The debate about whether it is more beneficial to have a low carbohydrate or high carbohydrate intake is the subject of confusion and controversy.
The best way to evaluate this supposed dilemma caused by several diet and fitness experts including medical practitioners is to be on the safe side by factoring in the differences between individuals.
Since each one of us have basic genetic differences, it is therefore logical to put forward that there is no single diet program that can be considered as the best for everyone.
Do not be taken in by quick weight loss proponents to immediately begin with a Low Carbohydrate / High Protein (LC/HP) Diet; remember, your goal is to lose weight and fat permanently – not temporarily!
The LC/HP Diet is considered as an advanced technique in losing weight and should be used only as much as possible by athletes. It is always best to stick to the fundamentals in order to achieve your goal of permanent fat and weight loss.
The misconception that carbohydrates are fattening is the reason why the low carbohydrate diet became a fad. However, it does induce quick fat and weight loss but should only be used as a last resort diet especially when you are an athlete in order to reach peak condition quickly. At best, it is a temporary measure.
When to use a Low Carbohydrate Diet
Low carbohydrate diets are recommended in the following situations:
The most important consideration for implementing a low carbohydrate- moderate fat-high protein diet is for people who are carbohydrate sensitive; approximately 20% of the population do not respond to the baseline 50%C- 30%P-20%F diet. If you belong to this group, then a low carbohydrate diet may be necessary.
Overcoming the Lack of Progress
Sooner or later, all dieters encounter a progress plateau in their regimen. It is in instances like these that carbohydrate cycling (alternating low/high carbohydrate intake) method can help overcome the lack of progress.
Bodybuilding-Fitness Competition-Athletic Performance
Most athletes use a variation of the low carbohydrate intake in preparation for competition. Considerably reduced carbohydrate intake provides metabolic and hormonal advantages that enable an individual to get leaner faster.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Low Carbohydrate Diet
There are advantages and disadvantages in implementing a low carbohydrate intake. It is helpful for you to realize what they are in order to be able to use the strategy to your favor in achieving fat and weight loss permanently.
Low Carbohydrate-High Protein Increases Metabolic Rate.
Due to protein’s high thermic value, LC-HP diets speeds up the body’s metabolism; its high thermic value of almost 30% makes protein less likely to be converted to body fat compared to other food type. Lower carbohydrate intake with the accompanying increase in protein ration raises an entire meal’s thermic value.
Reduced Carbohydrates + Increased Protein Intake Regulates Insulin.
Large amounts of carbohydrates results in the increase of insulin production. Therefore, the best way to regulate and manage the body’s insulin level is to restrict carbohydrate intake while increasing protein intake for a healthy fat loss program. Fats cause negligible insulin release while proteins cause only a minimal increase in insulin production.
Lower Carbohydrate Intake Decreases Glycogen Levels and Forces the Body to use Fat for Fuel.
Moderate to low carbohydrate intake considerably lowers the body’s glycogen levels resulting to better digestion and absorption of carbohydrates as glycogen for the muscles instead of being stored as fat.
Lesser Carbohydrates + More Protein Reduces Water Retention.
A low carbohydrate-high protein diet decreases water retention resulting to better and improved muscle definition; this is the main reason fitness competitors favor the LC-HP diet.
How Get the Low Carbohydrate Benefits
There are three diet techniques you can utilize in order to get all the benefits of low carbohydrate dieting without all the negative side effects. Integrating the following three techniques in your nutrition program with the carbohydrate intake tapering technique will dramatically result to fat loss beyond your expectations!
Moderate Carbohydrate (40%)-High Protein (40%)-Moderate Fat (20%) Diet @ ±5%
Carbohydrate sensitive individuals with slow metabolism can generally get better results if they decrease their daily percentage of carbohydrates by 10% to 15% based on the Moderate Level (50%C-30%P-20%F) with a corresponding increase in the percentage of protein and good fats.
Sample 5 or 6 Meal/Day Menu
Breakfast: Oatmeal, Whey Protein, Grapefruit Snack: Whole Wheat Bread, Onion/Tomato Omelet Lunch: Brown Rice, Chicken Breast, Broccoli
Snack: Sweet Potato, Chicken Breast, Green Beans, ½ Tbsp Flax Oil
Dinner: Salmon, Asparagus
Snack: Mixed Green Salad, Olive Oil & Vinaigrette Dressing, Tuna Fish
Note how the carbohydrate tapering method is strategically used in the meal planning above. Breakfast until the afternoon snack all have carbohydrates and lean proteins whereas dinner and evening snack have no carbohydrate content since you are winding up your day’s activities and will retire to bed shortly.
The carbohydrate tapering method will program your metabolic system to more efficiently digest your daily nutrient intake and induce a more effective fat loss.
Competition Diet: Low Carbohydrate (25%-30%)-Very High Protein (50%)-Moderate Fat (20%)
This is called the competition diet since it is commonly used by bodybuilders and fitness athletes reduces daily carbohydrate intake to 25% of the total daily calorie intake – sufficient enough to provide fuel for high intensity workouts.
Note that the corresponding increase of protein percentage is deliberate to prevent triggering the body’s starvation response and that a diet with high protein levels is only temporary. You have to progressively shift back to your baseline level diet for weight maintenance.
Sample 5 or 6 Meal/Day Menu
Breakfast: Oatmeal, Whey Protein
Snack: Oatmeal, Onion/Tomato Omelet
Lunch: Brown Rice, Top Round Steak, Broccoli Snack: Turkey Breast, Green Beans, 1 Tbsp Flax Oil Dinner: Salmon, Asparagus
Snack: Mixed Green Salad, Olive Oil & Vinaigrette Dressing, Tuna Fish
This menu also uses the carbohydrate tapering method, only in this case, the starchy carbohydrates are cut off after 12:30 pm. Meals one through three have a lean protein and a starchy carbohydrates while meals three through six contain only lean proteins and fibrous carbohydrates. In addition, the serving sizes of the starchy carbohydrates in the first three meals has been reduced
Carbohydrate Cycling: 3 On–1 Off
Carbohydrate cycling is probably the best and most powerful fat loss technique because it is guaranteed effective, preempts the body’s starvation response, prevents fat and weight rebound and is very easy to maintain – even for a lifetime! Carbohydrate cycling allows you to reap all benefits of a low carbohydrate diet without the corresponding low carbohydrate side effects while stimulating the body’s metabolism.
Why 3 Days On and 1 Day Off?
Three consecutive days of low carbohydrates reduces the body’s glycogen levels to almost none, continuing on to the fourth day (or beyond) on the same intake will drastically reduce energy levels, slow down the metabolism and trigger the body’s starvation response.
By going high on the fourth day, you are restoring your body’s glycogen levels. You are revitalized, your muscles get better definition and your metabolic rate picks up.
The 1 Day Off is your insurance that you will not regress to dropping your nutrition and aerobic/exercise/workout routine. The 1 Day Off serves as a pressure release valve that anticipates and preempts negative low carbohydrate side effects and prevents the body from becoming inefficient at utilizing carbohydrates for fuel.
Prolonged low carbohydrate intake makes the body inefficient at burning carbohydrates.
By using the 3 Days On–1 Day Off technique, you ensure that the body’s energy and fuel requirements are always topped; this strategy makes your muscles exceptionally efficient at storing carbohydrates as muscle glycogen rather than body fat.
Enhancements of the Carbohydrate Cycling Method
Chart your progress weekly regardless of the nutrient ratio you use. You may discover that using the Carbohydrate Cycling strategy will induce quick weight loss in which case make sure that weight loss is limited to a maximum of 2 pounds weekly.
If you lose more than 2 pounds a week, it is very likely that you are also losing lean body mass (LMB) which is not your goal.
If this happens, adjust the strategy by going on a 3 Days On–2 Days Off routine to reduce muscle loss or even 3 Days Off–3 Days On if necessary.
High-Low Strategy for Fat and Weight Loss
DCE …………………………… 2700
DCE-500 …………………….. 2200
3 Days On (Low) 2200 Calories
Protein 45% 990
Carbohydrates 30% 660
Fats 25% 550
1 Day Off (High) 2700 Calories
Proteins 30% 810
Carbohydrates 50% 1350
Fats 20% 540
As discussed earlier, you have to develop your own custom nutrition plan based on your DCE to allow for individual differences and goals. Do not forget to incorporate the carbohydrate tapering technique with the High-Low Carbohydrate Intake strategy to maximize your results.
Make sure that your complex and fibrous carbohydrates requirements are taken cared of in the early day meals during your low carbohydrate days; on carbohydrate high days, include complex and fibrous carbohydrates with every meal.
Impossible to Maintain. Restrictive carbohydrate diets almost always set you up for cravings resulting to diet failure which is why it is not recommended as a long term solution.
Weight/Fat Gain Regression. Since it is almost impossible to maintain a low carbohydrate diet for extended periods of time, the probability of regression is very high. The lower you drop your carbohydrate intake, the more your body will bounce back to its original state the moment carbohydrates are re-introduced back into the diet.
Lacks Essential Nutrients. It’s not healthy to remove entire food groups from the Carbohydrate-Protein-Fat triad for a long period of time. The best way is to balance the ratios of each of the different food group in order to maximize the gain without sacrificing nutrients. Without the essential nutrients, you are going in the direction of future health problems or heart disease.
Lowers Energy Levels. Although fat loss occurs at a fast rate due to restricted carbohydrate intake, energy levels and performance also drop dramatically if you cut down too much since carbohydrates are the body’s ideal energy source.
Very Low Carbohydrate Diet Weight Loss can be Deceiving. Believe it or not, very low carbohydrate diets can induce as much as 5 pounds weight loss weekly. Only 20% of this can be attributed to actual fat loss while 80% are water and muscle loss! When this happens, your nutrition program is not working to your advantage.
Causes Irritability and Mood Swings. Since our brain and central nervous system depends almost exclusively on glucose, prolonged carbohydrate restriction can make an individual tired, weak, irritable, grouchy and moody for not reason at all.
Induces Muscle Loss. Depletion of the body’s glycogen levels due to low carbohydrate intake often triggers gluconeogenesis – the burning of proteins for energy wherein muscle tissues are converted into the body’s much needed glucose. Enough carbohydrates in your diet ensures that muscles are not burned by the body for energy.
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