Low Carb

How Does Cutting Out Carbs Feel?

Max Carmody, MSc

For some people, cutting out carbs results in increased energy, reduced hunger, and feeling stronger, while for others it can result in constipation, headache, and muscle cramps.

I have some experience with low carb diets myself. I lost probably about 25-30 pounds on one a year or so ago. It was the “diet of hope” that my mom told me about. It is a pretty restrictive diet, high in protein, and very low in carbs. You’re only supposed to eat a little bit of cheese twice a week or so, and you’re not supposed to eat things like nuts until you get to the later, more lenient stage of the diet. No fruits are allowed besides berries. It involves heavy protein, and some fat, like avocados.

I did pretty well on this diet. I did find it to be a bit restrictive at times, but I didn’t follow it extremely strictly, I was a bit lenient on myself. I would always have 1 cheat day after 6 days, usually on the weekend, where I let myself eat whatever I wanted.

More recently, I followed the pretty standard low carb diet in this book, and had a lot of success with that. I lost almost 6 pounds in 5 days. It was fairly restrictive, but did allow some carbs still. I didn’t feel too deprived of carbs because I got to eat Special K for breakfast, and quite a bit of basmati rice for dinner. I cheated a little bit with wine too even, but still lost the weight.

My Experience

Personally, cutting out carbs was pretty easy for me. I mean I do love carbs, I love pizza and pasta and bread and potatoes, and those are some of my favorite foods. I also love junk food and fast food more than is healthy for me. But I didn’t find giving those things up to be terribly difficult. Everybody is different though, my mom told me that when she was on the diet of hope she had felt very deprived. She told me that if she’d tried the other diet I was on she would feel deprived too.

I never experienced any negative side effects from cutting out carbs. I know that some people experience a lot of fatigue, and other bad side effects, especially on extremely low carb keto diets when they get the “keto flu”. However, that was never my experience. I never had a single negative side effect.

To be honest, I haven’t noticed a huge difference in the way I feel cutting out carbs. But if there is any difference at all, I would say it is more of a positive one. I think that I might feel slightly better and have more energy. A big part of this is probably that a lot of the time when I’m not on a diet, I eat pretty poorly. I eat a lot of junk food. But these diets often prescribe lots of veggies, and lean proteins, and you’re not supposed to eat refined carbs usually, fast food has a lot of those. So part of the reason why I feel better could be just because I’m eating healthier in general.

Sometimes after a high carb meal, I do however, feel sluggish and bloated. Not eating all the carbs means that I don’t get these feelings any more. What I most liked about a low carb diet, compared to a low fat, or calorie counting though, was that I never felt hungry. I hate feeling hungry, and that makes it so much more difficult for me to stick to a diet. With cutting carbs, you can generally eat as much as you want until you’re full, as long as it’s not carbs, protein and fat are fine.

Negative Feelings

Although my personal experiences have been more positive, as are those of a lot of people, it is possible to feel bad from heavily cutting carbs, too. This especially happens in the beginning, after first starting a low carb diet. 

Suddenly and drastically cutting carbs can cause symptoms like constipation, headache, and muscle cramps in some people. 

When you cut carbs enough, to about 10-50 carbs, your body goes into a state of ketosis. Ketosis is a process when your body doesn’t have enough carbs to burn for energy. It burns fat, and makes things called ketones, which you can use for fuel. You can get the “keto flu” which can lead to “weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and headaches”.

Positive Feelings

Everybody reacts differently to cutting out carbs. Some people report positive feelings associated with it.

When you cut carbs, you may feel less hungry. This is because protein, fiber, and healthy fats are the things that satiate hunger, not calories. Simple refined carbs lack these things, and can leave you getting hungrier quicker, if they form a large portion of your diet. This happened to me

You may feel stronger than before. Simple carbs lack protein, which are the building block of protein. When you give your body protein and nutrients, it receives what it needs to grow without needing additional calories.

When you cut carbs, you may feel more energized. This happened to me. Simple carbs can cause a lot of ups and downs. Sugar is a simple carb. Simple carbs are digested quickly and immediately send bursts of glucose into the bloodstream. If you switch to a small amount of complex carbs, you may get steadier energy than from simple carbs. 

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