Update 9/5/20. When people go on a low carb diet like the Atkins or South Beach diet, they will likely lose a lot of weight within the first two weeks. This is one of the main reasons people who seek quick weight loss – jump on these types of programs. But, how do low carb diets work? The reason is not magic. But it is the “dirty little secret” that most diet book “experts” don't want you to know about.
Typically, low carb diets (Atkins, etc.) stipulate that people drastically reduce their carbohydrate intake for one to two weeks. After this, carbs are gradually re-introduced into the diet. During this carb-restricted period, the body compensates for the lack of carbs by tapping into its carbohydrate reserves – glycogen – in order to keep our blood sugar from going to low and helping maintain our energy levels.
As glycogen is used for energy, water is released in the process. In fact, for every pound of glycogen that is broken down, about 3 pounds of water is liberated.
Have you noticed going to the bathroom more frequently after starting low carb diets? This is the reason!
So, most of the weight we lose on low carb diets is in the form of water for the first few weeks.
While this is the trick behind low carb diets, that's not always a bad thing. Some research shows that people may be more likely to stick to a diet if it shows them a quick, noticeable drop in weight.
Other research finds that when people reduce their calories (but not carbs), that low carbohydrate diets may actually be a little better at reducing weight for the first 6 months.
This effect may have to do with the reduced variety of foods the person can choose from.
Research shows that the more variety we have, the more food (and calories) we eat. However, this is also the big criticism of low carb diets.
Too little variety means the diet becomes boring, which, in the end, means the person is more likely to go back to old (and unhealthy) ways of eating.
Returning to original eating patterns is also a criticism of most diets.
Are low carb diets safe?
If you're healthy (always get the OK from your doctor), research shows that low carb diets are safe and may promote more weight loss than higher carb diets -at least for up to a year. Beyond a year, there is not much known about the long term health effects of low carb diets especially in those who have medical issues.
One problem is that eating fewer carbs can reduce our ability to exercise. The less we exercise,the less calories we use during exercise. This may lead to a less healthy weight loss.
What's the best way to lose weight?
Honestly, there is no “best” way that works for everybody. This means that people will have to find a way that works for them. For some, that might mean a low carb diet. Whatever the diet, it's important to exercise too.
I can't stress the part about exercise more. Research shows if you only go on a diet, that about 50% of the weight loss is from fat. The other 50% is water and muscle tissue (muscle fibers don't return after they are lost). In those who exercise and diet, about 90% of the weight loss is from fat. Remember, we want to lose fat, not just “weight”.
What Do You Think?
I did the South Beach diet abt 7 years ago and lost 12 lbs in abt 6 months. It was relatively easy to do as I wasn’t all anal abt it but recognized I’d fall off the wagon over a weekend but at least tried to recover during the week. Guess if I was a bit more fanatical, I might have lost more.
Regardless, I’ve been able to keep the weight off and trust me, I frequently veer off. I gained 3lbs over the holidays, and with watching carbs, have already lost 2lbs. Have tried other diets but this one has actually helped me keep the weight steady.
If I had to choose between Herbalife, shakeology, or body by vi shakes, which one should I go with? I’ve been doing the Herbalife & it has given me a lot of energy that I need. I tried eating 3 healthy meals a day, but I just can’t, and when I do I get real sleepy afterwards, it doesn’t matter what I eat. Do you know why that is? I get so tired I have to lay down and take a nap.
Joe Cannon says
TexasMom81, I’m wondering if when you eat 3 meals a day that you are eating less calories than when you eat more frequently? If you are, then you may be getting tired because your blood sugar is dropping. While I have not -yet – reviewed Herbalife, I have written in-depth reviews on both shakeolgoy and body by vi and I have also compared them to each other.
The reviews are at my other website SupplementClarity.com. Here are the links to those reviews:
Have you ever had your thyroid checked? One of the symptoms of hypothyroidism is getting tired frequently. Just thought I’d mention this in case it had not occurred to you. Your doctor can best answer that question.
Sadeem Y. says
Hi, so i heard that with low carb diet you lose Muscle and it reduces your energy , I’ve been on
This diet for 2 weeks almost lost around 6 pounds Which i believe it water and little fat.
Now, my question is there any supplement like NO2 or Creatine o anything i can take to prevent muscle
Loss if there is any! Also , in order to do 45min non stop cardio i need some caffeine or/ and ephedrine
Pills would that effect the whole process? Thanks Joe
Joe Cannon says
Hi Sadeem, I think you are correct that most of the weight you lost is water and carbs (glycogen) and maybe a little fat. I see no proof that nitric oxide supplements will prevent muscle loss with dieting. These products are mostly used for opening up blood vessels due to their effects on raising nitric oxide levels.
If you search for nitric oxide on my site, supplementClarity.com you will see the research on these products that the makers never tell you about.
Creatine will cause you to store extra water and while I do feel it might cause some muscle protein synthesis, in healthy people I think the effect is extremely minimal, and probably would not be noticed. If you are running for your cardio, creatine will make you slower due to it increasing your body weight.
I dont think you need ephedra or caffeine either. I suggest you just keep working out and reduce your calories a little bit.
Not chicken. This diet reminds me of the Protein Sparing Modified Fast. Is there any big difference between the two?
Joe Cannon says
since carbs help protect muscle breakdown, I dont think the low carb diet is protein sparing. I have not seen any research on muscle loss with low carb diets but thats what I would guess would happen