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Low Carbohydrate Diets for Weight Loss

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Carbohydrates are divided into two major types: simple and complex.

Simple carbohydrates

alpha-d glucose, small by comparison

alpha-d glucose, small by comparison

Simple carbs are sugars, (also known as simple sugars or monosaccharides). Simple sugars are found in candy and refined sugars but also in dairy products, fruits and many vegetables. They are usually colorless crystaline solids that dissolve easily in water. Some examples are: fructose, glucose, galactose, ribose and xylose. Disaccharides, which include sucrose (the most common type of refined sugar) are not technically simple carbohydrates though they behave much in the same way.

Complex carbohydrates

Amylopektin sections

A section of an amylopektin chain. Much larger as it is only a section

“Made” from simple carbohydrates, meaning that complex carbohydrates are broken down into simple carbohydrates. If you are on a low carb weight loss diet, complex carbohydrates are not as bad as simple ones (including sucrose for all intents and purposes). Complex carbohydrates digest more slowly which helps to keep your blood sugar from spiking and causing a fat producing insulin spike. Complex carbohydrates include starches, though the best ones (meaning the ones that digest the slowest) will be found in grains and legumes like whole wheat grain, steel cut oats and whole barley. The simple rule of thumb is in the ratio of dietary fiber to complex carbs in the food. Since you have to consume some carbohydrates, look for ones with high amounts of dietary fiber or ones that come from whole sources. If you find it hard to go without bread, take a look at these low carb bread recipes!

 

Low Carb Weight Loss Diets

low carb pumpkin bread from lowcarbbreadrecipes.com

Low Carb, high fiber Maple Anise Pumpkin Bread, click the picture to see the recipe!

Low carb diets limit the amount of carbohydrates you consume, believe it or not. Carbohydrates in this case would include grains, starchy vegetables and fruit. They don’t include non-digestible carbohydrates like dietary fiber. These diets are generally for weight loss although some may claim there are additional health benefits. A low carb weight loss plan will definitely help you lose weight and there may even be some validity to their claims of warding off heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes and other illnesses. With a low carb weight loss plan (that includes plenty of dietary fiber), you’ll be sure to keep your appetite at bay as your body stores less energy as fat. There are lots of success stories with low carb diets, particularly the Atkins diet though you have to be sure to get your supply of dietary fiber to avoid some of the health risks associated with this dramatic change in diet. Of course, this is true for any diet.

The basics of a low carb weight loss plan are simple…

It is recommended to do it in phases, like with the Atkins diet:

Phase one: this is the ketogenic diet phase which includes the lowest amount of carbs per day (the Atkins diet limits you to less than 20 g for this phase). Note that carbohydrates do not include sugar alcohol’s, fiber or glycerin. Very few of these carbs allowed during phase 1 should be from simple sugars, rather they should come from complex carbohydrates, like fruits and non-starchy vegetables. This diet kick starts a process called ketosis, where the body goes into overdrive burning fat. An indicator that ketosis in the body has started include a metallic taste in your mouth and your breath smelling sweet. During this phase you should see the greatest results. Don’t forget to exercise and drink plenty of water. And no booze!

a breakdown of various ketogenic diets

a breakdown of various ketogenic diets

Phase two: during this phase, low carb weight loss dieters will increase carbohydrate intake a little bit each day. The Atkins diet suggests an increase of 5 g a day. It is important to learn which of these foods you add affects your craving for carbohydrates the most. These are the foods you should stick with when adding carbs. You are supposed to add certain foods in a certain order, according to the Atkins method. These foods, and the order in which they are to be added can be found here. You stay in this phase until you are close to your target weight.

Phase three: during this phase you continue to increase your carbohydrate intake though at a smaller interval than phase two. The Atkins diet recommends increasing carbohydrate intake by ~10 g per week until you find the amount of carbohydrates you can stick with for the rest of your life. Since ketosis will no longer be occurring by now, it is largely a matter of weighing yourself every week (or even more frequently…also, you will no longer have sweet smelling puppy breath, sorry.) You should be noting the amount of carbs and the types of foods you are eating along with your weight so that you can determine a list of foods to eat that won’t lead to weight gain which you can maintain permanently.

Phase four: basically, this is not so much a phase as it is a diet for the rest of your life. At this point you should be comfortable and have little to no cravings. The previous phases included paying close attention to your food selection and cravings in order to eliminate them. There are a number of strategies to reducing cravings, like eating whole foods and making sure you include lots of dietary fiber. There are also some more unorthodox methods and there are always appetite suppressants (though these are not recommended for the long term.) You can find a lot of methods by searching online. If you include the word “blog” or “forum” in your search you will find methods with feedback from people who have tried them. That way you’re not flying blindly.

While there are plenty of fad diets and crappy diet advice out there, there are also lots of effective diets and advice for you to find. The low carbohydrate diet can be supplemented with many methods, tips and tricks to maximize effectiveness. However, make sure the things that you add to the diet are allowed on your low carb weight loss plan.

Thank you for reading! Good luck and remember to listen to your body and never sacrifice your safety or your health.

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