Carb Debate

11 Dec

The Great Carbohydrate Debate

Diets come and diets go. The only thing that has some semblance of permanence is the amount of fat that we carry. Let’s face facts. Ours is a cosmetic society. How we look often governs the way we are perceived by others. A recent study done on facial symmetry (i.e. the left and right side matching) found that those people with better facial symmetry had higher paying jobs and even more numerous sexual encounters, irrespective of other more important parameters such as intelligence. It is of little wonder then, that when presented with a revolutionary method of eating to melt away body fat, most will embrace it with open arms.
The low or no carbohydrate diets promise to do what the food pyramid has been unable to achieve in recent times. That is, negating the need to answer the often fatal question, “does my bum look big in this”.

Diet Theory

These diets restrict carbohydrate intake so that food selection is made from protein and fat sources. This depletes the body of stored carbohydrates (glycogen) and a state called ‘ketosis’ is created. Ketosis forces the body to burn stored fat for energy in the absence of carbohydrates. While fat is very calorie dense (one gram of fat has more than twice the calories of one gram of carbohydrate), the body’s ability to utilise stored fat is relatively inefficient. This leads to the production of ‘ketones’, small particles that can be used for energy. The presence of ketones is evidence that fat utilisation is proceeding at a maximal rate.


Pros Cons
Initial rapid weight loss. Initial weight loss mainly due to water not being stored with glycogen.
Reduces insulin production.Insulin prevents the release of stored body fat. Insulin is an anabolic hormone responsible for increasing muscle mass and BMR elevation.
Sausages, omelettes, steaks are allowed on the menu. Other food choices very limited. Especially fruits, vegetables and grains which are the source of essential vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients.
Ketones effectively suppress appetite making easier to control hunger. Lack of fibre increasing chance of bowel problems.
Ketones are able to reduce muscle loss during dieting and thus keep the basal metabolic rate (BMR) at high levels. High protein diets have been linked to kidney stones.
By consciously using mono and polyunsaturated fats(olive and fish oils) blood lipid profiles may improve. Increased consumption of saturated fats increases the risk of vascular disease.


Does it work?

Unfortunately losing body fat is not an exact science. We are all individuals with differing body types and metabolisms. What may work for some, may not for others. The only sure thing with regard to dieting is this; to lose fat effectively you must expend more energy (BMR, activity and exercise) than you intake (food and drink). Any diet regime that does this by whatever method will prove to be successful. Numerous diets have been proposed through the popular media, scientific experts and celebrity endorsers which all seem to work. The very basic underlying principle is that, for whatever format the diet takes, energy intake is less than energy expenditure.

Over the years I have helped many physique athletes achieve their desired look, that is, maximum muscle mass with minimum body fat levels. Even though you may not desire to achieve such extremes, the lessons I have learned can still be applied to any situation. They are to have balance, variety and consistency with food choices!

Balance– common sense should tell you that any diet regime that excludes one of the basic macronutrients cannot be practical. Some will argue that a low carb diet is more natural, citing the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of our ancestors. In fact most anthropological studies show that ancient man indeed had a good balance between intake of fats, carbs and protein. If carbohydrates are so bad why is this nutrient the body’s preferred energy source?

Variety– nutritional science is constantly evolving. Discoveries are still being made with regard to essential phytonutrients responsible for maintenance of optimal health. The more variety of foods consumed the greater chance we have of ensuring that all our bases are covered. Imagine not being able to sample many of the culinary delights that multi-cultural Australia has to offer.

Consistency – like any endeavour, the ability to consistently reproduce sound behavioural practices, will get results. Any sports champion will attest to this. If you are overweight there is a high likelihood that it took some time for the excess to accrue. Similarly then, to expect it to disappear quickly, is unrealistic. Sensible eating over time is the only way to go.