Assuming you’re all up to date with what carbs are and how insulin affects the body, we can now move on to the fun stuff: a low carb lifestyle, will it work for you? How do you make it work for you? Should you make it work for you?
So, first off: What is a Low Carb Diet?
There’s a lot of varying definitions for this and if you’ve travelled through the Internet you’ll likely have come across a whole range of different programs. You’ve got the famous Atkins Diet, Southbeach, Paleo, and a whole range of others (all of which are worth having a read through as they’ll help explain everything I’m trying to get through). What they all have in common is that they limit the amount of carbs a person consumes during a 24 hour period to induce a ketogenic state.
‘Okay, hold on a second,’ you’re saying, ‘what’s with all the fancy terminology? Is this going to be one of those things that I need a science degree for to understand?’
‘Nope, don’t worry,’ I reply with a big smile, ‘I’ll talk you through it. I learned it, so you can too! I’ve made a ‘Glossary’ page – look at the top of the site! – which I’ll be adding onto as we go.’
In a ketogenic state your body will start using fats for energy and not carbs. Remember the difference between the two things here: Carbs = sugars, fats are different! They shouldn’t be tied together in the same circle; in most LC diets, you need to be consuming a high amount of fats, particularly animal fats (unless you’re vegetarian of course, and in that case you will need to find some suitable alternatives – we’ll explore that at a later point!). Fats are important for a number of reasons. Firstly, when you eat fats you feel satiated, full, comfortable and you’ll be less likely to overeat. Secondly, you’ve got to replace the carbs you’re cutting out with some sort of fuel for your body and while you want it to be using your reserves, you can’t starve yourself, so for the love of all that is scared eat the fats! Okay, so, back to the ketogenics. Remember how I said that your liver turns excess sugars in your system into fatty acids which the body then stores are fat? Well, your liver does this other magical thing…
Think of your liver like a factory worker – go ahead, picture a little guy/gal in a overalls with a cap, working a switch. There you go! – and his/her job is to make sure the factory has enough energy to work. So, now picture a large jar, the worker has got to keep that jar full so that there’s enough energy for the body – er, factory – do to its thing (breathe, walk, talk, keep organs functioning, etc.). But suddenly, down the conveyer belt comes extra fuel/sugar! The jar’s already full so it’s got nowhere to go. The factory, however, has a strict no-wastage policy, and so the factory worker diligently packs it up into a box or something and puts it onto another conveyer belt that takes the box to a storage locker labled either thighs, arms, neck, torso…
You get the picture. That’s what happens in a regular system. During a ketogenic state (ketosis), you’re removing a very large amount of the sugar that would normally fill the factory worker’s jar. So, the jar is never full, and the factory –i.e. your body – isn’t getting enough energy from its food to maintain general function. Now, this would be bad, I mean, the last thing you want is organ failure (which kills you, by the by), except that your body is a miracle worker and has, of course, built in a fail safe: ketosis.
When your body enters ketosis, your liver starts producing what are known as ketogenic bodies from the fats you’ve diligently been consuming. In all honesty, I can’t really explain what these special little bodies are, only that your body can use them just as efficiently for fuel as it does carbs. So, back to our little factory worker:
Realising there’s not enough fuel in the jar, he simply throws a switch on the second conveyer belt and summons up some of the fat stores from, say, the thighs’ stores. He does something special to the stuff when it arrives and tips that into the jar to make it full.
Keep that up long enough, and the fat storage lockers are going to empty themselves out, which is the whole point of being on this new diet isn’t it?
‘That sounds simple enough! So, what carbs do you have to cut out to enter ketosis?’ you ask, getting excited, could this be the answer you’ve been looking for?
Before I go any further, I want to reiterate what I said in my first post. I’m just an interpreter of what I’ve found on the Internet and from other more reliable sources like my GP: I’m not a specialist or qualified in this field. It’s not that I’m worried about being sued – though, of course, I’d rather you didn’t, which is why I keep saying this! – but it’s also VERY IMPORTANT that you do what suits you and that you don’t damage yourself in the process. In other words, before you read my next post and dive straight into trying out this new diet: SEEK REAL MEDICAL ADVICE FIRST! No doubt I will be saying that a lot throughout this odyssey, and you’ll get bored with it, but it’s important and it’s about your health so don’t mess about with it.
I’ll let you sit on that for this post, the next one will pop up tomorrow and we’ll look at what you’ve actually got to do to get into ketosis and get those kilograms washing off of you.