15 Common Low Carb Diet Mistakes – and How to Avoid Them
Low-carb diets are a popular way to lose weight. However, it’s easy to make mistakes when sticking to a low-carb diet. People can get frustrated if their diet makes them feel tired or they aren’t getting the results that they want.
The team at Wholistically Healthy put together this article on the 15 most common mistakes people make when starting a low-carb diet. We’ll discuss some of the most common pitfalls when cutting carbs and how to avoid them.
1. Not Eating Enough Carbs
This first point might sound strange. After all, a lot of people assume that the whole point of a low-carb diet is to minimize carb intake. However, “low-carb'' doesn't necessarily mean no carbs at all.
No matter your dieting goals, it’s important to get enough of the three core macronutrients—carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Experts recommend keeping carbohydrate intake between 100-150 grams per day. That amount is small enough that you can cut weight but also large enough that your body can produce enough energy.
Some people find that their bodies aren’t used to having fewer carbohydrates than usual when starting a low-carb diet, so you may feel tired for the first few days. But if you stick with it, your body will adapt to getting energy from fat and protein instead of carbs.
2. Too Few Vegetables
One of the most common complaints about low-carb diets is a feeling of sluggishness and fatigue. Most of the time, though, the culprit isn’t a low-carb diet. It’s that you are not eating a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables are crucial for low-carb diets (and healthy diets in general) because they contain large amounts of essential vitamins and minerals. Fruits and veggies also contain fibre, which is good for your digestion and metabolism and can reduce cravings and hunger. They also have antioxidant properties, which can help prevent chronic disease.
Examples of great veggies to eat on a low carb diet are leafy greens life kale, broccoli, bok choy, brussel sprouts and spinach
Be sure to stick to low-sugar fruits and stay away from starchy vegetables, like corn or potatoes.
3. Not Getting Enough Fats
Fats have a bad reputation in the nutrition sphere. The reality is that fats are an extremely important part of a balanced diet. Healthy fats have been shown to reduce cholesterol, improve energy, and even maintain brain health.
One of the most important reasons to eat enough fats is to reduce your appetite. Cutting fat out will help you lose weight as your body burns stored fat for energy. But you’ll feel very hungry, and nothing ruins a diet faster than perpetual hunger.
So, make sure you are getting some kind of fat every day. Healthy fats from things like avocados, nuts, seeds, and eggs are the perfect addition to a low-carb diet that will keep your metabolism working and stave off cravings.
4. Excessive Protein Intake
Protein is one of the three essential macronutrients, and most people do not get enough protein in their diets. So many on low-carb diets try to compensate by eating a lot of protein. To a certain extent, increasing protein consumption is good for your health and will help you lose weight.
If you eat more protein than your body can metabolize, your body turns those excess proteins into glucose for energy. This is a bad thing for low-carb diets as excess glucose keeps your body from entering a state of ketosis.
Experts agree that the ideal low-carb diet is high in fats and moderate in proteins. We recommend aiming for about 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. If you are highly physically active, you should increase that amount to 3 grams per kilogram of body weight.
5. Not Enough Sodium
One of the main effects of a low-carb diet is a reduction in insulin levels. Insulin controls how cells package and store fat, so reducing insulin levels contributes to weight loss and fat burn. However, when insulin levels drop, your body starts to get rid of sodium.
High sodium levels are bad for your blood pressure and heart health, but sodium is a crucial electrolyte your body needs for cellular and electrical processes. Low sodium can cause headaches, fatigue, constipation, nausea, and irritability.
So, it’s important to maintain proper sodium levels on a low-carb diet. Try adding a bit of salt to your meals. Things like soup broths are also excellent sources of sodium and other healthy minerals.
6. Too Many Packaged Meals
Packaged meals can be very useful if you are in a hurry and need a quick bite to eat. But relying on packaged foods for a low-carb diet is a bad idea. Many packaged foods marketed as “low-carb” or “sugar-free” often contain additives similar to carbs and sugar that have a similar effect on your metabolism.
Instead, you should try to eat mostly fresh food prepared at home. Fresh food does not contain preservatives or additives that may increase your appetite. Moreover, buying and cooking fresh food at home is better for your wallet in the long run.
Similarly, packaged meats like sausage, hot dogs, and bacon contain nitrates, preservatives that have been linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer. You are better off buying fresh beef, chicken, or fish.
7. Not Exercising
If you are trying to lose weight, dieting alone will only get you so far. If you want your weight loss results to last, you need to incorporate exercise into your everyday routine. Daily exercise not only burns excess fat but also keeps your metabolism active even when not eating.
You don’t have to hit the gym every day for hours at a time to benefit from exercise. Even something as small as a 30-minute daily workout can improve your weight loss results and energy levels.
If you want a more specific exercise routine, you can look up plans and videos online. Activities like yoga are great for dieting as they’re easy to do at home and don’t require expensive exercise equipment.
8. Lack of Fibre
One major mistake people make on a low-carb diet is not eating enough fibre. Fibre can help with indigestion and bloating, two symptoms people starting low-carb diets commonly encounter. Foods that are high in fibre and low in carbs, such as beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains, are excellent snacks to keep fibre levels high.
Additionally, fibre will help keep you full and stave off cravings. If you notice that you are constantly hungry after switching to low-carb, consider getting more fibre intake in your diet. Fibre will fill you up and reduce any gastrointestinal discomfort.
9. Carb Creep
After a few weeks of low-carb, you will probably start to feel better, lose weight, and have more energy. At that point, many people decide to “cheat” and add some carbs here and there. You may not notice the effects at first, but slowly introducing carbs can cause “carb creep,” which causes cravings and hunger.
The last thing you want is all your hard dieting work undone. So be wary about carbs sneaking into your diet. If you go over your carb limit, consider reworking your meals and cutting out those excess carbs.
10. Not Having a Plan
One of the hardest parts of starting a new diet is undoing old eating habits and picking up new ones. It can be very hard to get into a good dieting flow if you start without a roadmap. Take time to consider your current eating habits and how you can change them to meet your low-carb intake goals.
We recommend getting in the habit of planning out your meals at first. Planning your meals gives you a weekly shopping list and takes the uncertainty out of mealtime. It is also useful to cook large batches at once, so you have several meals for the week. When you have food on hand, you’ll be less tempted to hit the drive-through after work or get that snack from the vending machine.
11. Getting Bored with Your Diet
Some people are fine eating the same foods every day, but most of us would like a bit of variety in our diets. When on a diet, it can be easy to fall into a rut, eating the same foods day after day. However, eating a varied diet is a key part of staying healthy and losing weight.
If you feel a bit bored with your diet, don’t be afraid to get creative with your meals. There are tons of low-carb options that you can combine to make tasty, interesting meals. You can also modify your favourite meals to make low-carb options, like replacing pasta with veggie spirals.
12. Using Total Carbs Rather Than Net Carbs
Total carbs refer to the sum total of carbohydrates you consume. However, your body does not actually absorb all those carbs. Specifically, your body does not process the carbohydrates in fibre. You can calculate a meal's net carbs by subtracting fibre carbs from total carbs.
Calculating net carbs allows you to include more healthy options in your diets. For example, many nuts have a high amount of total carbohydrates but low net carbs because most of these carbohydrates are locked up in fibres your body doesn’t process. So nuts make a great option for low-carb diets.
13. Forgetting About Water Weight
Low-carb diets are popular because many people lose a significant amount of weight in a short period. However, a good portion of that initial weight loss is from water weight, not burning fat. After the first few weeks, your weight loss might slow down, but any weight loss will be due to fat.
Many people get discouraged when they reach a weight loss plateau and start cheating on their diets. It’s important to stay motivated and stick to your plan if you feel like weight loss has slowed down. You will see results if you continue, so don’t give up!
14. Eating Too Many Calories
At its core, weight loss is pretty simple. If you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. Many people cut down carbs for their diet but neglect to reduce their overall caloric intake. This can be a problem because many low-carb foods like cheese and nuts are calorie-dense and can take up most of your daily calorie intake.
To avoid this, monitor your caloric intake as well as carbohydrate intake. Low-carb calorie-dense foods should be seen as toppings and treats, not core parts of your overall diet. That doesn’t mean you have to obsess over counting calories. Just be mindful of carbohydrate/calorie ratios.
15. Drinking Alcohol
Alcohol is often one of the biggest stumbling blocks to a low-carb diet. For example, most types of beer contain a high amount of carbohydrates and little nutritional value. Light beers are slightly better but still have about 3-4 grams of carbs per can.
Wine and spirits are a better choice for low-carb diets as they are much lower in carbs. However, alcohol of any type has a lot of calories and can mess with your blood sugar levels. Plus, getting drunk lowers inhibitions, so you may be more likely to cheat. So while you don’t have to stop drinking completely, it’s best to cut back on alcohol intake as part of your low-carb diet.
Are Low Carb Diets Effective?
Low-carb diets are currently very popular, but are they a legitimate way to lose weight or just another dieting fad that will fade?
There is growing evidence that lowering carb intake in addition to caloric intake is more effective for short-term and mid-term weight loss than just cutting calories alone. Lowering carb intake while increasing protein and fat intake can suppress the appetite and help you stick to long-term diet changes. Additionally, low-carb diets have been shown to improve blood sugar and cholesterol and lower the risk of developing heart disease or type two diabetes.
However, low-carb diets have some risks and side effects. Some of the most common side effects of starting low-carb diets include:
- Muscle cramps
Generally, these side effects are mild and will subside as your body gets used to operating with fewer carbohydrates. However, long-term low-carb diets can result in vitamin deficiencies and gastrointestinal issues, so make sure you are eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and grains.
If you want to start a low-carb diet, be sure to pick the kinds of proteins and fats you eat carefully. You may also want to speak to your doctor for guidance before modifying your diet.
Final Words on the Low Carb Lifestyle
Low-carb diets are a popular choice because they offer quick results and can lower the risk of certain types of diseases. But many people have trouble sticking to their low-carb diets.
Wholistically Healthy is dedicated to helping people achieve their weight loss goals through healthy meals and foods. Our meal plans and online delivery options make it easy for people to choose healthy, tasty foods that fit their nutrition goals. We believe that food and diet contribute to a happier body, mind, and soul.
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