The Skinny On Low-Carb Diets

Research has shown that a diet low in carbohydrates is one of the best ways to lose fat in a short time. That's because carbohydrate restriction forces the body to burn fat as fuel instead of blood sugar. And there are additional benefits to limiting carbohydrate intake. You'll decrease cholesterol, abdominal fat and insulin resistance which are all steps for improving cardiovascular health. One potential drawback is that a low-carb diet does limit physical endurance, a fact demonstrated in studies dating back to the 1960s. But others have shown that reducing body fat enhances performance.

A summary of research from Duke University reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition defined a low-carb diet as 50 to 150 grams of carbohydrates daily. Six different studies were used to compare high- and low-carbohydrate diets. The conclusion came out in favor of lowering carb intake. In fact, even when subjects ate an unlimited amount of non-carbohydrate foods, they experienced reductions in appetite and weight while improving overall health.

The Bigger Picture. Runners, swimmers, rowers and other endurance athletes like to 'load' carbs before competitions to build up stores of energy-rich glycogen. And it's important to ingest some carbohydrates with your protein and amino acids after weight training to refuel your muscles. The advantages of carbohydrate restriction to jump start short-term fat loss are supported by a wide body of research. But, if you are an athlete concerned with performance and lean muscle mass, it's important to remember that there's a time and a place for everything.
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