Lately, for whatever reason, I’ve had a lot of clients and friends ask me about high protein, low carb diets. Whether they know someone on one, are experiencing some odd symptoms (extreme thirst, metallic taste in mouth), or are just curious about it in general, I think I’ve talked more about ketosis in the last month than I have since I started personal training.
I <3 Bacon
What is a low carb diet?
A low carb diet is a program where your carbohydrate consumption is restricted (shocker!), and you primarily rely on a large percentage of your calories coming from fats and protein (cheese, nuts, poultry, fish etc.) So think – NO sugar, bread, pasta, donuts. Remember though, there ARE carbs in fruits and vegetables, so depending on how extreme one goes with a dietary program like this will effect what you can and can not eat in those categories.
Some examples of low carb diets are:
- South Beach
So, that brings us to one of the biggest things that come up with those undertaking a low carb diet – Ketosis
People hear the word ‘ketosis‘ and ‘body goes into a state of ketosis‘ and automatically assume this is a bad or dangerous thing. Ketosis simply means that your body has converted from using carbs to fat for energy. Carbs are the body’s main source of energy , but when you are ingesting a low percentage of it, ketone bodies (a molecule) develop during fat metabolism.
So, in laymen’s terms, your body goes from being a carbohydrate-burning machine to a fat-burning one. Thus, a person can lose weight and that is why low carb diets have become so popular.
As with most things, there are some risks to be aware of, the first being cholesterol. If you are eating a high protein diet, it is very important to make sure you are getting enough fiber into your system. The reason behind this is, your body recycles out cholesterol through the expulsion of body fluids (to paint a picture: bowel movements). However, if you AREN’T voiding like you should and become constipated, the cholesterol recycles back into your system and that is when things start to become a problem.
So, two ways to avoid this are to make sure you’re getting enough fiber into your diet and/or find some protein that have lower levels of cholesterol – fish is a GREAT example.
There is some controversy on whether prolonged high protein, low carb diets are dangerous for the body. Some doctors say that if you are not properly monitored and continue to exhibit a high level of ketosis, this can put a major strain on your kidneys. However, some researchers say there isn’t any noticeable harm.
With that said…
It is SO important that you consult with your doctor, nutrition consultant or dietitian before undertaking this (or any) type of diet. Every person is unique in how their bodies function and react to things, so just because your friend had an AMAZING experience following (insert whatever diet here) doesn’t mean YOU will. Be safe and take the time to speak with a health professional, who is knowledgeable and properly equipped to help you start and safely maintain a dietary program.