Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Do 6 amazing body changes really occur when you give-up carbs?

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This article is nearly two years old now but given that I just saw it shared on social media recently, and the number of evangelical LCHF preachers around, I think it’s worth talking about.

Can we start by discussing that headline? 6 Amazing Body Changes When You Give Up Carbs. Stated as if magical things will occur in your cells, transforming you into a superhuman. Stated as if it’s a given that giving up carbs is the miracle cure for the imperfect vessel of flesh in which you reside. Stated as if these six amazing changes are guaranteed to occur no matter who you are.

So, what are these six amazing changes?

  1. When You Give Up Carbs…You Start Burning Fat

This is not necessarily true. It depends on what you replace the carbs in your diet with. If you replace the carbs in your diet with protein, you’ll burn protein. If you replace the carbs in your diet with fat, you’ll burn fat. If you create a caloric deficit by giving up carbs then you’ll burn fat and probably muscle because you’ll need to get energy to function from somewhere.

2. When You Give Up Carbs…You Feel Less Hungry

If you are creating a caloric deficit by giving up carbs then, sorry, you are going to feel hungry. Reducing your food intake does not immediately result in a reduction in hunger. However, if you are able to maintain a low carb diet and enter into ketosis there is some research that shows you may experience some suppression of appetite.

3. When You Give Up Carbs…Your Belly Gets Flatter

Here the author is stating that your belly will become flatter if you replace simple carbs with high-fibre foods. This is not really a benefit of a low-carb diet, but a benefit of increased fibre intake (and their suggestion to swap white bread for whole grain is certainly not low-carb). However, for many people, increasing fibre can lead to gas and bloating, having the opposite effect of that claimed by the author. That being said, most people should consume more fibre, being sure to increase consumption gradually along with plenty of fluids to avoid blockages. With time, your body will adjust to increased fibre intake.

4. When You Give Up Carbs…You Slash Your Risk of Diabetes

To date, there is no research to support this. While a low-carb diet may help some people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar, it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone and there is no data to show that a low-carb diet will prevent diabetes. A balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and regular exercise and physical activity are the best ways to prevent type 2 diabetes. There is no need to go to the extreme and cut out carbs to prevent disease. Also, depending what those carbs are replaced with, you may end-up increasing your risk of developing other chronic diseases.

5. When You Give Up Carbs…Your Muscles Get Stronger

This would only be the case if you were consuming insufficient protein (extremely uncommon in the Western world) before embarking on a low-carb diet. If you are consuming adequate protein, adding more protein will be of no benefit to your muscles. Also, without working your muscles they’re not going to get bigger. You can’t just sit around drinking protein shakes all day and expect to get swole.

6. When You Give Up Carbs…You Feel More Energized

Not all carbs are bad, of course. Your body needs carbohydrates to function properly, and they’re especially important for adequate brain and muscle function. By switching from simple carbs to more long-running fuel—fruits and vegetables, whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa and other whole-grain options—you’ll ensure you have a steady flow of energy and avoid the ups and downs that simple carbs cause.

Way to stick this in the last bullet and undermine the entire premise of the article. This is not a benefit of a low-carb diet. If you are switching from refined simple carbs to complex carbs and whole grains you are simply following that lame old unsexy advice that we dietitians have been repeating for decades.

Let’s not even get into the fact that whole wheat bread has pretty much the same glycemic load as white bread per serving.

I think the author also missed a few other “amazing body changes” that happen when you “give-up” carbs such as, fatigue (which generally goes away after a few days or weeks), flatulence, bad breath, and irritability.

What it comes down to, is that the author is conflating low-carb diets with low-simple carb diets and mixing the claims about the two diets together in this list.

While some people can live happily and healthily on low-carb diets, most people can live (likely more) happily and just as healthily on diets that are not low in carbs.

 

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

4 thoughts on “Do 6 amazing body changes really occur when you give-up carbs?

  1. The problem is “carbs” and not carbs. A lot of people think of “carbs” as donuts, cake, cookies and other sweet bakery treats and snacks that often get more calories from fat content than carbohydrate content. That vague use of “carbs” confuses people who somehow start to think that they should avoid cauliflower, tomatoes, apples, and lentils as well. Even professionally edited magazine and newspaper articles use that strange shorthand definition for bakery treats and snack food.

    If “carbs” is an inaccurate name for the problem foods, what do you call them instead? “Junk food” is non-specific, “processed food” sweeps up canned tomatoes, frozen corn, and sauerkraut, “prepared food” includes plenty of healthy choices for people with limited time, “sweets” omits the world of unsweetened, but heavily salted food. There just isn’t a good shorthand category that gives people some guidance.

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  2. A very interesting read. Part of my anorexia and mental health problems that i am going through at the moment is the fact i am petrified of putting carbs in my body!!! I am working with my dietitians to put this right. Good carbs are very important in any diet. I see many many articles on social media stating carbs are bad carbs are good etc…… reading these articles and believing them to be true contributed to my current problems. If i can say one thing considering my current state and research into my condition is that balance is the key. I am still struggling with this but small steps are being made towards a full recovery………

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    • Sounds like you’re on a path to improvement. It’s a real shame that so many people see demonizing single nutrients as miracle diets and the media sensationalizes these messages

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  3. Totally agree. We are in an age where the media dictates. A sad state of affairs to get in to. Nobody can have a their own thoughts anymore it seems. We arebecoming what the media and powers that be tell us. This has to change right across the board.

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