If you're interested in the low-carb lifestyle, you've heard a lot of "carbs are bad for you" speak, but do you understand why? When you notice companies constantly marketing harmful, carb-heavy fare, resisting isn't always easy at first. When you discover the negative effects carbs have on the body, however, low-carb dining becomes a lot simpler. Once you separate fact from fiction, you'll discover a fulfilling new lifestyle that boosts long-term health, mood, and overall well-being (1, 2, 3).
Bad Facts About Carbs
Consider how the body functions on a daily basis. Even while you're sleeping your body is constantly burning calories (4), and it requires energy to do so. For low-carb dieters, fat is the primary source of fuel, aiding calorie burn from a wide range of activities. From bodily functions such as breathing and digestion to hardcore workouts, fat works away the excess. If you're not following a low-carb diet, however, carbs are used as your primary energy source. Since carbs are broken down into simple sugars, they're quickly absorbed by the bloodstream.
As the bloodstream absorbs these simple sugars, you lose energy rather than gain it (5). While fat offers a sustained source of energy, carbs result in blood sugar spikes and crashes, decreasing your workout capability and overall productivity. Simple sugars won't fill you up either, so hunger pangs are also common. Not only will you be unable to maximize workouts, but you'll crash and become hungry quickly, which is why binging on unhealthy foods is so common. Since your body isn't using fat as its primary fuel source, as you consume more calories during hunger pangs, guess where that fat goes? It's stored within the body, resulting in unwelcome weight gain.
While no one wants to gain weight, that's not the only bad fact you should know about carbs. Consuming too many has visible impacts on both the body and mind, with blood sugar spikes and crashes at the top of the list (6). Those crashes result in sluggishness later, leading to increased sleep, less calorie burning, and even more opportunities to put on excess weight. You'll also experience stomach pain, bloat, and a full feeling immediately after meals.
The mental side effects are equally negative (7). Mental fog, mood swings, and depression are common, especially if these are issues you are already prone too. No one wants to feel moody or out-of-touch, so it's incredible to think of how much diet can impact your mood (8). Eating healthier meals with less carbs could lift your mood, normalize sleep patterns, and boost your well-being. Diet does make a difference, and a big one at that.
The Benefits of Going Low-Carb
Going low-carb will reduce the negative health risks described above. In addition, your hunger levels will even out, so you can enjoy decadent, mouth-watering meals loaded with heart-healthy fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals—carbs not required.
Keep in mind that if you've been eating a carb-heavy diet for years, cut down slowly so that the body doesn't feel shocked. With so many low-carb meal options, this new lifestyle is one that's simple to adjust to. Find out your individual macros so you know how many daily carbs are ideal for your unique body, lifestyle, and goals. Once you start consuming a low-carb diet, track your carbs using a handy keto calculator, write them down by hand, or use whichever method works for you. Without the mental fog and mood swings of your old, carb-heavy ways, you'll start noticing the benefits immediately (2). Increased energy, activity levels, and productivity are the most notable benefits (1), and as your body adjusts, these benefits will settle in faster than you think. Cut down carb intake gradually, and you'll notice carb and sugar cravings decrease, all while developing a meal routine filled with specialties that are excellent for overall health.
From improving mood problems to increasing energy, cutting carbs can work wonders for both your body and your soul (2, 7, 9). If you're curious why going low-carb has caught on amongst so many people, keep these benefits in mind. From weight loss to a welcome happiness boost, the low-carb lifestyle is beneficial for everyone.
(1) Shai, I., Schwarzfuchs, D., Henkin, Y., Shahar, D.R., Witkow, S., Greenberg, I., et al. (2008). Weight Loss with a Low-Carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or Low-Fat Diet. New England Journal of Medicine, 359, 229–241. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18635428.
(2) Bostock, E. C. S., Kirkby, K. C., & Taylor, B. V. M. (2017). The current status of the ketogenic diet in psychiatry. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00043.
(3) Newman, J., Covarrubias, A., Minghao , Z., Xinxing, Y., Gut, P., Che-Ping, N., … Verdin, E. (2017). Ketogenic diet reduces midlife mortality and improves memory in aging mice. Cell Metabolism, 26(3), 547–557.e8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2017.08.004.
(4) Harvard Health Publishing. (2004, July). Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights. Retrieved September 3, 2018, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities.
(5) Macdonald, I. A. (2016). A review of recent evidence relating to sugars, insulin resistance and diabetes. European Journal of Nutrition, 55(Suppl 2), 17–23. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-016-1340-8.
(6) Ajala, O., English, P., & Pinkney, J. (2013). Systematic review and meta-analysis of different dietary approaches to the management of type 2 diabetes. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 97(3), 505–516. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.112.042457.
(7) Gangwisch, J. E., Hale, L., Garcia, L., Malaspina, D., Opler, M. G., Payne, M. E., … Lane, D. (2015). High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women’s Health Initiative. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 102(2), 454–463. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.114.103846.
(8) Eva, S. (2015, November 16). Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Retrieved September 5, 2018, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626.
(9) Sánchez-Villegas, A., Verberne, L., De Irala, J., Ruíz-Canela, M., Toledo, E., Serra-Majem, L., & Martínez-González, M. A. (2011). Dietary fat intake and the risk of depression: the SUN Project. PloS One, 6(1), e16268. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0016268