Fact vs. Fallacy, Part 2:
Low Carb Diets Make You Lose Water Weight Not Fat
Three of the most common misconceptions are that the Atkins Nutritional Approach works only because it is a low-calorie regimen, that pounds lost are merely water and that you will gain back any lost weight. Research concludes otherwise.
Fallacy: The Atkins Nutritional Approach is only effective for weight loss because calories are restricted.
Fact: While some people who do Atkins may eat fewer calories than before, it is certainly not because the program limits calorie intake. Instead, they may end up eating fewer calories because they are generally less hungry and no longer obsessed with food. This occurs for two reasons:
Stable blood sugar throughout the day ensures that you will have fewer food cravings and fewer false hunger pains.
The food eaten by a person doing Atkins (meat, fish, cheese, nuts, eggs and low-sugar/low-starch vegetables and fruits) is less processed and more nutritious than on the typical pre-Atkins menu. Give a body fewer empty calories and provide it with more nutrient-dense alternatives, and it will logically be satisfied sooner and require less food.
Let's look at the results of the study that supports these conclusions. Researchers at New York's Schneider Children's Hospital studied 40 obese patients, ages 12 to 18, who were split into two groups. The low-fat group lost half as much weight on 1,100 calories per day as did the controlled carbohydrate group, which was allowed unlimited calories and, on average, ate 1,830 calories per day. What's even more exciting is that the controlled carbohydrate group enjoyed further health benefits, far from suffering the dangers some warn of with the controlled carbohydrate nutritional approach. Lipid profiles (cholesterol and triglycerides) improved more than with those on the low-fat program.
Also, those on the controlled carbohydrate weight-loss program showed better long-term compliance than those on the low-fat diet. A year later, seven out of eight of those following the controlled carbohydrate approach were still involved with the program as opposed to none on the low-fat diet1.
Fallacy: The weight lost with the Atkins approach is mostly water, not fat.
Fact: It is typical of any weight-loss plan, including the Induction phase of Atkins, that during the first few days, or even the first week, some of the weight loss will be water loss. However, when you follow a controlled carbohydrate eating plan your body switches from burning carbohydrate to primarily burning stored fat for energy, resulting in the loss of stored fat. In fact, research shows that even when water is lost during the first few days on a controlled carbohydrate nutritional approach, the water balance soon returns to normal, and the weight loss comes from burning body fat for energy2. The most dramatic sign of this loss is seeing the inches drop off your measurements.
Fallacy: It is impossible to keep off the weight lost on the Atkins program for the long term.
Fact: That statement applies better to low-fat or low-calorie diets. After all, nothing is more difficult to endure for a lifetime than being constantly hungry. Atkins, from the start, allows you to eat until you feel satisfied. Furthermore, the variety of foods allowed on Atkins provides a diverse menu that is neither complicated nor boring and helps people stay motivated to change their eating patterns forever. Visit Food & Recipes and see for yourself.
Additionally, numerous companies (including Atkins Nutritionals, Inc.) have introduced controlled carbohydrate versions of bars, shakes, syrups, candy, chips, desserts, bread, ice cream and more. It has never been easier to stay with an eating plan that offers you the full spectrum of delicious foods in quantities that leave you satisfied.
Rest assured that when you do Atkins you will be able to lose weight without being tortured by the hunger typically experienced on a calorie-restricted diet, that after the first few days the weight you are losing is body fat and, finally, that this is a program on which you can maintain a healthy weight for a lifetime.
Sondike, S.B., Copperman, N.M., Jacobson, M.S., "Low Carbohydrate Dieting Increases Weight Loss but not Cardiovascular Risk in Obese Adolescents: A Randomized Controlled Trial ," Journal of Adolescent Health, 26, 2000, page 91.
Young, C.M., Scanlan, S.S., Im, H.S., et al., "Effect on Body Composition and Other Parameters in Obese Young Men of Carbohydrate Level of Reduction Diet ," The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 24, 1971, pages 290-296.
Our thanks to the Atkins Center for this article. This article will give you some basic information about the Atkins Diet Approach for Weight Loss and Good Health, but is not a substitute for reading the books for the details of this plan (or the book for whatever low carb plan you choose to follow.)