It’s been over a decade since the wildly popular Atkins entered the American popular imagination. Back in 2000 to 2005, it seemed like everyone and his dog was on a low-carb diet.
All sorts of otherwise sugar- or starch-intensive snacks and meals were rolled out in low-carb versions.
TV talk shows frequently mentioned low-carb diet success stories and many magazines featured worrying articles regarding the potential negative health effects of such a diet.
The problem with any diet, once it becomes wildly popular, is that people will abuse it or use it in inappropriate ways.
The Atkins diet is definitely not alone in this. Previous diet fads went through a similar boom and crash arc that punctuates much of the diet publishing industry.
The Atkins diet was different in that people really took it to extremes. When encouraged to cut back on the pasta, rice, and potatoes, many Atkins dieters took this to mean that they can go overboard with steak, pork chops, and other cholesterol-rich foods.
Not surprisingly, the bad reports of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other bad health news started rolling in. Come 2005, the Atkins diet revolution was definitely on its way out.
Despite all the ‘bad news’ about Atkins’ (and other similar diets’) protein heavy emphasis, the good news is that low carb diets actually work.
The weight loss people experienced with Atkins was real. With the right modifications, you can avoid negative health effects while hanging on to the benefits.
Here are just three of the main reasons why low carb diets like the Atkins diet work.
Your body stores sugar in the form of fat
If you eat lots of carbohydrates in the form of starchy foods like mashed potatoes, rice, french fries, pasta or noodles or you drink lots of high fructose corn syrup-loaded beverages like sodas, you are loading up on sugar. Big time.
This is bad news because your body doesn’t flush out the sugar you’re guzzling. Instead, a big chunk of those sugar compounds is stored in the form of fat.
You force your body to burn fat instead of sugar
If you eat lots of carbs, your body will burn some of the sugar first for energy. Once your body has enough calories it needs to cover the calories it loses due to your metabolism, it stores some of the remaining sugar in your system in the form of fat.
Notice that this process doesn’t involve burning much-stored fat? By loading up on sugar, you give your body the energy it needs to burn-it doesn’t have to burn up its stored fat reserves.
Not surprisingly, you don’t get leaner and more toned thanks to that pesky layer of fat over your muscle tissue.
Protein-heavy diets jump start the fat burning process
By cutting carbs out of the fat burning equation as much as possible, low carb diets force your body to make up for any net negative calorie situation by burning stored fat.
When this happens, you get lighter and your muscles get more toned.
If all the fat burning benefits described above aren’t enough to get you excited about a protein-heavy diet, keep this in mind: as you get older, you need to eat more protein to offset natural protein loss.
Keep this in mind if you’re tempted to go back to carbohydrate-heavy diets.