If you’ve read our easy diet plan and our guide to micronutrients and macronutrients then you already know that we believe in using simple math to determine how much Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat you should eat per day. While I personally follow a balanced diet with macronutrient ratios of 40:40:20 or 40:30:30 (Carbohydrate to Protein to Fat), you may have a specific reason to go on a low-carb diet or a no-carb diet.
What Are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are one of the three essential macronutrients (in addition to Protein and Fat) and are used by your body as the primary energy source (which is why you generally need to consume more carbs when you work out, especially if you perform cardio).
Do I Need to Eat Carbs?
That is a great question, to which you will get many different and confusing answers. All you need to know is this:
- Carbohydrates are not necessary or mandatory for you to consume every day, provided you are eating enough calories as well as Protein and Fat.
- However, to functional optimally, you should probably consume at least some carbohydrates every day
The amount of Carbs you should eat per day will vary based on several factors, including your metabolism and activity level.
Carbohydrates Are Good for You
Carbohydrates also make sure that your body doesn’t use Protein as an energy source (so it can be used to repair and build muscle), and help your body metabolize fat more efficiently. Furthermore, they play a central role in healthy brain function and maintaining your mood.
What is a Low-Carb Diet?
Simply put, a low-carb diet is a diet that limits or restricts carbohydrates, especially foods with high glycemic index and glycemic load. At the same time, the diet makes the calories up from a high protein diet, along with fat, and carbs/fiber from vegetables.
Low-Carb Diet: Foods to Avoid
- Sugar – pay special attention to refined sugar, but more generally avoid sugar, honey, agave, sugar alternatives, artificial sweeteners, foods high in sugar (even if natural) such as fruits and fruit juices.
- Carbohydrates, starches, and foods with a high glycemic index and glycemic load – these foods are digested quickly, and do not give you sustained energy or keep you full for long times.
- Alcohol – alcohol is pretty much calories from liquified carbohydrates and no good nutritional value.
Low-Carb Diet: Foods to Eat
The key to any successful low-carb diet plan is to ensure your meals primarily consist of lean proteins and high-fiber vegetables. If you can focus on that, you can follow a low-carb diet plan with no problems. Beyond that, follow these low-carb dieting guidelines:
- Choose vegetables, whole grains, and legumes
- Choose low-fat milk
- Choose monounsaturated rather than saturated fats
Possible Side-Effects of Low-Carb Diet
Due to the role Carbohydrates play as an energy source, as well as the contribution they make to healthy brain and body functions, you may experience withdrawal symptoms if you go on a low-carb or no-carb diet without a slow transition. The following are common symptoms you may experience at the start of a your diet:
- Headaches, nausea, trouble sleeping, and dizziness
- Muscular fatigue, weakness and cramps, hair loss,
- Low blood sugar and sugar cravings
All of these side-effects are temporary and can be avoided if you transition to a low-carb diet slowly, and carefully adjust your carb intake to match your physical activity levels.
Low-Carb Diet vs. Slow-Carb Diet
As explained above, a low-carb diet tries to cut out or minimize the amount of carbs you eat. By comparison, a slow-carb diet is much more reasonable and focuses on the quality of the carbs instead of the quantity of carbs. By focusing on Carbohydrate sources that have a combination of low glycemic index and low glycemic load, you can continue to enjoy carbs and the energy they provide, without the negative impact of fast-digesting carbs such as refined breads and sugars.
This is why a slow-carb diet is sometimes called a Low-Glycemic Diet.
Low-Glycemic Diet: Right For Me?
A low-glycemic or “slow-carb” diet is right for everyone. Think about the goal of such a diet – to help you choose “good carbs” that take a longer time to be digested, have a slow impact on raising your blood glucose levels, and keep you full for a longer time (compared to “bad carbs”).
As a result, when you are full for longer (and are not eating or craving fast-digesting foods), you are more likely to lose weight and less likely to develop obesity-related health diseases.
Main reasons to follow a Low-Glycemic Diet:
- Make better, healthier food choices for weight loss
- Make better, healthier food choices for long-term health
- Make better, healthier food choices to manage illnesses (such as diabetes)