What Happens When You Eat No Carbs?

Reducing the amount of carbohydrates that enter your body will affect your metabolism
Reducing the amount of carbohydrates that enter your body will affect your metabolism (Image: Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Many people have either experienced or been on a low-carbohydrate diet without really knowing how it affected their body. Low-carb diets work by reducing the amount of sugars that enter your body. However, there are negative side effects that should be considered before embarking on a low-carb diet. Consult your doctor before starting a low-carb diet to be sure you have all the facts.

Carbohydrate Primer

It is virtually impossible for a person to eliminate every carbohydrate from their diet because there are still carbohydrates in almost everything you eat -- even those things that are high in protein and in vegetables. Carbohydrates are organic compounds that consist of three of the most common elements on Earth: carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. All sugars are comprised of carbohydrates, although in various forms and different chemical arrangements. For example, table sugar and whole grain wheat are both carbohydrates, but are vastly different in nutritional value. They serve as energy for the body when processed on the molecular level and used by cells. Hence, blood sugar is directly related to the amount of carbohydrates you consume.

Going Cold Turkey

Living without an abundance of carbohydrates changes how your body burns the energy it has. It switches from burning the energy that is readily available -- from the bloodstream -- to energy that is stored in fat cells throughout your body. This is known as a ketogenic diet, commonly known as the Atkins Diet after Dr. Robert Atkins who popularized it in his 1972 book, "Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution," which did not become popular until the onset of the 21st Century. The ketogenic diet sets the body into a state of ketosis where the body converts fat into ketones that the brain can use for fuel when glucose stops being readily available through the blood sugar levels. Start eating an extremely limited amount of carbohydrates -- 25 grams or less -- and your body will start to convert fat into ketones.

Negative Side Effects

Participants on the ketosis diet have complained of several side effects, including constipation and higher cholesterol levels. This is because the calories a person burns when on a true low-carb diet is taken from fat at an astonishing level of 50 percent. Between 22 percent and 38 percent of those calories are from saturated fats. This is a concern for people who already have high levels of LDL cholesterol. It has been shown in recent studies to reduce the flexibility of blood vessels. On the aesthetic side of things, low-carb dieters complain of having bad breath. This is caused by the body switching to burning fats and proteins, and no amount of brushing or flossing will eliminate it entirely. Constipation is also a complaint of those who engage in ketosis, as a lot of fiber is eliminated from the diet with the eradication of whole grains.

Leaving the Diet

Many individuals who have experienced weight loss on the Atkins and other low-carbohydrate diets have stated that once they raised their carbohydrate levels they gain a good portion of the weight back that they have lost. Most nutritional experts agree that the best way to get off of a low-carb diet is to allow carbohydrates back into your diet slowly and not overindulge in the foods that you have been denying yourself. Don't immediately indulge in foods that are high in carbohydrates such as white floured sugary treats. Instead, watch your calorie intake and keep it low for the best results for your low-carbohydrate weight losses.

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