How Do Low Carb Diets Work?

egg and vegetables dish

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the exceptional fat loss potential of low carb diets. But why don’t these high fat diets mean more fat on your body? Why do bodybuilders, boxers, MMA fighters, and elite athletes use low carb diets to slim down for weigh-ins?

To answer these questions we have to look at how diets that focus on reduced intake of carbohydrates affect the body.

How Does a Low Carb Diet Help You Lose Weight?

When your body consumes carbohydrates it turns them into glucose (a sugar) and will use this glucose as a fuel before resorting to using body fat. If you consume too many carbohydrates, your body will have a perpetual source of glucose for fuel and will not begin to metabolize your fat supplies. In addition to this, all of the excess glucose that your body isn’t able to utilize will be stored as body fat.

When you consume excess carbohydrates, you not only don’t lose fat, but you actually store more of it. When you consume less carbohydrates your body converts to using fat as it’s primary fuel source. Your body is quite happy running on fat supplies but will only do so in the absence of glucose.

Are Low Carb Diets Safe?

Dietary intake of carbohydrates is entirely optional. Your body can run just fine on fat, protein, and ketones (a byproduct of ketogeneis – the breaking down of fat tissue).

While you may not be consuming carbohydrates directly, your body will still be producing glucose through the process known as gluconeogenesis. Your liver can produce approximately 1400mg of glucose per day to maintain optimum bodily function.

What is the Recommend Daily Amount of Carbohydrates for Weight Loss?

On a ketogenic diet, such as the Atkins Diet, the recommended amount of carbohydrates can be anywhere from 15 grams per day to approximately 100 grams per day depending on if you are in a weight loss or weight maintaining phase of the diet plan.

During the Atkins Induction Phase, which is a weight loss phase, the recommended level of carbohydrate intake is approximately 20 grams per day — approximately 5 of which should come from meats and 15 of which should come from raw vegetables.

How Much Weight Can I Lose on a Low Carb Diet?

The amount of weight you will lose depends on a number of factors such as genetics, basal metabolic rate, the number of carbohydrates you consume, and your fitness level.

On a highly ketogenic diet such as the Atkins Induction Phase, weight loss on the order of 3 to 4 lbs a week is not unheard of.

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