Sure, cutting out carbs will lead to initial weight loss, but that’s because low-carb diets restrict your total caloric intake and contribute to a loss of water weight. However, as time goes on, your results will stall and the diet will become unsustainable.
Carbs are your body’s primary source of energy. Your brain, cells and muscles all rely on carbs to carry out everyday activities from moving your body to thinking and processing. Skimping on carbs means you aren’t giving your body and mind enough fuel to power through your dance cardio classes, carry groceries up the stairs or even concentrate on your favorite book.
When you eat carbs, your body breaks them down and converts them to glucose, your body’s main source of fuel. Once glucose enters your bloodstream, your body either uses the energy right away or stores it for later, so carbs are essential for stable energy levels.
Rather than steering clear of an entire macronutrient, choose your carbs wisely. Refined or simple carbs, such as candy, chips, cookies, white rice and fruit juice, are fast-digesting sources of carbs that enter the bloodstream more quickly, leading to a higher spike in blood sugar levels. These types of carbs are highly processed, so they’re stripped of their fiber and nutrients.
It’s better to limit your intake of refined carbs and opt for mainly complex carbs, such as beans, lentils, brown rice, oats, sweet potatoes and apples. Complex carbs take longer to digest, so they raise blood sugar levels more gradually. Since complex carbs are rich in fiber, protein and nutrients, eating a low-carb diet means you’ll miss out on all of the sustenance and health benefits that unprocessed, whole, fresh carb sources provide.
The fiber in fruits, veggies and whole grains keeps you satisfied for longer, so you’ll be less likely to overeat. These fiber-rich carbs can facilitate your weight loss efforts because getting enough fiber plays a role in decreasing your total caloric intake. Complex carbs also help enhance your physique because they’re correlated with less body fat and more muscle preservation. If your body senses it isn’t getting enough carbs, it tends to hold on to fat to offset restriction, and your body often resorts to breaking down muscles to use amino acids for energy.
Fiber-rich carbs also strengthen your physical health by improving your digestion, reducing constipation and increasing bowel movements. Carbs keep your heart healthy by reducing your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke and high cholesterol.
As for your mental health and cognitive functioning, carbs also play a significant role. Carbs produce serotonin, which is the feel-good chemical that boosts your mood, so eating enough carbs can ward off feelings of depression, anxiety and anger. Carbs also improve your memory and give your brain enough fuel to function properly.
If you swear off carbs, you’ll notice unpleasant symptoms, such as lethargy, headaches, brain fog, dizziness, inflammation, bloating, constipation, irritability, poor concentration, hunger and bad breath. Without a sufficient consumption of carbs, your body will turn to fats or protein for fuel. If you rely on fats for energy, your body forms a buildup of ketones, which leads to dehydration, nausea, dizziness and weakness. And if protein is your main source of energy, you’ll divert attention from its original role, which is building muscles and cells.
To make sure you’re eating an adequate amount of carbs, aim to get 45 to 65 percent of your total caloric intake from carbs, with levels varying depending on your age, sex, height, weight and activity levels.
The bottom line is that cutting out a single macronutrient from your diet is restrictive and unhealthy. Your body cannot function properly without a balanced diet full of complex carbs, healthy fats, lean proteins and ample vitamins and nutrients. If eaten in excess, carbs will contribute to weight gain, but the same goes for any other food. When you’re mindful of portion sizes and consume everything in moderation rather than deeming certain foods “good” and “bad,” your weight loss journey will be more effective and a lot more enjoyable.