Low Carbohydrate diet: Helpful or Harmful in losing weight?

To the client who wonders why they are unable to lose body fat on a low CHO diet I guess I would try and explain it to them like this. Please be aware I am trying to avoid as many fancy words as possible so the client can understand what I am saying, while also being as scientific as I can.

Energy for you to work out with or just perform your daily activities is stored primarily in two basic forms, fat and glycogen (1,2). Fat is easy for us to recognize as we can see it in the mirror and that is what we are trying to get rid of. But glycogen is not able to be seen and that makes it a little more difficult to understand. Glycogen is essentially glucose that has been converted for storage in the liver and in the muscles themselves. Glycogen is required for optimal fat burning, and without adequate glycogen in the form of carbohydrates our energy and fat burning capacity suffers. Short term this doesn’t have a major effect, but long term effects of inhibiting the storage of glucose as glycogen will instead convert it to fat. This can also reduce the effect of insulin on your body and decrease your metabolic rate (1,2).

To decrease fat not only do you need proper diet but also adequate exercise and having an abundance of glycogen will make your exercise more efficient. A low carbohydrate diet defeats this by denying the body the nutrients needed to synthesize glycogen. If you are going to exercise on a low carbohydrate diet you will not burn as many calories as easily as someone ingesting a more appropriate level of carbohydrates. Exercise that is fat burning utilizes a combination of glycogen, fats, and protein for fuel. So during exercise when your body is burning glycogen, it is also consuming its fat stores. When the glycogen runs out, our ability to continue exercising decreases and hence so does your ability to burn fat (1).


Theodore A. Baldini, DC, MSACN, CNS, ICCSP

Seneca Chiropractic & Family Wellness


  1. McArdle WD, Katch F, Katch V. Sports and Exercise Nutrition, 3rd Baltimore, MD. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2009.
  1. Wolfe, Robert. Metabolic interactions between glucose and fatty acids in humans. American Journal of Clinical Nutirtion. Pdf.

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