Low-Carb Diets: Do They Work for Active People?

man and woman doing yoga

If you’ve been serious about losing weight, you’ve no doubt heard a hundred different ideas but low-carb diets probably top the list.  But are all low carb diets equal? 

Research has shown that all low-carb diets are effective when it comes to weight loss. However,  while they may have different modes of operation, the principle behind them remains the same. However, the particulars are different.

The most well-known low-carb diets are the keto diet and paleo diet, – both of which are modeled after the original Atkins Diet. 

 

Keto and Paleo Diet

The Keto (Ketogenic) diet is a very limiting and restrictive diet. 

It aims to push the body into a state of ketosis, a state whereby ketones are used to fuel the body instead of glucose (sugar). For your body to reach this state, it has to deplete its carb intake and increase fats. So, you are eating a lot of fat, a moderate amount of protein, and low carbs. Not all low-carb diets follow this formula. Some diets are high in protein and moderate fats. 

Keto diet limits foods that have empty calories and high sugar content. (This diet is widely known beyond its weight loss abilities to help in some illnesses like epilepsy and type 2 diabetes. ) In short, the Keto diet works by focussing on diet alone. 

Paleo diet, on the other hand, looks at both food and lifestyle. It is designed to imitate the early humans that lived during the Paleolithic era. It encourages dieters to eat more plant-based and organic foods instead of processed foods with lots of added sugar and unhealthy preservatives. Dieters are equally encouraged to partner this with a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly, doing more yoga and meditation to rid the body of toxins.

More people prefer the Paleo diet to Keto because it’s less restrictive and includes fresh fruits and vegetables. 

 

Impact on Your Health

Both of these diets have been popularized in recent years, and a lot of people have experienced tremendous success.  

There is currently no research to suggest that one outweighs the other. It is important to find the one that is best for you – and remember there is no “one-size-fits-all” diet. Everyone responds differently.

You may be wondering if we need carbohydrates at all.  We do not need large amounts of carbs to survive. We have been taught to depend on carbs because of all the processed foods that we eat.  Your daily activity level determines how many carbohydrates you need to take in. You will need more carbs as an active person and fewer carbs as a sedentary person. 

The more active you become, the more carbs you need and it depends on the kind of exercise and intensity level. For instance, an endurance athlete needs at least 8g per kg, while a powerlifter needs at least 6g per kg. 

 A key question you should always ask yourself is, “Am I eating good or bad carbs?”

In simple terms, good carbs are carbs derived from natural sources like barely, grain, quinoa, and brown rice while bad carbs are derived from processed and refined sources like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and white flour. 

 

As an active person, how can I balance my carb intake? 

Here are some tips:

  • If you are an active person and love how low-carb diets work, it’s recommended that you work closely with a dietician, to make sure that you aren’t cheating yourself on energy. The keto diet restricts fruits and it’s not advisable for active people because of the numerous vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they will be missing out on. But on the paleo diet, you can eat starchy fruits like bananas as much as you want.
  • Don’t make the mistake of starting diets that you have little to no experience in on your own. A dietician is very important. For instance, most people only think that keto diets are high-fat low-carb diets, but you also have to eat moderate protein because it will most likely transform into glucose during digestion and push your body out of ketosis.
  • Since fat is the major energy source in keto, you will need to eat more nutrient-dense foods like nuts, seeds, and healthy heart oils like avocado and olive oil. You will also need to stay away from saturated fats like butter and animal fat. Paleo diet eliminates grains and emphasizes vegetables as its fiber source.
  • As an active person, you can’t underestimate the importance of carbs in your life. Before you consider limiting carbs, you have to note which type of carbs you eat often- good or bad carbs? 

 

Trying to determine whether a low-carb diet will work for you will eventually be a game of trial and error. Finding the right mix between your personal activity level and diet will be worth it in the end. Making sure that you include advice from a health professional is always recommended before embarking on any change of diet, lifestyle, or fitness level.