Love them or hate them, low carb diets are going to be here for a long time. Just like intermittent fasting, they’ve phased in and out of the fitness industry over the past few decades.
Some people swear by them, some say they’re the reason people are getting fat. Then we have those that say they’re no better or worse than any other diet out there, so you might as well just ignore it.
“You going low carb? It’s cuttin’ season.”, “I’ll pass on the buns, I’m low carb-in”. Most of us have heard or maybe even said these ourselves at one point or another. An unlike the other diets I’ve talked about on this site, low carb gets the rep of being something temporary.
Just like bodybuilders on their cutting or bulking phase, the low carb diet is touted as something people do right before summer, just to look good when they go to the beach. Then they’re back to their “normal” eating routine.
But I’m here to tell you that’s not what a low carb diet is really about. A low carb diet, when implemented correctly, isn’t something just for bodybuilders weeks before a show, or models when they’re trying to get shredded. And to answer one of the questions a lot of people have in mind right now: Yes, a low carb diet IS sustainable, as long as it’s implemented properly.
So how come low carb gets so much criticism? Can eating low carb really help me lose weight? What about the people that say that the diet inevitably fails and we end up gaining more fat than before?
Before we can answer any of those questions, we should look at the history behind the infamous low carb diet.
History of Low Carb Diets
Where and when did the low carb diet come from?
Eating a low carbohydrate diet actually started a long time ago, way before anyone every thought of low carb as an actual diet.
Some suggests that low carb was the only way of eating before agriculture came along. Humans were hunting a lot more meat than they were eating carbohydrates. It’s also believed that even when plant food was abundant, the overall carbohydrate intake was relatively low, accounting for only 22% to 40% of total energy intake. This is due to the lower carb and higher fiber content of wild plants compared to domesticated crops we have today.
Back in the late 1700’s, John Rollo, a Scottish surgeon known for his work on treating diabetes, was the first in recent history to treat diabetes with a low carb diet. This led to the use of the low carb, ketogenic diet being used throughout the 19th century for diabetic treatment.
A few others throughout later years have been credited with implemented the low carb diet with lots of meat and reduced starches, which wasn’t very popular in their time.
Then we have a few that first made the low carb diet popular in the United States and other parts of the world around the early 60’s. The famous Atkin’s Diet, proposed by Dr. Robert Atkins, was a low carbohydrate, high protein and moderate to low fat diet.
Other dietitians and health professionals followed suit with diets like the Paleo Diet (also very popular today) and the Scarsdale diet. Both of which emphasized low consumption of carbs, especially refined carbs.
Here we are in the 21st century, and the low carb diet is still being debated on whether it’s effective or not, healthy or not, sustainable or not. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to find out among all this low carb craze, isn’t it?
Before we draw the conclusion about low carb in general, there are quite a few variations of how a low carb diet is implemented. Let’s take a look at the most common ones.
Variations of Low Carb
Although most low carb diets can be grouped together as just low carb, there are quite a few nuances with each that separates one from the other.
For example, the amount of carbs “allowed” to be considered low carb is different. The types of carbs allowed also vary from diet to diet. Then we have diets that allows a single carb-loading event or even a day of carb binging.
It’s important to set apart all these different types of low carb diets. Not only because of the effects they have on our health, but knowing how sustainable they are and if they really work the way their proponents claim they do.
So here’s a run-down of the 3 most popular low carb diets int he industry right now: Atkins Diet, Anabolic Diet/Carb-Backloading/Carb Nite, and the Ketogenic Diet.
At the top of the list is the infamous Atkins Diet. Most people know this to be the diet that made low carb diets popular. It has gained a lot of notoriety over the years.
As explained before, the Atkins Diet promotes a high protein, moderate to low fat, and low carb approach to eating. This diet also doesn’t discriminate on carbohydrates. Both complex and simple carbs are limited.
Because of the high protein intake of the diet, people usually go crazy on meat on this diet. Even though we can get protein from other sources, lean meats are the easiest source and it’s easy to overdo.
There’s a common misconception that the Atkins Diet is a high fat diet. It is low carb but it’s definitely not a high fat diet. Protein is what’s emphasized here.
It should come as no surprise that many end up binging on meats and cheeses and other high protein sources. The earliest version of the Atkins Diet allowed for unlimited eating of these foods as long as we stayed away from carbs. So of course, a lot people went HAM (pun intended) with no self-control and claim the diet doesn’t work when they gained weight.
The official diet was later revised saying to eat only until satiated and that it’s not an excuse to overeat.
This diet relies on low insulin and glucose levels to promote the usage of body fat for fuel, which lowers overall body fat levels and weight.
Anabolic Diet/Carb Backloading/Carb Nite
Now we have the diet that first got its name from Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale. He was a world champion powerlifter and bodybuilding author that wanted to gain the same strength and size as those using steroids but only naturally through food. Thus the Anabolic Diet was born.
The Carb Backloading and Carb Nite are basically reiterated versions of the Anabolic Diet. The diet got their names from John Kiefer, an author of books that go by the same name as the diets.
Since these diets are so closely related, I’ll be using the Anabolic Diet to describe all three.
The premise of the diet basically works like this: Eat a low carb, high fat or protein diet for most of the week. Then on 1 or 2 days out of the weekend, load up on carbs. I can get into the specifics like what kind of carbs and when to eat them and how much, but you get the basic idea.
The simple difference between Carb Backloading and Carb Nite is that the former is done every night after a hard workout, while the latter is done once a week during one meal.
These diets use the low insulin and glucose levels during the high fat, low carb phase to cut down on body fat. Then during the carb loading phase, the increase in glucose and insulin replenishes muscle glycogen and certain hormones vital to fat burning and overall health.
Last but not least on our list is the Ketogenic Diet or Keto Diet. Unlike the Atkins Diet, the Keto Diet is a high fat, moderate protein, and low carb diet. The amount of carbs allowed is limited to 30 grams of soluble carbs, meaning that any insoluble carbs like fiber or sugar alcohol that’s not digested and turned into glucose are excluded from the count.
So in a way, this diet does differentiate the intake between simple and complex carbs since simple carb foods rarely ever contain fiber.
The Standard Keto Diet, which is the one most people are familiar with, is basically following this low carb high fat approach all the time. Nutritious wholesome foods like eggs, bacon, grass-fed/pasture-raised meats cooked in organic butter, etc. All of the carbs should be coming from veggies like leafy greens.
Then we have the Targeted Keto Diet and the Cyclical Keto Diet, both of which led to the Carb Nite and Carb Backloading diets that John Kiefer came up with. The Targeted Keto Diet follows the same principle of carb-up times, where we’re saving all of the carb intake after an intense workout. Cyclical Keto is going low carb most of the week and having a day or two of carb fest.
The carb choice under these two variations of Keto is a bit more laxed. Some people have had success with ice cream, cheesecake, cookies, and all the junk carbs we can imagine.
I’m personally not an advocate for using any excuse possible to eat junk. I do however, think that this provides a good basis to have a treat once in a while. So simply carb up with the “good” carbs like sweet potatoes, beans, rice, etc. most of the time, and splurge with some treats.
More To Come
There is a lot more to this topic than just what I’ve laid out so far. We’re only scratching the tip of the iceberg here! I have still yet to get into the science behind it all, testimony from people that tried it, my own personal experience, effects on not only healthy but also athletic performance and physique, and last but not least, all the controversy surrounding these low carb diets!
I think it’s time we wrap it up here and let those topics be covered in the next article. I’m not trying to turn this post into a novel.
So stick around! Part 2 to this is coming very soon!
14 thoughts on “Low Carb Diet- Does It Live Up To The Hype? Part 1”
Diets are so confusing and you make a lot of great points. I really appreciate the work you did in putting together the history of low carb diets. There was a lot of stuff in there I didn’t know. I’ve tried low carb diets before and I’m one of those people that had the experience of losing a lot of weight, but then gaining it all back.
Sorry to hear you’ve had a bad experience with low carb. What you describe is all too common. But don’t worry, in the second installment, I’ll talk about how to approach it it such a way that the weight loss is permanent!
I’ve heard about the Low Carb diet, but have never tried it myself. It would be very interesting for me to see your next parts, especially if you plan on presenting different meal plans as well.
Does the Low Carb diet need us doing exercises as well to support the results or just implementing it correctly in our everyday menu would be enough?
In your post you mention a doctor in 18c who treated diabetes with low carb diet. I have very close relatives suffering from this disease and if following the Low Carb diet would make it possible for them to better their health, I would definitely recommend they read your posts.
Does the Low Card diet treat diabetes treated with insulin or just the Type 2 one?
I am looking forward to your next part of the topic.
As with any way of eating, the low carb diets work better with regular exercise.
Low carb diets are more suitable for people with Type 2 diabetes than with Type 1. Those with Type 1 can give it a try but should be doing so with the supervision of a qualified medical professional.
My mother got her hemogoblin a1c down to below pre-diabetic levels when she did low carb. And she was a full blown Type 2 before!
I personally think that low-carb diets work great. I have done the Atkins, and hated it by the way. At first you think, hey this is great….I love meat….I can do this. But then after a few days, it’s like…NO I NEED CARBS! LOL So at that point it is back to point A. I don’t see how the Ketogenic diet would work eating high fat. That just doesn’t seem right…
Atkin’s can be tough and isn’t sustainable for most people.
The ketogenic diet actually can work very well. The “fat is bad” misconception is one of the things the public still believes in and is what’s keeping a lot of us from being healthier.
I honestly don’t think a low carb diet is the answer. I do believe however that we should know what kind of carbs we’re consuming, and steer clear of simple ones that come from junk food. We should be getting them from fruits, some breads, rice, quinoa, etc. The complex variety is what I’m aiming for. Carbohydrates are extremely important for not only body builders, but people in general as they are our main source of energy.
Fats and carbs are so frowned upon in this weird technology age of “everything is bad for you” when in actuality we need good fats, good carbs, and adequate protein to survive. It’s about balance, and generally the people that have the most issues in their diet are the ones that are restricting certain types of nutrients just because someone said they are bad.
I like the article though, and I’m in no way attacking it.. just giving some perspective..
How dare you!!! Hahaha just kidding. I’m glad you’re offering your perspective on it. This site is meant to be as informative as possible and that requires open discussion from audiences like you, so thank you!
This first part of the low carb diet articles may sound like I’m bashing on carbs a bit. But that’s not my goal really. Part 2 will explain how carbs can actually be useful.
I agree with most of what you said, steering clear of junk carbs and getting our carb sources from nutritious whole foods. Carbs CAN be a main source of energy, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s actually preferred to have our bodies And yes, balance is very important and I will address that in Part 2.
Again, I welcome inputs from all sides as this only adds to what others can learn from this. And it sounds like including complex carbs in your diet has been working well for you. Thanks for sharing that because it just may be what some of us needs to improve their health.
Nice information gathered here.I am with you about the info you have mentioned on low carb meals.When somebody control the Carb meals its better to do it with a help of adviser. The quantity will be depend on the work outs doing by the person, or else it will effect to the body in bad way.That was my personal experience.
Yes, it’s best to have medical supervision especially for those that are diabetic or have other medical conditions.
Hi There, I found your layout to be quite unique i really liked the font and header layout! I would have however really liked to see a picture of you ( put a face to the words) in the about page.
The twitter feed on the side also added to the interactive element of the experience.
Thanks for the feedback! I have a photo of myself in the About Me page.
Great info on the low carbing. I personally lost a lot of weight on low carb before, unfortunately over seven years I have put it all back on. I have tried low carbing again since and due to the fact my life is so busy now I found it too hard to stick to. I had to go without eating at all sometimes as there was nothing at all I could eat available. Looking forward to reading more of your info.
Low carb diets are a bit tricky to stick to. There are some nuisances that must be followed with it to make it sustainable. I’ll be talking about these in Part 2.