Monday, 2 January 2012

Is LCHF for everyone?

Why I eat LCHF:

First let me explain something:  My primary reason for eating LCHF is because I have Type II diabetes.  That's it.  If I did not have Type II diabetes I would likely eat more carbohydrate.

You see, I love cycling, I used to enjoy distance running - there is no doubt that athletic performance for endurance events is at it's optimum when on a higher carbohydrate diet.  No doubt whatsoever.

However, if I eat more than 40g of carbohydrate in a sitting, or more than 150g a day - even low-GI carbohydrates, my blood sugar goes above what all research indicates as healthy.  Period.

I have both insulin-resistance and impaired insulin response/production.  Things improved as my health did - weight loss and exercise were great for that. But I still get glucose spikes from carbohydrate.

So unless I want to start taking bolus insulin, I cannot go to higher carbs than I currently do.  And, at 46 years old and slightly broken - I know I'm not going to be an elite athlete - so I don't worry about it.  I enjoy cycling at my own pace.  Can I keep up with a 30 year-old cyclist on a healthy diet?  Nope.  Only on the downhill.  Or in a headwind if he's a lightweight.  So I don't worry about fueling my body with carbs for this type of activity.

I do like that I'm gaining muscle again after years of a sedentary lifestyle - and I know I need to keep both my protein levels and fat levels high for that - so for all these reasons, LCHF works for me.

Why YOU should eat LCHF:
Unlike many low-carb advocates, I'm not going to tell you that you definitely should - because I don't believe it's for everyone.  No one way of eating is, period.  As such, I'm not really a "low-carb advocate" as much as I'm a "I eat low-carb for my own reasons" person.

What I do think people should do is research, research and research.  There are reasons to try LCHF - here's a few:
  • You've tried other diet plans without success
  • You have metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes or diabetes with poor glucose control
  • You suffer carbohydrate cravings (some might say addiction)

Any of those might be a reason to try eating in this way, but only you can decide the diet that's best for you - based on how you look, feel, and what your results show.

When you shouldn't eat LCHF:
  • There are some people that simply do not do well on this diet.  You'll only find out if you're one of those by trying it and seeing results (including blood tests, etc.) for yourself.
  • You don't have the willpower to stick to low-carb, and will likely give in and eat those donuts someone brought to work or that candybar when you buy groceries.  If this is the case, you simply will not stay in ketosis, and the advantage it provides just won't be there.  And I know what that's like.  Heck, I love me a good cinnamon bun... I once wanted one so badly I actually rode my bike 50km to a place that sold them, ate one, waited 20 minutes then started riding back... all so that the riding would control the glucose spike...  I may occasionally have a treat - but I manage the glucose consequences with exercise.
  • You're involved in endurance events such as cycling, hiking, running, etc. and your overall competitive performance is important to you, not just the event itself.  Low-carb dieters simply cannot perform in these events as well as those on a higher-carbohydrate intake.  If you get in good shape and want to enter a marathon for the fun of it, and don't care if it takes you 9 hours to complete it, then it doesn't really matter.
  • You have normal metabolic reactions to carbohydrate intake.  If you don't have issues with insulin-response and glucose uptake, there's really no good reason to lower your carbohydrate intake.  In this situation insulin is not the driving force behind your weight problems.  As such it's an extreme you likely do not need to adopt to lose weight.  (You still can, short-term ketosis for weight-loss works well, but it must be a educated decision, so research...)
  • You're under the impression you can eat all you want, not exercise, and lose weight with LCHF.  I'm sorry, if that's what you believe, you've been duped.  Yes, you can lose weight eating LCHF without exercising - but not nearly as much as if you exercised vigorously.  It's true that moderate exercise doesn't help much with weight loss, but does help fitness. Vigorous exercise, however, supercharges your weight-loss.  Also of note: Even if you're being satiated by higher protein and fat content of this diet, if you are an 'emotional eater' or have a tendency to over-eat, you may still eat too much and then will not lose weight.
  • You've been on LCHF but have lost the weight you need, and improved any glucose-control problems.  In this case it might actually be best to start working some carbohydrate back into your diet (small amounts of non-starchy fresh carbs) and see how you respond.  I truly believe moderation is the key - find the macronutrient balance that works best for you - without going to any extremes in any one direction.

The Bottom Line:

Here's the deal:  Fat-loss isn't as easy as many 'diet gurus' would have you believe.  It takes dedication and work.  Period.  If you're looking for a 'magic pill' or a 'quick fix' you'll only be disappointed with any diet.

Remember; if you over-eat, you won't lose weight.

If you don't eat enough, you'll likely lose muscle (and fat) instead of just fat.  And you'll feel like crap, and will likely not have the energy you need to exercise.  (This is why calorie-restrictive diets suck.)

If you add exercise to your diet, you get the benefits of both.  This is where you break through the weight-loss barriers - proper diet (for you) and exercise are the key.  Don't believe anyone that tells you otherwise - they're either selling something or deluded.

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