Uppdaterat: 20 jun 2018
A low carb diet is exactly that, a diet with less carbs, moderate in fat, and high in protein. Many lowcarbers are also fond of whole foods, but just as many use a lot of substitute products for their cooking and baking. In Sweden, where I’m from, it’s popular to opt up the fat and go totally ketogenic on a low carb diet. That usually means around 80% fat and 20% protein.
A lot of people adopt a low carb diet for weight loss reasons, but there are still high numbers of the population that continue to struggle with weight issues despite a flawless diet each year. How come so many people lose weight successfully and some don’t? I’ve identified a couple of factors behind this phenomenon.
The first one is about counting calories. That’s a bad idea because the body is a hormonal system and the calories are counted radically different depending on the source. A person stuck in the calorie trap easily cheats oneself of eating less nutrient dense foods for the imagined gain of fewer calories. This type of food might actually store more body fat than a meal with a higher amount of calories because of the body’s hormonal responses. This is the reason why it’s completely useless to eat a 500 calorie chocolate cake and then burn 500 calories on the treadmill. The chocolate cake will increase the insulin for several hours ahead and block the fat metabolism, so no fat loss can occur despite the physical exercise.
Successful weight loss occurs when calories are accounted for, but not counted. Food source and nutrient value must come first. If you have an obsession with exercise to burn extra calories you are more prone to halt the weight loss instead of boosting it.
Another important and unknown factor is the II (insulin index). Most people know about GI (glycemic index), but very few know about the corresponding effects of insulin. A food item can be very low in glycemic index and simultaneously have a high insulin index. What happens is the effect of an insulin raise can block the fat metabolism for hours.
Examples of foods with high insulin index are high protein foods such as a dry piece of chicken, canned tuna, and dairy products. Look at the illustration below. Fermented milk products have a tendency to really raise insulin despite low carbohydrate content.
Figure: Simplified graph from American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: An insulinindex of foods: the insulin demand generated by 1000-kJ portions of common foods. Susanne HA Holt, Janette C Brand Miller, and Peter Petocz
A gram of protein and a gram of carbohydrates each contain 4 kcal, while a gram of fat contains 9 kcal. The most logical thing to do for weight loss is to cut down on fat because it contains the most calories, but that’s what weight watchers and other low calorie enthusiasts have been doing all along. Most overweight people have chronically elevated insulin levels, so by cutting down on fat and increasing proteins, the body will provide an environment where hormonal weight loss is downright impossible. For weight loss to occur insulin must be stabilized and glucagon must be activated.
Glucagon is the opposite of insulin. Instead of storing fat it uses fat straight from the fat cells, and that is crucial for losing weight. Glucagon and insulin cannot be active at the same time, so if insulin is active several hours a day, it won’t matter if zero calories are ingested; Weight loss cannot occur, it’s a biochemical fact. The body will slow down the thyroid function or do whatever it takes to avoid using the body fat as energy.
Fit and trim people don’t have this problem because their insulin response is quicker, so these rules don’t apply to them to the same extent. People who have a hard time losing weight on a low carb diet need to spend more energy increasing glucagon and avoiding insulinemic foods.
How to activate glucagon
Three things can active the glucagon hormone: Prolonged physical excersise, starvation, and a strict low carb diet. The best thing for an overweight person is to let the glucagon be active all the time, and avoid all kinds of insulin activation. There is no need for excessive excersise, starvation, or calorie counting. The trick is to provide a hormonal environment in the body where fat loss can occur effortlessly.
A strict low carb diet is key
The more body fat, the more dietary fats need to be consumed for the body to be able to process, metabolize, and burn fat. Excess body weight means that insulin is too dominant and low body fat means insulin response is quick and efficient. An overweight person can increase his or her insulin sensitivity after weight has been normalized, and thereby eat more protein and complex carbs later on.
A strict low carb diet is very easy to follow because the only foods allowed are real food such as meat, poultry, egg, fish, butter, coconut oil, lard, and vegetables. No substitute products, no “sugar free” or “gluten free” food items. When followed, this type of low carb diet provides the best results as seen in numerous studies. The results last!
The last factor to weight loss success is to believe in the process and always have a faith and a strong mind. It’s when faith wavers that deviations occur and success is postponed.
Dare to be radical in your low carb approach, and radical results will follow!