A fad that has lasted too long with dieters is going on a low-carb diet. Carbs are not the enemy of weight loss. Most people on such diets may have some success initially, but this diet can seriously damage their health.
Carbohydrates are the only direct source of energy to the brain i.e. sugar or glucose. So going off carbs can result in sluggishness, irritability and lethargy. In the right amount, carbs actually help burn fat: It is a gospel truth that “fat burns in the flame of carbohydrates”. If you are exercising to burn fat, unless you have enough carbohydrate stores in the body, you will not be able to sustain the exercise. These carbohydrate stores are the first to get depleted if you start a carb-free diet .
Moreover, carbohydrate foods supply various other nutrients and micronutrients.
Low-carb or no-carb diets are difficult to stick to. You will soon find yourself craving foods that supply quick energy i.e. junk food. Also, when you quit carbs, you end up eating more proteins and saturated fat, which along with erratic binge-eating are unhealthy for you.
If you drastically cut carbs, your body is forced to use proteins as an energy source, and this is not the job proteins were cut out for. The result: Toxic by-products which can irreparably damage your kidneys.
Low-carb diets cause quick weight loss initially, but the weight you lose is usually water and muscle. Very little fat is lost. The aftermath of such a diet: Rapid weight gain, and this time, the weight is even more stubborn, as your metabolism drops.
It's important then to know your carbs. There are carbs that you need to make a part of your fat-loss plan i.e. whole grains, non starchy fruits and vegetables. And then there are those that you must avoid i.e. refined flours and their products.
It's important that you get the proportion of nutrients right — 55% calories from carbohydrates, 30% calories from protein, and 15%-20% from fat.
One of the best methods of weight loss is to zig-zag your carbohydrate intake. Making small changes in your carbohydrate quantity every day can give you dramatic fat loss without cutting down on nutrition. Weight lost this way, along with regular exercise, stays off and it is something you can do long term without feeling like you are dieting too restrictively.
Samreedhi Goel is a nutritionist & personal trainer