Have you decided to cut carbs? Here are four things you’ll lose. Two of them, you’ll be happy to kiss goodbye. One you’ll need to replenish, and one you’ll miss, but get back soon. I explain in this post.
Lose With Low Carb – At-A-Glance
- A low carb diet encourages weight loss by keeping the fat-storing hormone (insulin) low
- The low insulin levels associated with a low carb diet cause the loss of electrolytes.
- During the transition from a high carb to a low carb diet, it is common to experience a loss of energy. Energy is naturally restored as your body becomes fat-adapted.
- Low carb dieters enjoy a loss of cravings thanks to the blood sugar stabilizing effect of a low carb, high fat diet.
4 Things You Lose When You Cut Carbs [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- The four things you’ll lose when you cut carbs.
- How to replenish your lost electrolytes.
- The cycle of your energy loss and when you can expect it to return!
The first thing you’ll happily lose is weight. Cutting carbs is not the only way to lose weight. The true enemies of weight loss are processed, refined, and sugary foods, which you often hear me refer to as the 3 C’s, cookies, cakes, and candies. So, it is possible to lose weight on a low carb or low-fat diet if you focus your diet on whole foods and avoid overeating.
However, if you’ve found that a low-fat diet is not a good fit for you, then consider flipping your primary dietary fuel source from carbs to fat. When you do this, you create an internal environment that favors fat burning thanks to the insulin-lowering effect of a low-carb diet.
Insulin is a storage and growth hormone. When it is elevated, nutrients are being pushed into cells to be used immediately or stored for later use. A few small storage units are available in places like your liver and muscles, but when they fill up, insulin helps the excess energy move into your biggest storage unit, which is body fat. When insulin levels are low, the opposite action happens, allowing body fat to be released and burned.
The rise and fall of insulin is mainly dependent on the foods you eat. Carbohydrates raise insulin the most, and fats raise it the least. If you have more body fat than you want, you’ll help your body release it by eating a low-carb, high-fat diet.
The consistently lower insulin level that results when you follow a low-carb diet gives you an edge when it comes to fat loss. But, it also causes another loss that you’ll need to replenish, namely electrolytes.
Electrolytes are essential minerals that your body needs to do countless things, from regulating nerve and muscle actions to keeping you hydrated. Because your body naturally loses electrolytes when you cut carbs, you’ll need to replenish them to feel your best and avoid issues like muscle cramps, headaches, irritability, and trouble sleeping.
The importance of replenishing electrolytes is even greater if you are pairing your low-carb diet with intermittent fasting, which also lowers insulin levels, or you’re exercising or in a hot environment where you lose salt through sweating.
Fortunately, replenishing electrolytes is easy to do. There are many electrolyte supplements on the market. However, you’ll be happiest with products that do not contain sugar or artificial ingredients. Two brands that I recommend are Endure and Element (LMNT) electrolytes
I have been following a low-carb diet for years, and I still replenish electrolytes daily. However, replenishing is particularly important when you initially switch from a high carb to a low carb diet.
During the initial week or so after you switch, it is common to experience low-carb or keto flu symptoms. This brings me to the thing you’ll lose when you cut carbs that you’ll miss, but you’ll get back, which is energy.
When you cut carbs, you cut off your body’s easy energy source. Carbs and fat both provide you with energy, but carbs are the easy source. Think of them as the twigs on a fire. They are easy to burn but get used up quickly, and you don’t have much carbohydrate storage in your body.
When you follow a high-carb diet, your body relies on carbs. When the supply runs low, you eat more carbs and get an energy boost until they burn up and the cycle repeats.
When you cut carbs, you force your body to burn fat for fuel. Fats are like the logs on a fire. It takes effort to get them burning, but they burn for a long time, and even the leanest person has a big reserve of fat storage on their body. Therefore, when your body is fat-adapted, you experience sustained energy because, even if you’re not eating, your body can more easily tap into body fat for fuel.
However, this shift from being a good carb burner to being a good fat burner does not happen overnight. It takes time for your body to produce the enzymes and pathways needed to burn fat for fuel efficiently. Until that happens, you’ll feel low on energy. Fortunately, most people get their energy back within a week or two of going low carb. So, hang in there and allow your body time to adapt.
When those transition weeks have passed, many low-carb dieters feel good and happily notice that they lose carb cravings. When you first cut carbs, your body will ask you to eat carbs because it wants the easy energy. The way your body asks is by triggering cravings. Carb cravings are particularly intense at the start of your low-carb diet because of blood sugar fluctuations.
I mentioned earlier that the rise and fall of insulin is mainly dependent on the foods you eat. You can say the same thing for blood sugar fluctuations, meaning that carbohydrates cause the most dramatic rise and fall of blood sugar levels. When blood sugar drops, cravings are triggered to encourage you to eat something that will quickly raise your blood sugar.
Cookies, cakes, and candies are refined foods that absorb quickly and boost blood sugar fast, so those are the types of foods that you crave. Few of us make this transition without craving carbs, but because a low carb, high fat diet stabilizes blood sugar levels, you reach a point where you are free of the blood sugar crashes that drive cravings.
The average carbohydrate intake is said to be around 250 grams of carbs per day. If you cut that in half and aim for 125 total carbs a day, you’ll be at the entry-level of a low-carb diet and can adjust from there.
Depending on how much of a change this is for your body, you can expect to lose weight and lose your cravings for sweets. But, as your body adapts, you can also expect a temporary loss of energy as well as a loss of electrolytes.
If you’re new to low-carb dieting, the first step is knowing which foods to choose. You can download my free list of 100 low-carb foods to help you get started! Thanks for reading and have a great day!
(1) Tiwari, Swasti, Shahla Riazi, and Carolyn A. Ecelbarger. “Insulin’s impact on renal sodium transport and blood pressure in health, obesity, and diabetes.” American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology (2007).
(2) Physiologic Effects of Insulin, Feb. 2019, www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/endocrine/pancreas/insulin_phys.html.
(3) Ojiako, Okey Alphonsus, and Paul Chidoka Chikezie. “Blood Na+/K+ and Cl-Levels of Hyperglycemic Rats Administered with Traditional Herbal Formulations.” Pharmacognosy Communications 5.2 (2015): 140-5.
(4) Harvey, Cliff J. D. C., Grant M. Schofield, and Micalla Williden. “The use of nutritional supplements to induce ketosis and reduce symptoms associated with keto-induction: a narrative review.” PeerJ 6 (2018): e4488.
About the Author
Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.