Why Low Carb is the way to go
Low carb or keto diets are often seen as controversial, however, in most scientific studies low carb diets prove to be healthy and beneficial, and often out perform other types of diets. For us, low carb is the way to go so we've pulled together 8 scientifically proven health benefits of a low carb diet.
Please be aware, a low carb or keto diet is not for everyone. We suggest that you consult your health care provider before starting a low carb eating regime, as you would any other weight loss or management programme, especially if you're taking medication that affects your blood sugar levels. Low carb diets are not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, or those on dialysis.
1. Diabetes Management
Many people with diabetes are now choosing a low carb lifestyle because of it's benefits in terms of improving diabetes control.
Eating carbohydrate has the biggest impact on our blood sugar and insulin levels so restricting carbs has the direct result of lowering our sugar levels and insulin needs. Studies have shown that cutting carbs lowers both blood sugar and insulin levels significantly.
Following a low carb or ketogenic eating plan has allowed many people with type 2 diabetes to achieve more stable blood sugar levels and, in some cases, they have been able to resolve their diabetes - they have got their blood sugar levels into a non-diabetic range without the help of medication. In one study of people with type 2 diabetes, 95% of the participants had reduced or eliminated their glucose-lowering medication within 6 months.
People with type 1 diabetes have also reported much more stable blood sugar levels, which makes the condition much easier to predict and manage.
2. Endurance performance
A low carb eating plan makes your body incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy, including turning fat into ketones, which can supply energy to the brain. This is appealing for endurance athletes because we have a virtually unlimited reserve of fat calories to use, but we can only store 1600-2000 calories worth of carbohydrate in our muscles, blood and the liver.
Runners "hit the wall" and cyclists call it "bonking", but it's the same thing - it's what happens when we run low on blood glucose and we just don't have the fuel to keep the muscles or the brain going any longer. If we're burning fat and fuelled by ketones rather than carbohydrate then we're theoretically bonk-proof.
That fat burning is often accompanied by weight loss, and for athletes that can mean improved body composition, which can also improve your power to weight ratio.
Several studies have shown that a low carb eating regime leads to improved brain function, which may also give you a competitive edge if your brain is staying sharper for longer while you race.
Following a low carb regime may also solve your gastric distress issues, with a more steady delivery of energy from your fat stores and less of a need to fuel. This can really help athletes who find that their stomach is irritated by carb-based sports nutrition.
3. Weight loss
Cutting carbs is one of the simplest, most effective ways to lose weight. Studies have shown that people on low carb diets lose more weight and more quickly than those on low fat diets, even when the low fat diet is actively restricting calories. In some studies, people restricting their weight sometimes lost 2-3 times as much weight as those on a low fat diet, but without being hungry.
The reason that a low carb diet can be so effective for weight loss is because it switches your body into fat burning mode, This means that your body will start to burn stored fats for energy rather than relying on glucose from carbohydrates. That fat burning ultimately leads to weight loss.
The extra proteins and fats that you eat to compensate for the carbs that you've drastically reduced can also help you to feel fuller for longer, which also helps to reduce how much we actually eat.
4. Reduced heart disease risk
Low carb diets can have a beneficial impact on a number of heart disease risk factors. In particular, they reduce triglycerides, increase the levels of 'good' HDL Cholesterol, and improve 'bad' LDL cholesterol levels.
Triglycerides are fat molecules that circulate in your blood stream. High levels of triglycerides in the blood after an overnight fast are a strong indicator of heart disease risk. When people cut their carbs, they tend to see a dramatic reduction in triglycerides in their blood.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is often called the 'good' cholesterol. One of the best ways to increase HDL levels is to eat fat and as low carb diets include a lot of fat, it's unsurprising that HDL levels increase for people following a healthy low carb eating plan.
People who have high 'bad' LDL are much more likely to have heart attacks, however, the size of the LDL particle is important - the smaller the particle, the higher the risk and bigger particles carry a lower risk. Low carb diets can both reduce the number of LDL particles in your blood stream as well as increasing the size of them, reducing your risk of heart attack.
5. Reduced appetite
Hunger pangs is one of the hardest things about losing weight, but studies have shown that people on a low carb or keto eating regime reported fewer negative effects and less hunger than those following a low fat diet.
Low carb eating tends to improve signals of when we are full, and tend to keep us feeling fuller for longer. Stable blood sugars and lower levels of insulin may be partly responsible for this, but studies have shown that those eating a low carb diet experience a decrease in gherlin (the hormone that tells us we're hungry) and an improved sensitivity to Leptin (the hormone that tells us when we're full).
Leptin is also the hormone that tells our brains when to stop storing fat and when to start burning it, and eating a poor diet, especially one that is high in sugar and carbs, can shut down the leptin receptors in your brain so that it takes you much longer to realise that you're full. By reducing your carb intake, you can switch those receptors back on again so that you feel more satisfied with less food.
6. Weight management
Many people find that if they've followed a diet and reached their target weight, they then put weight back on over time. Studies have shown that this weight gain is caused by calorie deprivation leading to a decrease in leptin and an increase in ghrelin (the appetite hormones), which means that after a period of calorie deficit you actually end up even hungrier!
By sticking to a lower carb lifestyle you're not depriving your body of calories, which means your leptin and ghrelin hormones can stay in balance. And that means that your weight is far easier to manage as you're not craving food.
Following a lower carb diet can also be easier to manage in the long term than other types of diets, and we live in a society that is obsessed with carbs. Once you've reached your target weight, sticking to a lower carb lifestyle actually helps to maintain portion control and helps you to eat a more balanced diet.
7. Reduced Abdominal cavity fat
There are two main types of fat in your body: Subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is far more visible as it sits just under the skin. This type of fat is usually harmless. Visceral fat is fat that accumulates in the abdominal cavity and surrounds the organs. It's not visible from the outside, but it is associated with a number of diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimers, type 2 diabetes, strokes and high cholesterol.
Studies have shown that a large percentage of the fat lost on low carb diets tends to be the more harmful visceral fat from the abdominal cavity, which means that following a low carb eating regime can reduce your risk of these types of diseases.
8. Helpful for brain disorders
Your brain does need glucose as some parts of the brain only burn this type of sugar, which is why your liver converts protein into glucose if you don't eat any carbs. This process means that your brain gets a steady supply of glucose even when your carb intake is low.
A large part of your brain, however, can burn ketones, and this has been used for decades to treat children with drug-resistant epilepsy, with really positive results.
Very low carb and ketogenic eating plans are now being studied as possible therapeutic treatments for other brain conditions, including parkinsons disease, Alzheimers, migraines, autism and mental health problems like depression, anxiety and ADHD.