These are the signs you’re not eating enough carbs, according to a dietitian

If you have sugar cravings, chronic bad breath and you’re ‘doing everything’ but still can’t lose weight, you might want to look at your carb intake. 

Photos: Instagram @emrata/ WineNDine/ Kenny The Chef

If there is one word that will send any strict dieter into a tail spin it is carbs! The seemingly simple foods such as bread, fruit, potatoes and grains that have been consumed for thousands of years but which are now aggressively avoided by a growing number of dieters. And while some types of carbs are better than others nutritionally, when the amount of carbohydrate consumed on a daily basis is chronically low there can be a number of undesirable side effects for those who have the primary goal of fat loss. So here are some of the signs that your obsession with eating a low carb diet has gone too far.

Carbohydrates found primarily in plant based foods including bread, rice, cereal, pasta, fruit, starchy vegetables and sugars such as honey are broken down by the hormone insulin to release glucose into the blood stream. The glucose is then utilised by the muscles and the brain as the body’s primary fuel source. When less carbohydrate is consumed than the body requires to fuel itself, fat stores will be broken down to be used as energy and over time metabolic rate will slow to adapt to their perceived fuel shortage. As such, slight reductions in carbohydrate intake, as is the case when carbs are cut out at dinner will result in fat stores being utilised and fat loss over time.

For individuals who have extra fat to lose, a diet that is lower in carbohydrates will support slow and sustainable fat loss. This is assuming that some carbohydrate is being consumed to prevent significant reductions in metabolic rate. On the other hand, when very little carbohydrate is consumed, while dramatic weight loss can be observed initially, this will rapidly slow the longer the period of time in which small amounts of carbohydrate is consumed. This scenario can be observed when individuals have lost a significant amount of weight on a low carb diet, but then find this approach is no longer working, with the scales refusing to budge any further.

An initial signs that your carb intake may be too low is if you experience extreme cravings for sweet foods that often results in you binging. As the body identifies that it is not getting the fuel it requires, especially if you are exercising regularly, extreme hunger signals and sweet cravings may be experienced, signaling the need for sugar or glucose to fuel the muscles. Over time these cravings may relieve but you may also find you no longer feel hungry at all, as your metabolic rate slows to manage the lack of carbohydrate.

Another clear sign of a diet that is chronically low in carbohydrate is bad breath. A low carb intake, especially when extra protein is consumed in place of carbohydrates can result in ketosis, which is the body’s way of surviving when carbs are low by converting fat stores into a fuel that can be burnt. Someone in ketosis has a very specific smell and may have terrible breath.

Finally an inability to lose weight, despite eating a low carb diet is a clear sign that your total carbohydrate intake is too low, especially if you exercise regularly. The body actually requires some carbohydrate to efficiently burn body fat, which means if you have not eaten a carbohydrate since lunchtime the day before, and are then taking an RPM class at 6am the following morning, you will not be burning fat as efficiently as you would if you had some glucose readily available.

If this scenario sounds familiar, it may be time to take a closer look at the amounts of carbohydrate you are actually consuming, and at what time. You do not have to eat loaves of bread to fuel your cells, rather timing your carbohydrate intake to support your activity levels may be all that is required to support your body in burning fat efficiently again. Start by eating a serve, or 20-30g of carbs within an hour or two of any high intensity workout. As a general rule of thumb, intakes of less than 80-100g of carbohydrates each day, for someone exercising regularly is too low and as such may be the reason you are not getting the shifts on the scales you are hoping for.

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