3 Potential Side Effects Of Carbohydrate Deficiency

3 Potential Side Effects Of Carbohydrate Deficiency

Low carbohydrate diets have become increasingly popular in recent years due to a large number of low carbohydrate diet plans (Atkins, South Beach, The Zone) getting high amounts of media attention.  The basic principle behind these diets is that by reducing your carbohydrate intake you force your body into a state of ketosis (where it burns fat for energy instead of glucose and glycogen).  As a result you burn more body fat and store less of it.

Whilst these diets are very effective and in my opinion support good health (I have tried to reduce my carbohydrate intake over the last year), it is possible to go too far and cause a carbohydrate deficiency in your body.  In this article I am going to be outlining three of the potential side effects of carbohydrate deficiency.

1) VITAMIN AND MINERAL DEFICIENCY:- Most low carbohydrate diets suggest that you eliminate starchy, processed carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and rice.  This leaves fruits and vegetables as your main carbohydrate source.  However, some people eliminate these natural carbohydrates from their diet as well.

The problem with this is that fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins (particularly water soluble vitamins) and minerals which support almost every function in the body.  Some of their most important roles include maintaining fluid balance in your body’s cells, keeping your blood and organs healthy, preventing cancer, preventing diabetes, removing waste materials and supporting metabolism.

Without vitamins and minerals not only does your body struggle to perform a number of basic functions but it can also lead to high blood pressure, heart problems, mental impairment, organ damage, vision problems and much more.

2) FIBRE DEFICIENCY:- Fibre is an indigestible type of carbohydrate.  It has a number of health benefits which include improving blood glucose control, promoting optimal bowel health and preventing cancer.  If you completely eliminate carbohydrates from your diet then you also eliminate fibre and miss out on all these benefits.  Furthermore, prolonged fibre deficiency has been linked with a number of bowel problems.

3) LOW ENERGY LEVELS:- Completely eliminating carbohydrates from your diet has an adverse effect on your energy levels in the short term.  Whilst this loss of energy is only temporary and your energy levels do return to normal after a few days (once your body has had the chance to adapt), it can affect your concentration and your ability to perform physical activities during these few days.

SUMMARY

As I said at the beginning of this article, I believe that overall low carbohydrate diets are an effective weight loss tool and also promote a healthy lifestyle.  They allow you to clean up your diet by cutting out the unnecessary starchy, processed and calorie heavy carbohydrates (such as bread and pasta) whilst keeping the natural, low calorie and nutrient rich carbohydrates (such as fruits and vegetables).

Furthermore, low carbohydrate diets are completely sustainable.  Whilst there are essential amino acids and essential fatty acids, there are no essential carbohydrates.  If you went without dietary fats or proteins for a prolonged period of time you would ultimately die.  However, your body can function without carbohydrates.

Overall, whilst low carbohydrate diets are healthy and sustainable I hope this article has made you aware of the potential side effects of cutting out all carbohydrates.  I think that even on a low carbohydrate diet plan, you should ensure that at least 15% of your daily calories come from carbohydrates.  This can be achieved by eating a selection of fruits and vegetables which will give you adequate servings of fibre, vitamins and minerals.

What do you guys think?  Have you ever tried a no carbohydrate diet?  Do you believe that low carbohydrate diets are healthy?  Are there any carbohydrate deficiency side effects missing from this article?  Leave a comment and let me know.

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Comments

  1. says

    Another good article, I totally agree that everyone has gone crazy with these diets of cutting our carbohydrates even altogether from eating plans. Yes its good to reduce the carbohydrates and particularly where it comes from, but if your working out regularly then a certain amount of carbs is needed to perform and function efficiently.

    We need to be careful not to overdo cutting out carbohydrates, yes reduce the intake but bear in mind how often you are training and the type of workouts you are performing so you have enough energy to perform without causing your body harm.
    Great blog.

    [Reply]

    Tom Reply:

    Excellent point Mike. Whilst it is good to eat low amounts of carbohydrates – completely removing healthy carbohydrates (such as fruits and vegetables) from your diet is not a good idea.

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  2. Alice Kiernan says

    Thanks for posting this. I am currently studying diet (in particular deficiency) as part of my A-Level Biology course and this really helped me with an assignment on carbohydrates.

    [Reply]

    Tom Reply:

    Glad the article was useful to you Alice. However, I would recommend that you also reference some academic journals in your assignment. Whilst I make every effort to ensure my content is top quality it does not qualify as an academic reference.

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    Health and Fitness Lecturer, and personal Trainer Reply:

    A low carbohydrate diet is not healthy, carbs are the MAIN source of energy for the body and brain, providing us with instant energy. Approx 60% of the diet should be from carbs, preferably complex(starches) as opposed to simple( sugars). The only way to lose weight is when the body is in negative energy balance,i.e.energy consumed is less than energy burned off (The Law of Thermodynamics)Reducing only one nutrient group is not necessary, wise or healthy.

    [Reply]

    Tom Reply:

    Hi there – I respect the fact that you are a health and fitness lecturer and a personal trainer and respect your opinion. Unfortunately, I have spoke to other health and fitness professionals who would not agree with what you say. Some people swear by a high fat diet, some believe high protein diets are the way forward, some think high carbohydrate diets are the best and some think you should get equal amounts of calories from all 3 macronutrient groups.

    When it comes to the macronutrients, everyone has a different opinion on the right approach and there does not seem to be 1 universally recognised “right answer”. In fact I have written an article on the different approaches to macromineral dosages which explores high carbohydrate diets. My opinion is that getting 60% to 70% of your calories from carbohydrates is too much unless you lead a very active lifestyle. People who sit in an office most of the day and then do 1 or 2 hours exercise after work can get by on a much lower proportion of carbohydrates. Personally I believe equal calories from each macronutrient group is the right way to go.

  3. TJ says

    I am by trade a professional opera singer and recently, I added amateur bodybuilding to my list of talents. Low carbs to no carbs suck!!!! I can only speak from my own experience. Everyone is different but to eliminate carbs creates hormal imbalance, mood changes, and damn near depression. lol On the up side, I learned that I do not need the amount of carbs I was consuming and I have rid my diet of simple carbs. Also, I discovered, the body can become carb resistant as soon as it senses, CARBS, the body’s water levels increase rapidly. I say, moderation is key. I am not a doctor but I pay attention to my body. No doctor can tell me how I feel. Period. Pay attention to your body!

    [Reply]

    Tom Reply:

    Hi TJ – I think you have hit the nail on the head. Low carbs to no carbs is very unpleasant and also makes you very likely to miss out on key vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that can be found in fruits and vegetables. On the flip side, most people do eat too many carbs and need to cut down. Great comment.

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    Pauline Moffat Reply:

    Thank goodness for your comments TJ! I have been following a low/no carb diet for the last 6 weeks in an attempt to reduce my weight: I’ve certainly lost weight but I’ve also almost lost my sanity as I’ve felt so depressed I was ready to end it all! Headaches, leg cramps, bad breath I expected but the feeling of sheer despair I did NOT!! It’s back to healthy eating for me – which from now on will include several servings of fruit and veg each day – as well as the protein!

    [Reply]

    Tom Reply:

    Hey Pauline – I totally agree. Low carb is good but low carb should still include fruits and vegetables. The only carbs you should be cutting are the highly processed ones. If you cut fruits and vegetables then you deprive your body from any carbohydrates plus a lot of important vitamins and minerals.

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  4. Carmen says

    Hi everyone, just wanted to share my experience about this low to no carb diet. I have been doing a low carb diet for the past month together with execise. I have lost some weight and definitely gained some muscle definition. My mistake happened last week when I decided to start a no-carb diet (thought this might accelerate my weight loss). After 48 hours of starting this diet, i started feeling very tired, i could not sleep at night from my legs cramping and my body could not resist my workout routine due to the lack of energy!! it is safe to say I’m back to my low-carb diet and i have started to feel better and more energized!

    I definitely would not recommend doing a no-carb diet if you are working out on a regular basis! stick to healthy carbs!

    [Reply]

    Tom Reply:

    Totally agree with you Carmen. If you go no carb you don’t just miss out on the energy from carbohydrates, you also miss out on lots of essential vitamins and minerals plus health boosting phytonutrients. These nutrients support various important processes within your body including those that give you energy. Keeping some healthy carbohydrates in your diet is definitely the way forward.

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  5. Necessarydiva says

    I agree that total elimination is not a healthy alternative, especially with regard to fibers, fruits and vegetables as was established, however, as an amateur bodybuilder, it is essential to learn to function on low carbs. In particular, I’ve learned to situate my carbs in and around my workouts. If I am sitting at home doing nothing, there is no need for “extra” energy. Carbs should be used to fuel individual activities. Intake will vary depending on your lifestyle. If you are an athlete, you will need more but if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, your intake should be limited.

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    Tom Reply:

    Very true Necessarydiva. I think that’s where a lot of people get it wrong. Even if they’re leading a sedentary lifestyle, they don’t cut down the amount of carbs they’re eating.

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  6. immaculate says

    Hi! I would also like to share with you my experience. I am now on day 9 of very low carb diet. I lost about 5kg which I ‘ve been struggling to loose since giving birth to my baby in 2009. indeed its a very good diet to loose weight. I recommend it to anyone who really wanna loose weight. But total carb free diet don’t think its good at all

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  7. immaculate says

    By the way low carb diets are not meant to be taken for a long time. I am doing a 13 day very low carb diet

    [Reply]

    Tom Reply:

    Great to hear you had positive results with a low carb diet Immaculate. Totally agree with what you’re saying. Low carb diets are a great way to lose weight but carb free is dangerous as you miss out on loads of vitamins and minerals. Thanks for sharing with everyone.

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  8. Esther says

    What are your thoughts on Chia seeds? They provide 11 grams of fiber in the recommended 1oz daily serving.

    [Reply]

    Tom Reply:

    I’d highly recommend them. In addition to the fibre, They’re a fantastic source of manganese, phosphorus, polyunsaturated fat and protein, so dig in :).

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