Losing Weight With LeBron: Should You Consider a Low-Carb Diet?

Looking for a last minute summer slim down? You could always consider following in LeBron James’ footsteps by adhering to a low-carb diet. The basketball star is allegedly the latest to follow this well-trod path. According to a Tweet by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, James has dropped serious weight recently by cutting back on the carbs. SB Nation went as far as to say that the slimmed down James “looks like an 18-year old again.”

It isn’t entirely clear if a low- or no-carb diet is really responsible for James’ apparent weight loss, but it has been a popular choice for people looking to lose weight for decades. A press release by the University of Maryland Medical Center explains that the diet is founded on the idea that consuming “bad carbs” will result in a blood sugar spike, high insulin, increased hunger, and weight gain. Foods that fall into the “bad” category include white potatoes, pastas, and breads. There are typically at least two phases to the diet. In the first, people will curtail their consumption of carbs, potentially to under 20 grams per day. After a couple weeks on this regimen, carbohydrates are gradually allowed back in, but still at a restricted amount.

Getting only 20 grams of carbohydrates each day is well under the proposed guidelines. Writing in SFGate, Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D., stated that the Institute of Medicine recommends adults have 45 to 65 percent of their daily calorie intake come from carbohydrates. This, Coleman calculates, works out to about 150 grams of carbohydrates each day.

That leaves people with a lot of carbs to eliminate, and as Livestrong points out, nearly all foods contain carbohydrates — a vital source of energy. Meat and eggs are your carb-free choices, but when you try to add to a meal surrounding either, you can quickly run into trouble. Even if you skip the pasta and choose the veggies, you can still run afoul of carbohydrates. For this reason, the Mayo Clinic includes fruits, starchy vegetables, grains, beans, sweets, and breads on a list of foods generally limited or eliminated from low carb diets. But is a diet that turns carrots into an improper choice and where you can’t freely enjoy a pasta primavera worth it?