The Low-Carb Diet: Top Diets Explained

The reason why people get on low carbohydrate diets is because they work. There’s a reason that they’ve been popular for decades and followed by most doctors and nutritionists.

Science is now proving that low-carb diets lead to more weight loss than other dieting protocols, at least in the short term. (1

Low-carb diets have also been shown to improve many different markers of health, including:

  • Triglycerides
  • Your good cholesterol (HDL) (2)
  • Lowers blood sugar or glucose levels (3)
  • Helps lower blood pressure.

There are a few different ways you can do a low-carb diet, and we’ll go over them in this post. 

Low-Carb Diets

When you decide to do a low-carb diet, it simply means that you’re restricting carbohydrates to some degree.

This particular eating pattern reduces the macronutrient, carbs and shuffles around the percentage ratios of the other to macros, protein and fat to come up with the diet plan you’ll follow.

To certain degrees, most low-carb diets emphasize the following food:

You’ll cut out foods like:

  • Grains
  • Potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Drinks high in sugar
  • Junk food
  • Fruit high in sugar content

You’ll have a recommended carbohydrate intake depending on the diet you decide to go on, but depending on how quickly you want to lose weight, this will determine your daily allowance of carbs in grams.

For example:

  • 100 grams of carbs per day is more for maintaining weight or if you’re very active and have a good exercise regimen. There’s a lot of room to eat your favorite fruit, veggies, and even some starchy food.
  • 50 grams of carbs per day is typical for most low-carb diets as it’s the slow and steady approach to losing weight. 
  • Less than 50 grams of carbs per day is for more aggressive diets looking to burn fat at a quicker rate. 

So typically on a low-carb diet your carbohydrate intake will vary to some degree, but you will largely cut out that macronutrient.

Your goal will determine which low-carb diet you go on. 

Here are the most popular low-carb variations you’ll come across. 

The Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet gets our highest recommendation, and it’s a low-carb, high-fat way of eating.

Your goal on the ketogenic diet is to limit your carb intake so that your body goes into a state called ketosis

When your body goes into this metabolic state, the insulin in your body goes down (because carbs spike insulin), and your body then releases fatty acids from within our stored fat, making ketones.

Ketones are responsible for supplying energy to both our body and brain. They can pass the blood-brain barrier, which is why our brain gets a lot of its energy from ketones when on this particular diet. 

What our brains cannot get from ketones, it will get from glucose which the body creates, even though you’re not getting it from carbs. This is called gluconeogenesis.

On the ketogenic diet, you’ll be eating a moderate amount of protein which will equate to about 20-25% of your daily caloric intake.

70-75% of your calories will come from foods high in fat. The 5%, or so, will come from carbs.

The benefits of the ketogenic diet are starting to become widely known as they’ve been shown in studies to help treat all kinds of illnesses and diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and cancer, to name a few. (2)

The biggest benefit of all has been its effects on weight loss and appetite suppression. (3

What we’ve gone over so far is a standard ketogenic diet, but there are a few other ways you can do keto as well.

  • Targeted Keto – This is where you add a little more carbs around your workouts.
  • Cyclical Keto – In this version, you can switch to 1-2 higher carb days throughout the week.

A Traditional Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet (LCHF)

Similar to keto, the LCHF diet is a very low-carb diet, but with a heavy requirement of eating mostly unprocessed foods.

The guidelines for carb intake are pretty loose as you can eat anywhere from 20-100 grams of carbs daily.

Your main sources of food will come from the usual types of food on a lower-carb diet, such as meats, fish, dairy, vegetables, and healthy fats.

Atkins

The Atkins diet was popularized by being a low-carb diet but having a higher protein intake than the keto diet. 

This particular diet involves reducing carbohydrate intake while split up into phases 1-4. Each phase will allow you to eat more carbs.

  • Phase 1: Stay under 20 grams of carbs per day until you’re about 15 pounds from your ideal weight.
  • Phase 2: You should stay under 50 grams of carbs for another 5 pounds of weight loss.
  • Phase 3: You can have up to 80 grams of carbs per day, but you should monitor your weight as the increase in carbs may allow for fat gain.
  • Phase 4: You stay in this phase and maintain your weight. You’re allowed up to 100 grams of carbs per day as long as you’re not gaining weight.

As long as you have proper amounts of fiber on the diet, it’s not a bad diet, as some people have been led to believe. It’s still a popular low-carb diet to this day.

Related: Keto vs Atkins Diet: What Works Better For Weight Loss?

No Carbs Or Zero-Carb

Some people who want to get really aggressive weight loss will want to eliminate all carbohydrates from their daily consumption of food. 

If you go on a zero-carb diet, you’ll eat a lot of the same foods mentioned earlier, as there aren’t many options for you since you’re eliminating an entire macronutrient from your diet.

Due to its heavy restrictions, it’s not a diet we recommend. Being too restrictive will likely have a low adherence rate which will derail your weight loss goals. 

Summary

Low-carb diets are popular for a reason, and if you can find one that works well for your lifestyle and can stick with it for the long run, that is the best option for you.

Our recommendation is the ketogenic diet for all the benefits mentioned in the article above. You should always check with your doctor to make sure a low-carb diet is a healthy option for you. 

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