Low-carb diets typically produce noticeable weight loss during the first few weeks, in part because limiting food choices generally leads to reduced calorie intake. Several popular diets -- including the Atkins and Zone diets -- are based on low-carbohydrate models. However, guidelines for low-carb diets vary, depending on the program you follow. Although you may lose more per week initially, 2 pounds is the maximum recommended rate of weight loss after the first few weeks.
Features of Low-Carb diets
Low-carb diets typically limit carbohydrate intake to 50 grams to 150 grams daily. Since each gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories, that translates to 200 to 600 calories from carbohydrates a day. The remainder of calories, then, must come from sources of protein and fat, such as poultry, meat, fish and eggs. A report from the Harvard School of Public Health explains that low-carb guidelines vary by diet, but starchy carbs, such as grains and potatoes, are generally limited.
The amount of weight you lose per week on a low-carb diet primarily depends on how your calorie consumption compares to your calorie expenditure. As with any diet, it takes a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of body fat. Low-carb diets are diuretic, however, which accelerates weight loss at first because you lose water as well as fat. Other benefits to reducing your carb intake include an increased sense of satiety and reduced caloric intake. Harvard School of Public Health explains that because protein takes longer to digest, you generally feel full longer.
Although low-carb diets are used effectively by some, this approach may not be healthy for everyone. If your have kidney or liver disease or diabetes, high levels of protein can be dangerous, explains MedlinePlus.com. Depending on your food choices, limiting carbs may result in higher intakes of cholesterol and saturated fats, which contributes to heart disease risk. Diets that limit carbs to less than 130 grams per day for an extended period may also lead to ketosis, characterized by dizziness, dehydration, fatigue and irritability.
Although low-carb diets may effectively produce weight loss, at least initially, the Harvard School of Public Health reports similar results for a variety of diets that limit calories and follow heart-health guidelines. Ask your doctor about healthy approaches to weight loss, based on your health and nutritional needs. If you do opt for a low-carb diet, include good sources of fiber, such as fruits and nonstarchy vegetables, to avoid gastrointestinal problems and constipation.