain nu­tri­ents and phy­to­chem­i­cals that are pri­mar­ily found in cer­tain veg­eta­bles.

Does this mean that you should give up your low carb diet? Not at all. The key is to use carbs strate­gi­cally. The right type, in the right amount, at the right time – for you. You will need to ex­per­i­ment but, be­fore you get too ex­cited, lin­guine car­bonara is not back

Never sac­ri­fice health for fat loss. Your goal should be to achieve both.

on the menu! Eat­ing fresh, un­pro­cessed food and avoid­ing sugar and pro­cessed grains is im­por­tant, but a small por­tion of sweet potato, car­rots or but­ter­nut with your steak and salad might be just what you need to sleep bet­ter, im­prove your work­outs, lift your mood, put a smile back on your face – and still lose fat.


To per­form well at high in­ten­sity sports your body needs quick ac­cess to glu­cose or glyco­gen for fuel and the strate­gic use of carbs be­comes im­por­tant, ex­plains Danny Lennon, a nu­tri­tion and per­for­mance coach at Sigma Nu­tri­tion, a com­pany fo­cused on ex­er­cise sci­ence and nu­tri­tion that coaches clients in­ter­na­tion­ally. His ad­vice is to eat low carb on your rest days and to in­crease your carbs a lit­tle on days you train. When in­creas­ing carbs you should re­duce your fat in­take, and vice versa on your low carb days. This en­sures that your food-in­take goals are main­tained. If you are train­ing for or com­pet­ing in an Ironman event, where you move at a slower pace but for a longer du­ra­tion, your body can more read­ily rely on ke­tones for fuel, so it might be an ad­van­tage to be ke­to­genic in that in­stance.

Mark Sis­son, au­thor of The Pri­mal Blueprint, says the con­se­quence of not con­sum­ing carbs for glyco­gen-de­mand­ing sports like CrossFit, for ex­am­ple, is that you’ll trig­ger a stress re­sponse, which means cor­ti­sol lev­els go up. If cor­ti­sol lev­els go up and stay up you’ll lose lean mass and re­tain or gain body fat. You need to ex­per­i­ment to fig­ure out the amount of carbs that al­lows you to per­form and re­cover well on your train­ing days while still be­ing able to lose fat over the long term. On rest days he sug­gests restrict­ing carbs to non-starchy veg­eta­bles only.

What about some­one who is pre-di­a­betic or in­sulin re­sis­tant? Can they also up their carbs a lit­tle for bet­ter ath­letic per­for­mance and more di­verse food choices? Yes, says Lennon, but tim­ing is cru­cial. Due to the phys­i­o­log­i­cal changes that oc­cur in the body when we ex­er­cise (es­pe­cially with re­sis­tance or weight train­ing), hav­ing your carbs soon af­ter a work­out will help those carbs to be par­ti­tioned into the mus­cle cells in­stead of be­ing stored as fat.


A very low carb diet can be more ef­fec­tive for fat loss and, yes, it does re­duce in­sulin and help you to eat less. But there is a school of thought that sug­gests pro­tein could be the real suc­cess fac­tor when it comes to ef­fec­tive and sus­tained fat loss. Pro­tein has a higher ther­mic ef­fect, mean­ing your body has to rev up its metabolism for di­ges­tion. It also keeps you fuller for longer and helps you re­tain mus­cle mass. So en­sur­ing an ad­e­quate pro­tein in­take might be more im­por­tant than whether you eat 25, 75 or 100 grams of carbs each day. A palm-sized por­tion of pro­tein at each of your three meals is a good tar­get to aim for. If you want to build mus­cle you may need more.


To lose fat, you must cre­ate a deficit and your hor­mones need to be in bal­ance. If go­ing very low carb and higher in fat does this for you, fan­tas­tic. If a diet more mod­er­ate in carbs and fats and slightly higher in pro­tein works well for you, keep do­ing that. There is no one-size-fits-all an­swer. The best diet is the one that gets you re­sults and pro­motes health – and is easy to stick to. A diet should never be a quick fix but, rather, a sus­tain­able lifestyle. Con­sis­tent ad­her­ence is key.

Un­for­tu­nately, some low car­bers tend to fall into the trap of ‘if low carb is good, then very low carb/ke­to­genic must be bet­ter’. It’s okay to ex­per­i­ment, but don’t con­tinue for months on end if you don’t feel good. Ke­to­sis is not the only way to lose weight. There are many fac­tors in­volved in weight loss – re­duc­ing in­sulin is just one of them – so when it comes to carbs be care­ful not to throw the baby out with the bath wa­ter. Carbs are not an es­sen­tial nu­tri­ent, but they do go a long way in help­ing some of us feel and per­form bet­ter. Starchy veg­eta­bles in the right quan­ti­ties can cer­tainly have their place in an ef­fec­tive fat loss pro­gramme.

Restrict­ing carbs tem­po­rar­ily can be very ef­fec­tive for quick weight loss, but keep­ing carbs too low for too long can slow down your metabolism and el­e­vate your stress hor­mones.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.