Episode #61: Why Do Low Carb Diets Work?
In this episode. you will see the many reasons a low carb diet has scientifically been shown to work. You will also see a few myths that you may come upon in your travels.
Your coaching advice this week is to build awareness during three days of eating. It is easier than you think to switch to a low carb lifestyle. This awareness is the first step.
3:25. Why do low carb diets work?
5:00. Insulin levels are lowered
7:06. Water weight is released
8:01. Higher protein is consumed
8:57. There is a metabolic advantage to Low Carb
10:08. Less variation and lower "food reward" results in lower consumption
12:22. Three common myths about low carb eating
17:41. This week's ACTIONABLE COACHING ADVICE
19:57. Next week's episode
Episode #: 61 Why Do Low Carb Diets Work?
You’re Listening to the Keto and Low Carb Success podcast, Episode # 61, Why Do Low Carb Diets Work?
Did you know that you don't have to spend money on a diet program or weigh, measure and track your food? What if you could learn to have success by following an easy roadmap that takes you on adventures from learning how to change your mindset so that you can believe in yourself, to learning about what foods work best in your body and why? Join me, Miriam Hatoum, health coach, course creator and author of Conquer Cravings with Keto, as I give you actionable coaching advice that is sure to empower you so that you will finally find peace with food and learn to trust your body’s signals. You’ve got this, girl!
Be sure to go to miriamhatoum.com/resources to get all the free guides to help you along the way. I am in your shoes, my friends, and I wrote these guides for both of us. The link is in the show notes and transcripts.
Oh, and before we start, I want to let you know that the primary purpose of this podcast and the course is to educate and does not constitute medical advice or service, and I’m keeping up with the science as fast as I can so I can share with you the latest breaking research in this area to help you achieve your dreams!
Now on to today’s episode:
3:25 Why Do Low Carb Diets Work?
Low-carb diets work.
This is pretty much a scientific fact at this point.
Not only do Low Carbohydrate diets bring about more weight loss than a standard low-fat diet, a low-carb diet also appears to have no serious side effects. In fact, the studies show that these diets cause some major improvements in many important risk factors, such as triglycerides, blood pressure and blood sugar levels all decreasing, while HDL levels increase.
A high percentage of the fat lost on a low carb diet comes from the belly area, which is the dangerous visceral fat that builds up in and around the organs. I talked about this in Episode 51, Carbs, Insulin and Belly Fat, that aired on May 25, 2023.
I would always say this about Keto, but following low carb, even with rather higher carbohydrate allowances like 50 carbs per meal, is also effective for people with metabolic syndrome and/or type 2 diabetes.
There are many different reasons why low carb diets work, and they tend to be interrelated. In today’s episode I will talk about why low carb diets are successful, and also some of the myths that you will come across.
5:00 Insulin Levels are Lowered
The first reason that low carb eating works is that carb restriction lowers insulin levels. In Episode 51, in my course, and also in Episode 38 Stop Yo-Yo Dieting that aired February 23, 2023, I go into detail on this factor, but here is a synopsis for the purpose of this episode.
Insulin, the main hormone that regulates blood sugar levels and energy storage, is a very important hormone in the body. One of the many functions of insulin is to unlock the doors to cells in the body so that the cells to pick up glucose (blood sugar) from the bloodstream. However, when a person is insulin resistant, the doors to cells cannot be unlocked, and instead the insulin will signal to the fat cells to produce and store fat, and to hold on to the fat that they already carry.
When you are following a Keto diet, your carbohydrate intake is substantially reduced, which leads to drastic and almost immediate reductions in insulin levels. Keto is just one level of Low Carbohydrate eating. Following any level of low carbohydrate eating will lead to reduction in insulin levels, even if not as immediate and drastic as Keto would do. Episode 36, What is Low Carb? that aired February 9, 2023, explains the various levels of Low Carbohydrate eating.
Your hunger will also be regulated. The reason for this is that when carbs are restricted and insulin levels go down, the fat isn’t “locked” away in the fat cells anymore and becomes accessible to the body to use as energy, leading to reduced need for eating. Your hunger hormones, Ghrelin and Leptin will also be better regulated.
7:06 Water Weight is Released
In Episode #59 which aired July 20, 2023, I talked about water weight. This drop in water weight is a second reason why people will tend to lose weight rapidly at the beginning of a low carbohydrate diet, with Keto being the most aggressive of the low carb eating manner.
The mechanism behind it is two-fold:
8:01 Higher Protein is Consumed
An interesting article which I have in the show notes from Health Line, points out a third reason that low carb diets work. Low carb diets tend to be much higher in protein than low fat diets, and in most studies where low carb and low fat diets are compared, the low carb groups end up eating much more protein.
This is because people replace many low-protein foods (grains, sugars) with higher protein foods like meat, fish and eggs.
Numerous studies show that protein can reduce appetite, boost metabolism, and help increase muscle mass, which is metabolically active and burns calories around the clock.
Many nutrition experts believe that the high protein content of low-carb diets is the main reason for their effectiveness.
8:57 There is a Metabolic Advantage to Low Carb
Although this is controversial, many experts do believe that low carb diets have a metabolic advantage, but mostly because of increased protein intake, even more so than the reduced carbohydrate intake.
There are some studies that support that low carb diets increase energy expenditure which accounts for weight loss more than the reduction of calorie intake alone.
One particular study (in the show notes and transcript) found that the increase was around 250 calories, which is equivalent to an hour of moderate-intensity exercise per day! However, this was for very low carbohydrate Keto diet, and to my knowledge was not tested for more moderate low carb eating. Interestingly, the largest reduction of the TEE (Total Energy Expenditure) was in the low-fat diet, meaning that your metabolism slowed down!
10:08 Less Variation and Lower “Food Reward” results in lower consumption
Low carb diets automatically exclude some of the most desirable junk foods. Furthermore, most of the elements of high calorie foods, such as corn, sugar, and wheat are limited on low carb and totally eliminated on Keto.
There can also be a reduction in variety when you eliminate most high-carb foods. However, that being said, there does not have to be a significant reduction in variety if you take the mindset that this can be a creative and fulfilling way to eat.
An interesting meta study by Raynor and Epstein (in the show notes and transcript) shows that greater dietary variety is associated with increased body weight and fat. And by the way, a meta study means a study that pulls together the findings of many other studies but is not original research itself.
Another great meta study by Guyenet and Schwartz (also in the show notes and transcript) points out that when foods are especially delicious – as we find with foods made with sugar and wheat such as pastries, cookies and cakes, the foods become rewarding in the sense that eating them drives the desire to eat more.
So, although reduced food variety and reduced intake of highly rewarding foods can both contribute to a reduced calorie intake, it is not necessarily a given that this will contribute to lower calorie intake, because low carb and keto foods can be just as rewarding and full of variety as non-low carbohydrate foods. However, overall, cutting out fast, easily accessible junk and processed foods will absolutely go a long way to cut out your caloric and carbohydrate intake.
12:22 Three common myths about Low Carb Eating
1. The first myth is that You Only Lose Water Weight
Let’s go back to water weight for a minute. Your body stores glycogen in your muscles and liver. When you cut down on your carbohydrate intake, your glycogen stores go down. Glycogen is the stored form of glucose that's made up of many connected glucose molecules. As you eat fewer and fewer carbs, your body will start to break down and use the glycogen in your liver, releasing it into the bloodstream to be used to generate energy. The glycogen stores in your muscles will also decrease as they get utilized for energy production within the muscles themselves.
Glycogen is bound to water which means as you burn through your glycogen stores you do lose water weight. But this does not mean you are only losing water weight. You are losing fat stores as well.
It’s a myth that you are only losing water weight. Think of it – how much water weight could you actually lose? Believe me, you are not just losing water weight as those pounds come off.
2. The second myth is that eating this way is Bad for your heart
In my course, Keto and Low Carb Success, and my book, Conquer Cravings with Keto, I investigate the Diet-Heart Hypothesis myth. Because you tend to eat more protein on a low carb eating plan, low carb diets can tend to be higher in cholesterol and fat. However, the evidence has shown that neither dietary cholesterol nor saturated fat have any significant effect on your risk of heart disease. A recent article by Nina Teicholz (reference in the show notes and transcripts) shows that publication of multiple review papers on these data have provided a new awareness of the fundamental inadequacy of the evidence to support the idea that saturated fats cause heart disease.
In fact, as I talked about above, low-carb diets may improve many important heart disease risk factors by
3. The third myth is that low carb eating is Hard to Stick To
This is another popular myth because of the belief that low-carb diets are unsustainable because they restrict common food groups, leading to feelings of deprivation and frustration.
First of all, especially with Low Carb (but not extremely low carb as with Keto) nothing is off limits. EVER! You might make a choice to eliminate certain foods that are using up your carbohydrate limits, but that is totally your decision to make. Once you introduce decision and free-will into the equation, you cannot say you are deprived. Yes, you might set yourself up with a “this-not that” situation but it is not deprivation.
Keep in mind that all diets restrict something — some certain food groups or, where all food groups are allowed, then calories in terms of portion control. However, if you listen to, and use, your hunger scale, that sort of calorie or portion restriction really is not restriction at all. You are choosing to eat foods and quantities that make you feel good. You are not depriving yourself, you are honoring yourself.
With low carbohydrate eating – including Keto – your appetite tends to be reduced because the lowering of your insulin helps to regulate your hunger hormones – Ghrelin and Leptin which I talked about in all of the above-mentioned episodes. You are less hungry and more quickly satisfied so again, no deprivation to speak of.
One of the myths under this “Hard To Stick To” heading is that low carb diets only work because you eat fewer calories. Yes and no. You tend to eat higher protein on low carb, which boosts metabolism and keeps you fuller longer, and insulin production is reduced because you are eating fewer carbohydrates. Because of these factors you do tend to eat less, but not because you are forced to. It is more a process of metabolic health process and not a process of deprivation.
In addition to all this, there is no scientific evidence that supports that low-carb diets are harder to stick to than other diets.
17:41 This Week’s Actionable Coaching Advice
This week, I would like you to track at least three days of eating. You don’t have to weigh or measure anything. Just write down what you are eating for the day.
Stay away from the judgment zone. This is just an awareness exercise.
Once you have your list for three days, take a look and see what might have been your high-carb choices. This could be, for instance, bread, pasta, starchy vegetables, dessert or any sweet.
Ask yourself whether these choices could be limited or eliminated in a way that would not substantially take the enjoyment out of your meals. Think of pizza night with the family. Hey, you want the pizza. That’s okay. What can you do to minimize the impact that day?
· Could you take 2 slices instead of 3 or 4?
· Could you have a salad on the side so that you will still feel full after the meal?
· Can you reduce your carbohydrates elsewhere in the day, like not having a sandwich at lunch or cereal at breakfast?
You can see where I am going here. Yes, for Keto you will be eliminating foods (but you can still have pizza with a Keto-type pizza crust!), but for low carb, the point is to learn to identify where you are eating your carbs, asking yourself if you really want them at a meal, and if you do, how can you reduce their impact either by eating less or having fewer carbohydrates at other meals.
I also encourage you, as part of your coaching, to look at my program, Keto and Low Carb Success. The link is in the show notes and transcript. There is so much in there that will help you find your footing with all of this.
And, let me remind you. If you’ve ever got a question you’d like to ask me or share a topic idea that you would like me to cover on a future episode, don’t be a stranger! I always look forward to hearing from listeners like you. You are welcome to email me directly… email@example.com. And don’t forget to leave a review wherever you listen to this podcast. I would SO appreciate it. Leaving a review makes it easier for other people who are looking to listen and learn about Keto and Low Carb.
19:57 Coming up in the next Episode
Next week I will go over a list of foods to limit on a Low Carb Diet. It will help to round out the picture on understanding low carb eating, and will help you plan, grocery shop and cook, which will be the episode following the next one.
Please share this show with your friends and invite them to tune in with you and learn how to become free from diet prison with my Keto and Low Carb Success podcast. Especially share this podcast with anyone you know who is struggling with their weight or eating plan. This podcast and my course can be game changers if you take the information and coaching advice that are in them, they really are. It will help so many people transform their lives – not just with food but with how they feel about themselves, how they approach the food they eat, and how they make decisions about any area of their lives.
Until the next episode, go live free from diet worry — I’ll see you back here next time.
Energy Expenditure study
Study on Variety
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