Home » Articles » Why are many low-carbers “obsessed” with sticking to 20g of carbs a day?

Why are many low-carbers “obsessed” with sticking to 20g of carbs a day?

Medieval weight set
Image https://www.flickr.com/photos/archeon/3548766679 used under creative commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

I’ve been re-editing/tidying/updating various articles for republication recently, and as I was revamping the FAQ article, I realised something…

I suddenly figured out why so many people stick with the Dr Atkins’ “induction” carb level – it’s because of the 3rd week stall phenomenon!

Dr A suggests the initial “induction” of 2 weeks at 20g/day, then moving into “OWL” by adding another 5g/day per week until you “stall”, and so finding your own CCCLW at 5g below that point.

However, as a huge amount of people add their 5g in the third week to make 25g per day and then stall due to the 3rd week stall phenomenon, because they don’t know about that phenomenon, and because Dr A says “it’s ok to stick with 20g” they are then thinking that their CCCLW is 20g, that they won’t lose above that, and so carry on in the same vein.

And whilst this logically makes sense from a plan perspective, leaving your carb intake at 20g per day can lead to long term maintenance troubles.

Decreasing carb consumption to this low a level short term, whist not at all harmful to the body, will cause insulin sensitive to increase. If carb consumption is then kept at this level over a period of months, the body will carry on healing and increasing its insulin sensitivity to potentially over-sensitive levels.

This is why I am a strong advocate of not going too low for too long. Whilst increasing insulin sensitivity is a good thing, and leads to a healthier body, changing the balance into over-sensitivity is not good for living life where above 40g of vegetable and other natural carbs causes a fat gain! 🙁

Not eating veggies, nuts, seeds and other more carby natural foods cuts out masses of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If you did stop adding carbs again and have stuck at “Induction” levels, do consider gently easing your carb levels upwards, to at least 50g per day. It will make your life so much easier, both in the now and come the day you hit goal and want to increase further up to 70-100g so that you maintain!

Image used, Medieval weights by Hans Splinter
Used Under Creative commons licence: Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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  1. Alisha says:

    what about keto-adaption thought? The weight-loss in Atkins usually happens because the carb resctriction drives the body into ketosis, whiche requires carbs to be restricted to lower than 20g daily, and very rarely allow people to remain in it at 50g, let alone 100g unless very active with exercise.

  2. admin says:

    I cover that in my “looking for purple” article, and in much more detail in the why low carb must be high fat article

    In the absence of “wholesale carbs”, the body is using Ketones, and as Ketones are a “Use or Excrete” fuel, as they cannot be re-stored by the body once formed, at levels around 50g to 100g (depending on the person), the body will be burning up all the ketones it produces, rather than just peeing them out as excess.

    Remember, even people that do eat the “standard recommended 300g” of carbs a day are still using the Ketosis/Lipolysis mechanism overnight to stay alive once all the last meal carbs are dealt with by the body. Without Ketosis, we’d just die.

    The body will use Ketones preferentially once it knows that there is a plentiful fat supply, and that there is no famine… and that’s more about the presence of fat than absence of carb.

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