Although low-carb diets are very popular, it is also easy to make mistakes when running them.
There are many obstacles that can lead to side effects and suboptimal results.
To reap all the metabolic benefits of a low-carb diet, simply cutting them down is not enough.
Here are the 5 most common mistakes when following a low carb diet – and how to avoid them.
1. Eat lots of carbohydrates
Although there is no exact definition of a low carb diet, any amount below 100 to 150 grams per day can be considered low in carbohydrates.
It is possible to obtain great results within this range, as long as you eat real, unprocessed foods.
But if you want to go into ketosis – essential for a ketogenic diet – then this level of intake can be excessive. Most people will need less than 50 grams a day for this.
Keep in mind that this leaves you with few carbohydrate options – at most vegetables and small amounts of berries.
2. Eat a lot of protein
Protein is a very important macronutrient that most people don’t get enough of. It improves the feeling of satiety and increases the burning of fat ( 1 ).
In general, consuming more of this nutrient leads to weight loss and improved body composition.
However, those who follow a low carb diet eat a lot of lean animal foods and may end up exceeding the recommended protein intake.
When we ingest more of this nutrient than our body needs, some of the amino acids are transformed into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis ( 2 ).
This can become a problem in ketogenic diets with very little carbohydrate, preventing the body from going into total ketosis.
According to some scientists, a well-formulated low carb diet should be high in fat and moderate in protein.
A good limit to reach is 0.7 to 0.9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
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3. Being afraid to eat fat
Most people get most of their calories from carbohydrates – especially sugars and grains.
When you remove this energy source from your diet, you must replace it with something else.
However, some believe that cutting fat will make your food more healthy. Which is a big mistake.
If you don’t eat carbs, you should add fat to make up for it. Failure to do so can lead to hunger and inadequate nutrition.
There is no scientific reason to fear it – as long as you avoid trans fats and prefer healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and omega-3 fats.
A fat intake of around 70% of total calories can be a good choice for those who follow the low carb or ketogenic diet.
4. Do not replace sodium
One of the main mechanisms behind low carb diets is the reduction of insulin levels ( 3 , 4 ).
It has many functions in your body, such as telling the cells to store fat and the kidneys to retain sodium ( 5 ).
When it comes to low carb, insulin levels go down and the body starts to eliminate excess sodium – and water along with it. That is why the first visible results is the decrease in swelling.
However, sodium is a crucial electrolyte. Low levels can become problematic when your kidneys eliminate too much of it.
This is one of the reasons why people have side effects like dizziness, fatigue, headaches and even constipation.
The best way to get around this is to add more sodium to your diet. A tip is to drink a cup of broth every day, in addition, put a little more salt in the food.
5. Quitting too early
Our body is designed to burn carbohydrates first. So, if they are always available, it is what the body uses for energy.
By drastically reducing carbohydrates, our bodies need to switch to burning fat – which comes from the diet or the body’s reserves.
It may take a few days for your body to adapt to burning fat instead of carbohydrates, during which you are likely to feel a little discouraged.
This is called “keto-flu” and it happens to most people on low carb diets.
If you feel unwell for a few days, you may be tempted to abandon your diet. However, keep in mind that it can take 3 to 4 days for your body to adjust to your new regime – with complete adaptation taking several weeks.
Therefore, it is important to be patient in the beginning and not give up.
Low carb diets can offer a potential cure for some of the world’s biggest health problems, including obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to science ( 6 , 7 , 8 ).
However, just cutting out this nutrient is not enough to lose weight or improve health.
Make sure you eat a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly to achieve optimal well-being.