When you reduce your carb intake, you switch your metabolism from being a good sugar burner to being a good fat burner. But, that switch does not happen overnight.
If you’re not prepared for the transition, or you make eating mistakes, you can miss the mark and not get the progress. In this post, I share five common low carb diet mistakes.
Low Carb Diet Mistakes Summary
- Eating low carb and low fat. Do this, and you’ll feel hungry and tired.
- Taking the edge off with a carb snack. Do this, and you’ll delay your progress.
- Hidden & forgotten carbs. Carbs find their way into many ‘healthy’ foods. Be sure to read the ingredients.
- Carb confusion. Foods can be made to look low carb by flattening them (i.e., tortillas), showing color (i.e., green pasta), or adding fiber or sugar alcohols to lower the net carbs.
- Not having a plan. We do not live in a society that caters to a low-carb lifestyle. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Low-Carb Dieting 101- 5 Common Mistakes [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- Why a low-carb diet is helpful for getting your body into a fat-burning state.
- 5 common low-carb diet mistakes we make!
- What to avoid on food labels.
5 Common Low Carb Diet Mistakes
If you want to lose weight, you want your body to burn fat, not sugar. In my post titled, Why Low Carb and Keto Diets Work, I explained how a low-carb diet helps your body get into that fat-burning state.
However, your body will not make this metabolic switch if you are making one of the following mistakes.
Mistake #1: Eating Low Carb AND Low Fat
That leads to no energy and cravings that can make life miserable. Here is why this is a problem.
You get your energy from calories. The three nutrients that supply the majority of calories are carbs, fats, and protein. Your body likes to save protein for jobs like building and repair, so when it comes to making energy, it usually passes on protein and prefers to burn carbs and fats.
If you reduce your intake of carbs and also eat a low-fat diet, you have robbed your body of both sources of energy.
You may be thinking, why doesn’t your body use body fat to make up for the low carb and fat intake? After all, most of us are carrying around tens of thousands of calories of fat.
The problem is that your body must learn how to become a better fat burner, and the way you train it to do so is by eating fat.
Your cells have powerhouses called mitochondria that can take in either sugars or fatty acids and convert them to ATP, which is the energy currency of your cells.
Those conversions require different pathways and enzymes. As you reduce carbs and increase dietary fat, your mitochondria become more efficient at burning free fatty acids.
Mistake #2: Taking the Edge Off with a Carb Snack
Even if you are eating enough fat and keeping carbs low, the transition to becoming a good fat-burner will take some time.
The switch to a low carb, high fat diet may be very different than the diet your body is used to, so you may be in for some rough days as your body moves through this transition. These days may leave you feeling low on energy and craving carbs.
The trap is that eating a carbohydrate will make you feel better quickly. For example, let’s say that you’ve been low carb for two days, and you are feeling low on energy.
Then, your coworker walks up to you with a tray full of cupcakes. If you eat one, you’ll have a boost in energy. You will take a step backward in your transition toward becoming a better fat burner.
Sugar will always be an energy source for your body. That is not a bad thing. You want to live in a hybrid body that can easily shift between burning carbs and burning fat. We are not born hybrids, we are born with a good sugar-burning engine.
You have to train your body to become a good fat burner, and that is done by staying away from the carbs strictly for at least a few weeks while at the same time boosting your fat intake.
Mistake #3: Missing Hidden and Forgotten Carbs
Sometimes carbohydrates are not as easy to identify as a plate full of cupcakes. There is hidden sugar in a lot of products, including low-fat yogurt, which can have as much sugar as a standard size Hershey’s Chocolate Bar.
Some salad dressings have sugar or high-fructose corn syrup listed as the first ingredient, which means it is the most plentiful ingredient. My rule is that if sugar is one of the top three ingredients, don’t eat it.
Other items that we forget have carbohydrates in them include soda, sweet tea, flavored coffee drinks, juice, steak sauces, and regular peanut butter.
Mistake #4: Carb Confusion
Food manufactures have noticed the demand for low carb food options. In my opinion, they sometimes meet this demand in deceptive ways.
For instance, bread is bread regardless if it comes in the form of a bun, flatbread, or a tortilla. A tortilla is nice and thin, so you might be lead to believe that it is lower in carbs. That is not necessarily a truth.
For instance, at Subway restaurants, a six-inch roast beef sandwich on a wheat bun contains 45 grams of carbohydrates. If you get the same roast beef on the spinach wrap, you’ll consume even more carbs – 53 grams.
The same goes for thin-crust pizza and foods that we easily recognize as carbs like pasta. While you could argue that pasta that is made out of things like whole wheat or soybeans has some nutritional advantage over flour pasta, it is still pasta, and it is still loaded with carbs.
Net Carbs vs. Total Carbs
There is also confusion over whether you should count total or net carbs. Basically, if you elect to count net carbs, you need to subtract the fiber and sugar alcohols in the food from the total carb count.
Food manufacturers can put those additives into food to artificially lower the net carb count. If you are counting net carbs and not total carbs, there is a chance you are getting more carbs than you bargained for. I recommend counting total carbs. It is straightforward and simple.
Mistake #5: Not Having a Plan
The adage, ‘When you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ comes into practice when you switch to a low-carb diet. We do not live in a society that caters to a low-carb lifestyle. If you do not know what you are going to eat for the day, and then you walk out the door, you are venturing into a sea of temptation.
Take some time to identify restaurants with low-carb friendly meals. You can also pack a low-carb snack like raw almonds to act as an emergency snack to get you through unexpected situations. When you plan for the unexpected, you end up much happier with your results.
Eating a low carb diet is an effective way to lose weight. To be successful, be sure to eat a sufficient amount of healthy fats, allow your body time to transition to your new diet, read labels, be cautious of foods that are falsely made to look low carb, and have a plan.
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!
About the Author:
Dr. Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.