The post-Atkins era has left a legacy in some that carbohydrates are a risky food option and they will easily increase body fat. This article addresses some counter points to these beliefs and seeks to add balance to the debate by illuminating other schools of thought. It explores the topic from the perspective of those engaged in physical activity and those who are seeking improved body composition or to reduce body fat.

Carbohydrates and Insulin

Carbohydrates trigger insulin release with spikes dependent upon the type of carbohydrate consumed. Insulin enables tissue growth and nutrient absorption within the body. This ensures that insulin spikes are valuable in relation to muscle growth following work-outs, however, in the absence a post work-out window excessive insulin spikes are a sure-fire way to increase fat storage. However, if we remove carbohydrates altogether we often feel lethargic and unable to function. The key to fat loss is to limit intake and replace excess carbohydrates with alternative sources of energy. In relation to fat reduction we are interested in utilising stored fat as energy, which is only possible through functioning in a caloric deficit. Simply put, when the body has no new energy sources to use as energy it dips into its fat stores to fill this gap.

The Problem with Cutting Carbohydrates

For those who are predominantly sedentary or the older population long term reduction of carbohydrates is not considered overly problematic. However, research suggests that for those who are engaged in physical activity or for maximising their bodies potential there are some concerns to bear in mind. These include:
  • Decreased thyroid output
  • Increased cortisol output
  • Decreased t-levels
  • Impaired cognitive function and mood
  • Muscle catabolism
  • Suppressed immune function

Going Carb Free for Fat Loss

Even taking the above concerns into account there are many advocates for this theory. Furthermore, there is much clinical research in obese patients and anecdotal evidence to support the effectiveness of this strategy. However, as advantageous as they are over the short term, as ever the body adapts and the effectiveness of these diets diminishes over time. This research would suggest that a sustainable, long term approach is to increase the overall percentage of your daily caloric intake from healthy fats and punctuate this with short periods of low carb dieting if and when needed for your goals.

Carbohydrate Elimination Concerns – Summary

  • Slowing Metabolism
  • Increased Stress Hormones
  • Decrease in Muscle Building Hormones
  • Body Adaptions Diminish Impact Over Time


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