Low carb diets are just one of many popular diets that people can choose from when they are looking to lose weight. Often, when people follow low carb diets they will be limited to as little as 20 grams of carbohydrates a day, which means they are typically getting about 8 percent of their calories from carbohydrates. Considering that most health experts recommend anywhere from 45 to 65 percent of calories come from carbohydrates, this is alarmingly low. Carbohydrates are a very important macronutrient that help with fat metabolism and provide energy to every cell in your body. If your body does not get enough carbohydrates it cannot function properly and you can begin to develop health problems, which is why you should avoid low carb diets.
When carbohydrate consumption falls below 100 grams your body begins to burn the glycogen, stored glucose, in your muscles for energy. On a low carb diet you will quickly run out of glycogen and your body will start burning fat for energy. At first glance, this seems like a good thing. However, before your body can burn fat for energy it has to turn it into glucose, which is extremely inefficient. The process of turning fat into sugar produces ketones and puts your body in a ketogenic state. When your body is in a ketogenic state your breath will start to smell sweet and you begin to feel tired. You will also feel lightheaded, develop headaches, and feel nauseous, none of which are pleasant. Because of how sick low carb diets can make you feel due to the ketones your body produces, it is best to avoid low carb. The only caveat to this is that ketogenic diets are useful in treating epilepsy. However, treating epilepsy is the only reason a person should eat a low carb diet.
2. Blood Sugar Problems
Even though it may seem like a diet that is low in carbohydrates would be beneficial for people who have high blood sugar, this type of diet can actually be detrimental for those with blood sugar issues. Your pancreas is an important organ that produces insulin, which is a hormone that metabolizes glucose and keeps your blood sugar from going too high. In order to function properly and keep blood sugar in check, your pancreas needs more carbohydrates than you would be getting on a strict low carb diet. Therefore, it is wise to stay away from low carb diets. It is also prudent to stay away from low carb diets because they can exacerbate low blood sugar, making you feel shaky and weak. As someone who has had low blood sugar, I can tell you that it is a miserable feeling you want to avoid.
3. Trouble Concentrating
Did you know that glucose is your brain’s primary source of energy? Your brain depends on glucose to function properly and help you think. Interestingly, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences has discovered that your brain needs a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrates to function. Obviously, a diet that is limited to 20 grams of carbohydrates a day doesn’t even come close to meeting your brain’s needs for energy. When your brain doesn’t get the carbohydrates it needs you will have trouble concentrating and trouble thinking. In fact, researchers have found that people on low carb diets do not perform as well on tests. To keep your brain functioning properly, make sure you are giving it all of the carbohydrates it needs to think and concentrate.
4. Heart Problems
When you follow a low carb diet you will be replacing carbohydrates with fat and protein as calorie sources. Diets that are high in fat can be very deleterious for heart health, especially if they contain foods that are high in saturated fats. Eating more fats in your diet will cause LDL, or bad, cholesterol to increase. It will also cause total cholesterol to increase and homocysteine levels to increase. Having high LDL, total cholesterol, and homocysteine levels puts you at greater risk for heart disease. Thankfully, there is a diet that has been proven to be heart healthy. Dr. Esselstyn found that a vegan diet high in carbohydrates and very low in fat will reverse heart disease. Clearly, carbohydrates have their place.
5. Temporary Weight Loss
One on the main reasons people turn to low carb diets is because they promise weight loss. Initially, people who embark on a low carbohydrate diet will lose a fair amount of weight. However, the weight loss is short lived. Studies have demonstrated that people tend to gain back all of the weight they lost. Occasionally, people will even gain back more weight! Since weight loss is only temporary, low carb diets do not seem like a great option for weight loss.
6. Muscle Loss
No one wants to lose muscle; however, muscle loss is one of the detrimental effects of low carb diets. The main way low carb diets cause muscle loss is by drastically reducing carbohydrates, which are your body’s energy source. When carbohydrates are reduced, your body may look to protein for energy. If protein is used for energy, it cannot be used to build muscles. Also, without carbohydrates to fuel your muscles, your muscles will not have the energy they need to function. As a result, they may begin to atrophy because you won’t be using them as much. To keep your muscles strong, make sure you balance your protein intake with enough carbohydrates to give your muscles energy to function.
7. Lack of Nutrients
Aside from carbohydrates, low carb diets lack several nutrients that are crucial for health. Since fruit contains a fair amount of carbohydrates, low carb diets limit fruit. As a result, people following this diet risk not getting enough Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an important vitamin that is needed for collagen production, which means without it your skin can become saggy and your joints can begin to hurt. In addition to lacking Vitamin C, low carb diets also do not provide enough antioxidants, which are needed to ward of free radicals in your body. Free radicals can lead to chronic diseases, and it is critical to get enough antioxidants for long term health. You also won’t be getting a lot of fiber when you follow a low carb diet. Fiber is needed to lower LDL cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, and curb hunger. As you can see, there are several key nutrients that you won’t get enough of when you limit carbohydrates.
Although the promise of weight loss can make low carb diets seem appealing, it is best to stay away from these diets because of the negative health consequences they have. Instead, it is much better to follow a balanced diet that is free of processed food and contains a lot of fruits and vegetables. Following a balanced diet will help you make sure you are getting all of the nutrients you need, and if you couple it with exercise you should be able to meet your weight goal. Have you ever tried a low carb diet?