Are Low Carb Diets The Answer To Long Term Weight Control?

The Formula to Losing Weight

All diets that reduce our energy intake to below our energy consumption must invariably lead to weight loss. We can increase our activity levels or reduce our energy intake to lose weight but doing both is not recommended unless we know exactly the minimum energy intake required for our bodies to function properly.

Low Carb Diets Can Cause More Harm Than Good 

A low carb diet is not ideal for long term weight management especially for those of us who exercise regularly and enthusiastically. The adverse effects that a long term low carb diet can cause are:

  • Decreased thyroid output leading to lower metabolic rate and insulin insensitivity

We need a minimum amount of thyroid hormone for everyday function. When we are not eating enough carbs, our thyroid will become less active, affecting our metabolic function and blood glucose management.

Low carb diets having around 70g of carbs can cause adverse effects to our bodily functions, leaving us with a low metabolic rate, feeling cold and sluggish all the time.

  • Decreased testosterone levels
  • Higher cortisol levels which can cause:
    • blood sugar imbalances
    • increased abdominal fat
    • decreased muscle mass
    • lowered immune function
    • impaired cognitive performance
    • elevated blood pressure
    • sleep disruption
  • For women, disruption to a whole host of hormone production causing:
    • Lower fertility
    • Blood sugar swings
    • More body fat (as thyroid stimulation hormone is suppressed)
    • Loss of bone density
    • Anxiety, depression and other mental health issues
    • Chronic inflammation and chronic pain
    • Chronic fatigue and disrupted sleep.
  • Increase muscle breakdown.

When muscle glycogen is depleted coupled with lower insulin levels muscle building is impeded. Insulin is crucial for building muscles and extremely low carb diets can lead to lower insulin levels directly affecting protein synthesis.

  • Lower athletic performance

The above list is certainly enough to discourage anyone from adhering to a low carb diet long term but how come a short term low carbs diet almost always seem to work? The immediate weight loss is usually due to depletion of glycogen and water.

Are Low Carb Diets More Beneficial Compared to Other Weight Loss Diets?

Perhaps rather than focusing on the “low carb” perhaps we should look at the compensatory higher protein intake that most people turn to while following a low carb diet.

A higher protein diet requires more energy for digestion, makes us feel satiated for longer and helps us build lean muscle mass. It seems that the big plus in low carb diets is their increased protein component. A research conducted on 4 groups of people with varying levels of carbs and protein showed people on high protein diets irrespective of the carbs levels lost more weight than those who were on normal protein with low or normal carbs diets.

Other Factors

Weight loss, of course, should not be the end goal in any healthy lifestyle. This is but a by product of living and eating healthily. We have isolated low carb diets in this article to pinpoint the risks of adhering to it long term.

To have a healthy body and feel we are in control, we need balanced training in addition to proper nutrition. One does not work without the other.

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