How Low-Carb Diets Actually Work (Spoiler: It's Not Insulin)

By Aadam | August 22, 2019

There’s nothing magic about low-carb diets. Here’s how they actually work.

1. Low-carb diets are high-protein diets

When you look at protein intake in two popular low-carb diets versus the recommended daily intake:

The low-carb diets have ~3x the amount of protein. And high-protein diets reduce appetite which can lead to people eating less.

2. They reduce calorie density

Calorie density is the number of calories in a serving of food. Foods with a lower calorie density provide fewer calories per gram than foods with a higher calorie density.

Example: 100g apple versus 100g chocolate

Calorie density has been linked to an increase in body weight, while a reduction in calorie density has shown to decrease body weight.

When people adopt a low-carb diet they inadvertently swap heavily processed calorie-dense foods for minimally processed whole foods.

This means they consume and feel satiated on fewer calories which leads to a reduction in total calories consumed.

3. They reduce food variety

Food intake increases when there’s more variety in the diet (did someone say buffet?) and greater dietary variety is associated with increased body weight and fat.

By cutting out an entire food group, people are limited to what they can eat (the high-calorie, heavily processed foods) which leads to–yep, you guessed it–a reduction in calorie intake.

All of these factors cause people to improve the quality of their diet which leads to a reduction in calorie intake (are you noticing a pattern here?), which leads to fat loss, which leads to improved energy and better health.

But you can apply these same principles without eliminating carbs.

• Increase protein intake at every meal, including snacks. Aim for between 20-40g per meal.

• Reduce the calorie density of your diet by swapping heavily processed foods for nutrient-dense minimally processed foods.

• Reduce diet variety by selecting fewer foods and making them the foundation of your diet (not every meal has to be Instagram-worthy).

Ultimately, the ‘type’ of diet you follow matters far less than your ability to stick to the diet for the long-term.

And all sensible diets, regardless of their fancy name or macro composition, follow the same overarching principles: calorie-controlled. Limited ultra-processed foods. With an emphasis on whole, nutrient-dense foods.

Focus on these principles while eating in a way you enjoy–including the foods you enjoy–and you’ll be ok.

If you want to try a low-carb diet, go for it.

You should experiment to find a way of eating that suits you best. But choose to do something knowing why you’re doing it versus out of fear or unfounded claims by a misinformed dweeb on the internet.

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