A Low-carb Lifestyle

Carbohydrates and the Body | The Insulin Factor | The High Protein Factor

The market is inundated with low-carb lifestyle programs. Though each program is different in their approach, they are united in one basic principal: By controlling your daily intake of starchy carbohydrates and replacing them with high protein foods you will lose weight, feel satisfied, and create a healthy new lifestyle.

The diets differ when recommending how low carbohydrate intake should be. Some suggest as low as 20 grams of carbohydrates a day, while others suggest as high as 60+ grams of carbohydrates a day.

Recently, the Institute of Medicine submitted a recommendation that the "Recommended Daily Allowance for Carbohydrates" be lowered from 300 grams a day to 130 for healthy adults and children over 4.

Carbohydrates and the Body

When carbohydrates are consumed, the body breaks down those carbohydrates into glucose during digestion and then releases the glucose into the bloodstream. Body tissues, such as the brain, use glucose as an energy source. Carbohydrates provide the quickest source of energy for your body and, depending on the type of carbohydrate you have consumed, it may be a short lived source of energy.

If you have consumed more carbohydrates than your body needs, the glucose will be turned into glycogen and stored in your muscles and liver for use in the future. When the liver and muscle tissues exceed their capacity for storing glycogen, the excess is converted into fat.

Proponents of a low-carb lifestyle maintain that if you reduce the intake of carbohydrates you will use the stored fat for energy rather than creating additional fat.

The Insulin Factor

The pancreas produces insulin, the hormone that moves glucose out of the blood and into the tissues where it is either stored or used. The more glucose that enters the bloodstream, the more insulin the body releases. Not only is insulin responsible for distributing glucose, it also balances your blood sugars and keeps them in the normal range. The low-carb belief is that high levels of insulin promote the storage of fat. Controlling your carbohydrate intake prevents your body from producing excess insulin, therefore it will not store excess fat.

Note: Insulin is a storage hormone. Insulin transports sugar from the blood into the body's muscle tissue for energy. Excess amounts are stored in fat cells.

Some argue that complex, or refined carbohydrates that are rapidly absorbed into the blood stream induce the release of excess insulin. This excess release of insulin causes a rapid drop in blood glucose levels which is believed to stimulate hunger and cause a rapid decrease ("crash") of energy. You are then likely to crave even more carbohydrates. Refer to "Carbohydrate Classifications" for additional information on types of carbohydrates.

High insulin levels are also believed to play a part in diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, blocked coronary arteries, high blood pressure, strokes, and obesity. Controlling spikes in insulin may help to alleviate some of these health risks.

The High Protein Factor

Protein, fat, and carbohydrates provide your body with the energy (calories) it needs. If you reduce the consumption of carbohydrates, you need to increase your intake of protein and/or fat. Unlike carbohydrates and fat, protein is not stored in the body. Therefore, when adopting a low-carb lifestyle, daily consumption of high protein food is essential.

Also, eating food high in protein is thought to promote feelings of fullness and satisfaction which is crucial to weight control.

Six major categories of high protein foods are: Meat; fish; nuts; beans; cheese; and eggs.


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