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The low carb diet

The low carb diet


How effective is a low-carb diet when it comes to weight loss? And, a far more important question: is the low-carb trend healthy for athletes who do intense training? In this article, we explain what low-carb diets are, look at how they work and the limitations of carb-free nutrition.

What exactly does "Low Carb" mean?

Low-carb diets are now one of the most popular nutrition plans, focusing on significantly reducing a person's carbohydrate intake. The extent of this reduction may vary, but the aim remains the same: to drastically reduce carbohydrates compared to modern diets.

Most health authorities recommend consuming around 50% of total energy intake in the form of carbohydrates - 40-55% of calories - mainly from cereals and starchy foods, and partly from vegetables and fruit. Simple sugars should be limited to less than 10% of total energy intake.

In the Atkins diet, carbohydrates are reduced to around 20% of total nutrients. This is less than half the official recommendation for a balanced diet. A ketogenic diet, often referred to simply as Keto, reduces carbohydrates even more radically. People on a ketogenic diet get just 10% of their energy from carbohydrates. As for the Dukan diet, it cuts carbohydrates out of the diet altogether, leaving only protein, at least in the early stages. Of course, less extreme diets and nutritional plans also exist, but the ultimate goal is always the same: to lose weight.

Low Crab diet: attack fat reserves!

Carbohydrates are an excellent source of energy, but our bodies can only store them in their existing form in small quantities. Once these reserves are full, the unused energy is not discarded, but rather converted into fat and stored on our hips, stomach and buttocks. This is what happens every time you consume more carbohydrates than your body needs.

When you eat carbohydrates, your body releases insulin to manage the carbohydrate sugars in your blood. Insulin slows down the fat-burning process. Indeed, when there's plenty of easily accessible sugar flowing through your veins, your body doesn't need to spend time on the arduous process of drawing energy from your fat reserves. As a result, your body leaves your fat cells intact. Simple carbohydrates, in particular, spike your insulin levels. However, these carbohydrates are quickly digested - and so, in no time at all, your hunger returns!

Low-carb diets are therefore based on a key principle: if you remove sugar (the primary source of energy) from your plate, your body will have to look elsewhere for the energy it needs. If your body has no carbohydrates and its glycogen reserves are empty, it goes into ketosis. In this state, your liver can use your fat reserves to produce ketone bodies, which then fuel your muscles.

This process forces the body to use alternative energy resources, including fat reserves.

Who can use the Low Carb diet?

A low-carb diet is suitable for anyone looking to cut fat in a relatively short space of time. However, it's also a positive change for people looking to make long-term improvements to their diet. Rapid weight loss is highly motivating, and eating more protein and fat produces a longer-lasting feeling of satiety and therefore less frustration. But remember: don't avoid carbohydrates forever. After the diet phase, you should aim to follow a healthy, balanced nutritional plan.

What should I eat on a Low Carb diet?

Ideally, you avoid all carbohydrates and choose foods that contain none at all. But it's not that simple... We all know that carbohydrates are found in bread and pasta, but they're also present in many other foods. No matter how much you want to reduce your carbohydrate intake, you need to avoid foods that contain even small amounts of carbohydrates.

If you're mainly avoiding carbohydrates, protein- and fat-rich foods like meat, dairy products and low-energy foods like vegetables and fruit will make up the bulk of your meal plan. You should avoid unhealthy fats, cook fresh foods and avoid ready-made meals.

And, most importantly: fill up on protein! If your body doesn't get enough protein, it will draw on its reserves - your muscles. It's vital that you avoid this, because your muscles are your number 1 fat burner! With this in mind, make sure you meet your daily protein requirements of around 2g per kilo of body weight.

Here's exactly what to eat on your Low Carb diet:

  • Plenty of vegetables:

Almost all vegetables are low in carbohydrates and often low in calories. Plus, they provide a generous serving of minerals, vitamins and fiber. There's no limit here. Spinach, many types of cabbage, mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and avocados are just a few examples of the infinite variety of low-carb, low-calorie vegetables - all of which offer numerous benefits.

  • Low-sugar fruits:

Fruits contain carbohydrates, but they're mostly water. You can continue to incorporate them into your meal plan by selecting the less sweet ones. Citrus fruits, rhubarb, papaya and berries are all low-sugar fruits.

- Certain dairy products and eggs

Dairy products and eggs are an excellent way to meet your protein needs. There's a wide range of options for you here, from yoghurt and fromage frais to different types of cheese and all kinds of egg dishes. Keep an eye on the ingredients, as dairy products also contain a certain amount of carbohydrates. Concentrate on low-fat protein sources if you're using a low-carb diet to keep your calorie intake low.

  • More meat, fish and seafood

You can also enjoy generous portions of these foods, especially low-fat options. Without other additions, meat and fish are virtually carbohydrate-free. Seafood such as mussels and shrimps are low in carbohydrates and perfectly suited to a low-carb diet.

  • Think oilseeds, seeds and nuts

Nuts, grains and seeds are perfect low-carb snacks! Although their carbohydrate content can vary considerably, there's a wide range to choose from. Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts and cashew nuts are just some of the nuts you should be eating, especially as they are rich in healthy fats.

  • Sugar-free drinks

Unsweetened beverages are the only way to go. Water, coffee and natural teas top the list. You can add a little variety by adding the juice of citrus fruits like lemons to your water bottle.

Are you an athlete? You need carbohydrates!

Whether you're aiming for weight loss or not, there's one thing you shouldn't forget: we need carbohydrates to live. Your brain depends on the supply of sugar. It doesn't take much, but without it, your ability to perform will suffer, both mentally and at the gym! And, let's be honest, nobody wants headaches, difficulty concentrating or a drop in performance. For this reason, you shouldn't cut out carbohydrates altogether.

Consuming a certain level of carbohydrates is actually very important, especially if you regularly do intense training. Remember the basic rule: the more you exercise, the more carbohydrates you can eat. Your body can tolerate a certain amount of carbohydrates, depending on your age, weight and genetics.

Do you want to see your muscles grow and see your gains? If so, the low-carb diet is simply not for you. If you're training hard, you need the quick energy provided by carbohydrates. During periods of intense effort, such as when you're training hard, carbohydrates give you the energy you need to progress. While a low-carb nutrition plan certainly makes sense during a dry run, the opposite applies when you're trying to build muscle. Hard, effective training - the kind you need to really build muscle - is only possible with the right glycogen stores. And don't forget: a well-developed musculature is the best fat burner, as it consumes calories even at rest and helps keep you in shape, both during your workout and beyond.

Carbohydrates also promote muscle development and regeneration, especially after a workout. This is when you can use "simple" carbohydrates that your body can digest quickly. This replenishes glycogen stores and protects your muscles from exhaustion.

Runners and cyclists also depend on carbohydrates. In fact, when it comes to endurance, carbohydrates are essential before training if you want to push your body to its limits. Simple carbohydrates can also help maintain performance during training or competition.

coach's opinion on the low-carb diet

Whether you're an endurance athlete or a bodybuilder, the key questions are the same. Do you train hard? Do you want to build muscle or improve your performance? Then stay away from low-carb diets unless you're doing a dry run.

Posted in: Sports nutrition