Food & Nutrition

This Is What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Eating Carbs

You’re getting sleepy

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“Carbohydrates are our number one source of energy,” says Gina Sam, MD, MPH, a New York City–based gastroenterologist. Compared with protein and fat, they are broken down most quickly into glucose, the stuff our bodies run on. So skimp on them and you might find yourself feeling lethargic. Check out these 16 low-carb diet mistakes you should never make.

You may feel more full

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Lots of people report feeling less hungry on low-carb diets despite eating fewer calories. Reason: If you’re eating high-quality sources of lean protein and healthy fats (the mono- and polyunsaturated kinds), your body takes longer to break down those nutrients than it takes with carbs. When you down a big bunch of carbs like a bagel, your pancreas dumps tons of insulin into your blood in response to the sudden sugar glut. This can cause extreme blood sugar spikes and drops that can lead to sudden, intense hunger or cravings. Filling up on protein and fat helps keep your blood sugar levels steady. The problem, says Jessica Crandall, RD, a certified diabetes educator, is that these kinds of diets are rarely sustainable, especially at extremes where you’re only eating 120 grams of carbohydrates or less a day.

You may lose weight

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People who stick to low-carb diets do tend to drop pounds—for a while, anyway. Some is water weight, says Crandall, and the rest comes from the fact that you’re decreasing the amounts of a significant source of calories in your diet. Carbs include grains, starchy vegetables, and sweets, and that makes up a lot of what we eat. But—insert sad trombone here—the weight will likely come back, she says. She regularly sees clients who lose 30 to 40 pounds on a low-carb plan, but when they come back in a year, they’ve regained 50. Learn about the many ways to have your cake and keep blood sugar levels steady, too.

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