Why Low Carb Diets Breed Inconsistent Results
The online fitness community never ceases to amuse me. As the promises of rapid progress and instant results continue, the seas of frustrated, unsuccessful dieters continue to grow.
Everyone seems to jump onto the bandwagon without really stopping to analyse the effectiveness of these ideas in the real world.
Before I begin, I encourage you to read until the end, as there are some great points – some of which will hopefully help you to change your perspective somewhat. This is really, really important if you have been struggling with your diet. Freedom of choice (autonomy) is crucial, and when this disappears, so does your dieting success.
I’ve had a few debates with Keto fanboys before, but they just prove my point every time. (By the way, most of these fanboys have more body fat than I do – just as a FYI!)
“Keto works! I’ve had GREAT success with it in the past! It got me really lean really fast. Just look at x, y and z too – they also had great results on Keto!”
The key phrases here, as you may have noticed, are;
- In the past
- Really fast
- They also had
The problem with these phrases are that they imply that something stopped working after a while (otherwise they wouldn’t have stopped doing it!), or that they were seeking the “magic-pill shortcut” (in the case of phrase number 2), therefore shooting themselves in the foot before even starting.
No major achievements are accomplished overnight. It’s a myth. Trust me – it always requires consistent hard work.
I’ve said this before, but low carb diets can be great for stimulating short-term progress, but in the world we currently live in, they are 100% completely and utterly unsustainable. My view is that you shouldn’t start something if you have zero chance of maintaining it. Pointless.
Is gaining all the fat back after your short-term stint at low carbs a success? NO.
Is feeling miserable and deprived during the whole process a success? Nope.
Long-term happiness always wins for me.
Why Low Carbs Are Unsustainable
This is difficult to explain, so I’m going to try and use examples to give you an idea.
Basically, autonomy is a crucial part of anything we do. It gives you a sense of self-control over your own life, and any time this is threatened in any major way, and feel as if we’re not free to make our own choices, we tend to sabotage ourselves.
In the case of dieting, this behaviour manifests in the form of binging, and “yo-yo-ing”. I.e you gain all the fat back, and realise your efforts have been completely wasted.
In the short-term, we don’t need much autonomy – I like to call this the “Novelty Effect”. In the long-run, autonomy is absolutely crucial. Some people need more autonomy that others, but everyone needs it to some degree.
This is true for a new:
- Training program
So how do we meet our autonomous needs?
Essentially, it all comes down to limiting and avoiding restrictions. Restrictions kill autonomy. These can be restrictions placed by other people; bosses, family, women, customers, employees etc. OR, in the case of fitness, they are often restrictions that we place on ourselves.
“But I don’t find the low-carb diets restrictive – it works for me, honest!”
Yes, you may not find it restrictive right now, but you will do. Everyone says this. Then everyone quits, and either:
A) Comes to me saying “yeah, you were right”, or
B) Starts arguing irrationally, and claiming that low-carb diets are miracle life-savers that everyone should be doing, despite not currently doing it themselves…hypocrisy?
Now, let me give you some examples of foods that you CANNOT EAT AT ALL during the Keto diet, for example. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea of just how restrictive these diets are, particularly in the context of the typical Westerner, living in a Western country.
Here is the list, taken from the KetoDietApp:
1) All grains – wheat, rye, oats, corn, barley, millet, bulgur, sorghum, rice, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains), quinoa and white potatoes. this includes all products made from grains (pasta, bread, pizza, cookies, crackers, etc.) sugar and sweets (table sugar, HFCS, agave syrup, ice creams, cakes, sweet puddings and sugary soft-drinks)
No rice, bread or potatoes?!
No junk whatsoever?!
No sugar whatsoever?!
2) Factory-farmed pork and fish are high in inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids and farmed fish may contain PCBs, avoid fish high in mercury.
3) Processed foods containing carrageenan (e.g. almond milk products), MSG (e.g. in some whey protein products), sulphites (e.g. in dried fruits, gelatin), BPAs (they don’t have to be labeled!), wheat gluten
4) Artificial sweeteners (Splenda, Equal, sweeteners containing Aspartame, Acesulfame, Sucralose, Saccharin, etc.) – these may cause cravings and other issues
5) Refined fats / oils (e.g. sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, canola, soybean, grapeseed, corn oil), trans fats such as margarine.
6) “Low-fat”, “low-carb” and “zero-carb” products (Atkins products, diet soda and drinks, chewing gums and mints may be high in carbs or contain artificial additives, gluten, etc.)
7) Milk (only small amounts of raw, full-fat milk is allowed). Milk is not recommended for several reasons. Firstly, from all the dairy products, milk is difficult to digest, as it lacks the “good” bacteria (eliminated through pasteurization) and may even contain hormones. Secondly, it is quite high in carbs (4-5 grams of carbs per 100 ml). For coffee and tea, replace milk with cream in reasonable amounts. You may have a small amount of raw milk but be aware of the extra carbs.
8) Alcoholic, sweet drinks (beer, sweet wine, cocktails, etc.) – you can try my healthier versions of popular cocktails and drinks.
Oh come on – for goodness sake!
9) Tropical fruit (pineapple, mango, banana, papaya, etc.) and some high-carb fruit (tangerine, grapes, etc.) Also avoid fruit juices (yes, even 100% fresh juices!) – better to drink smoothies if any, but either way very limited. Juices are just like sugary water, but smoothies have fiber, which is at least more sating. This also includes dried fruit (dates, raisins, etc.) if eaten in large quantities.
10) Mainly for health reasons, avoid soy products apart from a few non-GMO fermented products which are known for their health benefits. Also avoid wheat gluten which may be used in low-carb foods. When you give up bread, you shouldn’t eat any part of it. Beware of BPA-lined cans. If possible, use naturally BPA-free packaging like glass jars or make my own ingredients such as ghee, ketchup, coconut milk or mayonnaise. BPA has been linked to many negative health effects such as impaired thyroid function and cancer. Other additives to avoid: carrageenan (e.g. almond milk products), MSG (e.g. in some whey protein products) and sulfites (e.g. in dried fruits, gelatin)
I don’t know about you, but that was painful to read.
Fuck that, seriously.
I hope you’re starting to see just how restrictive low carb diets are? I really hope you are beginning to see the madness of trying to do something like this, unless you’re a complete hermit – living under a rock with absolutely zero interactions with any other people.
Do you really think you can stick to this long-term? During holidays? In the summer? With your friends? With members of the opposite sex? During parties? Celebrations? With your kids? With your wife?
Jesus guys, come one. Let’s get real. You’re BEGGING to binge and gain all the weight back with this attitude.
Will these restrictions make you happy? Fuck no – of course not.
What To Do Instead
With anything in life, if you want long-term success (which you should!), you need the minimal restrictions possible. The less rules the better. Some rules are required to make progress:
- Be in an energy deficit
- Don’t get injured
But these are the baseline minimums.
For details on how I set up my diets for minimal restrictions and maximum autonomy and happiness, buy the book.
Always remember, as with anything in life, autonomy is the key to success. the more rules you have, the more fucked you are.