Eating Low Carbohydrates: How It Works
What foods are we designed to eat?
Humans evolved over millions of years as hunter-gatherers, without eating large amounts of carbohydrates. We ate the foods available in nature by hunting, fishing and collecting all the edible foods we could find. These foods did not include pure starch in the form of bread, pasta, rice or potatoes. We have only eaten these starchy foods for 5-10,000 years, since the development of agriculture. In a relatively short time only a limited adaptation of our genes can take place.
With the Industrial Revolution, 100-200 years ago, we created factories that could manufacture large quantities of pure sugar and white flour. Fast digesting pure carbohydrates. We have barely had time to genetically adapt to these processed foods.
In the 1980s, fear of fat took hold of the Western world. Low-fat products appeared everywhere. But if you eat less fat, you need to eat more carbohydrates to feel full. And that’s when the disastrous epidemics of obesity and diabetes began. The most fat-phobic country in the world, the U.S., was the most affected, and is now the most obese country in the world.
It is now clear that the fear of eating real food with natural fat was a big mistake.
The Problem of Sugar and Starch
All digestible carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars in the intestines. The sugar is then absorbed into the blood, raising blood glucose levels. This increases the production of the hormone insulin, our fat-storing hormone.
Insulin is produced in the pancreas. In large amounts it prevents fat burning and stores excess nutrients in fat cells. After a while (a few hours or less), this can cause a shortage of nutrients in the blood, causing a feeling of hunger and a desire for something sweet. Normally at that time people eat again. This starts the process all over again: a vicious circle that causes weight gain.
On the other hand, a low carbohydrate intake gives you lower, stable blood glucose and less insulin. This increases the release of fat from fat reserves and fat burning. It normally leads to fat loss, especially around the abdomen in individuals with abdominal obesity.
Weight Loss Without Going Hungry
A low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet makes it easier for the body to use its fat reserves, since their release is no longer blocked by high insulin levels. This may be one reason why eating fat causes a more lasting feeling of fullness than eating carbohydrates. It has been shown in several studies: when people eat everything they want on a low-carbohydrate diet, calorie intake generally decreases.
That’s why it’s not necessary to count or weigh the food. You can forget about calories and rely on your sense of hunger and satiety. Most people don’t need to count or weigh food more than they need to count their breath. If you don’t believe it, just try it for a couple of weeks and see for yourself.
Health as an Extra Bonus
No animal in nature needs the assistance of nutrition experts or calorie charts to eat. And yet, as long as they eat the food for which they are designed to eat, they maintain a normal weight and avoid cavities, diabetes, and heart disease. Why should humans be an exception? Why should you be an exception?
Scientific studies not only improve weight with a low-carbohydrate diet, but also improve blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol profile (HDL, triglycerides). You will also frequently experience a calmer stomach and fewer sweet food cravings.
Initial Side Effects
If you stop eating sugar and starch at once (we recommend it), it is possible to notice some side effects as your body adjusts. For most people these side effects are usually mild and only last a few days. There are also ways to minimize them.
Common side effects in the first week:
- Heart palpitations
These side effects quickly subside when the body adjusts and starts burning more fat. They can be reduced to a minimum by drinking more fluid and temporarily increasing salt intake. A good option is to drink some broth every few hours. Another option is to drink an extra glass of water and add more salt to the food.
The reason is that carbohydrate-rich foods can increase fluid retention in the body. When you stop eating carbohydrate-rich foods, you will lose excess fluids through the kidneys. This can cause dehydration and lack of salt during the first week, before the body adjusts.
Other people prefer to reduce carbohydrate intake slowly, over several weeks, to reduce side effects. But probably the best option for most people is to follow Nike’s example (Just do it “just do it”). Often, by eliminating most of the sugar and starch you can lose a few pounds in a few days. Most of this may be liquid, but it’s great for motivation.
How Low in Carbohydrates to Eat?
The less carbohydrates you eat, the greater the effects on weight and blood glucose. We recommend following the dietary recommendation as strictly as possible. When you are satisfied with your weight and health, you can start eating more liberally (if you want).