Common Low-Carb Diet Mistakes

Equal amounts of misunderstanding and hype surround a low-carb diet.

Low-carb diets are an effective strategy to lose weight, albeit they are not always superior to weight-loss outcomes attained by other diets, such as low-fat or reduced-calorie diets.

However, as the name implies, a low-carb diet is not as simple as it appears.

“A low-carbohydrate diet might have a broad, ambiguous meaning,” explains Holly Klamer, M.S., R.D., “but in basic terms, it involves consuming fewer than 45–65 percent of [total daily] calories from carbs.”

(For comparison, the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend carbohydrate intake of 45–65 percent of total daily calories for individuals.)

Some low-carb diets, such as the contemporary Atkins diet, limit trans fat and sugar in addition to carbohydrates. Still, a ketogenic diet eliminates carbs and substitutes them with fats.

On the other hand, most low-carb diets emphasize lean protein, whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, and low-glycemic fruits over refined grains and starches (such as white bread, pasta, and potatoes).

However, with so much conflicting information available, it’s easy to misunderstand a low-carb diet or apply its ideas in an excessive or unsustainable manner.

The goal of the diet — to cut down on the number of unhealthy carbohydrates you consume daily — isn’t necessarily a bad one, but you must be careful about how you carry it out.

Here Are Seven Frequent Blunders To Stay Away From.

7 Low-Carb Diet Mistakes to Avoid

1. Ignoring the Nutritional Value of Carbs


Carbohydrates are not the enemy. However, you may and should consume a variety of healthful and delicious carbs in moderation.

Fruit, whole grains, legumes, and veggies are just a few examples.

These meals give our bodies the natural, long-lasting energy they require to function and remain active. “A carbohydrate-dense fruit like a banana can provide the fuel you need to boost the intensity of your activity; as a consequence, you may burn more calories,” Klamer explains.

B vitamins, potassium, fiber, and vitamin C are all abundant in high-quality carbohydrates. According to Klamer, cutting carbohydrate consumption to dangerously low levels puts you at risk of deficiency in these areas.

2. Overeating Unhealthy Fat

Overeating Unhealthy Fat

Low-carb eating isn’t a license to gorge yourself on steak, pigs, eggs, butter, cheese, and other high-trans or saturated-fat items.

According to Sharon George, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., eating a diet heavy in trans fat isn’t good for your heart. Trans fat consumption can lead your liver to generate more LDL cholesterol or “bad” cholesterol.

Too much “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and not enough “good” cholesterol (HDL), according to the American Heart Association, can put you at risk for certain diseases.

Indeed, a low-carb diet high in animal protein (dairy and meat) was linked to more significant all-cause mortality, whereas a low-carb diet high in plant protein (veggies, tofu, lentils, etc.) lower in trans fat was linked to reduced all-cause mortality.

Keeping a close eye on saturated fat consumption is another way to keep your heart in excellent shape. The problem of replacing saturated fat in the diet was explored in a review of data published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers discovered that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats and decreasing refined carbohydrate consumption may improve overall health.

The bottom line: Limit trans and saturated fat intake while simultaneously lowering refined carb intake (think: white bread, pasta, rice, sugary pastries, cookies, etc.).

Eat healthy fats, including mono- and polyunsaturated fats, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, instead.

Salmon, flaxseeds, walnuts, avocados, seeds, almonds, and extra-virgin olive oil are all excellent sources of these fats.

3. Misunderstanding Portion Sizes

Misunderstanding Portion Sizes

You’re more likely to underestimate over-or how much food you need if you don’t have a fundamental understanding of portion proportions, such as what a single amount of brown rice or steel-cut oats looks like.

Understanding portion sizes can help you avoid overeating while also ensuring that you are getting enough nutrients to energize your body effectively.

(Pro tip: Color-coded containers make it very easy to meal plan and lose weight by giving you a crash education in optimal portion proportions.)

The Ultimate Portion Fix nutrition plan advocates for a healthy balance of macronutrients, according to Denis Faye, M.S., Beachbody’s executive director of nutrition: 30% of total daily calories from protein, 30% from healthy fats, and 40% from carbs — the majority of which should be unprocessed and unrefined.

“By going with 40% carbohydrates, we can make the bulk of carbs [in the diet] produce-based without crushing folks [new to healthy eating] beneath a kale, broccoli, and mixed-berry avalanche,” adds Faye.

Carbohydrates are stored in three compartments: purple for fruits, green for vegetables, and yellow for other carbs such as whole grains.

Depending on your chosen calorie target range, you fill each one up anywhere from two to six times a day with its associated items; no measurement or overthinking is required.

“Starting your diet at 40% carbohydrates allows you to explore and raise your carbs to a level that best works for you, which is far easier than attempting to gently lower carbs to reach your sweet spot,” Faye adds.

4. Overeating Protein

Overeating Protein

“Getting adequate protein is crucial for both health and muscle repair,” Faye explains. (Amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle, are formed when protein is broken down.)

Eating fewer carbohydrates indeed means eating more protein (particularly if you want to smash your workouts) but don’t go crazy.

“When [your] carbohydrate intake is reduced considerably, the body begins to break down stored carbohydrate sources [glycogen, for energy],” Klamer explains. “Once these reserves are exhausted, the body will begin to convert fat and protein into carbs.”

The metabolic process through which the liver transforms non-carbohydrate substances (such as lipids, amino acids, and lactate) into glucose to control blood sugar levels is called gluconeogenesis.

When your body doesn’t have enough carbs to power your brain and muscles adequately, gluconeogenesis happens.

Because amino acids (protein’s building blocks) cannot be retained for long-term energy, the body must convert extra protein into glucose or fat storage, thereby undermining the benefits of a low-carb diet and making weight loss more difficult.

Protein should make up a solid 30% of your diet, not 50%, to prevent receiving too much of a good thing. Check out these nutritious, high-protein snacks for when you’re on the road for some inspiration.

5. Carbohydrate Intake is not Based on Exercise Level.

Carbohydrate and Exercise

“Carbs are a source of energy. They’re crucial, and the body is quite efficient at digesting them, which is both a blessing and a problem,” Faye explains. “Carbohydrates are the best fuel for activity, health, and even brain-boosting if you receive the correct quantity.”

But how much is the right amount?

This depends on your degree of exercise and the amount of weight you wish to reduce.

You probably don’t need more than 40% of your daily calories from carbohydrates if you exercise a couple of times a week and move around often throughout the day.

This number guarantees you obtain enough carbohydrates to invigorate and feed your body, but not too much that you won’t be able to burn off via regular activity and 10,000 steps each day.

Remember to consume clean, whole-grain carbohydrates like fruit, veggies, quinoa, sweet potatoes, or wild rice.

6. Eating an Excessive Amount of Carbohydrates

Eating Excessive Carbohydrates

When starting a low-carb diet, it’s possible to consume too few carbohydrates, but it’s also possible to overeat.

According to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, eating more than 45 percent of your total daily calories from carbohydrates isn’t considered a low-carb diet plan.

If carbohydrates account for half or more of your daily calories, you may be deficient in other macronutrients such as lean protein and healthy fats.

Protein is required for muscular growth, while healthy fats give energy, help in nutrition absorption, and promote cell growth and function.

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