You’re out to lunch with your friend and she hastily waves the bread basket away then gulps down the rest of her Sprite, scoffing, “I’m on a low-carb diet…but it doesn’t seem to be working.” There’s so much confusion surrounding low-carb dieting that it often gets a bad rap because people do it improperly and end up suffering with little to no results. Low-carb diets have been around since the 18th century, when they were used successfully to help treat people with diabetes. They can also help you lose weight and/or lower your blood sugar. The key is understanding the workings of the diet and following the program strictly (or pretty strictly). Here’s what you need to know: What exactly is a low-carb diet? A low-carb diet limits the amount of carbohydrates you eat and guides you to eat more protein and fat. What kinds of food do you eat on low-carb diets? You avoid bread, refined sugar, and rice, and eat meat, eggs, fish, cheese, and other proteins. You also restrict fruits, some vegetables, and starches. How does the low-carb diet work? What makes it so effective is that it works in many different ways. The primary way is by lowering your blood sugar and reducing insulin in your body. When you eat carbohydrates they are broken down to sugar or glucose. Glucose enters your bloodstream, and insulin is produced by your pancreas in response. Insulin helps cells use glucose for energy, removes extra glucose from your blood, and helps glucose be stored as fat if the cells don’t need it for energy. The lower your blood sugar, the less insulin gets secreted and the less fat is stored. The key to losing weight and fat is keeping your blood sugar stable. Carbohydrates spike blood sugar, especially when eaten alone without protein or fat. When you limit high-carbohydrate (high-sugar) foods, you lose weight. What results can you expect from a low-carb diet? Weight loss, increased energy, less bloat, more muscle tone, and lowered blood sugar, to name just a few! Initially, during the first two weeks on the diet you’ll lose some water weight. When your insulin is running crazy from carb overloading, you’ll typically retain water. During the first couple of weeks on the diet your insulin will stabilize and cause you to lose some of the water you’d been holding on to. Also, because you’ll be eating more protein, you’ll fuel your muscle growth more and tone up some of the trouble spots that have been bothering you for years! Additionally, people with more muscle have a high resting metabolic rate. This means that you burn more calories while doing nothing. Muscle requires more energy to “live” than fat, and you need to feed muscle more to keep it. The more muscle you have, the more you can eat, while enjoying being thinner. Finally, your blood sugar will stabilize, and you’ll experience fewer highs and lows in energy and spirit. When you eat a lot of carbs, your blood sugar rises quickly then falls just as fast. This yo-yoing in your blood sugar not only sucks you of energy but also can leave you cranky and craving more carbs. With stabilization in blood sugar comes less overeating and less hunger. Not wanting to practically chew their sweater off in a fit of hunger is the most popular part of this diet and why people love being on it!