All fad diets suck and low-carb diets are no exception.
Low carb diets picked up steam with the meteoric rise of obesity.
The proponents of low carb diets claim that carbs are the real reason behind the obesity epidemic. Since widespread obesity is a new phenomenon for the humanity, a scapegoat had to be found and the low-carbers announced it as carbohydrates.
They claim that our ancestors of the Paleolithic age (hence the name “paleo diet”) didn’t eat any carbs before the agricultural revolution so, humans don’t need to eat carbs.
This argument resonated with millions of people and a new diet fad was born: The low carb diet.
In this post, I will talk about the reasons why low carb diets suck, but first, let’s clarify what a low carb diet is.
What Is a Low-Carb Diet and How Much Is Low?
Low carb dieters don’t eat sugary foods, wheat products, starchy vegetables, the majority of the fruits, high glycemic index vegetables, and beans.
Pasta, bread, rice, most of the fruits, potatoes, corn, beans, soft drinks, candy, juice, sports drinks, chocolate, cakes, buns, pastries, breakfast cereals, pizza, cakes, ice cream and any other food that is high in glycemic index are off limits.
They even take it to the point of avoiding artificial sweeteners which don’t contain calories. They believe that artificial sweeteners raise insulin levels, which is the worst thing that can happen to a low-carber, and make you gain fat out of thin air.
While any diet that includes fewer than 100 grams of carbs a day is considered a low carb diet, they believe that the lower the carbs the better. Low-carbers may go as low as eating fewer than 20 grams of carbs a day.
That measly, fewer than 100 grams of carbs shouldn’t be simple carbs either. Carbs from vegetables and nuts are preferred because these kinds of foods have a low glycemic index, which means they don’t raise insulin levels as much as those pesky simple carbs do.
Insulin to low-carbers is like garlic to vampires. It should be avoided at all costs because they believe it’s not calories that make people fat but it’s the insulin.
My experience with low-carb diets
In marketing, there’s a concept called UPS (Unique Selling Proposition). The UPS of low-carbers is Paleo. On the surface, it makes perfect sense to eat like our ancestors of the Paleolithic age, especially when you are desperate to lose weight.
When I was training hard to get six-pack abs, I was desperate to burn my belly fat and uncover my six-pack abs. When I heard about low-carb diets and all the paleo talk, it made perfect sense to me and I cut out the carbs from my diet. I was ready to do anything it takes to have six-pack abs.
After cutting out carbs from my diet, I started to lose weight fast. I felt like I cracked the code to fat loss but after the first week, the weight loss stalled.
Moreover, I no longer felt great after a training session. My workouts started to exhaust me a few weeks after I cut out the carbs.
I felt miserable in my day-to-day life too. I had low energy levels, and a low libido.
I wouldn’t mind all the misery if I kept on losing fat but that wasn’t happening either. Maybe I was eating too much butter with the eggs and steaks, I don’t know. I wasn’t counting my calories because low-carbers had convinced me that calories didn’t matter as long as I don’t eat any simple carbs.
I quit low-carb dieting for good because not only it failed to deliver but also I felt miserable.
I got my six-pack abs after I started counting my calories. Counting my calories was a huge relief after the misery of low-carb dieting because I ate everything I wanted to eat as long as I hit my daily calorie (and macro) goals.
Looking at further information on low-carb diets, I am happy that I ditched the low-carb nonsense because I had serious dangers in waiting in case I kept on with a low-carb diet.
Here are the 10 reasons why low-carb diets suck:
1) Low-carb diets are misleading
Whenever you talk about why low-carb diets suck, you will find hordes of people swearing that low-carb diets helped them lose weight.
It’s true that low-carb diets are likely to help you lose weight (especially in the beginning) but it doesn’t do it in the way that low-carb proponents claim.
There are two ways low-carb diets mislead people about weight loss:
- You initially lose a lot of water weight when you cut out carbs. Low-carb dieters mistake this initial weight-loss with fat loss and think that “wow low-carb diet works so fast, why didn’t I do this before?”. But the loss of water weight is meaningless for the purposes of fat loss and it comes to a halt within a week or so. Granted, you can lose fat with a low-carb diet after the period of water weight loss ends, but the weight loss will slow down and the probable (not guaranteed) fat loss will be for the reasons which have an indirect relationship with cutting out the carbs.
- You may accidentally eat fewer calories than you burn. The fat loss that is likely to happen with a low carb diet is misleading because by cutting out an entire macro group you are likely to consume fewer calories than you burn.
When you eat fewer calories than you burn, you are guaranteed to lose fat no matter whether you consume carbs or not.
This is why many low-carb dieters fail to lose weight despite the fact that they don’t eat carbs. It’s perfectly possible to eat more calories than you burn by eating only protein and fat.
Here’s an excellent article entitled The Truth About The Low Carb Diet And Weight Loss that discusses in great detail the illusion of weight loss with low carb diets.
The proponents of low-carb diets mislead people by claiming that the current obesity epidemic is caused by the recent prevalence of simple carbs in the modern diet.
The obesity epidemic isn’t caused by carbs. It’s caused by the worldwide increase in food production. Available calories per person have increased to over 3000 calories a day.
The abundance of food (and hence, calories) is a new phenomenon for the humanity. The history of humans is filled with famines. Humans are evolved to eat all the available calories and store the excess calories as fat in order to be able to survive a probable famine.
If carbs made humans fat, South East Asians would all be fat because they eat rice 3 times a day. According to low-carb talibans (as Martin Berkhan rightfully calls them), eating rice is supposed to spike up your insulin levels and your body would magically make up fat out of thin air and you would get fat. Except, Asians are some of the thinnest people on earth.
It’s not only the Asians who kept slim when they eat carbs. Here’s a picture that displays the Americans of 100 years ago. Carbs were always present in the American diet but the Americans didn’t get fat by eating them.
It’s not carbs that make people fat. It’s the calories.
2) Low-carb diets are deadly
A mere 100 years ago, people smoked cigarettes like chimneys because the long-term effects of smoking were not known as clearly as they are known now.
It’s the same with low-carb diets. The low-carb diet is a recent craze the long-term effects of which are fairly unknown.
Low-carb dieters love to highlight any kind of research which seem to support their claims but the research on low-carb diets is mostly poorly conducted and almost all of them are short-term.
We have some evidence about the people who ate a low-carb diet for extended periods of time and it’s not pretty.
50 years ago, a Polish man with the name Jan Kwasniewski invented a low-carb diet which he called “The Optimal Diet”.
The Optimal Diet became extremely popular in Poland. Recently, the practitioners of the optimal diet have been dying of gastrointestinal cancers at a disturbing rate.
You can read the details in this article entitled Dangers of Zero-Carb Diets, II: Mucus Deficiency and Gastrointestinal Cancers.
Apparently, low-carb diets cause a mucus deficiency in the digestive system that leads to a form of stomach cancer in the long term. Ouch.
3) Low-carb diets impair muscle growth and athletic performance
When you are on a low-carb diet, you are severely impairing the ability of your body to build muscle. Not only that but low-carbs diets cause you to lose your muscle mass even when you eat enough protein.
Low-carb dieters brag about the fact that a low-carb diet lowers insulin levels but insulin is crucial for building muscle.
Testosterone is also crucial for building muscle and worse, increased cortisol levels result in muscle loss.
The athletic performance also plummets which contributes to the impairment of muscle growth at strength trainers.
4) Low-carb diets decrease your libido
Many low-carb dieters claim to have higher libidos on a low-carb diet but I don’t buy their crap because the numbers fail to add up.
Libido is the natural result of having high testosterone levels. A high level of libido is of utmost importance for a healthy man and a low-carb diet lowers the testosterone levels.
It’s impossible to have a high libido with low testosterone.
5) Low-carb diets impair your mood
Low-carb dieters often claim to feel great but that’s a short-lived honeymoon.
After the initial adrenal buzz wears out, your stress hormones go up and your energy levels go down.
You feel lousy, sluggish, cranky, angry, depressed and confused.
Worse, you may initially have burned a fair amount of body fat but with all these changes in your metabolism, the fat comes creeping back. It doesn’t help that you start to have an insatiable appetite too.
6) Low-carb diets cause your breath to stink
Have you ever noticed that when a person doesn’t eat any food for an extended period of time his breath starts to stink? When this person starts eating food, his bad breath disappears.
The bad thing about low-carb diets is that you can keep eating but your breath will still stink.
When you don’t eat carbs, your body starts to produce ketones as an alternative source of energy. Ketones are the reason why a hungry person’s breath stinks.
But, since low-carb dieters are utilizing ketones for the energy needs of their body, they have permanent bad breath.
7) Low-carb diets take the joy out of eating food
Humans don’t only eat for nutrition. We derive a great deal of pleasure from eating food.
Low-carb dieting kills this pleasure. Look at the list of foods that you are not allowed to eat with low-carb diets:
Pasta, bread, rice, fruits, potatoes, corn, beans, soft drinks, candy, juice, sports drinks, chocolate, cakes, buns, pastries, breakfast cereals, pizza, cakes, ice cream and many more.
It’s no surprise that with low-carb diets, eating food quickly starts to become a chore rather than pleasure.
8) Low-carb diets severely limit your freedom
Eating out becomes a torture. It’s hard to find a restaurant that serves food without any simple carbs in it. It doesn’t help that the low-carb food is often expensive and low-carb dieters often have holier-than-thou rules such as eating grass fed beef or free range eggs and all other types of bullshit.
Shopping for food becomes a pain in the ass too. Most of the food sold in grocery stores are off-limits for the low-carbers so they have an incredibly limited array of food choices to buy.
They basically end up eating the same tasteless food over and over and keep fooling themselves and others that they actually enjoy low-carb food more than all the other delicious meals.
9) Zero-carb diets may cause scurvy
Many low carb dieters take it as far to the level of not eating any carbs at all and they unknowingly invite a disease called scurvy.
Scurvy is a deadly disease caused by vitamin C deficiency.
A zero-carb diet impairs the body’s capacity to utilize vitamin C and eventually may result in scurvy.
10) Zero-carb diets may cause kidney stones
Zero-carb diets result in vitamin C, salt, and other electrolyte deficiencies and dehydration which dramatically increases the risk of kidney stones.
The only correct way to lose fat is to eat fewer calories than you burn.
There are 3 kinds of nutrients that contain calories:
- Dietary fat
Protein and dietary fat are essential for survival so you can’t eliminate them completely from your diet.
Whereas, the human body has a built-in workaround for the lack of carbs. When calories from carbs aren’t present, the body starts producing ketones for its energy requirements.
Low-carbers abuse this ability of the body by cutting out the carbs and sentencing their bodies to rely indefinitely on ketones for energy. They think that they are too smart to have found a hack in the operating system of the human body but the human body isn’t that dumb. You can’t hack a system that has been working for hundreds of thousands of years.
While a low-carb diet may work for a short period of time, inadequate carb consumption results in a series of serious problems such as cancer, muscle loss, scurvy, kidney stone, low energy levels, impaired mood, and bad breath.
I recommend a flexible diet where you can enjoy the food you are eating and stay healthy as long as you limit your calorie intake and get your essential nutrients.
Instead of trying to circumvent the real issue, limit the calories you are eating and you will be fit and healthy.