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Do Low-Carb Diets Work?
February 6th, 2012
Yes, But There's A Right and Wrong Way
By Jackie Wicks PEERtrainer Founder
Low carb diets are widely seen as an effective way to lose weight. The reason for this is that when you reduce carbohydrates (especially simple carbs) you are lowering the amount of glucose in your bloodstream.
In very simplistic terms, when you consume less sugar, your body uses fat as an energy source rather than sugar. When your body uses fat as an energy source, you lose weight.
How A Low Carb Diet Can Help You Burn Fat: The Science
When there is less sugar in your bloodstream, less insulin is produced by your pancreas.
Scientists now know that when insulin levels drop, something called "Hormone-Sensitive Lipase" or HSL rises in your body. This process is literally a fat burning switch!
HSL transforms stored triglycerides into free fatty acids. In simple terms, when your body needs energy, and insulin is not present, HSL will take a triglycerol molecule and break it apart freeing up a diglyceride and a fatty acid.
According to Jonny Bowden, PhD, "HSL literally dissolves the stored fat that you have....into smaller components called fatty acids, which your body then burns for energy. HSL is what unlocks the doors to your fat cells." Bowden says that HSL and insulin function like a "see-saw" meaning when one goes up the other goes down.
Most people, however, have way too much glucose in their bloodstream for HSL to be present and working its magic. Their diet literally shuts off this fat burning switch.
Consumption of sugar triggers insulin production. But so does the consumption of many foods that we consider healthy or that are commonly eaten. For example whole wheat bread, whole grain cereals, brown rice, pasta, potatoes and corn all send your insulin levels up.
What About Healthy Grains?
According to Bowden, whether you eat whole grains or refined grains- you are still spiking your insulin. The US Government has recently replaced its food pyramid with a food plate, and minimized the amount of grains in the overall diet.
However, decades of focus on grains, partially at the behest of the food industry, has left the average American highly conditioned to be eating a high or "fast" carb diet. At PEERtrainer, when we see people reduce these types of carbs and sugars from their diet, especially a breakfast time it helps them down the path to permanent weight loss.
How To Do A Low Carb Diet The Right Way
One of the keys to actually being ABLE to follow a diet that is low in fast carbs and sugar, is making sure that the foods that you DO focus on give you the nutrients that you need to turn your cravings off.
The work of Joel Fuhrman, MD has been critical in this area. He has brought singular focus to the issue of micronutrients, and the fact that the vast majority of people do not consume nearly enough of them. He cites overwhelming research that connects the lack of adequate micronutrients in the diet to obesity and almost every other non-genetic disease out there.
At PEERtrainer we have promoted a diet that combines elements of low-carb eating, with a very strong focus on consuming high levels of micronutrient rich foods like greens, green vegetables and cruciferous vegetables.
The low-carb focus helps foster weight loss, and the heavy vegetable focus helps to ensure that one eats a diet that is shown to promote health AND helps fight the carb and sugar cravings.
One interesting observation that Dr. Fuhrman has shared is that heavy consumption of green vegetables is linked to less food craving. At PEERtrainer, we consistently see people confirm this.
Why You Must Consume High-Fiber Slow-Carb Foods
It is important, however, to make a distinction between different carbs. Certain foods such as beans, lentils and peas are high in carbohyrdates, but they break down slowly in the body. The provide the body a needed amount of glucose, but also contain high levels of fiber which are associated with optimum health.
They also contain important nutrients, vitamins and minerals. If you are looking to lose weight, most likely you are looking for a starting point. As we mention earlier in this article, breakfast is the most important place to start.
Breakfast sets your "metabolic tone" for the day. What that means is that if your body has a lot of sugar in the bloodstream, the natural fat burning/energy production processes in your body will be impaired. Additionally, if you don't snack at night, you will have given your body a very long window from dinner to lunch where there is a limited amount of sugar in your system. Not only does this help with fat burning, but it also helps with your body's natural detoxification processes.
The Danger Of Combining Low Carb With High Animal Protein Diet
It is sometimes said that high-protein diets are low-carb diets in disguise. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence and opinion that this combination can be extremely dangerous and put you at risk for sudden death.
Bodybuilders learned early on that when you reduce carbs and increase the fat and protein, you will build muscle faster and reduce bodyfat. Unfortunately, scientists also learned that at an extreme level this approach can put you at risk for sudden death.
According to Dr. Fuhrman in an article on the South Beach Diet, "It is well established in the medical literature that carbohydrate restricted, high-protein diets can cause electrolytes deficiencies from enhanced urinary excretion, especially the loss of potassium that can lead to a cardiac arrthymia and sudden cardiac death."
He adds, "when you consume a nutrient dense diet, you are giving your body the widest array of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients possible." If you avoid the high animal protein part of the low-carb equation you avoid risk. If you add tons of green vegetables you dramatically increase the benefit.
At PEERtrainer, we want to hammer home this point because most people do not define a "low carb diet" in this way. We are seeking to help alter how that concept is defined.
How Much Fat Should You Consume On A Low Carb Diet?
The correct amount of fat in a diet is the subject of tremendous controversy. Some people, especially in the vegan community, advocate a diet very low in fat. Other people argue that fat is an energy source and that fat doesn't make you fat.
We do know one thing for certain, and that is you want to increase your consumption of vegetables and certain fruits because they contain micronutrients that most people are highly deficient in. However, fruits and vegetables do not contain lipids or fats that are needed by the body to help absorb these nutrients.
A very interesting study published in 2005 showed how the consumption of avocado along with tomatoes helped to dramatically increase the absorption of the nutrients in the tomatoes.
Does A Low Carb Diet Help Type 2 Diabetes?
This is another area where there is a lot of controversy. Researchers know that people who have Type 2 Diabetes have actually increased their carbohydrate intake over the last few decades. Others in the medical community are strongly advocating that doctors begin to advise their patients to "reduce the amount of sugar and starch in the diet."
The dirty secret here is that most doctors don't think patients can lose weight and focus primarily on drugs as a way to treating Type 2 Diabetes.
However, a growing number of doctors are starting to focus on the nutritional aspects of treating Type 2 diabetes. According to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine the "most successful strategy is one that the patient can adopt and follow in the long term."
Leading doctors are discovering that the combination of a low sugar and starch diet, combined with high levels of green vegetables can lead to complete reversal of Type 2 diabetes. If the shift away from "bad carbs" and toward nutrient dense foods is dramatic enough, many patients can get off diabetes medication completely.
The reason we wrote this article is that low carb diets as a category are hugely popular. We have an opportunity here to help change how this term is defined. For whatever reason, low carb is associated with high protein. Atkins is probably the most well known example of this.
We make this point because so many people get confused about different perspectives. If you are the kind of person that gets confused by the different perspectives (and clashing egos), keep some common sense in place.
1) There is nobody who would argue with adding more greens and vegetables to the diet.
2) There is nobody who would argue with a reduction in sugar and fast carbs
3) There is a lot of research that says go easy on the meat. Habib was skiing with Dr. Fuhrman recently, and they were talking about the different views about meat consumption. One thing Joel said was, "I'm not saying don't eat meat, I'm just saying eat a whole lot less of it."
Note that there is no dogma here, but a simple list of approaches that taken together become hard to argue with. But if you do take exception to anything here, and have a blog, we would love to print your comments below. And we will also link back to your blog. Just send us a link to your comments.
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How To Take A Low-Carb Diet To The Next Level
If you are looking to learn how to lose weight quickly, in a healthy way, you need to do everything outlined in this article but also deal with food intolerances.
Food intolerances can cause weight loss resistance, joint and body pain, and a whole host of issues.
When you remove these foods entirely, you can give your body a chance to make amazing progress in a short amount of time. This process is a nutritional cleanse, and is really the start of a process where you give you body as much good stuff as possible, while eliminating the things that gum up your system.
This process will likely be with you for the rest of your life! If you want to learn the basics of a nutritional cleanse, watch this video:
PEERtrainer Note: To Get JJ Virgin's complete Webinar outlining the foods you eat and the foods you avoid on a cleanse, enter your email here and we will send you the full class. We will also send you a free copy of the PEERtrainer Cheat System, which is an easy to follow natural weight loss plan.
PEERtrainer News: To learn when the next PEERtrainer Cleanse is happening go to the... Cleanse Sign Up Page!
All previous participants will be sent access as well as a copy of the recorded call. For those of you who have been through the program, you know that the information changes how you approach everything forever. People do have different ways of "sticking with it" and we want to make super sure you are getting the followup you need.
It is important for us to communicate that certain people go "all in" on the cleanse while others "add in." We really want everyone who is interested to go through the course itself. But it is important to know that after the 14 days there are many different ways to follow through. So however you respond, that is ok.
The reason we mention this is that we have had some people express that they felt like they didn't do a "good job" on the program. And then we see that they had made some really incredible progress, and have adopted some great habits. We are like "what are you talking about, you are kicking butt!"
If you are doing anything to reduce sugar in your diet you are doing great. If you are doing anything to add high nutrient greens to your diet, you are doing great. If you are doing anything to remove the "floury crap" in your diet you are doing great.
This is not a competition. This is simply us helping you hammer away at your own habits, bit by bit so that over time you are doing the absolute best you can. And you may be one of those people for whom the cleanse is "the thing" and you just snap into place and it is super easy. But no matter which category you are in, that's ok.
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Comments From The PEERtrainer Community
"I've always been really anti-low carb diet.....I think because of the Atkins influence - but after reading all the research and all the diet "greats" out there.. there's no denying it works - with a large importance on the greens/veggies. There is so much contradictory info out there and so its helpful to break it down in this way. It's true - no one argues with this approach."
"My thought is "go easy" is rather generic...go easy on all items we eat, portion, pace, produce, it is reasonable to do the same for meat. Moderation in all things. Tough to do when we feel we're already eliminating lots ofbad things like diet soda, all white foods, fried stuff, cheeses, etc. and we used to eating large. Hate to give up one of the last safer foods like baked chicken breast, broiled steaks, etc. Another thing to "give up" in a way, but it is what it is and I may be like a kid who is getting pulled away from all the toxins under the sink!"
Low carbohydrate diets for diabetes control
The case for low carbohydrate diets in diabetes management
Nutritional strategies in type 2 diabetes mellitus
Research Pointing To Link Between Carb Intake And Diabetes
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[Editorial Note: For maximum weight loss results and overall better health, cleanses are often used. This aids the body with detoxification and balance, but also helps with weight loss reduction. But there are some things to be aware of before you cleanse. Nutrition, health and weight reduction expert, JJ Virgin PhD, has spent the last 15 years educating doctors and patients on how to cleanse properly.
She recently held an extremely popular webinar for the PEERtrainer community, sharing the "real deal" on cleansing to overcome weight loss resistance and more. To get this webinar, plus a free report containing JJ's top tips for cleansing, detoxifying, and dieting as well as the free PEERtrainer Cheat System, illustrating which foods to avoid when cleansing, please click here now]
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