No-Carb Diets - Are They Right For You?

5 min read

September 10th, 2020

What it comes to losing weight, one of the most popular diets around is the no-carb diet, properly called the keto diet. While it is virtually impossible to eliminate all carbs from your meals, most of these diets do limit your carb intake to less than 50 grams per day. In return, they promise rapid fat loss, and many also say you don't even need to count calories. 

Do no-carb and keto diets live up to the hype? Let’s investigate! 

What happens to your body on a no-carb diet?

 Your body and brain like to use glucose for fuel, and glucose comes from carbohydrates. When you cut carbs from your diet, your body doesn't have as much glucose as usual. It can't use fat directly for fuel, so it turns fatty acids into ketones. Your body can use ketones in place of glucose. Fans of the keto and no-carb diet believe that turning fat into ketones speeds up fat loss. 

However, while your body DOES preferentially burn fat on a no-carb diet, keto diet plans involve eating much more fat than usual. So, you burn fat and eat more fat, which pretty much cancels out each other. Fat also contains more calories than carbs, and, contrary to what keto diet experts believe, calories still matter – even on a no-carb diet. 

Keto dieters often do lose a lot of weight very fast, but almost all of this weight is water. As your body releases and uses its onboard supply of glucose, a substance called glycogen, it also releases water. Water is a heavy substance, and you'll lose weight simply because you pee more on keto. Weight loss and fat loss are not the same thing. And as any Warrior Babe knows, fat loss is much more important than weight loss for changing how you look and feel.  

 So, to summarize, the no-carb keto diet does increase fat burning, but you also have to eat more fat, so this is not really much of a benefit. You’ll also lose weight fast, at least initially, but that’s just water weight and its fat you need to lose, not water. Fat contains more calories than carbs, so you could actually end up gaining weight on keto if you don't moderate your fat intake.

No-carb diet side effects

 As well as making your body use fat and ketones for fuel, and triggering a whole bunch of water weight loss, no-carb diets can also cause a host of unwanted side effects. Fans of no-carb dieting call these side effects “keto flu.” While these side effects aren’t especially serious, they can be unpleasant. Those side effects include:

  •    Headaches
  •    Nausea
  •    Insomnia
  •    Bad breath
  •    Rashes
  •    Constipation
  •    Diarrhea
  •    Bloating
  •    Mood changes
  •    Difficulty concentrating
  •    Hunger
  •    Dehydration
  •    Cramps
  •    Low energy

Keto flu is caused by a sort of carb withdrawal. Your body likes using carbs for energy, and suddenly cutting your carb intake to 50 grams or less per day can have significant repercussions.

Admittedly, keto flu usually only lasts a week or two. Still, during that time, you'll have to resign yourself to feeling less than your best. You may even find the side effects are so off-putting that you quit your diet and go on a huge carb binge, undoing any potential benefits of the diet anyway. 

Because carbs are your primary source of energy during exercise, you'll also feel less inclined to work out. If you do manage to hit the gym, you won't be able to train as long or as hard as usual. This could lead to lost muscle tone and strength, which will result in a slower metabolism and much slower fat loss.

No-carb diets and cravings 

No-carb diets also tend to trigger severe cravings. It's human nature to want the things we are told we cannot have. Try this: don't think about bread. What are you thinking about now? Bread, of course!

Cutting carbs from your diet can turn you into a carb obsessive. Carbs will be the first thing you think of when you get up and the last thing you think about when you go to sleep. You might be able to tough your way through your carb cravings, but, for a lot of people, the allure of those "forbidden foods" is irresistible. Of course, after so much deprivation, instead of eating just a small portion of carbs, you’ll end up binging. That will undo any progress you might have otherwise made.

No-carb diet summary

The rapid weight loss on the no-carb diet is mostly water. Eating more fat to burn fat makes very little sense – it’s like spending more money to get yourself out of debt! Also, no-carb diets usually lead to a host of side effects, most of which are unpleasant. Any diet that makes you feel unwell can’t be good for you, and also makes sticking to it much harder. 

And while a lot of no-carb diet experts say that you don't need to count calories, this isn't true. Calories still matter, and if you consume more than you need, you'll gain body fat and weight, even if you are in ketosis. 

No-carb diets can work for people who are very sedentary, but even then, they are not sustainable for long-term use. At Warrior Babe HQ, we know that short-term diets are not the best way to lose weight and keep it off. Instead, you need a sensible, long-term approach to healthy eating.

What’s the alternative to no-carb dieting?

Like virtually every quick-fix diet out there, no-carb dieting promises rapid progress with minimal effort. Sadly, most keto dieters are disappointed when they fail to get the results they were promised.

Instead, the best way to lose weight, burn fat, and avoid regaining what you have lost is to adopt a diet you can live with. Not just for a week or a month, but forever.

Healthy eating should be more than a fad; it should be your lifelong mission. That’s how you lose weight and keep it off. This means you need to steer clear of fad diets like keto and eat more natural, wholesome food. Contrary to what the low-carb diet gurus tell you, carbs are not the enemy. You need to eat carbs for energy – especially if you are trying to tone up and lose fat like a boss. 

Warrior Babe does believe in managing your macros, but that doesn't mean that you need to cut any of them from your diet. Instead, you should adjust your macro ratio according to your current goals and needs. While your macro ratio will change as you make progress, there is no need to quit carbs. Warrior Babe's LOVE carbs because they give us the energy we need to work out! You can learn more about the importance of macros in ourbeginner’s guide.

No-carb diet wrap-up

No-carb diets have been around for over 100 years and were initially invented to help control epilepsy in kids. Despite being a century or more old, most medical experts still agree that the no-carb diet is not a good way to lose weight. It’s been studied exclusively and proven to be ineffective for most people. 

Why is it still popular? Who knows! It’s probably because keto promises fast, easy fat loss. Sadly, the no-carb diet doesn’t deliver on those promises. Our advice? Forget about no-carb keto and follow a more sensible, sustainable eating plan. That’s how you burn fat, lose weight, and keep it off.

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