Saturday, April 07, 2007

Should You Switch To A Low-Calorie/Low-Fat Diet After Low-Carb?

Questions about livin' la vida low-carb abound from so many brand new readers interested in learning more about this remarkable lifestyle change that is quite literally turning everything we've ever known about diet and health on its head! As someone who has personally been eating this way since 2004 and losing close to 200 pounds in the process, I am more than happy to share my experiences with others so they too can radically change their life for the better!

Most of the questions people ask me in my e-mail box have already been addressed in some form or fashion in my archives of 1700 blog posts over these past two years. One of the best ways you can find the answers to your questions about livin' la vida low-carb is to use the fantastic Google or Yahoo search engines. Enter "livin' la vida low-carb" plus some keywords you are looking for.

For example, let's say you want to find the columns I have written about "Induction," then simply do a search on "livin' la vida low-carb" and "Induction" to find the results you are looking for. That's a lot better option than trying to use the search box in the upper left-hand corner of the blog and I very highly recommend using the search engine. If I've written about it, then you'll find it that way. :)

Nevertheless, I'm always glad to hear from anyone who has a question for me, so feel free to send an e-mail to

I recently received the following e-mail from a man who wanted to know if at some point he needed to switch from his Atkins low-carb diet to a low-calorie/low-fat diet to "keep the weight off." Read what he has to say and then I'll provide my comments:

Hi Jimmy:

I stumbled upon your web site and read with interest your comments on low-carb diets. My brother-in-law lost 50 pounds on the Atkins diet several years back, but eventually put it back on plus many more pounds to spare. I'm sure some of this was due simply going off the "Atkins Lifestyle" and most was due to actually overeating tremendously, not exercising, and eating a lot of carbs.

I am concerned, however, that almost everyone I know who has done the Atkins diet has eventually regained their original weight. Some even continued to restrict their carbs in a modest fashion, yet still put all their weight back on.

My primary question to you is: Can a person use the Atkins diet to lose the weight that they want to lose and then switch to a moderately low calorie and low fat diet (without a lot of refined carbs) and still expect to keep most of the weight (fat off)?

Other questions if you have time:

1) It's generally thought that overeating by 3500 calories will cause one to gain a pound of fat. Does this equation still apply to a person who has gone off the Atkins diet or is there some kind of "rebound effect" when upping carbs that causes people to put on more than a pound per extra 3500 calories. I ask this because I have seen some people put on weight rapidly after going off the Atkins diet when they weren't overeating grossly.

2) I enjoy weightlifting and working out and would like to avoid losing muscle. Some claim that they have lost a lot of muscle and strength on the Atkins diet. What are your thoughts? Is much of the weight lost muscle?

My own experience with the Atkins diet was about a 9-pound weight loss in about six weeks on the diet. Much, I believe was water. I didn't care for the restrictions much, but would certainly try it again if I thought the results would be better with a longer try. I suspect that I did not eat enough fat.

I sure would appreciate your response--especially to the first question.

Awesome questions and I'm pleased to address each one.

First, let me say THANK YOU for finding my blog and I hope you will find lots of information and encouragement for you as you continue to implement permanent healthy lifestyle changes in your regular routine. Getting on the Atkins diet and staying there has meant the difference between morbid obesity and the best shape of my entire life.

Regarding your brother-in-law who gained back his weight, he's exactly what I was talking about in this blog post. It completely baffles my mind how people who lose weight on the Atkins low-carb diet and then start eating gobs of carbs again claim the diet failed them. No it didn't! YOU failed if you didn't stick with it. And not everyone who tried low-carb failed. I'm living proof of that!

I eat virtually the same way now that I did while I was losing weight, including a high amount of fat and moderate protein with very few carbohydrates. My primary sources for carbs include non-starchy green leafy vegetables, low-glycemic fruits like berries, and healthy fiber (which I subtract from the total carbs for my net carbs).

To answer your question about switching from a low-carb diet like Atkins to a low-calorie, low-fat diet, my question would be WHY? If livin' la vida low-carb helped you lose weight, then why wouldn't you want to dance with the one who brung ya, hmm?

More and more people are realizing that low-carb IS a permanent weight loss and weight maintenance solution and that fact is being confirmed by research like this one from Stanford University all the time. That's why I have publicly called for simultaneous recommendations of both the low-fat and low-carb options for people to choose which plan is best for them.

But if someone has found success on a low-carb diet, then that means their body can not just lose weight but also keep it off for good using that nutritional approach. When you start trying to tinker with the basic tenets of low-carb living, you are simply asking for frustration and eventual failure in your efforts. There's a reason why low-calorie, low-fat diets fail and low-carb succeeds. Don't mess up a good thing!

As for your question about calories, you might want to read this blog post about a study debunking the whole "calories in, calories out" theory regarding weight loss. Although I have never counted calories on low-carb, that doesn't mean they don't count. Most successful low-carbers listen to their body and only eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. There's nothing complicated about doing that. Welcome to how I live my life now. :)

On your question about muscle and strength on a low-carb diet, it's another myth. Noted researcher Dr. Donald K. Layman from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said in my interview with him last year that as long as you are eating an adequate amount of protein in your low-carb diet so your body can naturally produce the glucose from the amino acids you consume (though a process known as gluconeogenesis, your muscles can and will remain intact.

You might want to read this, this, and this for more information about this important subject. Also, be sure to check out Anthony Colpo's bodybuilders forum to see real people who are livin' la vida low-carb pumping themselves up!

Finally, you stated that you believe your weight loss on the Atkins diet was mostly water, but that's yet another myth about this way of eating that we keep hearing from those so-called health "experts." Read what Atkins expert Jackie Eberstein had to say about this (she worked directly with Dr. Robert C. Atkins for three decades) as well as my own detailed thoughts about it. I'll give you a hint...I don't think I'm drowning in the nearly 200 pounds I have lost!

Your assertion that you "didn't care for the restrictions much" on Atkins clearly tells me you didn't read the book closely enough. People who follow Atkins by the book know there is much more flexibility in what you can eat than just trying to make it up on your own. If I had only one thing to say to people who want to start livin' la vida low-carb, it would be this--BUY THE BOOK and then FOLLOW IT EXACTLY for the REST OF YOUR LIFE! You can't help but succeed if you do that.

THANKS again for the questions and I hope it helps you keep on livin' la vida low-carb for a long, healthy, and happy life!

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Blogger ruby said...

Hi Jimmy,

What do you think of this recent study which finds that long-term low-carb and high-protein dieting is associated with an increase in mortality and CVD?

I wrote about it here:

4/07/2007 10:17 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS for sharing, Ruby!

But the study you cite is directly contradicted by one that was conducted late last year by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health who studied nearly 83,000 women as part of the Nurses' Health Study over a 20-year period (I think that qualifies for long-term).

What did they find? A low-carb diet does NOT increase the risk for CVD or mortality rates, but rather generates a 30% LOWER risk for developing cardiovascular problems.

However, they did find a high-carb, low-fat diet led directly to a DOUBLING of their risk for heart disease. It was the excessive sugar and refined carb consumption that is the culprit in this, something many low-fat diets encourage.

This study appeared it the November 9, 2006 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

More than any study that either one of us can cite, though, is the real-life example of literally tens of thousands of people who eat this way, have been eating this way, and will continue to eat this way for the rest of their long and healthy lives!

If low-carb is supposed to be so dangerous and harmful to people long-term, then why aren't we seeing people drop dead in the street? How come it isn't being banned if it's gonna "kill you?"

The fact remains that livin' la vida low-carb is arguably the most resourceful and pleasurable way you can eat healthy to manage weight and disease on the planet today. Of course, I'm obviousy biased, but the proof for my support is what I blog about every single day here at my blog.

THANKS for sharing your comments, Ruby! I hope you will continue reading and realize that livin' la vida low-carb is not as unhealthy over the long-term as you believe it is. I'm certainly better off now than I was when I weighed 410 pounds, don't ya think? :)

4/07/2007 10:50 PM  
Blogger ruby said...

Thanks for the explanation and for pointing out the counter study, Jimmy.

I suppose the study you cited is more "valid" since it had a much larger sample and almost double the follow up period.

I have nothing against low-carbing, in fact I go low-carb when I want to lose weight.

For maintenance, my carb intake hovers around 30%-40%, which I believe qualifies too as low-carb.

All the best Jimmy :D

4/08/2007 12:34 AM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

The study cited here ( is not a controlled clinical or scientific study but a mere epidemiological study. These studies are infamous for their inaccuracies and numerous (often unfounded) assumptions. I did read it and was impressed by the apparent lack of controls. Filling out a mere questionnaire is NOT science!

The fact is, of course, that there is not a single (!) rigorously controlled, randomized clinical trial in the history of nutritional science, showing that low-carb diets have any impact on overall mortality.

There are, however, some so-called epidemiological "studies" that spout off a lot of hot air. Juggling with basically meaningless statistical numbers, that is all that it is. One can "prove" almost anything using such techniques - after all, flawed studies and sloppy science like this were at the basis of the (as we now know) totally nonsensical and unscientific lipid-heart theory.

In other words: this so-called "study" is utterly worthless and a total waste of money. I wonder who supported it... the Sugar industry, perhaps? or the Corn industry?

4/08/2007 6:27 AM  

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