Is Low Carb Healthy?

If you are thinking of starting a diet, striving to lose weight or just trying to clean up your eating habits, you may be wondering if low carb is healthy for you. Opinions vary, but no matter your choice, any major changes to your diet will cause results. Whether those results are positive or negative depends on several things. Keep in mind when following a low carb diet, you will be consuming more high-protein foods.

Is Low Carb Healthy?

It is not that simple of a question. A lot rides on whether or not you are willing to take the time and thought to making it work so your body still gets the nutrients it needs.

When the Atkins diet was first introduced, most people thought they could eat anything they wanted as long as they didn’t eat carbohydrates. This lead many to overindulge in foods like bacon, cheese and fatty beef. However, all this did for most was increased saturated fat levels.

Things could have turned out differently if people knew what they know now. The key to a low carb diet is to consume proteins low in saturated fat. Even with this under consideration, there are risks to restricting your carbs to such low levels for an extended period. So, when asking “Is low carb healthy?” you have to bear in mind how you go about it. The best course of action is to seek the advice of a nutritionist or doctor.

The Possible Side Effects of Low Carb Diet

There are several risks to think about if you are considering a low carb diet:

1. Glycogen Level Depletion

Your body stores glycogen, a form of carbohydrates, as a means to keep your energy levels up. The excess glycogen is stored in your muscles and liver, with somewhere between 1500-2000 calories worth put away. If you aren’t active and live a sedentary lifestyle, then you should be fine. But if you exercise and are busy during your normal daily activities, you could deplete your glycogen levels fairly quickly.

2. Risk Dehydration

You will lose weight very fast when losing your stored glycogen as it weighs quite a bit. In fact, it carries its weight four times over in water. You can quickly lose up 15 pounds, but with it you risk losing energy and hydration. No stored carbs and activity can lead to dehydration.

3. Loss of Quick Muscle Gain

Once you have used up your glycogen levels, your body will turn to your fat storage for the energy it needs. This is not necessarily a bad thing since fat can produce thousands and thousands of calories of fuel. However, fat cannot burn as fast as carbs so your activities will be limited. You will not have the energy for intense training, the kind of exercise that builds muscle fast.

4. Slowed Metabolism

Is low carb healthy? Yes, it can be but you need to consider what your ultimate goal is. When on a low carbohydrate diet, you gain muscle at a slower rate. This process takes a lot of time compared to what you lose when doing intense training. Why is this happening? Simple biology. Your metabolism rate has to slow down when you have used all your muscle glycogen and you get wiped out quickly when exercising too intensively.

5. Lost Muscle Mass

Overtime, you will lose muscle mass if you do not replace the glycogen stored in your muscles and liver. This will cause your slowed metabolism to drop even further. For some, this won’t matter much if muscle is not a big consideration. However, if your goal is to have muscle tone and maintain lean muscle, this will deter it.

6. Ineffective Method for Maintaining Blood Sugar Levels

If you trying to use a low carb diet to control your blood sugar levels, your efforts may be futile. If you are active, you are less likely to experience fluctuations in your blood sugar. Exercising and following a low carb diet won’t do much of anything to help in this regard.

7. Low Fiber Complications

If you do not balance a low carb diet so that you can still get the dietary fiber you need, you can increase your chances of developing a digestive cancer. In addition, the limited plant-based food in your diet can raise your chances of heart disease. You may experience bowel problems and constipation.

8. Loss of Nutrients

Because you do not eat as much grain, fruit, vegetables and beans in a low carb diet, you also face the risk of not getting the nutrients found in these foods. You may experience a drop in your intake of potassium, phytonutrient, vitamin C and antioxidants.

9. Low Carb Replacement Meals

Is low carb healthy? If you don’t have the time to properly plan out your low carb diet and you rely on low carb replacement meals, then the answer may be no. These replacement meals consist of shakes and bars that often contain preservatives, processed ingredients and maltitol, a sugar substitute. While great for weight loss, not so good for your health.

10. Kidney Problems

Eating too much protein can put stress on your kidneys. If you have a health condition involving your kidneys, it could make the problem worse. You may also have an increased chance of kidney stones, as individuals who follow a low carb diet have a chance of urinating higher levels of calcium.

11. Long Term Health Problems

Your body needs carbohydrates and was not designed to be without carbs for a long period of time. When your liver must make glucose from proteins, your body has a hard time functioning the way it was meant to. This can raise your risk of pathogenic infections, decreased cellular functions, and a weakened immune system.

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