What exactly is low carb?

I have seen people say they are doing low carb and at the same time they are still eating oatmeal for breakfast.  Oatmeal is NOT really a low carb food.  Most fruit is not low carb for that matter.  Bread, rice, potatoes, corn, and sugar are all not low carb foods.

Now, there is no real set definition I could find for what exactly is low carb.  The gov’t suggests that people eat roughly 250 – 300 grams of carbs per day.  For most people eating a low carb diet, that’s a crazy ultra-high amount of carbs.

For example, the Atkins diet recommends eating no more than 20 grams of carbs per day for the first couple weeks (called Induction).  That’s 1/10th of the what the government is suggesting.

The reason for under 20g of carbs is the concept of ketosis.  Ketosis is the natural body process of burning fat as your primary fuel source instead of sugar.  When available, your body will burn sugar as fuel, becuase it’s quick and easy to do so.  But what happens when you restrict the amount of sugar your body eats, then you’re body will eventually go into ketosis (this takes a minimum of 3 – 5 days)  and it starts to use FAT as it’s primary fuel supply.

This is a great thing if you have extra  fat and want to lose weight.  You will burn fat restricting your carb intake while you’re in ketosis.  That’s a fact.  But if you start eating sugar or extra carbs again then you’ll go out of ketosis and switch back to burning sugar as fuel.  You can lose weight not being in ketosis, but it just takes A LOT longer.

If you are not overweight, then low carb is the level at which you can eat x number of grams of carbs per day and not gain any weight.  This number is different for everyone.  For some that number is 60 – 80 grams of carbs per day or more.   And some of that is based on exercise levels and duration.  My number is pretty low at this point.  And I am still in weight loss mode and try to keep my carbs under 30g of carbs per day.  I also walk 4 – 5x per week.

But it’s really an individual number and in part depends on how well your body processes carbs.  Some people have different genetics and can eat what the gov’t actually recommends.  That’s just not the case for me.  Based on the last several months of being on low carb, I realize that I feel better eating lower carb amounts.

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