One of the criticisms about low carb diets is the concern about whether the body can function without an adequate amount of carbohydrate.
Believe it our not, before we harvested grains from agriculture it’s suggested that we were all low-carb eaters. Most of our foods came from animal meat, fish and even insects. Carb rich foods like fruits and vegetables, which are seasonal, were scarce didn’t’ supply enough nourishment for long periods of time.
Since those times our bodies internal mechanisms like endocrine and digestive systems haven’t changed much at all.
So evolutionary speaking, our bodies (most likely) evolved to handle the kinds of foods available during those times, which were mostly animal meat, high in protein and fats and some sparingly available vegetation which made up for modest amounts of carbohydrates. It’s also likely that food was hard to come by and that our ancestors likely went without food for prolonged periods of time. This would indicate that their bodies were probably in a state of ketosis more often then not.
Ketosis is a state where your body uses stored fat instead of glucose for energy. It can happen during periods of famine where lack of food intake results in a drop in blood glucose levels, or if you’re on an extremely low carbohydrate diet. Either way, when the glucose level in your body drops below a certain level your body automatically shifts the metabolic pathway to produce ketones from fat which are used to fuel your body.
As you start eating a diet lower in carbs and higher in protein and fat, you start signalling your body to up-regulate your fat metabolism and ketone production while down regulating your sugar metabolism. This can take anywhere from 3 weeks or longer depending on your situation, but once you’re “fat adapted” your body and brain starts to function very well on this new energy pathway. In fact your brain prefers ketones over glucose especially in state of ketosis.
Also, it’s important to note that ketogenic diet and low carb diet are not the same. It’s often grouped in as the same but, ketosis only occurs when you’re carb intake dips below 15 – 20 grams of carbs a day. Most people that are on a low carb diet keep their carb intake between 50 – 100 grams a day, which keeps you out of ketosis, but still shifts your metabolic demands from sugar burning to fat burning, essentially making fat your primary source of energy.
So here are key points to keep in mind when you’re on a low carb diet:
- Ketosis is a normal shift in your metabolic pathway to burn fat as your primary source of fuel when glucose in your body is low.
- Your brain does completely fine on a low carb diet since it prefers ketones as fuel in absence of glucose.
- If you’re switching to a low carb diet, give yourself at least 3 weeks of feeling sluggish while your body adapts to becoming “fat adapted”.
- The general recommendation is to keep your carb intake to about 100 grams a day and keep our carb intake mainly from vegetables.
If you look at our ancestral/anthropological history along with the various studies done on ketosis, it’s strongly evident that a low carb diet is not only safe, but has evolutionary significant health benefits… not to mention it’s one of the most effective ways to naturally burn body fat.