Carbs & Calories

I get asked all the time - "I am following 100% but have stopped losing weight"

Let’s look at what happens when we cut carbohydrates in the diet. First, we don’t get enough carbs to replenish our blood sugar, so the body has to convert protein to glucose to make up the difference. The signal to do this comes from a rising level of glucagon, a hormone made in and released by the pancreas. In order for glucagon to do its job, the level of insulin in the blood has to go down, which it does. A low level of insulin and a high level of glucagon send a signal to the fat cells telling them to release their fat. You can think of it as opening the doors to the fat cells so that fat can easily get out. The body burns this fat for energy. As the body burns more, the fat cells release more. When the fat cells dump their fat, they become smaller. When your fat cells or adipose tissue becomes smaller, you become smaller. And you lose weight. Which is how it’s supposed to work.

But there is a little glitch in all of this.

Although the lowered insulin and elevated glucagon open the doors to the fat cells allowing fat to come out to be burned, the fat comes out only if it’s needed. If you are meeting all your body’s energy needs with the food you eat, the body doesn’t need the fat in the fat cells. On a low-carb diet your body burns fat for energy. But it doesn’t care where this fat comes from; it can come from the diet or it can come from the fat cells or it can come from both. If you are consuming enough fat to meet all your body’s requirements, your body won’t go after the fat in the fat cells no matter how severely you restrict your carbs. You will burn dietary fat only and no body fat. And you won’t lose weight. It’s that simple.

It has been shown countless times that when people go on low-carb diets they spontaneously reduce their caloric intake. Most foods available on low-carbohydrate diets are satiating and those following these diets get full quickly. They just don’t eat that many calories. In most studies of low-carb diets people drop their caloric intake down to the 1500-1700 kcal range and are quite satisfied. At that level of caloric intake, they need a fair amount of their own body fat to make up the difference between their dietary intake and the 2400-2600 kcal (or more) that they burn every day. As they consume this body fat, they lose weight.

Once people settle in to low-carb diets, a couple of things happen. First, they lose some weight, which reduces their energy expenditure. A smaller body doesn’t burn as many calories as a larger body, so the gap between what they consume and what they need gets smaller. And as it does, their weight loss slows down a little. Second, they start fiddling with the diet. At first, the luxury of eating steak, bacon, whole eggs, real butter and all the rest of the high-fat foods that go along with low-carbing is enough to keep most people satisfied…for a while. They eat until they’re full, then they quit. And they don’t consume all that many calories.

But then a different aspect of eating kicks in: eating for fun instead of simply for nourishment. People eat for two reasons. They eat because they have to in order to provide the energy and the nutrients required for life. This basic level of eating is driven by hunger. And people eat because it is an enjoyable endeavor, a hedonistic endeavor even. If people only ate when they were hungry and quit when they were no longer hungry, there wouldn’t be much of an obesity epidemic. Problem is people confuse the hedonistic urge to eat with hunger. People want a food because it appeals to them hedonistically, and they read this urge to eat as hunger, which it usually isn’t.

After folks have been low-carbing for a while, they typically start to range out a little, looking for new and different foods that they can make a part of their low-carb diet. The foods they find that fit the bill are either low in everything – celery, zucchini, asparagus, cucumbers, all kinds of green leafys, and certain fruits – or are high in fat (and calories) and low in carbohydrate. The latter include cheese, nuts, nut butters and all kinds of processed low-carb junk foods. The former don’t contain many calories, but also don’t provide much hedonistic bang for the buck, so are typically consumed fairly sparingly.

Cheese contains few carbs. Unfortunately, it doesn’t contain few calories.

Cheddar cheese, 170g slices of cheddar cheese contains a mere 2.15 grams of carbs, which is only a tiny blip on your carb radar. But these slices also provide you with 677 cal, about a quarter of your entire day’s calorie requirement. And it’s really not that difficult to eat 170g of cheese throughout the day, a little here and a little there.

Swiss cheese? Swiss is a little richer in carbs. 85g slices gives you about 4.5 grams of carbs along with 319 kcals.

What about nuts:

A couple of 30 grams of dry roasted almonds after subtracting the fiber contain a little over 4 grams of effective carbohydrate. And 338 kcal. 30g of almonds is made up of about 22 nuts, which isn’t a lot. If you throw them back as I do by the handful, 30g can go down quickly. Or 50g or 70g.

Dry roasted pecans are even more calorically dense. 60g of those costs you only about 2 grams of carbs but almost 402 kcal.

Peanut butter, another common low-carb snack, contains around 4 grams of carb per two tablespoons along with 188 kcal.

If you are working hard to keep your carbs at or below 20 grams per day, your insulin levels will be low and your glucagon high. The doors of your fat cells will be open and fat can easily come out to be burned. But if you’re throwing back a few ounces of cheese or nuts (or both) here and there, you’re going to be providing your body with enough fat to meet all its energy needs with some left over. And your weight loss will come to a screeching halt.

The low-carb diet is a wonderful, healthful way to lose weight quickly, but you do have to watch your calories as well to a certain extent. If you’re plugging along losing away, keep doing what you’re doing. But if you quit losing, take a look at your cheese and/or nut consumption. Cut those out, and I’ll just about guarantee that your weight loss will pick up again.


Original article