How to lose weight? Part II- Is low (no)-carb diet the way to go?

Key takeaways:

  • Carbohydrates break down into glucose and powers our body;
  • Too much glucose in a short period of time can cause insulin level to spike in our body;
  • Whole foods naturally contain sugar and is a better form of sugar than raw sugar or fruit juices;
  • When fuel is not used, your body stores them for emergency as fat.

Before I start this post, I’d like to say thank you to all my readers. The last post was such a big hit that I have got three times more blog followers since my last post was published! Thank you for your support and huge interests on this. Some readers asked me why I know so much about ‘weight loss’ since my career doesn’t involve nutrition and I don’t need to lose weight? ^_^

Well, I am a triathlete and I do Ironman races at least once a year. In an Ironman race, I need to swim 3.8km, cycle 180km and then run a full marathon, 42.2km. All triathletes know that nutrition is essential for completing an Ironman race, so I paid a lot attention to the foods I eat before and after training. I also need to pay attention to what I eat during the race and how my digestion could perform the best during the race. When you eat your morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea on an 180km ride on a bike and you also want to ride fast, then knowledge about nutrition and diets matters a lot!

Fruits and vegetables are good sources of nutritions. If you grow them, then it’s even more fun! (my harvest from garden are not as pretty!)

Along my Ironman training journey, I’ve learned a lot about human body performance, diet and grit. I found this knowledge also very helpful for non-athletes, so I started coaching my clients on human body performance so to maximise their work performance. My view is that weight loss is a process; it’s never a goal. On your way to reach your goal, say boost your work performance, you will lose weight (if you are over weight). If you don’t lose weight (because you are not over weight), then you will learn what to eat, how to eat, enjoying foods, while boosting your work productivity. I will use this post to discuss the role of ‘diet’ in weight loss: how diet can help you lose weight? It is a huge topic on what’s good and ‘bad’ foods, so I will focus on one critical aspect of foods that can cause harms if we don’t pay attention to it: carbohydrates, a.k.a. ‘carb’.

Low-carb or no-carb diet has been very popular among people who want to lose weight recently. As I mentioned in my last post, glucose is the simplest form of ‘energy’ that a human body could burn as fuel. The easiest way to get glucose is from carb such as rice, potatoes and bread. Carb breaks down into glucose to power our body. Sugar is a ‘simple form’ of carb and can be found in many foods such as fruits and vegetables, such as sweet potatoes. By restricting the intake of carb with a low-carb or no-carb diet, we could limit the intake of fuel (glucose), so to maintain or even lose weight.

Replacing potatoes with sweet potatoes (as shown in the picture) is a good idea because sweet potatoes don’t cause as big a spike of insulin in a body as potatoes. Chicken is a great source of protein. Add some green leafy salad, then this is a great roast idea!

Assuming a person also maintains a balanced food intake such as fruits, meats and vegetables, nutrition-wise, this person has good nutrition. Since glucose supply is limited by this diet and the human body needs to burn glucose as fuel, the human body naturally seeks sources of fuel. That creates a strong craving for carb or sugar. If the person still doesn’t take carb or sugar to replenish the glucose fuel tank, then the human body will start burning ‘fat’. The human body gets glucose after burning fat, so to keep the body running. That’s what ‘fat’ is for; it’s your backup energy so you could survive without eating for days (but need water, though!). So technically, a person can lose weight without eating simply by burning fat, or force the body to burn fat. However, this is a very painful way to lose weight!

What I have talked about is the ‘simple version’ of the whole theory about no-carb diet. Promoters of this diet say that most people take way too much carb in daily diets, especially sugar (juices), bread, potatoes and rice. Too much intake of carb will cause left-over fuel and consequently, people gain weight and become fat. Too much carb also causes a big problem: diabetes which is “a disease in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose in the blood”, according to my dictionary. Too much carb intake during a short time spikes the insulin level of a human body. Overtime, this causes ‘fatigue’ of insulin to a human body.

There is a wrong impression that sugar is bad. I have seen people so afraid of sugar that they don’t dare adding sugar to their tea or coffee but they drink coke. Sugar is bad because it breaks down into glucose quickly and causes insulin level to spike in a human body. However, if we eat nature sugar such as an orange, then the insulin level will not spike as it does when we drink orange juice because a whole orange contains enough fibre that slows the digestion of the natural sugar in an orange. This orange provides a more ‘sustained’ energy for our body than drinking a cup of juice. Sugar is not bad; it’s only bad when we take too much ‘simple sugar’ such as raw sugar, candies or juices in our diet.

My organic nectarines from my garden. Good source of vitamins and minerals. Naturally sweet with lots of fibre.

Diet contributes a lot to weight gain and this is usually because people’s diet is not balanced. Many people have too much sugar (usually through soft drinks and juices), too much carb and not enough vegetables and whole fruits. This typical in-balanced diet in the western world has too much carb intake and not enough fibre for digestion, causing left-over fuel in a human body. If the fuel is not burned on the day, then the fuel will be transformed into fat.

An issue closely related to diet is what to eat and how to eat in a balanced diet. So, how much should we eat and what should we eat? I will provide you with a simple guide on the portion size and energy intake in my next blog post. See you next week. ^_^

Dr. C. Richard Wu @

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2 thoughts on “How to lose weight? Part II- Is low (no)-carb diet the way to go?

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  1. A lot of useful information Dr Wu.
    will read it carefully and try to follow your advice.
    Your sweet potatoes and chicken dish looks fantastic.
    Almost too good to be healthy.
    Yum Yum.

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