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December 23, 2015

8 Reasons Why Low-Carb Diets Actually Work

By Mark Sisson
107 Comments

Beef steakThe popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this:

Reducing your carbohydrate intake lowers your insulin levels. Since insulin keeps fat locked into adipose tissue, lowering insulin can increase the amount of fat released to be burned for energy.

For the portion of the overweight/obese population with insulin resistance and chronically-elevated insulin levels, this is a fairly accurate description of why low-carb diets work so well. When you’re an insulin-resistant hyper responder in whom even a baked potato can cause elevated, protracted spikes in insulin that hamper fat-burning for long periods of time, or a person living under the backdrop of perpetually-elevated insulin, dropping the most insulinogenic foods can be your way out of obesity.

But that doesn’t explain everyone’s positive experience with low-carb diets. There are many other mechanisms by which low-carb diets exert their beneficial effects on bodyweight and body composition. Let’s take a look:

They increase protein.

Increasing protein intake has many beneficial effects on health, particularly if you’re attempting to lose weight. Of all the macronutrients, protein increases satiation the most. This means a low-carb diet replete in protein can help control your appetite naturally. I wouldn’t say “effortlessly,” because deciding to eat more meat and fewer carbs technically requires executive functioning. But you’re no longer fighting your own body’s physiological desire for more food. You just don’t want anymore.

More protein also helps you retain, or even gain, lean mass during weight loss. Why does this matter? Because nobody’s trying to lose muscle, bone, or connective tissue when they lose weight. They want to lose body fat and keep or add muscle. Studies show that more protein in the diet consistently leads to greater retention of lean mass and more preferential burning of body fat during weight loss. For instance in weightlifters, a low-carb hypocaloric diet with 2x the RDA for protein resulted in greater nitrogen balance than a high-carb hypocaloric diet with RDA protein. In women, a low-calorie, high-protein diet was better than a conventional high-carb, low-fat diet at promoting lean mass retention, even in the absence of exercise. This increased lean mass also contributes to a greater resting energy expenditure, helping you burn more calories simply through daily existence.

Protein also has the highest thermic effect of all the macronutrients, meaning it takes the most calories to digest and further increases your energy expenditure.

They increase fat.

Fat in a meal slows gastric emptying, especially when fewer carbs are eaten. When your food takes longer to pass through your gut, you stay fuller longer. When you’re full, you’re not interested in eating. When you’re not interested in eating, your calorie intake spontaneously drops. When you calorie intake spontaneously drops, you tend to lose weight.

They reduce sugar.

In and of itself sugar isn’t “toxic.” It’s just pure energy absent any real micronutrition, and as long as you’re highly active and regularly clearing space in your glycogen stores for incoming glucose and fructose, a moderate amount is mostly harmless. Heck, I have a teaspoon in my coffee every day. In energy-replete humans—which is a significant portion of the population—excess sugar becomes deleterious. If the liver is full of glycogen, any fructose arriving there is converted to fat and contributes toward fatty liver or elevated blood lipids. If fatty liver progresses unchecked, this has terrible consequences for a person’s metabolic health, insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, and waistline.

Because sugar is the most obvious carb to remove from one’s diet, low-carb diets reduce sugar by default and minimize the possibility of fructose-induced metabolic dysfunction.

They deplete glycogen.

Glycogen is how we store sugar in the body, and our capacity is limited. Larger muscles can store more glycogen, but the average person can count on being able to store about 400 grams of carbs between skeletal muscle and liver glycogen. Walking around with your glycogen stores perpetually topped off means there’s nowhere for excess carbohydrate to go. You either burn it immediately or convert it into fat for storage in the liver.

Carb reduction drastically reduces glycogen. That’s part of the reason we initially lose so much water weight on low-carb diets; water always accompanies glycogen. Glycogen depletion is the “switch” for the brain and body to begin utilizing fat for energy. Given access to fast and easy glycogen, it’ll choose to burn that first. Take it away through glycogen depletion (via training, low-carb, or some combo of the two) and you have no choice but to feast on your own adipose tissue.

They’re easy to understand and follow.

Everyone knows what “carbs” are. Potatoes, pasta, bread, soda, sweets, that sort of thing. It’s not hard to figure out. And it’s really hard to “hide” carbs like you can hide fat. Either the food is obviously starchy or obviously sweet, and you know to avoid it.

Low-carb is delicious. Eating steak, steamed broccoli with butter, and sautéed mushrooms doesn’t feel like dieting. It feels like cheating. Meanwhile, Weight Watchers, ultra-low fat diets, macrobiotic vegan diets—these are diets in the worst sense of the word. And you’ll never forget it when you’re on one.

You can certainly dig deeper into the minutiae, but the basic advice—eat fewer carbs, stop drinking soda, and pass on the donuts—gets most people most of the way.

They work fast.

Severely overweight person drops carbs, increases fat/protein, and quickly loses ten pounds in the first week. It’s a common occurrence. I’ve seen it happen, and it almost always turns the weight-loss recipient into a believer who adheres to the diet for the long haul. It doesn’t hurt that much of the early low-carb fat loss comes off the belly (the most conspicuous place for adipose tissue).

Like the best exercise regimen, the best diet is the one you’ll stick to—the one you’re excited about. Diets seem to fail so much in the literature because people can’t or won’t adhere to them. But those big early victories on the scale—even if it’s “just” water weight—and along the waistline motivate dieters to keep carbs down and keep losing body fat.

They increase nutrient density and reduce caloric density.

When you go low-carb, you ask for salad instead of the dinner roll. You load up on sautéed spinach instead of French fries. You eat kale chips instead of potato chips. These subtle alterations don’t just reduce the amount of carbs and calories you eat. They increase the density of micronutrients and phytochemicals you consume, many of which have favorable metabolic effects. There’s also evidence that increasing the micronutrient density of your diet can improve weight loss.

They eliminate the most fattening foods.

The most self-perpetuating macronutrient combo, the one you can’t stop eating, is fat plus carbs. Cheesecake? Tons of fat and tons of sugar. Potato chips? Fat and starch. Reducing carbs takes this combo out of the equation entirely. It’s much harder to overeat fat without carbs. And even if they mistakenly refer to high-fat-and-carb foods like chips and donuts as “carbs,” it doesn’t matter. They’re still eliminating the problematic foods that are the most obesogenic. A huge plate of fettucine alfredo probably has as much fat as carbohydrate, but “avoiding carbs” avoids the pasta just as well as “avoiding large boluses of carbs and fat in the same meal.”

Some would say that you could just as easily remove fat to make carbs less addictive. That’s true (although I’m not sure how “easily” that’s accomplished). But we’re talking about why low-carb diets work today.

That’s what I’ve got today. What about you guys? Why do low-carb diets work so well in your opinion?

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107 Comments on "8 Reasons Why Low-Carb Diets Actually Work"

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charles grashow
charles grashow
1 year 7 months ago

Maybe they work because people eat LESS calories on them.

Clay
Clay
1 year 7 months ago
I think it goes beyond calories in/ calories out. Some foods are simply more “fattening” that other on a calorie per calorie basis. 100 calories of broccoli will not have the same metabolic effects as 100 calories of Oreos. Medications do this to people all the time. Anti-depressants tend to cause weight gain, even if calories intake remains the same. Stress will do the same. Gebetic plays a role as well. Overall, the calories hypothesis has been show to be a very crude predictor in real world situations. Lab experiments with rats has show that the types of food eaten… Read more »
Rick
Rick
1 year 7 months ago

“Anti-depressants tend to cause weight gain, even if calories intake remains the same.”

What mass is added to the body, water?

Joshua
Joshua
1 year 7 months ago

Water, yes, but if the meds somehow reduce the caloric expenditure, the caloric intake doesn’t need to increase to gain adipose tissue.

tribal
tribal
13 days 3 hours ago

Yes, I’ve always laughed at the “Calories in calories out” counters – its a far more complex process, similar to say predicting the weather, or the stock market.

There are many more variables and relationships between each of those variables, both known and unknown. A process so complicated in fact that only the most rudimentary prediction can be calculated in the calories in/out kindergarten formula.

The problem is many people base their diet on the flawed paradigm, thinking it can be anything but a theoretical model, that barely makes sense on paper, let alone in reality.

Brian
Brian
1 year 7 months ago

Or, stated as the article did: “They eliminate the most fattening foods”

Ken Niehoff
Ken Niehoff
1 year 7 months ago

Less junk food that is full of calories. When you eliminate grains you eliminate a good percentage of high calorie, low nutrient foods.
Recently some in the nutritional community are warning about too much protein intake. It pushes the mTOR pathway which is linked to cancer. Something to think about when trying to eat low carb. Fat intake needs to replace the calories.

Zach Rusk
1 year 7 months ago

Haven’t heard of the cancer issue, but there is a lot of talk about reduced lifespan due to high protein intake: http://sydney.edu.au/science/outreach/inspiring/news/cpc.shtml
Listened to him speak at Ancestral Health Symposium 2015 and was very intrigued.

The Clooninator
The Clooninator
1 year 7 months ago

I think you misunderstood the article. It was discussing eating to meet a certain protein requirement per day. If eating potato chips or steak the person/rat/whatever will eat potato chips until they meet their protein requirement whereas they will eat less regarding the steak because it is more protein dense. Unless I missed something. If I did please explain if you don’t mind.

TerryP
TerryP
1 year 7 months ago

Of course that’s why, but that’s always been a not-so-useful observation. I thought Marik did a reasonable job of explaining why people eat fewer calories on a low-carb diet. Once you understand the “why”, it makes it easier to stick with it long term.

Jeff
Jeff
1 year 7 months ago

When you eat good whole foods and eliminate grains, particularly processed crap so many on a S.A.D. eat you do naturally regulate calories without obsessively counting. If you were a regular MDA reader you would know that…

barry
barry
1 year 7 months ago

it goes beyond less calories, a calorie from fat(provided it isn’t trans fat) and protein does not store like a calorie from a carbohydrate. whenever insulin is raised for prolonged periods of time it triggers the body to store fat, and this in turn will eventually raise your triglycerides. suddenly before you know it your becoming more susceptible to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, fatty liver etc.

OnTheBayou
OnTheBayou
1 year 7 months ago

“Maybe they work because people eat LESS calories on them.”

In closely monitored studies, that has been shown to be true. It’s often accompanied in conversation with the attitude that some how that is cheating. So the LC should eat more calories to equal the HC folks to make it more fair?

Isn’t the point to loose weight? The other consistent take away across many studies is that the weight loss is faster, the goal reached sooner, and improved markers in blood tests.

All confirmed, over and over. To say nothing of anecdotally.

Zach Rusk
1 year 7 months ago

Lol that is exactly why it is listed as a reason in the post

Shary
Shary
1 year 7 months ago
“Everyone knows what “carbs” are. Potatoes, pasta, bread, soda, sweets, that sort of thing…” Actually, all fruit and vegetables are considered members of the carbohydrate group, sometimes in combination with fats and even a little protein. Some are just healthier and less fattening than others. I’d like to see more differentiation between starchy vegetable carbs, low-glycemic carbs, grain carbs, man-made sweets (which are always carbs), etc. Newbies, vegetable-haters, and those who know little about nutrition need to understand which carbs to eat and which ones to avoid. They need to know that a low-carb diet doesn’t mean a piece of… Read more »
Shealin
Shealin
1 year 7 months ago
I completely agree it’s important for newbies to learn as much as possible but hopefully anyone post-high school is aware of fruits and vegetables being carbohydrates in general despite the varying differences. These of course aren’t the ones causing weight gain when consumed even moderately for the average person consuming the standard American diet. I love that Mark continues to share insight with us and it’s not necessary for him to repeat each lesson of primal, low-carb/fat/sugar lifestyle each time he gives us an awesome post because the reader is here and that implies if the reader has arrived, they… Read more »
Shary
Shary
1 year 7 months ago
Shealin, I know several people who think a low-carb diet means nothing but meat and fat. So much for “anyone post-high school” being aware of fruits and vegetables as carbohydrates. It isn’t nearly the common knowledge you think it is, which makes it a little more than “non-crucial” if one is to succeed in losing weight. Mark is well aware that this comment board will draw both pros and cons. I don’t think his ego is so fragile that he has a problem with that. If he did there would be no comment board–and, indeed, my comment was not intended… Read more »
Tidbits
Tidbits
1 year 7 months ago

I agree. It seems mass awareness about carbohydrates is still based on knowledge gained from the Axxxxx diet, leading people to quickly (and unfairly) lump broccoli and bread as equal “carbs.”

When talking about (carbohydrate) intake, I differentiate by simply saying “vegetables” and “starches.”

Clay
Clay
1 year 7 months ago

I knew someone who was following a low carb Atkins type diet and they said they don’t eat carrots anymore…too high carb. Which I think is taking it too far and not taking in to consideration how carrots actually work metabolically since they are extremely low on the glycemic load index.

Woubbie
Woubbie
1 year 7 months ago

As a leader of a low carb team on SparkPeople I can say that a lot of our teammates would have a problem with carrots. We’re not talking about healthy metabolisms here. Folks with damaged metabolisms can be exquisitely affected by carb levels that wouldn’t faze a healthier person. There are a substantial number who only experience weight loss and/or freedom from cravings at 20g of carb or less.

OnTheBayou
OnTheBayou
1 year 7 months ago

Probably carrying things a bit far, sort of a gray zone. A quick check shows that a 4 ounce serving of raw carrots has (rounded) 47 calories of which the eleven of carbs is exactly half in sugar, some of the balance in fiber.

Not being particularly fond of carrots, take them or leave them, I’ll get my carbs elsewhere.

Mrs Rathbone
Mrs Rathbone
1 year 7 months ago
“a 4 ounce serving of raw carrots has (rounded) 47 calories of which the eleven of carbs is exactly half in sugar, some of the balance in fiber.” OnTheBayou – how can they be calories if they’re fibre, which isn’t digested? This is a genuine question, not being snarky. 🙂 I always assumed food analysts remove the fibre, water, minerals, and other non-caloric elements before doing their analysis and presenting the calorie content – that it basically represents available calories through digestion, and not burning or other forms of extracting energy. So surely the 47 cals there would be more… Read more »
Sharon Mac
Sharon Mac
1 year 7 months ago

This has totally inspired me to create new recipes. I grew up on fettucine alfredo and have tried to substitute zoodles, but now I realize having a protein such as chicken, shrimp (I would not waste scallops on this one, too delicate) with a hard core veggie, kale base, broccoli base, asparagus base, would work wonderfully. Of course, I would make the sauce my Mom’s way with the roasted garlic paste. Thanks for the inspiration!

2Rae
2Rae
1 year 7 months ago
I make some of my “noodles” with spaghetti squash (bake and rinse to stop cooking when it’s still a bit crunchy). There is also “celery root” pasta that is great for making lasagna, you just cut the “ugly” off the root, then cut into small sheets, boil until al dente, drain, then use like it’s the pasta. There are carbs in both but are a huge improvement in “carb” quality and nutrients compared to wheat or rice. I made some fettucine alfredo with celery root but cooked the noodles too long and they were mushy, I will NOT do that… Read more »
Jeff
Jeff
1 year 7 months ago

Yes, you could potentially remove fats to make starches less addictive, but sugar by itself is extremely addictive. I could eat plenty of sugary, fat-free candy and wreck my health. Cutting out fat also cuts out a macronutrient that’s important for brain health, which is a huge knock on the low-fat diet, for me.

Mrs Rathbone
Mrs Rathbone
1 year 7 months ago

Fat is also an essential nutrient, All other things aside, I shudder to think about the long-term physical and mental effects of a basically fat-free diet.

OnTheBayou
OnTheBayou
1 year 7 months ago

Every time I see Mark shirtless in those pictures on this site, I think, “I want to see Dr. McDougal (sp?) in swim trunks!

Those pictures have been up since I came on here in 2009, so I’m guessing Mark’s age there as late forties. Maybe someone knows better.

Parson
Parson
1 year 7 months ago

I’m pretty sure he was in his 50s as he is now in his 60s according to a recent post. And it may have been mid to late actually.

Kelda
1 year 7 months ago

Altzheimers is one possible long term effect of the low fat mantra from the last 50 years. Our brains need fat. Period.

Chad
Chad
1 year 7 months ago

No one has mentioned the hormonal benefits of a low-carb vs. a low-fat diet.

I feel great when restricting carbs but past attempts to limit fat have sent me into a tailspin. There seems to be a lot of research backing up the positive benefits of adequate fat intake, which is much more likely in a diet that emphasizes restricting carbs.

Helena
Helena
1 year 7 months ago

I totally agree. I’ve done the low-fat thing in the 90s and gained 40lbs while ‘dieting’ and was always starving and extremely depressed – both from gaining weight so fast and also from lack of fat – which was not good for my mental health. Eating LCHF makes me feel great, physically and emotionally. I could never go back to the SAD.

Ginel
Ginel
1 year 7 months ago
This article was written for all the high carb vegans that r struggling with the massive weight gain. It’s tough being a high protein vegan tho. Very tough. I just don’t know what to believe or do anymore. If u went to the high carb/high fruit low fat vegan community they will promise weight loss on a 2000-3000 calorie diet, smashing in big amounts of fruit and potatoes. Keeping fats at below 20g a day. It’s not fun eating carbs without fat that’s for sure hahah I want to lose the 30lbs I’ve gained as a vegan. And I just… Read more »
Olive
Olive
1 year 7 months ago

Your weight gain was because you ate too much relative to YOUR activity level. That happens on ANY diet. I’m one of those high carbers but if I ate more than 2000, I’d get fat too. You have to use up more energy than you consume if you want your body to use up its fat stores. So simply adjust intake or activity or both regardless of what macros you choose.

Mrs Rathbone
Mrs Rathbone
1 year 7 months ago

The Minnesota starvation study, which emphasised carby foods, shows that the simple message “eat less, move more” drove perfectly normal young men completely crazy. As does the obesity epidemic of the last few decades, which corresponded with an anti-fat, pro-starch message from piublic health bodies around the world.

If low-carb diets mainly work through caloric restriction, why do people seem less crazed on them?

Olive
Olive
1 year 7 months ago
The men went crazy because they were, I dunno, starving? They were fed 1500 cal for 6 mths. Control group ate over 3000, normal for men. I’m female, eat 1700-2000 cals and I’m 125 lbs. If I had to halve my intake to 800-1000 cals for 6 mths, I’d go nuts too. As it is, I’ve lost almost 30 lbs eating 75% carbs. Whole foods. That’s potatoes, rice, quinoa, pasta, fresh tortillas, beans, lentils, fruits, veggies etc. My total cholesterol is down to 170 and fasting blood glucose is 70. I’m healthier and happier. Low carb fails a lot of… Read more »
Mrs Rathbone
Mrs Rathbone
1 year 7 months ago

But my point was that many people claim it’s a similar dramatic reduction in calories, *and nothing else* (no different metabolic effect) that’s behind low-carb dieters’ success, even though the evidence for calorie-cutting is poor, as evidenced by this study, and also the high rebound rate for conventional calorie-cutting low-fat oriented diets like Weight Watchers.

Gosh that seems argumentative for the time of year, never mind – hope you enjoy some festive healthy treats with whatever macros you happen to thrive on, Olive! 🙂

Joshua
Joshua
1 year 7 months ago

Well you are going to have to do it without carbs if you want to burn fat. Fat won’t burn in the presence of insulin and those carbs push the insulin. So either get over your animal flesh aversion or be fatter than you currently want to be. Those are your choices.

Kevin Grokman
Kevin Grokman
1 year 7 months ago
I think I can honestly say that it’ pretty obvious how quickly one can put weight back on when they do not avoid starchy foods. I’ve gone back and forth over the last ew years varying my macronutrient intake. And I’ve seen how the addition of two vices, pizza and potato chips, can have a negative effects on me by themselves. It goes without saying that I knew they would, but the visual difference is quite astonishing. I experienced a ten-pound increase over the course of 4-8 weeks. Now, I’ve not even been exercising in that time, but I think… Read more »
SusanB
SusanB
1 year 7 months ago

Mark (and others) – how does this square with Paul Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet which recommends 12 – 16 ounces of “safe starches” (potato, sweet potato, squash, white rice) per day…… plus…. 12 – 16 ounces of “sweet plants” (fruit, carrots, beets) per day…… plus….. 12 – 16 ounces of “other vegetables” (dark leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. ? In addition, of course, to lots of protein and some good fats…..

I feel great on The Perfect Health Diet, but I’m not losing any weight… which I need to do…..

Suggestions?

Ed
Ed
1 year 7 months ago
Just my opinion, but, you need to look at three things: 1. Caloric intake. You may be on a good diet, but, if the calories are too high then you’re not going to lose. 2. Carbs. Potatoes and rice may still may be have a negative affect if you’re insulin resistant (which most people are who need to lose weight). 3. Too much protein. You’ll definitely have a problem if you’re eating more than you need…Dr. Ron Rosedale, MD, recommends 50% of your lean body mass as a ballpark measurement. Protein **does** raise insulin levels like starchy carbs, so, you… Read more »
Carla
Carla
1 year 7 months ago
I’ve tried many diets and I like low carb high fat the best because it’s the only diet that helped me with my binge eating problem. I can eat until I’m stuffed and still lose weight. Then I can go hours until my next meal without getting crazy hungry. Also when eating LCHF it feels amazing to workout on an empty stomach which further helps fat burning. Also my moods are more steady which helps prevent me from reaching for fattening foods in times of stress. I can easily eat out at restaurants. I don’t have to count points or… Read more »
MiaT
MiaT
1 year 7 months ago

Effortless, people who count calories don’t know the sweet freedom I enjoy. Meaty, buttery awesomeness is what I know every day. Size 2, 19% bodyfat and 45 years old. New PB on squat last week. Success! Simple. Let them eat cake, I’ll eat steak instead.

Marcia
Marcia
1 year 7 months ago
I have been devotedly Primal for over five years. I am 63, female and have not been able to lose any weight when going low carb. I haven’t lost an ounce being Primal either. I am curious if any one else has experienced this. I track all calories, nutrients and exercise. I get 6-9 hrs. sleep. I have little stress. I spend tons of time outside. I have been enjoying the benefits of less joint pain and a healthy immune system. My question is why would a diet of 30-35 carbs a day not result in any loss and not… Read more »
NeeNee
1 year 7 months ago
I am 63, female, devotedly primal/Paleo. I cycle (sprints too), I walk/hike long distances, do yoga, and lift some weight. I sleep, don’t drink, and finally am stress -relieved. Do I lose any weight? Just like you, no, not really. But I’m also not gaining. I’m wondering if it’s a function of a naturally slower metabolism as we age, plus that post-menopause affect of growing belly fat to create pseudo-estrogen substances (can’t avoid this!). If you are not gaining weight at our age, I think that’s super. If you are not really overweight, my guess losing weight will be hard… Read more »
Marcia
Marcia
1 year 7 months ago

I gained 30 pounds for no reason. Had thyroid and everything else checked. I have been on Thyroid medication for the last eight years. Get everything from adrenals to glucose etc. monitored regularly. No one has a clue.
And Primal has managed to keep me from gaining, so, yes, at this age it is a bonus!

2Rae
2Rae
1 year 7 months ago
Marcia, listen to your body is the best advice. It’s a long journey when you are around 60. I gained weight 35 pounds) on the advice that Liv is giving so be careful with that. I did fine for a while and then my health declined, got so tired all the time, my teeth started to get cavities and my moods were not stable. I have 10 pounds extra that seemed to creep up for no apparent reason. It may be that I don’t eat enough protein and fat so I’ve tried to adjust that up a tiny bit and… Read more »
Liv
Liv
1 year 7 months ago
The reason you’ve not lost weight is that you’re eating maintenance calories for your level of activity. Adjust intake or activity or both and you’ll start losing. As for ketostix, even protein will put you out of ketosis. Point is, you don’t need it to lose, or even low carb. I gave it up since I had no energy. Now I eat high carb with lots of starches and keep fat low and I’ve lost 27 lbs. And because I’m eating whole foods with high fiber, I’m never hungry. I’m now able to be vey active compared to when I… Read more »
Marcia
Marcia
1 year 7 months ago
I have been keeping my calorie intake at a range of 1400-1800/day and carbs at 80-120/day. To address my angry adrenals I cut back on the 2 hrs working out everyday, and the gym, in favor of more sleep. I do get in a walk every morning for 30-45 minutes. I have upped carbs and lowered them. I have been fairly generous with fat intake and it makes up a large part of my total. Not sure how I would deal with lowering fat. It may be the last resort. Which would be awful because it is so great not… Read more »
Liv
Liv
1 year 7 months ago
Then it simply means that your 1400-1800 calorie intake IS your maintenance level even factoring in your walks. My maintenance level is 1700 if I get 5-7 hrs of exercise/week, so not that different from you. However, my carbs are 75%, fat 10% and protein 15%. I’m now at 125lbs. By cutting fat, I’m able to use those cals for more volume in food so I never struggle with hunger. I eat lots of potatoes, beans, lentils, fruits and veggies and avoid adding oil when cooking. You might need to boost your walks in time or intensity. That’s what I… Read more »
Primal Pam
Primal Pam
1 year 7 months ago

Marcia, at the age of 50 I have had to focus on relaxation to lose any weight. For me it is all about keeping the cortisone and inflammation low. Deep breathing, slow relaxing walks focused on stress reduction and tumeric/reversatrol to lower inflammation. I was low carb for a long time and didn’t lose. Honestly slowing down and watching people run by me (stressed out workouts) and slow yoga has transformed my perimenapusal life. (35 lbs down).

Brian
Brian
1 year 7 months ago
Calories in vs calories out have very little to do with weight gain/loss. 2000 calories of coke and chips do not have the safe effect as 2000 calories of chicken and vegetables. Our bodies are considerably more complex than that. As we age, our metabolic furnace slows down. You see, out of 100% total caloric expenditure: – 10% comes from physical activity – 10% comes from diet and thermogensis (exposed to cold and heat) – 80% of it comes energy required to keep our cells operating efficiently and to keep our body warm in it’s ideal state (36.5c – 37.5c).… Read more »
Marcia
Marcia
1 year 7 months ago

Thank you everyone for the useful input. Liv, I might try backing off the fats, I do find they are the best appetite suppressant for my system though. Brian, I like your bit about body temperature. I am usually around 96. Poor old system must be very tired of keeping up. I suppose I will just have to accept the situation and hope that I don’t deteriorate too quickly. There is way too much stuff to get done before falling into a desperate decline!

2Rae
2Rae
1 year 7 months ago

Brian, how do we raise our internal body temp? I take ginger and try to keep moderately active, keep my office temps about 73 to 75 (a stand up desk helps) but just riding in my car while the motor heats it up can make me chilled for the rest of the night, I even wake up with cold arms and legs.I have also tried to cut back on the water intake because drinking the 2 quarts throughout the day seems to make me colder in the afternoon evening.

andria
andria
1 year 7 months ago

Plenty of people can lose weight eating 5000+ calories.

WAH?????

DarkSideRunner
1 year 7 months ago

I’ve only been at this a VERY short time, but what about better moods? I have felt less anxiety and more positive (during what otherwise would have been a very challenging time) than when I’m on sugar.

Kayla
Kayla
1 year 7 months ago

Absolutely! I’ve been off and on the low carb WOE for the past 12 years, and I know that I’m happier, less anxious, and less depressed when I’m eating low carb. If, important if, I’m eating enough fat. The first time I tried low carb I didn’t eat enough fat, because 50% seemed like soooo much. I got so depressed, but I lost weight and seemed healthier. The last time I did low carb I ate more like 70-80% fat, mostly saturated, and I’ve never felt better. Time to get back to it.

Squirrelly
Squirrelly
1 year 7 months ago
I was thoroughly addicted to potato chips and pasta since I was a teenager. I was also always roughly 20 pounds overweight. Low fat/high carb diet tried about 20 years ago just added more weight. I thought I was doomed to being fat until I found “The Glycemic Load Diet” by Rob Thompson, M.D. and Mark’s Daily Apple a little over 3 years ago. Since going on a more or less Primal diet 3, giving up pasta, bread–all wheats and grains, I lost 23 pounds and have kept it off for over 2 years now. Plus I absolutely NEVER crave… Read more »
Squirrelly
Squirrelly
1 year 7 months ago

Sorry for the typing mistakes. I couldn’t find a way to edit my remarks:
Line 5: Kill that “3.”

Line 13: Should read: “…keeping UP my intake of veggies…”

Again, sorry for those typing errors.

Parson
Parson
1 year 7 months ago

Thanks for sharing this. I think when you are a smaller person it does take longer to lose weight and you have to accept that. This was encouraging to read as my stats are almost identical to yours minus age. This reminds me to stick with it even if I don’t see results for a while.

Squirrelly
Squirrelly
1 year 7 months ago

I never thought that being a “smaller person” makes it harder to lose the weight. However, I’m glad my story has bee helpful to you.

Parson
Parson
1 year 7 months ago
I don’t think it’s harder. I think it takes longer. You stated it took you 8 months to lose 20 pounds. There are obese people who do that within a month by drinking water and walking around the block. Those same people end up losing 100 + pounds to get to the exact same weight as you. Granted I’ve been within the same 10 pounds my entire life and pretty active. For me a size 4 is the heaviest I’ve been. I find if I want to seriously drop weight I’ve had to make drastic changes. I see after reading… Read more »
Brian
Brian
1 year 7 months ago
The reason low carb works, IMO, is this, it mainly increases nutrient density, satiety, while simultaneously fixing someone’s hunger signals. It allows for more good fats which help hormones, and it decrease the insulogenic impact brought on by the processed foods like cakes, pastries, chips, pastas, etc.. People need to understand that insulin is an Anabolic hormone, it basically blocks the body’s ability to burn fat, which is why people “sugar crash”. You eat something sugar ladened, get an enormous insulin spike, you feel great, then shortly you feel down in the dumps. That insulin spike is still causing insulin… Read more »
Squirrelly
Squirrelly
1 year 7 months ago
I avoid sugar and high fructose corn syrup at all costs. I am the most passionate label reader there is. There are times when I leave the supermarket almost in tears because I couldn’t [decided] not to buy that wonderfully sounding frozen meal because it contains high fructose corn syrup and a bunch of unpronounceable ingredients. Then I go home and fix a yummy salad full of organic greens, pour on a lot of EVOO and apple cider vinegar, and I forget about that yummy sounding item in the supermarket that was a bad, bad choice indeed. It takes some… Read more »
Mark
Mark
1 year 7 months ago
I’ve just finished 8 weeks of a low carb diet and lost 8 kgs of fat and gained 2kg of muscle = 6kg of weight loss. I heavy weight train 4 days a week and found this way easier to keep to than a calorie controlled diet. I noticed i was eating much healthier and only a slight loss of energy on the big workout days, so i shortened the work outs by about 20min and was fine. My weight loss was mainly from my trunk and my visceral fat level dropped from a measure of 12 to 10, which… Read more »
Bob Niland
1 year 7 months ago
Assuming there’s enough clarity on “low carb” to imply rapidly metabolized or “net” carbs, then a sufficiently LC diet is by definition also going to be low in specific carbs that present extra or unique problems beyond merely spiking blood glucose – the grains. Low [net] carb also tends imply “low processed food”, so in addition to dialing down grains and simple sugars, it accidentally reduces a very long list of known and suspected adverse ingredients found in modern food-like substances. This might include but not be limited to inflammatory PUFAs, pesticides, emulsifiers, microbiome antagonists generally, preservatives, food coloring, non-native… Read more »
Wayne Crannell
Wayne Crannell
1 year 7 months ago
LC haters are simply wrong. I was 250 lbs and 5’6″. 39 years old with borderline fatty liver and diabetes with BP of 135/90. One year later on strict LC (<25/day) I was down 115 lbs. 12 years later, still down 90 lbs. (135 made me look sickly). Blood pressure is 110/65. All blood levels are nominal. Some truths… — measure and weigh everything you eat and track calories…calories do matter (it is a misconception that you can eat as much as you want) — count every carb and calorie — fat is good for you…low fat is a marketing… Read more »
JDF
JDF
1 year 7 months ago

I think you forgot the best of the macronutrient combos: potato chip cheesecake…is there any way that is primal?

Deb
1 year 7 months ago

One of the main reasons I stay the course is the reduction in inflammation when I’m eating low(ish) carbs and plenty of good fats.

Esther Cook
Esther Cook
1 year 7 months ago
Even Mark wastes his time with this calories garbage. With a 98% failure rate 20 years ago and much worse now, few ideas are as thoroughly proven wrong on the entire planet as the calorie theory of weight control. Yes, it works on overweight animals and it works for a while on people. Then they gain it all back with interest. You cannot face the reality that both you and (almost) everybody else haven’t a CLUE! There are 3500 calories per pound of fat and 365 days a year. So a young person gaining a pound a year is off… Read more »
Melanie
Melanie
1 year 7 months ago
This all used to work very well for me but for some puzzling reason I have reached a point where nothing seems to work anymore 🙁 I have been paleo/primal for 2 years now, lost an amazing 50 pounds within a year and then it all came to a grinding halt and within the last year I have only lost 6 pounds. I am constantly hungry and the hunger only goes away when I do eat bad foods, like the occasional slice of bread or pizza (which I hate eating as I much prefer my primal foods but sometimes just… Read more »
Marcia
Marcia
1 year 7 months ago

Melanie,
Sorry to hear you are in a similar boat. I have been on an 8+ year plateau. Lost 50 going the CW route with serious calorie restriction/tracking and exercising close to 15 hours a week. Quit smoking. Thyroid tanked etc. Then saw the weight coming back over the next couple of years until I stopped it by going Primal.
I think we have so many endocrine programs running in the background that they are slowing down our whole systems. I gave up trying to unravel that mess.

Lins
Lins
1 year 7 months ago
So, I work out a LOT for my sport and I have found that if I don’t have 1/2-1 baked sweet potato per day (usually dry but sometimes with a small amount of coconut oil), I am dizzy and light-headed. I have considered the possibility that maybe this is because I’m reliant on carbs but I’ve cut sweet potatoes out for a couple months before and felt horrible. Once I added them back in, in moderation, I felt like a new person. I think that it’s important to remember that each person needs to eat what makes them feel healthy,… Read more »
Lins
Lins
1 year 7 months ago
Melanie, sorry to hear about your frustrating experience and congratulations on losing so much already! I’ve gone through my own weight loss journey and stalling can be so frustrating!! I saw a dietician for awhile and that was really helpful for me. I would highly recommend that type of specialized help. A dietician might be able to pinpoint mitigating factors that are preventing you from continuing to lose weight. I found a paleo dietician in my area which was really helpful as I did not want to be lectured for eliminating “essential” food groups that we cut out when we… Read more »
Mark
Mark
1 year 7 months ago

I lost about 10 pounds in the first week when I switched to a high-fat, low-carb (or no-carb, some days) diet. I continued to lose weight at a rate of about 2.5 pounds per week. I’m now about 75-80 pounds down and counting.

I eat far less food, I feel more satisfied with it, and the bloating, gas, and cramps that accompany a high-carb diet, and the daily aches and pains that come with being very overweight, have mostly been eliminated.

It’s a great way of life.

Ggary
Ggary
1 year 7 months ago

Wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year. Peace and Blessings. Gary

Esquala
Esquala
1 year 7 months ago
One thing I love about LCHF – no more bloating! I used to make myself miserable filling up on “healthy whole grains” – quinoa, brown rice, etc, not to mention lentils and beans. Did I mention it made me miserable? I stuck it out, however, in the name of health and the promise of weight loss (which never happened). I still revel in the non-bloated feeling I have after a clean LCHF meal. I also love the fact that snacking is pretty much not a part of my life anymore, apart from a square or so of dark chocolate. I’ve… Read more »
Zach Rusk
1 year 7 months ago

Can we get a “Why low-carb diets don’t work” post? It would be great to balance it out and see why some people might do better on HCLF.

Regi
Regi
1 year 7 months ago

Agree. Low carb sucked. Mark sometimes acknowledges variations among our nutritional needs, but here’s yet another post exalting the LCHF lifestyle. Carbs are awesome for my sleep, energy, creativity, and everything else. Big hunks of meat and tons of butter on my veggies don’t appeal to me. I still have digestive issues from basing my diet on all those proteins and fats. Messed up my hormones, too. High carb makes me feel alive! No energy crashes, either.

Barry
Barry
1 year 7 months ago
I have the opposite problem as most do here. Since being on a Paleo diet and attentive to Marks words and teachings, I’ve lost 5-10 pounds( mostly muscle) due to a lower calorie count and while I’m probably healthier and leaner, I don’t look as good, especially in the face(too skinny!) and I’m afraid to workout because I may lose more weight…I’d like to add that weight I lost back on but I find that I can’t, mostly due to time stresses from work.. I’m a 6’1″ guy and currently at 164 lbs(used to be around 175) and would love… Read more »
Regi
Regi
1 year 7 months ago

You might be someone who needs more carbs in the diet.

Squirrelly
Squirrelly
1 year 7 months ago

I’m no expert, but one thing you could add to your daily diet is an avocado a day. Very healthy fat, high calories, and very , very good for you overall.

Margaret
Margaret
1 year 7 months ago
Please note that you can follow Weight Watchers and not be miserable. If you eat mostly plain, fresh foods. If you want to keep eating processed junk then you’ll have to starve. But. WW also just announced fairly shocking changes for 2016. Foods with protein are way lower in points, and foods with carbs higher. I think WW is finally getting the message that carbs are the problem. They are still too anti-fat, but give it another 5 years. I did WW for awhile and lost almost 20 lbs which I have kept off. For some people the accountability is… Read more »
john ho
john ho
1 year 7 months ago

I was on the LCHF diet last year and I lost 10kg in 8 months, from 80kg to 70kg.
However my friends and relatives fed back to me that I look haggard and sickly.
It showed up especially on my face looking sunken and pale. Kindly advise .
Not sure what to do now whether to continue or not. Feeling wise not bad but the facial pale look and comments from others are definitely not encouraging.

Please help.

Anakei
Anakei
1 year 7 months ago
Don’t’ worry about it. These comments often come from people who are carrying a few extra pounds themselves and think “normal” is a circular fat face with no visible bones. If people haven’t seen you for some time they can be shocked at your change of appearance and assume it’s from ill health. Then there’s the jealousy factor where people are derogatory because you have succeeded where they have failed, but couch their comments as concern about your appearance. If you are feeling good and happy with your weight loss then you are fine, and a bit of exercise and… Read more »
PH
PH
1 year 7 months ago
hmmmm… I did low carb for 4 months this year and lost very little weight (~8 pounds). I counted carbs religiously in a food journal and I know I was eating just under 100 grams on the vast majority of days. I went back counting calories (~1500/day) and eating a wider variety of foods, mostly plant-based, including rice, beans and breads, and lost 8 more pounds in 6 weeks. Low carb didn’t really work for me in my weight loss goals. For me, it all came down to calories. I also didn’t notice significant digestion changes from ditching grains/legumes for… Read more »
HB
HB
1 year 7 months ago
Going LCHF was great for me. My LC is less than 50g a day. As a female in her 50s, I’ve effortlessly lost 8 of the 12kgs I was looking to lose. I stopped having those horrible sugar crashes, and digestive issues I used to have, and my mind has been so much more clear and focussed. Over the Christmas period, I’ve been socially pressured into eating carbs, and feel so disgustingly unwell all over again. Feeling sluggish, bloated, can’t think and feel hungry again all the time. So easy to see how the cycle works when you fall off… Read more »
Collie
1 year 7 months ago
Too much talk about terminology people don’t understand. I have cut out all wheat. All refined sugar. I do go on a binge once or twice a month, with sweets. But in general I have more muscle mass, I have more energy, and with an increase in protein I was able to regulate my sleeping problems. When I increase protein the desire to binge on sweet things left completely , the desire to eat fruit left completely, and I ended up cutting out the rest of the grains. My stamina has increase dramatically. I am 48. Male. I eat a… Read more »
Debbie
Debbie
1 year 7 months ago
I struggled to lose on Low Cal, but have lost 50 pounds and greatly improved my health on Low Carb. I might lose 1/2 a pound a week on Low Cal (avg 1200 cals a day) and was miserable – weak, tired, and HUNGRY. But on LCHF, I lose average of 2 lbs per week. No more hunger, no more cravings, lots more energy. And the food! I enjoy wonderful steak, bacon, butter and cream. And after 6 months, my DR told me to keep up whatever I was doing, as I had lowered my risk of CHD by 75%… Read more »
Floyd
9 months 22 days ago

OK, this is good. But to what extent are low carb diets not ideal? What would make them better?

KER
KER
8 months 20 days ago
I tried a high-protein/low-carb diet for 3 months last year. Aside from not losing a pound, I was constipated, got pimples for the first time since high school, and generally felt sluggish. I was also really self-conscious of the bad breath that comes with low-carb diets (that sh*t is real, and brushing your teeth 10x/day doesn’t help). But I’ve since read that drinking tons of water and taking certain supplements can assist with the negative symptoms, and help your body adapt to the macro shift. I’m willing to try again. I wish there was as much information about what people… Read more »
John Kelvin
8 months 14 days ago

Very informative blog. Thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge with us.

Amy Stainthorpe
7 months 6 days ago

I definitely notice a difference in my weight loss when I substitute my usual carbs. I’m a cauliflower ‘rice’ fan and I love butternut squash noodles. The feeling after a low carb meal is always a nice one rather than feeling full and generally sluggish.

Lindsay
6 months 26 days ago

I’m soooo happy people are starting to realize that it’s not the FAT that makes you fat!!
I think fats are actually very nourishing and so vital to good health.

Shannon @ purehcgdietdrops
4 months 11 days ago

I lost around 80 pounds on low-calorie diet(1200-1500 calories). It wasn’t easy losing weight but maintaining that weight was much difficult.
Later on, I skipped calorie restriction and it was the workout solved my most of the problem. But I figured out that being on diet has really helped me in boosting my metabolism.

Jeanna
Jeanna
6 months 6 days ago

This is baloney, pure and simple. Any calorie reduction will cause weight loss. I lost over 100 lbs in less that a year (have maintained for 2 years now) on a high-carb diet. It was not difficult, I didn’t have to exercise myself into exhaustion, and I didn’t suffer the depression that most low-carb diets cause. Guess what serotonin is made out of… carbs. So you people can keep torturing yourselves on these stupid low-carb diets (mostly scams just trying to empty your pockets). I’ll keep having my bread & potatoes. 🙂

David
David
6 months 5 days ago

That’s absolutely correct. Basically, Mark is saying that you should cut out fruits and vegetables, which is total nonsense. I mean, think about that statement: CUT OUT FRUITS AND VEGETABLES. That’s borderline insane. How much fiber in a steak? ZERO. How much fiber in chicken? ZERO. No wonder why meat eaters are pooping once every 3 days. 95%+ of your calories should NOT come from animal based sources. Plain and simple.

Anakei
5 months 20 days ago
Excuse me? Where does it say that 95% of your calories should come from animal based sources? If anything, paleo followers eat MORE plant based food than SAD eaters, because the bread, pulses, grains, rice etc should be replaced with with colourful veggies. Example of a day’s menu Breakfast mushroom and spinach omelette (2 veggies) Lunch tuna with mixed salad including green beans or broccoli, tomatoes lettuce spring onions etc (at least 2 veggies) Dinner chicken cooked with onion, capsicum and tomatoes and served with broccoli, and carrots (at least 3 veggies) snack – an apple or other piece of… Read more »
Will Wilkin
3 months 23 days ago
No David, Here is a typical example of what Mark Sisson REALLY says about eating plants: “Perhaps the most fundamental element of the evolutionary health movement is the simple assertion that humans have evolved into omnivorous creatures adapted to consume a variety of plants (vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and their butters, and herbs and spices) and animals (meat, fish, fowl, eggs and even insects), and are wholly unequipped to consume the refined sugars, grains and industrial oils that comprise a huge portion of our modern diet. Plant foods are the main sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, and thousands… Read more »
Sheila
4 months 26 days ago

Yes I agree with this. low carb diet really works. Since i started doing the low carb diet, this is mainly what i ate Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, high-fat dairy, fats, healthy oils and maybe even some tubers and non-gluten grains and i stopping eating Sugar, HFCS, wheat, seed oils, trans fats, “diet” and low-fat products and highly processed foods. And i dont eat more than one piece of fruit everyday.

Jim
4 months 4 days ago

Great list, I would add that when I eat simple carbs I am much hungrier throughout the day. Also the hunger from eating these kinds of carbs leads to overeating foods devoid of high-quality nutrients.

KEVIN DAUGHERTY
4 months 1 day ago
Low carb eating has changed my life. In 6 months so far I have lost 60 lbs. Less than 10 of which were lean muscle mass. Impossible on a low fat diet. I lose about 2 lbs a week, every week. Slow and sure. I am a type 2 diabetic and my sugar, A!C, Triglycerides, and Cholesterol are all now in the good to very good range. What I once thought was hunger was really just withdrawal from my carb addiction. After about a month I stopped having those cravings. I have experienced real hunger for the first time in… Read more »
Jessica Ken
3 months 18 days ago

This is really useful blog, I am self a diet conscious and keep checking various articles on health and diet schedules after my work time, but yea this will be on my bookmark as i know i will surely gonna forget couple points and i don’t want to miss this schedule!

Thanks a lot.

Scott
Scott
2 months 16 days ago

How is it possible to achieve a high-protein, low-carb vegan diet?

Joseph
2 months 4 days ago

Unless you are in your reproductive years and/ or are quite athletic, you don’t want a high-protein diet. What is best is a very low-carb, moderate protein (apx. .4g per pound body weight), and high-fat diet.
For vegan, maybe try: starch replacement-konjac-tofu noodles (shirataki)/fruits-none/grains-none/veggies-get to know the non-starchy ones/legumes-none/fat-low omega-6 oils such as coconut, MCT, palm, avocado/protein-tamari, nuts and seeds.
There are good quality supplements to fill in the nutritional gaps and deficiencies of not consuming animal products.

Dau banh rang Yen Hung
1 month 10 days ago

Thanks for sharing this very useful information from your blog. Through the blog I have more useful information. Hopefully the blog will have more or better share

lyhai
1 month 5 days ago

But the low-carb diet will also wreak some havoc. When your body breaks down lean body mass—muscle—for energy, your metabolism slows because muscle tissue burns up a lot of calories. This may be one reason that the weight often comes back after you’ve been shunning carbs for a while.

vong da phong thuy deo tay
1 month 5 days ago

Thanks for your information.

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