"...making carbohydrate restriction sustainable is complex and takes careful effort and guidance to be successful." Dr. Jeff Volek & Dr. Stephen Phinney "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living"
As I am out networking and educating groups on insulin resistance, sugar burning vs. fat burning, and low carb, moderate protein, high fat eating strategies (both LCHF and Keto), I hear comments.
"All that weight loss is just water, it will come back."
"Limiting carbs made one of my friends really sick."
"I workout, I need to eat carbs."
Anytime we start adjusting food choices our body is going to respond. The purpose of our Catalyst Fit Burn program is to educate our clients on our bodies' typical responses to diet change. Our purpose is to personalize the transition and the strategies based on the individual client's fitness testing numbers, current food intake, current lifestyle challenges, medical history and the goals they want to achieve.
Water Weight Loss
Carbohydrates are stored in our body as glycogen. Each of us has about 500 grams of glycogen stored. Each gram of carbohydrate / glycogen will have 3-4 grams of water attached to it. When we adopt a low carb way of eating, we are limiting grams of carbs coming into our bodies and are depleting our glycogen stores. These two facts mean that we lose water. Our goal is for our clients to create and sustain a low carb way of eating. As we sustain, we will not gain this water weight back.
Nausea, headache, low energy and irritability are potential side effects of transitioning off the standard American diet. On average we are eating 224-296 grams of carbohydrates a day. Sugar typically makes up at least half of total carb intake, an average of 119 grams (24 teaspoons) per day.
To combat insulin resistance, carbohydrate intake, meaning both simple sugars and complex starches, is typically decreased by 80% or more. The flu-like symptoms are actually correlated to the drop in water storage. Less water weight means less accompanying electrolytes: sodium, potassium and magnesium. It is imperative that we increase salt intake to 3-5 grams per day, and monitor potassium and magnesium consumption. Since this is 2-3 times the RDA of salt, and since we have been bombarded for decades to limit dietary sodium, most people trying a low carb diet do not know or follow this advice. They get sick during transition and may also experience painful muscle cramping.
The majority of us, regardless of our weight and fitness level, fall into the sugar burners category. We can at most have 5 grams (1 teaspoon) of sugar in our blood. More than that and those sugars are either burned as fuel, stored as glycogen if needed, or stored as fat.
The body must regulate glucose levels. If you raise your glucose level by eating, the body produces insulin. Insulin's main purpose is to stop fat burning and activate fat storage. We cannot burn fat if our blood glucose is above the equivalent of about 1 teaspoon of sugar.
We cannot burn sugar and fat at the same time; it's principally one or the other. It is very common for people to work out regularly and never lose weight, and some actually gain weight. This can happen on a reduced calorie diet if that diet consists of eating multiple small meals built upon the current dietary guidelines suggesting a high carbohydrate diet. Both simple sugars and complex "healthy" starches quickly break down to glucose.
Adopting a LCHF diet transitions your body to fat burning. The sugar in the blood is kept low, insulin is not spiking, and when it does, it clears more quickly. Fat cells are able to be utilized for fuel. Our bodies can take 3-5 weeks or more to relearn how to burn fat as the primary fuel. In this time it is important to adjust our exercise accordingly until the body is adapted. Performance eventually improves past the origin point, as burning fat is a more efficient and cleaner fuel source. Carbohydrates are not necessary (or ideal) for you to set new personal records, particularly in endurance-related activities.