Low Carb Diets Help Eliminate Normally Craved Foods From Diet
by Charles Poliquin on

Wednesday, November 02, 2011 6:06 AM

Get rid of food cravings that lead to weight gain and mess with your ideal body composition by eliminating those foods from your diet. In the long term, eliminating enticing foods that lead to fat gain will allow you to no longer crave those foods and be leaner. A new study shows that by eating a low-carb diet, participants significantly decreased cravings for high-carb foods, such as sweets and fast foods. Participants on a low-carb diet were also less bothered by hunger than a group that ate a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet.
A low carb-diet is preferable for both weight loss and building and maintaining muscle. Food cravings and desire for restricted foods can contribute to non-compliance with diets that gets in the way of weight-loss and muscle-building goals. If you’ve read my articles on optimal carb-intake or rebalancing your fat intake, you may be initially scared off because of your experience of trying to avoid these foods that you crave. But new research supports the elimination of food cravings and the use of a low-carb nutrition plan for long-term optimal body composition.
A new study published in the journal Obesity compared the use of a long-term low-carb diet with a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet in overweight individuals. The low-carb diet group was instructed to eat foods rich in fat and protein until they were satisfied, while limiting carbs to 20 g/day in the form of low-glycemic index vegetables for the first three months. Thereafter, they were allowed to increase carb intake by 5 g/day each week by consuming more vegetables, a limited amount of fruits, and eventually small quantities of whole grains and dairy products until a desired weight was achieved. The study lasted a total of two-and-a-half years. A low-fat diet group was instructed to limit calorie intake to 1,200 to 1,500 calories for women and 1,500 to 1,800 calories for men, with 30 percent of calories coming from fat, 15 percent from protein, and 55 percent from carbs.
The low-carb group resulted in less preference for carbs and fewer cravings for high-carb foods, particularly those high in sugar and sweets. The low-fat diet group decreased cravings for high-fat foods and also had less of a preference for high-protein foods, which were restricted as part of this diet. Take away from this the assurance that eliminating specific foods that get in the way of the body you want won’t lead to food cravings if you do it right. The best bet is to eliminate the foods you crave, and for a lean physique with maximal muscle gain, opt for a high-protein, high-fat diet with minimal carb intake.
Researchers suggest that eliminating foods you crave or prefer but don’t want to eat is effective because food cravings are a conditioned expression of hunger that result from pairing consumption of those foods with triggers. Basically, when you get hungry, if you eat high-carb or unhealthy fast foods regularly, you will train your brain to “crave” those foods the next time you feel hungry. The challenging part is initially breaking the connection between hunger stimuli and eating foods that you want to avoid. Eliminating them and substituting them with a preferable, healthier food such as a high-protein item, will allow cravings to diminish and you to feel full because you’re eating macronutrients that your body can use for protein synthesis.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but, if it is, why do so many people struggle with weight loss? Probably because they go at it halfway and don’t completely eliminate the foods that result in cravings. In the study in Obesity, the low-carb diet participants completely eliminated problematic carbs and only ate vegetable-based carbs. Weight loss in this study was associated with reductions in food cravings, but because of the study design, researchers were not able to associate weight loss with robust change in weight. They do write that “additional correlations would be considered significant (between weight loss and diet composition) if a less conservative measurement was adopted,” indicating that future studies may provide further insight into how eliminating certain foods can support weight loss.