All about low carb diet

Written by Luisa Müller
12 minutes reading time
17. July 2023

Low carb diet. What exactly is it? What do you eat with this diet? What do not eat? And above all: why? Should I perhaps also eat a low carb diet? Enough with the questions, give me the answers!

At a glance

Low carb is a diet in which the amount of carbohydrates is kept relatively low. The aim is to increase fat burning by reducing insulin secretion. There are different types of low carb, which can differ in the amount of carbohydrates, as well as the amount of fat and protein. Low carb is primarily about the goal of burning fat rather than consuming wholesome and healthy foods. That’s why there are healthier and less healthy forms of low carb. In our form of low carb, we make sure that you are well supplied with all the necessary nutrients.

Table of contents

    1. what is low carb?

    Translated quite literally, low carb means “few carbohydrates”. Accordingly, this type of diet is characterized by a small amount of carbohydrates consumed. But how much is actually “little”? In principle, it means taking in less energy in the form of carbohydrates than recommended by the German Nutrition Society. So less than 50-60% of the total energy intake. Or, in other words, fewer carbohydrates than the average person normally eats. Or, to put it another way, less than 100 grams of carbohydrates a day is generally considered low carb.

    2. what is the goal of low carb?

    The main goal of a low-carb diet is fat loss. You want to achieve this fat loss by keeping insulin levels as low as possible. Why? Insulin inhibits the breakdown of fat in our body. This is where carbohydrates come into play: carbohydrates increase our blood sugar levels. The higher the blood sugar level, the more insulin is released by our pancreases and consequently the more fat breakdown is inhibited.

    The principle in a nutshell:

    Many carbohydrates ⇒ much insulin ⇒ inhibited fat loss
    Few carbohydrates ⇒ little insulin ⇒ increased fat loss

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    3. what are carbohydrates?

    Carbohydrates are pasta, bread and potatoes. Right?

    Unfortunately, in real life it is of course again a bit more complicated than in theory, because there are some things you have to consider when it comes to low carb. A common misconception is that carbohydrates are only pasta, bread, potatoes and rice. However, carbohydrates chemically come in a wide variety of sizes and forms and unfortunately cannot be reduced to just a few foods. However, we do not want to get bogged down in chemical kerfuffle in this article, but would like to focus on the form of nutrition per se. (Are you interested in carbohydrates down to the smallest detail? Take a look at our article “How are carbohydrates structured?” ).

    Let’s say there are “fast” carbohydrates that can raise blood sugar levels very quickly and consequently lead to high insulin secretion. As an example, you can see normal household sugar or white flour products such as toast or baguette. In contrast, however, there are also “slow” carbohydrates that do not push up blood sugar levels as quickly and consequently also lead to a lower insulin release. These include, above all, foods containing fiber, such as vegetables. Due to the high fiber content of vegetables, digestion is far more complicated and protracted than the digestion of “fast carbohydrates”. Thus, carbohydrates from vegetables also do not cause our blood sugar to shoot up as quickly as foods with low fiber content.

    Long story short:

    • A low carb diet reduces the amount of carbohydrate consumed per day.
    • Not all carbohydrates are created equal. The “bad guys” here are the ones that quickly catapult our blood sugar – they are the ones that are prioritized for avoidance.
    • Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand – like those from vegetables – can also be found in the low carb world. They are the preferred sources to get some level of the macronutrient carbohydrate (and sufficient nutrients).

    4. advantages of low carb

    5. food with low carb

    What foods are allowed in low carb?

    • Vegetables
    • Meat
    • Fish
    • High-quality fats (e.g. olive oil, coconut oil)
    • Dairy products (in the full-fat variety)
    • Nuts and seeds
    • Eggs
    • Fruit (especially lower-carbohydrate varieties like berries)

    What foods are not allowed in low carb?

    • sugary foods (e.g. sweets)
    • sugary drinks (e.g. soda)
    • starchy foods (e.g. pasta, bread, cakes)
    • Fruit with high fructose content

    6. low carb shapes

    Low carb is not always the same, because there are big differences in the amount of protein and fat that join the less of “carb”. Widely used are the terms LCLF and LCHF. Sounds at first like something you have to ask Google if this is the youth word of 2018 or actually a form of nutrition. We help to dissolve:

    7. who is low carb suitable for?

    Low carb is suitable for anyone who wants to get rid of a few excess kilos. But also anyone who wants to feel fitter and gain a few more muscles can pursue their goals wonderfully with the appropriately adjusted amounts of fat and protein. Diabetics can also often get their blood sugar levels back on track by reducing carbohydrates. However, these people should always consult their doctor, because different forms and degrees of diabetes must always be taken into account.

    8. how to start with low carb?

    You are an absolute carbohydrate junkie so far? Then take it slow. Your body must first get used to not being constantly supplied with energy from carbohydrates. If you reduce the amount too quickly, you will probably become easily irritated, unfocused and tired. A good start would be to give up sweetened drinks, candy bars, gummy bears and the like. Because all of that first makes your blood sugar shoot up and then makes you fall into a hunger hole. Start with the fast “sweet” carbohydrates and then reduce step by step in other carbohydrate places. If you balance out the less carbs with more good fat and some protein, you’ll quickly notice that you’re comfortably full for a longer period of time. Thus, the constant craving for carbohydrates quickly becomes less and the secret drawer in the office with the little chocolatey afternoon cheer-ups also becomes uninteresting.

    If you want to live a healthy low carb diet, you should not only fixate on the goal “carbohydrate reduction”. Rather, you should still pay attention to the quality of the food that is eaten. Leaving out the burger bun at the fast food favorite, but dumping more (sugary) ketchup or additive-laden pre-made sauces on the patty makes little sense. Just as little as just devouring the toppings of a sausage or cheese sandwich in raucous quantities because you think “as long as the bread isn’t eaten, everything is fine.” If you replace the carbohydrates you save with additives and low-quality convenience foods, you’re not doing your body any favors. There is a high risk of getting into an unintentional energy and nutrient deficit. It is much more important to include whole, unprocessed and healthy foods in your diet. Say: lots of colorful veggies, healthy fats and quality protein sources should fill your plates. In this way you ensure that you are covered with all the essential nutrients and do not allow any deficiencies. For example, this could look like throwing a burger patty made of high-quality meat into the pan yourself and instead of the wheat bun, conjure up a delicious vegetable bun to go with it. What you save on pasta and bread rolls, you replace with more colorful vegetables as well as healthy fat and high-quality protein sources such as cheese, meat or fish.

    If you are still unsure about how to get started in the world of low carb nutrition, we can help you with our nutrition program. You want to lose weight and melt a few kilos on your hips? You don’t want to lose weight, but mainly build up muscles or finally go to a Zumba class full of energy again? We can provide you with a low carb diet plan tailored to your needs, with all the tips and assistance you need.

    9. what is the difference between low carb, paleo and ketogenic diet?

    A low carb diet has as its main goal to reduce the amount of carbohydrates. The blood sugar level should not be unnecessarily driven up in order to boost fat burning in the body. The type of food that is put on the plate instead is rather secondary – the focus is on the carbohydrate quantity. Paleo puts the emphasis on eating natural, unprocessed foods compared to low carb. Above all, products that could be harmful to health are avoided. How high the amounts of carbohydrates or fats per day are with this type of diet cannot be said in general terms. This is less about quantity and more about quality (All about Paleo you can find on our blog). And the ketogenic diet? Here, as many ketone bodies as possible are to be produced in order to give the brain an energy boost. The primary goal is therefore to achieve the so-called “ketosis”. Less than 30 – 50 g of carbohydrates are eaten per day. (All about ketogenic diet you can find on our blog).

    Briefly summarized:

    • Low carb:
      • < 100 g carbohydrates a day
      • Goal: Increase fat burning
    • Paleo:
      • No defined carbohydrate intake
      • Goal: Only natural, unprocessed foods; no grain or dairy products.
    • Ketogenic diet:
      • < 30 – 50 g per day
      • Goal: Ketosis

    You can’t make a blanket statement about which form is best for which person. A low carb diet that insists on consuming few carbohydrates but instead relies on low quality and low fat and protein sources is not really advisable for anyone. However, if you rely on healthy, nutrient-rich foods that compensate for the less carbohydrates, it is a good way to lose weight in a healthy way without cravings, for example. Thus, the basic principle of the Paleo diet becomes a good basis for any diet. Paleo-based low carb diet? Sure, that makes sense! Paleo-based ketogenic diet? Clearly, all those who strive for mental high-performance can pick up the necessary brain boost here!

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    Sources:

    (1) Feinman RD, Pogozelski WK, Astrup A, Bernstein RK, Fine EJ, Westman EC, et al (2015).Dietary carbohydrate restriction as the first approach in diabetes management: critical review and evidence base. Nutrition; 31 (1-13).

    (2) Hussain TA, Mathew TC, Dashti AA, Asfar S, Al-Zaid N, Dashti HM (2012). Effect of low-calorie versus low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet in type 2 diabetes. Nutrition; 28:1016-21.

    (3) Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, McKeown-Eyssen G, Josse RG, Silverberg J, Booth GL, et al (2008). Effect of a low-glycemic index or a high-cereal fiber diet on type 2 diabetes: a randomized trial. JAMA; 300:2742-53.

    (4) Westman EC, Yancy WS, Mavropoulos JC, Marquart M, McDuffie JR (2008). The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2-diabetes mellitus. Nutr Metab (Lond);5:36.

    Image: shutterstock.com /casanisa

    This article was written by

    Luisa Müller

    Luisa ist die Autorin dieses Artikels. Sie hat an der TU München ihren Bachelor in Ernährungswissenschaft und ihren Master in Nutrition and Biomedicine erfolgreich abgeschlossen. Nachdem sie einige Jahre in der Diabetes- und Adipositasforschung gearbeitet hat, wurde sie Teil des Foodpunk-Teams, wo sie bis September 2020 die Science-Redaktion geleitet hat.

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