Kelley Wyant
Article by: Kelley Wyant
Estimated 11 minutes read

Losing weight can be difficult. There are so many diets claiming that they help you lose tons of weight. You may be considering a low-carb or carb-restrictive diet and wonder whether these diets work.

Carb-restrictive diets can help you lose weight quickly, but they may not be the best solution for your overall health in the long term. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of a low-carb or no-carb diet. 

Low carb diet foods to avoid

What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates (carbs) are food nutrients that your body uses to turn into glucose or blood sugar to give you energy. You consume fiber, starches, and sugars to get carbohydrates. These macronutrients are essential to your body's functioning. Carbs are the primary source of fuel for your body. 

After eating carbs, your body breaks them down in the digestive system. Then, the carbs turn into glucose that your bloodstream absorbs. Your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin, which signals you for the glucose to go to your cells. Your liver or muscles then store any extra glucose. If you still have extra glucose, once those storage areas are full, the body changes glucose into fat. 

There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbs get digested quickly and spike your blood sugar. Overindulgence in foods with simple carbs such as candy, soda, sugar, honey, white pasta and rice, and refined breakfast cereal can lead to weight gain. These simple carbs also increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease.

Complex carbohydrates take longer for your body to break down. They contain more fiber, minerals, and vitamins that your body needs. They also are less likely to spike your blood sugar. According to the American Heart Association, foods that contain complex carbohydrates include legumes, fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains. 

There are pros and cons of carbohydrates. Carbs provide excellent and quick energy, but the disadvantage of carbohydrates is that too many can cause you to gain weight. So, controlling the types of carbohydrates you eat is essential to stay healthy. 

What is a Low-Carb Diet or a Carb-Restrictive Diet?

The USDA recommends people take in about 45-65% of their daily calories from carbohydrates. However, low-carb diets typically restrict carbohydrates, especially from grains, legumes, fruits, breads, sweets, pastas, and starchy vegetables. 

Many low-carb diets are much more restrictive in the early stages of the diet. Then, they become more lenient over time. With a low-carb diet, people only consume 26% or less of their daily calories from carbs, instead focusing more on proteins and nonstarchy vegetables. 

Many different types of low-carb diets have become popular in recent years, including keto and the Atkins diet. 

The idea behind these fad diets is that by lowering insulin production, the body will store less fat, leading to weight loss.

Pros and Cons of Low-Carb Diets

In the short term, a low-carb diet produces rapid weight loss, especially for the first 6-12 months after starting the diet. These low-carb diets also help to control blood sugar in the short term for people who have type 2 diabetes. There is also some evidence that low-carb diets, such as the keto diet, may reduce the risk of cancer. 

The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet that restricts carbohydrates to less than 50 grams a day. The keto diet works to induce nutritional ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state that occurs when the body is deficient in carbohydrates, so the body uses its fat stores using a chemical called ketones to produce energy.

Yet, the keto diet, initially developed for children who have epilepsy, was never meant to be a long-term diet. Still, people see the immediate results of the diet and promote it, making it more popular. However, these low-carb diets have several disadvantages. Many people on a very low carbohydrate diet will experience something dubbed the "keto flu," which includes symptoms of diarrhea, tiredness, cramps, and headaches.

Limiting simple and complex carbohydrates, especially those from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can result in a nutrient deficiency. Many of these complex carbohydrates contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that our bodies need.

Low-carb diets can also lead to brain fog, confusion, and irritability since the brain uses healthy carbohydrates to operate. These diets may also lead to constipation.

Keto diets also usually exchange carbohydrates with foods with more saturated fats. These can lead to an increase in bad cholesterol (LDL), increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and fatty liver. 

These diets are difficult to maintain in the long run, so the initial positive results are typically short-lived. 

What is a No-Carb Diet?

Another, even more extreme, diet is a no-carb diet, which eliminates almost all carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are in most foods. So, a no-carb diet focuses on consuming foods that are mostly made up of fat and protein, such as meat, fish, eggs, oil, and dairy products. 

This diet is very restrictive. According to how you choose to follow it, you may or may not eat nuts and seeds, non-starchy vegetables, and high-fat fruits (like avocado and coconut). These foods are high in fiber, which makes the number of digestive carbs minuscule. For drinks, people on a no-carb diet often have plain coffee or tea and water. 

A no-carb diet is even more restrictive than a ketogenic diet. 

Pros and Cons of No Carb Diets

Just as with low-carb diets, in the short term, you may experience weight loss by limiting your carbohydrate intake. You may even feel fuller by mainly eating protein, fiber, and fat, which can lead to eating fewer overall calories. This will lead to rapid weight loss at first. As with the low-carb diets, this is usually only effective for the first 6 months or so. 

When individuals restrict their carbohydrate intake, especially during the initial phase of a low-carb or no-carb diet, they often experience rapid weight loss, primarily due to the loss of water weight. Every gram of carbohydrates contains about 3 grams of water. Carbohydrates stored in the body as glycogen are bound to water molecules, and when these glycogen stores are depleted, the associated water is released, resulting in a reduction in water weight.

So, as you restrict your carb intake, you may reduce your fluid retention. Water weight, or edema, is a body's build-up of excess water or fluid. However, you can also reduce edema by decreasing salt intake, drinking more water, and exercising. 

Carbohydrate restriction may help to decrease blood triglyceride levels, control blood glucose, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome. 

Yet, the no-carb diet has side effects. It may also lower your energy and cause fatigue. It may lead to constipation and bowel irregularity. Also, people with no-carb diets may develop vitamin deficiencies. There is no evidence that this diet is beneficial in the long run. Studies are limited on the effects of prolonged no-carb dieting. 

This diet focuses on high protein intake and limits the other food groups. Some studies suggest that eating only animal proteins may lead to a shorter life expectancy. It is unclear how no-carb diets affect long-term health.

The Mediterranean diet

What is a High Carb Diet?

Alternatively, some diets focus on eating a higher amount of carbohydrates. The Mediterranean diet and DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) are two examples of this type of dieting. These diets encourage people to eat the upper end of the recommended 45-65% of their total calories from carbs. 

The type of high-carb dieting you do is what is important to consider. People who consume lots of carbs from soda, sweets, white rice, and grains may eat a lot of added sugar and little fiber. They don't generally feel as full or get all the necessary nutrients. This type of high-carb diet also carries several cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. 

Yet, if people consume a lot of plant-based carbs like whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables, they may end up losing weight because these foods are fiber-rich. Fiber is more filling and may help people to eat fewer calories. 

The Mediterranean diet focuses on plant-based foods and healthy fats. It limits sodium, simple carbs, and saturated fats. It encourages eating more omega-3 fatty acids from fish and favoring foods with high fiber and antioxidants.

The DASH diet is a healthy eating plan meant to treat high blood pressure and lower cholesterol. This diet limits sodium intake and focuses on foods rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein. 

The Pros and Cons of a High-Carb Diet

The high-carb Mediterranean diet has many health benefits. It may improve your overall heart health and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. It may also support a healthy body weight and lower your cholesterol levels. This diet also promotes a healthy balance of gut microbiota and lowers your risk for certain types of cancer. 

However, the Mediterranean diet may be costly and time-consuming to prepare and not ideal for weight loss. You may gain weight from eating additional fats and nuts. You may also have lower levels of iron or experience calcium loss from consuming fewer dairy products. Wine is also encouraged as part of the Mediterranean diet, but not all people should drink alcohol. 

The DASH diet is designed for lifelong wellness and is backed by several major health organizations. It is a flexible and accessible diet that provides nutritional balance and evidence-based health benefits.

Yet, it can be hard to maintain. You have to track your food intake and avoid convenience foods. The diet may also not be appropriate for everyone, especially people who experience hypotension. DASH diets are also not meant for weight loss. 

So, although there are a lot of benefits to high-carb diets, there are also some factors to consider.

Before starting any new diet, talking to your healthcare provider is essential. Additionally, a registered dietitian can help you create a diet plan encouraging a healthy body weight while promoting a balanced diet. 

What is the Best Way to Lose Weight?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), eating healthy, exercising regularly, and managing stress is the best way to lose weight. Gradual weight loss of 1- 2 pounds is typically associated with long-term healthier body weights than diets or programs that have to shed the pounds quickly.

To lose weight, you need to consult your doctor about your ideal healthy weight. Consider your lifestyle and health history and commit to losing weight. First, write down everything you eat on a typical day for a few days to see where you are. Also, keep track of how much physical activity you get. Then, look at your list and identify places to make a healthy swap to encourage weight loss. 

Then, set realistic goals and start with small changes. Get support from friends, family, organizations, or nutritionists to help keep you on track. It is ok if you occasionally experience setbacks. 

Continue to monitor your progress. Change your plan or goals as your lifestyle changes, and reward yourself (with non-food rewards) when you meet your goals. 

Low Testosterone and Weight Loss

As you begin your journey to a healthier lifestyle, speaking to your doctor to identify any obstacles is important. Diseases or disabilities may change the way you need to approach weight loss. 

Sometimes, losing weight may have to do with a hormone imbalance. As you age, testosterone levels fall at an average of 1.6% per year. That's why Male Excel offers Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) to get you back on track, on point, and ready to go. 

TRT can help to restore your energy, renew your confidence, help you with mental clarity, improve your drive, define your muscles, and reduce fat to encourage weight loss. Our TRT is safe and effective with a daily treatment that mimics your body's natural hormone production cycle. Our online men's health clinic gets results. 


Carbohydrates are an important macronutrient that your body uses to produce energy. Complex carbohydrates are better for your body than simple carbohydrates. Although carb-restrictive diets are great for quick weight loss, the long-term effects of these diets are unclear.

To lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle, it is more important to focus on getting regular exercise, reducing your stress, and eating a variety of healthy foods. 

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