Testing the Legitimacy of Low-Carbing
[TRIGGER WARNING FOR BODY IMAGE ISSUES AND EATING DISORDERS]
Health. Fitness. Weight loss. Body fat. Lean muscle mass. Dieting. Fat loss. Ketosis. Low-fat. Low-calorie. High protein. Low-carb. Calories-in calories-out. BMI. Scales. Clean eating. [Insert specific diet name here]. Cardio. Gym. Running. Abs. Lifting. Gains. Reps.
There’s a reason why mentioning any of the above terms, no matter how obliquely, will inevitably lead to a debate, one where fiery passions are stirred and devotees of various exercise and/or eating philosophies will fight to the death over whom of them is Right. Because, you know, it worked for my diabetic dad/my super obese coworker/my cancer-ridden great-aunt/some person somewhere/me?
As far as the scientific research shows, there are no easy answers and there is nigh nothing in the way of consensus on the matter. Nutritionists, doctors, personal trainers, biologists, and other professionals can’t seem to agree on what’s scientifically best beyond a few basics. These mostly seem to consist of “High body fat percentages, high blood pressure, elevated pulse rate, and low levels of good cholesterol/high levels of bad cholesterol are bad, mmkay?” and maybe “Whatever makes you stick to a weight loss and exercise program is fine as long as your doctor says it’s okay” (which is hilarious since doctors can’t seem to agree).
I’m not even going to touch the “Can thin be unhealthy?”/”Can fat be healthy?” debate (not going there, no no no). There is one area that could easily be tested on a personal, somewhat empirical basis. One of the biggest recent disputes in nutrition/health/fitness is between low-calorie/low-fat and low-carb. Advocates of the former can appeal to most of the medical recommendations of the past 30 years or so as well as to the appealing simplicity of the calories consumed vs. calories burned formula. Meanwhile, those in favor of the latter talk about ketosis, fat burning, and carbohydrate addiction.
After listening through the backlog of the incredibly awesome Oh No, Ross and Carrie!, I’ve decided that it’s high time some self-styled skeptic conducted experiments on herself.
In other words, what am I doing? Using myself as a test subject. What is this? An experiment: nothing more and nothing less.
I’ve been calorie and weight tracking for six months. I’ve averaged 1300-1400 calories a day (as per The Daily Plate) and have lost 0.62 lb. a week (according to my nearly daily weigh-ins tracked on Skinnyo).
While detractors counter that low-carb eating reduces people’s dietary options so much that low-carb dieters cannot help but consume fewer calories (and that, by extension, any weight lost can be attributed to that reduction), proponents of low-carbing claim that it causes weight loss in a way that cannot be attributed to simple calorie reduction. I am primarily testing the latter claim, i.e. seeing if I lose weight by eating far fewer carbs but more calories than before. It will also be interesting to see if my weight loss is accelerated (though that claim would be better tested if I combined low-calorie with low-carb) and if low-carbing is easier to follow than calorie reduction.
The aforementioned ~6 months’ worth of data as well as the body composition results I obtained about a year ago at a dunking facility.
- Reduce daily net carb intake to <30 grams for a month, then upping to <50 grams after a month if it gets too unbearable.
- Continue the daily logging of food, exercise, and weight.
- Utilize keto test strip results weekly.
- Check in after a month and then after two months.
If you can’t handle waiting, you can observe me complaining daily on Twitter.