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The world of health, nutrition and fitness is constantly evolving in order to keep up with the scientific breakthroughs those in the know achieve with regards how our bodies work. Every now and then researchers come up with new, interesting and current ways in which we can alter our regimes to make our bodies work harder for us, helping us reach our health and fitness goals.

 A recent study from the University of Colorado suggests that you may reap the same positive metabolic changes and benefits associated with exercising by following a low carb diet. This of course means that if you double up your efforts you can enjoy twice the benefits if you exercise and take advantage of a low carb meal plan.

This study, also submitted and printed in the Hormone and Metabolic Research Journal shows that a certain little known enzyme called AMPK may be responsible for more than wemight have earlier predicted.

AMPK is a an enzyme which works to identify when the level of energy that you have stored in your body has dropped below what it considers an acceptable level. When this happens AMPK kick-starts and causes the following:

  • AMPK halts/severely reduces the production of sugar which encourages fat being used for energy instead
  • AMPK activates and boosts the process of fat burning
  • AMPK inhibits insulin which in turn means that further fat stores may be burned
  • AMPK also works to boost the production of mitochondria. This results in additional energy being generated, again using fat instead of sugar as the source of fuel.

Clearly AMPK is an enzyme that works for us rather than against us which is great.The researcher for this study also wanted to know whether AMPK could be stimulated by something other than drooping energy levels (not something we should be looking to have if enjoying a good balanced diet and a healthy level of activity) and this where the low carb diet comes into play.

Studies showed that following a diet low in carbs produced similar results as restricting calorie intake and exercising without any energy reduction. Indeed it appears that this combination worked well at activating AMPK even when more calories than usual were taken!

Before we all jump for joy at being given permission to eat more, burn more and yet weigh less it is important to remember that at this point this is only one study and that common sense needs to prevail at the same time. A low carb diet in conjunction with exercise does appear to kick-start your fat burning capabilities however low carbs don't mean no carbs.

The most effective low carb diet is one which reduces the amount of refined carbohydrates and which helps to keep you full so that you don't feel you've missed out (and therefore become demotivated). Cauliflower rice is a keen favourite amongst many at the moment for example and enjoying a somewhat larger amount of carbs one day a week, such as a portion of starchy sweet potato will keep your leptin levels as they should be.

Moving forward it makes sense for us to continue enjoying higher intensity exercises in shorter time pockets while continuing to enjoy a balanced and for some a low-carb diet. It certainly seems that the AMPK enzyme is on our side when it comes to burning fat and so facilitating this is a great idea however remember that when it comes to such studies it isn't always worth changing your regime if it's working for you until more research and practicaltesting has been done.

For now though I'd say the AMPK enzyme is one to watch as future research could well help us fine-tune how we eat and workout to further boost our fat burning capabilities.