Atkins, detox, keto and low carb are the buzzwords on health and fitness forums, but what does that actually mean? All of these are diets, and among them one method seems promising: lose weight without carbohydrates. With the renunciation of carbohydrates, the pounds should just tumble. You are now wondering what else you can eat and what you should be full of? No worries!
In the following we would like to give you an understanding of the function of carbohydrates in our body and why it makes sense to avoid or limit them. We would also like to show you that, unlike other diets, avoiding carbohydrates is suitable for everyday use and how versatile losing weight without carbohydrates can be.
the essentials in brief
- Carbohydrates can be divided into simple and complex carbohydrates and are processed differently by our body. They are also the main supplier for supplying our muscles, organs and brain with energy.
- Low carb or no carb? Strictly avoiding carbohydrates is effective in the short term, but it also comes with risks. The long-term switch to low-carb is therefore healthier and more effective in the long term. Farewell to the yo-yo effect!
- Switching to low carb is easier than you think and can easily be incorporated into everyday life. Thanks to cleverly swapped foods, you can save a lot of carbohydrates without giving them up completely.
Definition: What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates (saccharides) are formed by photosynthesis in plants and consist of a combination of carbon, water and oxygen. Depending on their composition, carbohydrates or sugar molecules are divided into simple, double and multiple sugars. For the sake of simplicity, however, we will only distinguish between simple and complex carbohydrates in the following.
The longer the molecular chain, the more complex a carbohydrate is.
When losing weight, the total energy intake during the day must be considered. The composition of the food also plays an important role. Because in addition to the energy content, the nutrient content is also decisive for success. Basically, your diet consists of three major groups of nutrients: fats , proteins and carbohydrates.
Background: What you should know about losing weight without carbohydrates
Reducing your weight, especially in the long term, does not seem easy. Long-term and healthy weight loss is usually accompanied by a change in diet. Sure, there are diets that lead to quick success, but the results are usually short-lived.
Sooner or later the food cravings will come. In the next paragraphs we would like to explain to you what is important when losing weight without carbohydrates, what side effects there are and what the "dos and don'ts" are.
What do carbohydrates do in your body?
Carbohydrates are unpopular when it comes to shedding unwanted pounds. Even if they take on important functions in the body. However, for this very reason, they are among the most important nutrients, along with fats and proteins.
The carbohydrates provide your nervous system, muscles and brain with the necessary energy to get you through the day and be productive. Divided into simple and complex carbohydrates, they each have a different effect on your body:
- Simple carbohydrates cause blood sugar to spike and energy is released directly. They are found in candy, white bread and fast food, among other things. But beware! Weight gain occurs and the feeling of satiety does not last long.
- Complex carbohydrates are harder to break down, and this keeps blood sugar steady. This helps to provide your body with sustainable energy. These carbohydrates can be found, for example, in whole grain products and legumes. The feeling of satiety lasts longer.
Carbohydrates are not inherently bad.
Nowadays, carbohydrates can be found in almost all foods and ready meals, especially the simple ones. Your body breaks down the carbohydrates into glucose, which is carried around the body via the blood with the help of insulin. If all organs, muscles and your brain are already sufficiently supplied with energy, insulin not only inhibits fat burning, but also promotes fat deposits in the cells. The result is unloved love handles.
Nevertheless, you should not completely avoid carbohydrates. This entails some risks and puts additional strain on your body because it then has to produce energy on its own. Therefore, it is better to use complex carbohydrates. You can find out what happens if you don't eat any carbohydrates at all and where the body gets the necessary energy from below.
Lose weight without carbohydrates - Which carbohydrates should you avoid?
Carbohydrates are found in almost all foods. After we have already distinguished between simple and complex carbohydrates. This raises the question of which foods contain the "good" carbohydrates and which foods should be avoided.
You shouldn't do without them entirely, especially if you're on a long-term low-carbohydrate diet. The following table should give you an overview of which foods get the green light and which don't.
|Whole grains, legumes, fish, seafood, meat, eggs, and vegetables||White bread, fast food, ready meals, sweets, salty snacks|
Long-chain (complex) carbohydrates are more important because they take longer for the body to break down. This keeps your blood sugar constant and increases more slowly. As a result, you stay full longer and prevent food cravings.
What happens if you don't eat any carbs at all?
Nutrients are divided into essential and non-essential. In other words, substances that the body can produce itself and those that cannot. Carbohydrates are non-essential nutrients. With a carbohydrate deficiency, your body is able to use other nutrients, such as fats and proteins, to generate energy.
If you strictly avoid carbohydrates, a ketogenic diet, your body gains the necessary energy from ketone bodies instead of carbohydrates. Ketone bodies are primarily formed in the liver. Ketone bodies are a molecular compound of fat and
Amino acids and, like carbohydrates, are regulated by insulin. (1,2)
Their formation is essential because, along with glucose (carbohydrates), they are the only source of energy for the brain. Their formation is set in motion by fasting or lack of carbohydrates.
Avoiding carbohydrates completely robs our body of the drive it needs to continue to perform well. Cognitive abilities also decline. (Image Source: Adrian Swancar / Unsplash)
Diets without any carbohydrates achieve faster and good results compared to a low-carb diet, but not in the long term. The body works on the back burner and as a result, food cravings are not uncommon.
Why does the body make ketone bodies instead of using existing fat deposits?
The body will always primarily use glucose from the blood as an energy supplier, after which it accesses reserves from the muscles and liver. Only then are fat reserves used.
The fat reserves are only used last, since the breakdown and transport of fatty acids involves several intermediate steps and takes longer. Another reason is that fatty acids don't get into the brain. Ketone bodies, on the other hand, do; they are also water-soluble and can therefore be transported quickly.
What Foods Can You Eat Without Carbs When Losing Weight?
We have already mentioned here and there which foods you should avoid and which are good. In the following tables we would like to give you a selection of low-carbohydrate foods depending on the food group. You can include these in your diet plan.
You will definitely miss a few foods, but the tables should only serve as a small overview. To get a comprehensive overview of all or specific foods, you can easily check this on the Internet. But you will see that the selection is not as small as initially thought.
|fish per 100 g||carbohydrates|
Fish usually has no carbohydrates. Seafood, mussels and crustaceans, on the other hand, do.
|meat per 100 g||carbohydrates|
|Turkey / Chicken||0g|
Be careful with processed meat and cold cuts! Sugar is often added to improve flavor and extend shelf life. The following are suitable for a vegetarian or vegan diet: tofu, seitan, unripe spelt and legumes.
|Cheese per 100 g||carbohydrates|
Most cheeses have no carbohydrates. However, the situation is different with soft cheeses such as feta, mozzarella or gouda.
|fruit per 100 g||carbohydrates|
Fruit always comes with carbohydrates, but these are small. Fruit also provides important vitamins, minerals and fiber.
|Vegetables per 100 g||carbohydrates|
Similar to fruit, vegetables are usually low in carbohydrates. However, this is comparatively low and provides your body with important vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Which dishes are suitable for losing weight without carbohydrates?
Well then... enough about important functions, food and what else to consider. We want to give you a few suggestions on what you can serve up great. Here are our recipe suggestions for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Omelet with mushrooms, spinach or asparagus and some grated parmesan or other hard cheese
- Yoghurt or quark with fresh fruit and crunchy seeds or nuts
- Almond flour pancakes with berries
Pancakes can be decorated with seasonal berries or other fruit; at will. Nut butter is also allowed. (Image source: Alexandra Kusper / Unsplash)
- Poke bowl with vegetables and a protein of your choice
- Cauliflower pizza with tomato sauce and vegetables of your choice
- Shakshuka - an Israeli dish made with tomatoes, peppers, onions, spices and eggs
There are no limits to your Poke Bowl! All your favorite ingredients can be combined here. With protein, vegetarian or even vegan. (Image Source: Jonathan Borba / Unsplash)
- Burger with sweet potato fries - use large lettuce or portobello mushrooms as a substitute for the burger bun
- Zucchini or eggplant lasagne - vegetables instead of pasta plates
- Roasted vegetables with a protein of your choice (e.g. chicken or salmon)
Oven vegetables are not only a wonderful way to use up your leftover vegetables, they also taste good. (Image Source: Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash)
Of course, you can also eat the recipe suggestions for other meals than indicated and vary the individual ingredients as you like. It is important that the ingredients are low in carbohydrates or even free of carbohydrates and that you like them. This is the only way to stay on the ball in the long term and achieve your goal.
What side effects and risks do you have to be prepared for when losing weight without carbohydrates?
As with any one-sided or reduced diet, there are side effects and risks, especially in the long run. Especially with a strict renunciation of carbohydrates. In addition, such a diet or change in diet is not suitable for everyone. If you have a pre-existing or medical condition, you should discuss this type of diet or dietary change with your doctor or nutritionist.(3)
Headaches, listlessness, lack of concentration or a bad mood can occur, especially during the adjustment phase. But once your body has adjusted to the reduced carbohydrate intake, the side effects disappear after a few days.
The diet without carbohydrates is an extreme form and not suitable for everyone. This can lead to a lack of important vitamins, minerals and trace elements . Fruit and vegetables in particular should not be neglected despite carbohydrates. They provide these important nutrients.
A low carb diet is suitable for overweight, normal weight and slim people. This lifestyle not only breaks down excess fat reserves, but also improves blood values. Not least thanks to the avoidance of sugary foods and drinks.
The more muscles, the more carbohydrates the body needs.
For athletes or those with a high training intensity, a low-carbohydrate diet is not suitable. This is where carbohydrates are needed to supply the muscles with energy. Carbohydrates are also needed to regenerate the muscles so that they can quickly regain their strength. (4)
High consumption of salty foods, such as cheese or sausage, increases blood pressure. Possible side effects include headaches, fatigue, cramps and constipation. Too much protein can also pose a risk for kidney disease. An ailing kidney cannot filter as much protein as a healthy one. (5)
What are the benefits of losing weight without carbohydrates?
Bread, pasta, candy, fast food - access to simple carbohydrates is easier than ever. An unbalanced diet and too little exercise in combination with high carbohydrate and sugar consumption have increasingly led to overweight and adiposity (obesity) in Germany over the years. (6,7,8)
In contrast to other diets, with low carb you can lose weight without major restrictions, tiresome counting of calories and expensive ingredients. The diet can be easily integrated into your everyday life and allows you to continue going out to eat with friends. In the following paragraphs you will find out why this eating style can be easily integrated into your everyday life and what other advantages there are.
As with all diets, you also have to do without certain foods with low carb, but only within limits. You'll need to adjust your foods and swap out some, but you don't need fancy ingredients. Instead of counting calories or weighing your ingredients, simply eat less of certain foods. Thus, the diet is easy to implement and can also be integrated into your everyday life in the long term.
Be patient, the pounds will drop!
The easy integration into everyday life makes this weight loss method healthy and effective in the long term. The successes and how quickly they occur vary from person to person. Obese or overweight people lose a lot of water in the beginning and get quick results initially.
With slim people it can take a little longer before the first changes are noticeable. Regular sport to support also plays a part in the success. But no matter what conditions you start with, this is about constant long-term success without a yo-yo effect.
Lose weight without giving up going to a restaurant or meeting friends. Low-carb can easily be integrated into your life. (Image Source: Toa Heftiba / Unsplash)
Other benefits of this form of diet include better blood counts (9,10), improved skin texture, and consistent blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates stimulate sebum production and lead to impure skin and pimples. By reducing and increasing the intake of complex carbohydrates, your complexion improves at the same time. (11)
The constant blood sugar level ensures a low insulin level in the body. This can activate the growth hormone somatropin, a natural fat-burning hormone. (12) This is how you kill two with one stone!
Lose weight without carbohydrates: The best tips & tricks for a successful result
Every beginning is difficult and carbohydrates are lurking everywhere. The most important thing is to see carbohydrates not as a filler but as a side dish and to distinguish between simple and complex carbohydrates. The following tips & tricks should make it easier for you to get started or give you the decisive push you need to get started.
At the beginning, just pick out a few foods that you like and vary them with each other. In this way, you can still look forward to a delicious meal and don't immediately fall back into old behavior patterns. Furthermore, this is good for your intestines, so that they are not overstimulated. Little by little you can try out new recipes and, if necessary, discover new foods for yourself.
Spice up dishes with spices and water with a slice of lemon.
Sugar is a flavor carrier, but is omitted with low carb. However, this does not mean that you have to give up good taste now. You can give your dishes the finishing touch with herbs and spices.
Many spices have positive effects on your body and can partially accelerate the metabolism and thus the burning of fat. (13) You can also spice up bland water with a slice of lemon, lime juice, ginger, cucumber or mint.
Who does not know it? Our body longs for what we deny it. Even a cozy evening on the sofa or with friends tempts us to eat sweet and salty snacks.
So that you don't reach for a bar of chocolate or a bag of chips, here are a few low-carb alternatives that you can eat with a clear conscience. For the evening or in between.
- dark chocolate
- nut butter
- Nuts and seeds (sunflower and pumpkin seeds)
- Vegetable sticks with hummus or guacamole
- Chips made from kale, lentil or pea flour
- roasted chickpeas
Of course, this is only a selection. Some of these alternatives are likely to be a little more expensive than your usual snacks, but are healthier. As with meals, you can combine these healthy snacks together. There are no limits to your imagination! Try a sandwich of apple slices with cashew butter or roast cooked chickpeas in the oven with a little oil and paprika powder.
Clever bread alternatives when losing weight without carbohydrates
Bread rolls for breakfast, bread sandwiches during the lunch break and the classic supper - Garde in Germany bread is part of everyday life and it is difficult to imagine life without it. But now this is no longer the case with a low-carb diet. But what if you can't do without bread at all? No worries! There are also alternatives here:
- Swap out your white bread for whole grain bread . This won't save you the most carbs, but it's the first step to a low-carb diet and easy to do.
- Protein bread has been around for a number of years. This bread is made entirely or primarily from rolled oats, nuts and seeds. Compared to wheat flour, oat flakes have fewer carbohydrates and at the same time provide valuable fiber.
- If possible, you can use lettuce or cabbage leaves as a bread substitute . Wrap your burger in lettuce, use lettuce boats as a taco shell, or roll up your wrap with cabbage.
As you can see, there are alternatives and you don't have to do without bread entirely. Since lettuce is more unstable than bread, we recommend using the largest possible leaves. So you can, for example, wrap your burger more often.
Cabbage leaves, on the other hand, are a bit more stable, but do not go well with every dish. Our tip: make yourself a sweet wrap. You can spread the cabbage leaf with nut butter and spice it up with nuts, seeds or shavings of dark chocolate.
Losing weight without carbohydrates is trendy - swop yourself healthy too!
The easiest way to cut down on carbs without cutting them out entirely is to swap them out for lower-carb options. The exchange cannot always be one-to-one, but it will be worth it. You can see our top 5 carbohydrate sources that you can easily swap out in the table below.
|Bread||Rice cakes, protein bread|
|Noodles / spaghetti||Spaghetti made from zucchini or carrots|
|potatoes||Cauliflower, Celery, Squash|
|wheat flour||almond or coconut flour|
We deliberately left out the exchange for whole grain products in the table because we want to show you what other alternatives you have. With a bit of creativity, you can save a lot of carbohydrates.
Does Meal Time Matter When Losing Carbs Without Carbs?
Not really. Forgoing a complete meal or limiting the time of meals has an effect on our body, but only plays a limited role. Rather, it depends on the total daily intake of carbohydrates. During fasting periods, especially in the morning, the body remains in the fat burning phase longer, but that is not really healthy.
Your body and brain need carbohydrates to provide energy. Not doing so can lead to headaches and poor concentration. Another disadvantage of not eating at certain times is cravings or uncontrolled eating of many carbohydrates.
Access to carbohydrates, especially the simple ones, is now easier than ever and is found in many foods. As a result, there are more and more people with weight problems, some of them pathological. Carbohydrates should actually only serve as a side dish to fill you up, but they often form the main part of our meals. As a result, there are a variety of diets to help shed unwanted fat. One method in particular stands out: losing weight without carbohydrates.
We looked at the function of carbohydrates in our body, pointed out alternatives and found that the right mixture and the total daily intake are important. Avoiding carbohydrates serves as an effective diet in the short term, but can also be easily integrated into your everyday life as a long-term change in diet.
In the case of the latter and especially in people with previous illnesses, a doctor should be consulted, since this type of diet can also have side effects such as malnutrition.
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- Brouns F. Overweight and diabetes prevention: is a low-carbohydrate-high-fat diet recommended? Eur J Nutr. 2018 Jun;57(4):1301-1312. doi: 10.1007/s00394-018-1636-y. Epub 2018 Mar 14. Erratum in: Eur J Nutr. 2019 Apr 16;: PMID: 29541907; PMCID: PMC5959976. Source
- Bravata DM, Sanders L, Huang J, Krumholz HM, Olkin I, Gardner CD, Bravata DM. Efficacy and safety of low-carbohydrate diets: a systematic review. JAMA. 2003 Apr 9;289(14):1837-50. doi: 10.1001/jama.289.14.1837. PMID: 12684364. Source
- Biomedical blog "Gluten-free nutrition, low-carb and paleo diets" 2015. Source
- Meyer, J. et al. (Ed.). Professional Association of German Internists eV Internists in the network "Tips for kidney patients" 2017. Source
- Biomedical Blog "Why We Overeat and How to Stop It" 2014. Source
- Assmann Foundation for Prevention "Data and facts on overweight and obesity in Germany" 2020. Source
- Robert Koch Institute "Overweight and Obesity". Statistics study DEGS1, survey 2008-2011. 2014 Source
- Ballard KD, Quann EE, Kupchak BR, Volk BM, Kawiecki DM, Fernandez ML, Seip RL, Maresh CM, Kraemer WJ, Volek JS. Dietary carbohydrate restriction improves insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, microvascular function, and cellular adhesion markers in individuals taking statins. Nutr Res. 2013 Nov;33(11):905-12. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2013.07.022. Epub 2013 Sep 18. PMID: 24176230. Source
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