A carb-free diet is an extreme version of a low-carb diet where the diet is focused on protein, healthy fats, and fiber.
To provide energy to the body and brain, our bodies usually use carbohydrates (glucose). Their reduction leads to a decrease in the production of insulin in the body, as a result of which, as an alternative source, it begins to break down proteins (muscle deposits) and stored fats. This leads to rapid weight loss.
Depending on age, weight, physical activity and goals (weight loss, muscle mass gain, body drying), the body requires a different amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates (BJU). According to experts, the average daily consumption is as follows:
- 45-65% carbohydrates
- 20-35% fat
- 10–35% protein
With a low-carb diet, fats become the main source of calories and carbohydrates are reduced to 2-10%.
The general principles of a carbohydrate-free diet are as follows:
- The amount of carbohydrates consumed is reduced from 0 to 30 grams per day.
- Make sure you drink at least 8-12 glasses of water a day so that toxins are removed from the body.
- Since most of the diet is made up of proteins and fats, you need to focus on their benefits. It is important to reduce the consumption of trans fats and not to abuse saturated ones. For example, a 2018 study argues that low-carb diets that favored plant-based proteins and fats over animal sources are associated with lower mortality. Think about not only shortening your life, but also your long-term health.
- Avoiding carbohydrates completely is next to impossible, as they are found in many foods. But first of all, those with a glycemic index above 50 should be avoided.
The most popular type of low-carb diet today is the keto diet, in which the ratio of BJU is 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrate. In addition, one of the most famous and popular is the Ducan diet, the basis of the diet in which proteins are found.
Advantages and disadvantages of a carbohydrate diet
Any diet is limited and stressful, so before experimenting with nutrition, it's important to weigh all the pros and cons of your future regimen.
Benefits of a carbohydrate-free diet
- Replacing carbohydrates with protein affects the hunger hormone ghrelin, which makes you feel full and can reduce snacking and daily calorie intake.
- Weight loss in the first few weeks will be rapid. This is mainly due to a reduction in fluid intake. Foods rich in carbohydrates not only contain a lot of water, but also excrete it through the metabolism. This is why a carbohydrate-free diet is often chosen by those looking to lose weight fast. A study of 79 obese adults found that in 6 months those who limited their carbohydrate intake to less than 30 grams per day lost about 4 kg more than those who restricted their fat intake.
- Carbohydrate intake has a significant impact on blood sugar and insulin levels. Excess glucose is linked to many health problems such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Low-carb diets reduce the likelihood of these events.
- According to research, a carbohydrate-free diet can reduce symptoms of Alzheimer's and slow its progression.
Disadvantages of a carbohydrate-free diet
- By reducing the amount of carbohydrates consumed, insulin levels decrease and the hormone glucagon increases, which causes the body to burn fat. However, when the body switches to this form of fat burning, a process called ketosis occurs and compounds called ketones build up in the body. This process can cause side effects including nausea, headache, bad breath, fever, sleep disturbance, etc. Additionally, fatigue and sleepiness are common. Because of this, problems arise in everyday life, including significantly reducing the number of training sessions and impairing the quality of their performance.
- A low-carb diet inevitably leads to a lack of fiber. Much research suggests that the action of beneficial bacteria in our gut when we consume dietary fiber is essential for overall health. Bacteria work on the fiber to form short-chain fatty acids that prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, maintain gut health, and have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. Furthermore, it is difficult for such a diet to provide the body with a sufficient amount of vitamins, especially groups B and C, and minerals such as potassium.
- Prolonged adherence to a diet can increase the risk of high cholesterol, osteoporosis, abnormal heart rhythms, and kidney problems.
- The most common side effects of a carbohydrate-free diet are constipation or indigestion.
Who is a low-carb diet not suitable for?
- Those with diabetes or chronic medical conditions that require close monitoring of their blood sugar levels.
- People with problems with the cardiovascular system, blood pressure and the gastrointestinal tract.
- Pregnant and lactating women.
- Elderly, adolescents and people with a low body mass index.
- People with emotional or psychological problems related to food, including eating disorders.
Before trying a carb-free diet, consult a professional to make sure it doesn't hurt you.
General guidelines for following a carbohydrate-free diet
Low-carb foods mainly include oils: coconut, ghee or ghee, olive (virgin), avocado oil, etc.
While all oils and fats are 0 or minimal in carbohydrates, not all of them are healthy. Some oils are processed and contain chemicals. Additionally, most vegetable oils contain a lot of omega-6 fatty acids, which can cause inflammation if consumed excessively. These fats can also inhibit the anti-inflammatory activity of other fats, such as omega-3s.
For this reason, it is best to avoid oils rich in omega-6 fatty acids such as soy, corn, canola, and peanut butter.
Since the diet will be mainly composed of meat, which consists mainly of proteins and fats, make sure it is of high quality and ideally organic, without additives, because their main purpose is to enhance the taste and prolong the shelf life of the product. Try not to buy processed meat products. Many manufacturers add sugar, spices and flavorings to increase the amount of carbohydrates.
Although dairy products contain carbohydrates (sugar in the form of lactose), most of the time they are negligible. Sour milk can be used to obtain protein, calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Milk and yogurt are the most carbohydrates, but if you're not ready to completely cut them out, choose products with no added sweeteners or flavorings, and it's important to monitor the number of servings.
Particular attention should be paid to food processing. For a diet, use recipes that involve boiling, stewing, steaming. Cooking is useful. And it is better to completely refuse fried food.
You also need to choose foods with a low glycemic index (up to 50). They are loaded with slow carbs that take a long time to break down and give you a feeling of fullness. In general, it is worth remembering that they gain weight not from carbohydrates, but from a high-calorie diet and sedentary lifestyle.
What foods to eat and avoid on a carbohydrate-free diet?
Healthy low-carb foods
- Low-carb meat and animal products: chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, pork, eggs, butter, cheese
- Seafood: salmon, catfish, cod, shrimp, sardines, herring, anchovies, trout
- Seasonings: herbs and spices
- Low calorie drinks: water, black coffee and tea
- Nuts and seeds (low in carbohydrates): almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachios, cashews
- Non-starchy, high-fat vegetables and fruits: broccoli, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, cauliflower, leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, celery, asparagus, mushrooms, coconut, avocado
Foods to avoid
A carbohydrate-free diet severely restricts and excludes several food groups, including:
- Cereals and cereals: rice, barley, quinoa, wheat, bread, pasta
- Sweets and pastries: cakes, cookies, candies
- Carbonated and sweetened drinks
- Fruits and berries: apples, oranges, bananas, kiwis, pears
- Starchy vegetables: peas, corn, zucchini, potatoes
- Legumes: beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas
- Dairy products: milk and yogurt
- Seasonings with added sugar: ketchup, barbecue sauce, salad dressings
- Alcohol: beer, wine, spirits, sweet cocktails, port, vermouth
Carbohydrate-free menu for one week
Despite the fact that the list of available foods is significantly reduced, the diet can be varied. An example of a menu for a carbohydrate-free diet by day.
Breakfast: omelette with mushrooms
Lunch: beef broth
Dinner: Baked turkey fillet with asparagus
Breakfast: flaxseed bread, guacamole and poached egg
Lunch: miso soup
Dinner: baked zucchini with cheese
Breakfast: salad with salmon and avocado
Lunch: broth with chicken meatballs
Dinner: Pasta with bacon and cream sauce
Breakfast: salad with chicken, cucumber, feta and spinach
Lunch: Zucchini spaghetti with steamed chicken cutlet
Dinner: Peppers stuffed with seafood
Breakfast: Curd casserole
Lunch: mushroom soup
Dinner: steak and green vegetables
Breakfast: egg with bacon
Lunch: brown rice with trout
Dinner: stewed cabbage with meat
Breakfast: Oatmeal with some almonds and hard-boiled eggs
Lunch: boiled chicken with peas
Dinner: seafood salad and green vegetables
Remember, a complete and long-term ban on carbohydrate consumption is extreme and extreme eating habits are not good for you. A proper diet should be balanced and contain all the vitamins and nutrients necessary for the body to function effectively. Experts have mixed reviews about a low-carb and low-carb diet, but they all agree that such a diet should be short-term and should be adhered to for no more than 2 consecutive months.