For many years, low carb has been the solution for many people to lose weight. How healthy is it really to avoid carbohydrates? And who is the low-carb diet best for? Learn all about the diet including sample days and recipes.
Keto, Atkins, or Logi – the low-carb diet has many names, and levels of difficulty and, depending on the form, can be implemented more or less sensibly in everyday life.
And yet it is one of the most popular changes in diet, which influences fat loss and metabolic processes with the help of the reduction in carbohydrates.
But what does low carb actually mean? What can you really eat? Are carbohydrates allowed in the evening during the diet?
In this article, you will find the most important basics about the low-carb diet, how you can optimally integrate it into everyday life, and what an ideal low-carb nutrition plan can look like.
What is a low-carb diet?
Low carb means “little carbohydrates” in German. The low-carb diet, therefore, pursues the goal of maximizing fat loss in the body by reducing carbohydrates, maintaining the muscles through a protein-rich diet, and normalizing or improving metabolic processes.
This is especially true for overweight people whose metabolism (metabolism) has already been adversely altered.
These diets follow the low-carb approach:
- Atkins Diet: is a strict carbohydrate diet, with a maximum of 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. The Atkins diet is one of the most extreme and controversial forms of the low-carb diet and should be carried out for a maximum of 14 days in order to get into ketosis (also called starvation metabolism, fat is used as an energy source).
- Glxy diet: based on the glycemic index. Foods with a high glycemic index such as rice, white bread, pasta, potatoes, sweets, and sugary drinks are eliminated from the menu. The Glyx diet allows up to 100 grams of carbohydrates per day and is still compatible with everyday life.
- Dukan diet: in the first phase of the diet, carbohydrates are almost completely avoided, in the second phase of the Dukan diet, vegetables with a low carbohydrate content can be used. For example zucchini, kohlrabi, broccoli, spinach, lamb’s lettuce, rocket, cucumber, savoy cabbage, or radishes.
- Lutz diet: moderate carbohydrate waiver – 72 grams of carbohydrates per day are allowed. The hook of the diet: low dietary fiber and vitamin intake, since hardly any fruit, vegetables, and whole grain products are allowed.
- Logi Diet: Foods with a high glycemic index are also completely avoided. The Logi diet can be easily integrated into everyday life.
Keto diet: The ketogenic diet allows a maximum of 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. In addition, high-fat consumption is aimed order to getting into the state of ketosis. But beware, fat is not just fat. Healthy sources of fat such as linseed oil, linseed, chia seeds, walnuts, almonds, nut butter, avocado, or fatty fish are desirable here.
- South Beach Diet: Internalize the low-carb, low-fat diet. However, the South Beach Diet should not be carried out over a long period of time as it can lead to a hormonal imbalance.
How does the low-carb diet work?
The basic principle of low carb: The proportion of carbohydrates (sugar and starch) is reduced, while protein and fat are allowed in practically unlimited amounts.
However, the lightest, most sustainable low-carb form that can be ideally implemented in everyday life and is still advantageous during sporting activity is the intake of 150 grams of carbohydrates per day. Doesn’t that sound like much at first? But it is not.
150 grams of carbohydrates are the equivalent of 600 calories and can be covered, for example, with 50 g of oatmeal, 300 g of potatoes, and two slices of wholemeal bread.
However, it should be taken into account that certain types of vegetables and fruit, yogurt, cream cheese, milk, and milk alternatives also provide carbohydrates.
For example, if your total turnover were 1900 calories a day, then you should cover 30 percent of your energy requirements with carbohydrates. With a normal, balanced diet, the proportion is around 50 percent.
This means that the main source of energy is no longer just carbohydrates, but healthy fats and vegetable and animal protein.
How long does a low-carb diet last?
The duration of the diet depends on the selected low-carb form. The daily carbohydrate intake of a maximum of 150 grams is one of the healthier, sustainable low-carb diets that can easily be incorporated into everyday life and can be carried out for several months.
Carbohydrates always contribute to the supply of energy, while at the same time, the fat cells are slowly being used as an energy supplier. Above all, those who want to lose weight in the long term and sustainably can rely on this strategy profitably.
Radical low-carb diets such as Atkins, Keto, and Dukan diet should ideally be carried out in consultation with a doctor and only for a few days or weeks.
How many calories are allowed?
With the low-carb diet, the focus is not primarily on a calorie deficit, but on the number of carbohydrates consumed.
Above all, carbohydrates with a high fiber content and a low glycemic index should be eaten so that the insulin level is only slightly influenced, satiety is prolonged and digestion is promoted.
Low-carbohydrate vegetables, chia seeds, flaxseed, and legumes in small quantities are ideal for this.
Carbohydrates in the evening – yes or no?
The body does not know when it is 6 p.m. The decisive factor is what the carbohydrate quota looks like at the end of the day and what types of carbohydrates were eaten.
However, if you want to lose weight in a targeted manner, you cannot avoid a calorie deficit of 150 to 300 calories per day. But even then, carbohydrates are allowed in the evening as long as the total turnover is correct.
Which foods are allowed and which are forbidden?
Vegetable and animal proteins and healthy fats should be firmly integrated into the low-carb diet.
Above all, use polyunsaturated fats such as linseed oil, linseed, chia seeds, walnuts, avocado, fatty fish, or olive oil, which, among other things, provide important omega-3 fatty acids.
Avoid saturated fatty acids from butter, clarified butter, sausage products, or palm fat.
At least half of the protein requirement should be covered by vegetable proteins – a healthy mix of all protein suppliers is the be-all and end-all. However, sausage products and high-fat meat are not recommended.
Low-carb diet: which carbohydrates make sense?
Rely on the “right” carbohydrates for a low-carbohydrate diet – because not all carbohydrates are the same.
Reduce or avoid single and double sugars. These are short-chain carbohydrates, such as fructose, table sugar, or dextrose, which cause blood sugar to skyrocket and then drop again rapidly – and boom, the cravings are back pretty quickly.
Therefore refrain from:
- Wheat bread and chocolate buns
- cakes and cookies
- too much fruit – Grapes, bananas, mangoes, oranges and apples, and dried fruit are quite high in fructose
- sugared drinks
Long-chain carbohydrates, also known as polysaccharides, are recommended during the low-carb diet.
This includes foods such as whole grain bread, quinoa, oatmeal, buckwheat, legumes, or vegetables such as broccoli, kale, mushrooms, or spinach – which provide a lot of fiber, fill you up, and promote digestion.
Vegetables should be your best friend, they create volume and provide valuable vitamins and minerals that influence your immune system, your performance, intestinal flora, and cell formation, among other things.
Pros and cons of the low-carb diet
If more protein and high-fat foods are consumed and the carbohydrate content is reduced, it can have the following benefits for the body:
- The feeling of satiety lasts longer and you are less hungry. The body takes much longer to break down fats and proteins. In addition, he has to expend quite a lot of energy for this – this is also referred to as a thermal effect. The body already burns calories when digesting proteins – since they have to be broken down into their individual amino acids. Almost a quarter of the nutritional energy from protein is wasted without landing on our hips. In addition, proteins are needed to build muscle, which in turn has a positive effect on fat burning. Because the more muscle you have, the more fat/energy you burn at rest
- Constant insulin levels because less sugary foods or foods with a lower glycemic index are eaten. This also has a direct impact on performance – it also becomes more constant
- The visceral fat is minimized – excess carbohydrates, which can no longer be stored by the body as an energy reserve, are often converted into fat molecules and transported to the fat cells. This becomes noticeable as subcutaneous fatty tissue. It is also called visceral fat. It is mainly deposited on the stomach and thus around the internal organs and that is what makes it so dangerous. With the low-carb strategy, the body draws energy from the fat cells.
- Better triglyceride levels in the blood: A low-carbohydrate diet has the advantage that the triglycerides, the fat molecules, are minimized. The blood pressure stabilizes if it is previously elevated, thereby minimizing the risk of a heart attack.
- The body has less water retention because the body produces less glycogen, which binds the water, due to the reduction in carbohydrates. If the glycogen stores are almost empty (they can never be completely empty), not much water can be bound
- No loss of muscle mass, due to increased protein intake and not a large calorie deficit.
Disadvantages of the low-carb diet
US researchers led by Dr. Sara Seidelmann of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found in a meta-analysis that a long-term reduced carbohydrate intake of less than 30 percent increases the risk of death.
The same also applies to a very carbohydrate-rich diet, in which the carbohydrate content is over 65 percent.
The researchers see the connection in the fact that with a low-carbohydrate diet, more animal proteins and animal fats are consumed and the risk of death is said to increase as a result.
On the other hand, the risk of death was lower with a low-carb diet with a preference for plant-based foods.
Prof. Susanne Klaus, the metabolism expert at the German Institute for Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke, is also of the opinion: “Although the short-term successes of such diets are scientifically well documented, studies on the long-term effects of extreme forms are still lacking. A meat-heavy and low-fiber diet increase the risk of colon cancer. Therefore, when it comes to low-carb, you should rely on plenty of plant-based foods and plant-based protein sources.”
Many disadvantages arise as soon as the carbohydrate content is only 10 to 20 percent – as with the Atkins diet or ketogenic diet:
- Severe tiredness
- Bad breath, as more ketone bodies are formed in the body
- Digestive problems and constipation when fiber levels are too low
- A high-fat diet can put a lot of strain on the liver
- Increased uric acid production due to increased protein intake can lead to gout in extreme cases
- It is very difficult for many to persevere, which results in a high dropout rate
too low carbohydrate content can lead to a yo-yo effect after the diet as soon as you
- eat normally again
Who is the Low Darb Diet suitable for?
The general low-carb diet, in which 150 grams of carbohydrates can be eaten daily, is not one of the radical low-carb forms. Everyone – with the exception of pregnant women – can do this variant for a certain period of time.
If you are severely overweight, obese, diabetic, have Alzheimer’s, or have Parkinson’s, carbohydrate reduction is also useful.
In a pilot study, researchers found that symptoms improved with a low-carb diet, especially in patients with multiple sclerosis.
People who are building muscle should refrain from a low-carb diet. When building muscle, a slightly increased proportion of carbohydrates is even recommended.
It is also not advisable to go on a low-carb diet if you have a previous liver, kidney, or heart disease or if you are pregnant.
Low carb diet: sample day and recipes
The example day is a short version of a low-carb diet with a maximum of 150 g of carbohydrates per day.
Breakfast: low-fat quark bowl with 200 g low-fat quark, almond butter, 125 g berries (e.g. blueberries), coconut chips, and 1 teaspoon flaxseed – this keeps you super full until midday, makes you efficient, provides important fats and a good portion of protein.
Lunch: Filling salad with 200 g sweet potato, chicken breast, or tofu or granulated cream cheese, courgettes, tomatoes, broccoli, a bit of rocket, and pumpkin seeds.
As a snack between meals: a handful of almonds or carrot sticks (150 g carrots) with herb quark or hummus (caution, they also contain carbohydrates) – please always eat carrots in combination with fat, otherwise the body cannot absorb the fat-soluble vitamin A.
Dinner: either a pumpkin and coconut soup (200g Hokkaido squash) with a slice of whole grain bread (approx. 19g carbohydrates) or a frittata with spinach, 75g chickpeas, and an avocado tomato salsa.