Low Carbohydrate and/or Low Grain diets: YES or NO?

What is a low carbohydrate (CHO) diet?

             A low CHO diet is when <30% of the total required energy intake is from CHO. This typically means that those calories that are not consumed as CHO, are compensated by consuming more    protein and/or fat. 

What happens metabolically when you reduce CHO intake?

           Reducing your CHO intake leads to a decrease in GLYCOLYSIS (production of usable energy from glucose, or CHO) and an increase in GLUCONEOGENESIS (the process of creating glucose from non- CHO sources). Gluconeogenesis is increased in order to maintain blood glucose to prevent HYPOGLYCEMIA, and to maintain vital organ and tissue function that require glucose for energy, such as the brain.  * This is not a complete overview of what happens metabolically from reduced CHO intake!!

What does it mean for exercise?

          Regardless of the intensity of the exercise, CHO is a major and necessary substrate for energy production. This means that if CHO is not available, exercise performance could be substantially diminished. Additionally, since CHO is used to synthesize serotonin, reduced intake could lead to less serotonin and may contribute to mood alterations, anxiety, anger, and depression.

Many micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, are obtained via the foods that are rich in CHO. Reducing CHO to <30% of total energy intake could potentially lead to a deficiency in those micronutrients if not compensated with other foods in the diet.

***Be sure to ask a professional such as a registered dietician before going on any diet. Keep in mind that all diets are not meant for weight-loss. It may be possible to do certain diets successfully and safely, but make sure to carefully decide (with profession consultation) if the benefits out-weigh the risks!

~Written by Fitness Staff member, Amy Bloemendal


Frigolet M, Barragan VR, Gonzalez MT: Low– Carbohydrate Diets: A Matter of Love or Hate. Ann Nutr Metab 2011; 58:320-334.

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