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Surprising Side Effects of Not Eating Carbs, Says Science

Ditching carbs may not be as healthy as you think.
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

Getting the perfect balance of carbohydrates in your meals throughout the day can feel impossible, especially if you want to get in shape. According to the Harvard Medical School, not eating carbs could prevent your body from properly getting all the energy it needs to burn throughout the day, and you face all of the consequences that come with the decision.

Many who have opted to severely cut down on carb intake have experienced firsthand some of the side effects that come alongside this decision. As expected, putting fewer carbs into your body cuts down your energy levels throughout the day and puts your body into ketosis, the primary mechanism that drives the keto diet, according to The Mayo Clinic. You can expect bad breath, constipation, headache, cramps, and more when you cut out all carbohydrates, and many dieters have had to find workarounds to limit these symptoms as they lose weight.

While anyone who has researched the side effects of a no-carb diet can expect to see these potential short-term side effects, other long-term and hidden consequences of forgoing carbs lurk just below the surface. Read on to discover what truly happens when you are not eating carbs regularly, and for even more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out our list of Eating Habits to Lose Abdominal Fat As You Age, Say Dietitians.

Stomach aches and digestive discomfort

black beans

When it comes to properly balancing your diet, you want to make sure you get a healthy amount of fiber in your meals. According to an article published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, fiber not only provides enough sustenance to make you feel full throughout the day, but also aids in digestion and helps maintain your GI tract. No carb diets often eschew beans, fruits, and vegetables, meaning you shouldn't expect to get proper levels of fiber in your daily eating plan.

As a result, not eating carbs typically goes hand-in-hand with stomach aches and pains due to a fubar deficit. If you truly want to limit your carb intake, make sure you allow some food sources that include high fiber levels in order to avoid this surprising side effect. Here are 5 Major Side Effects Of Not Getting Enough Fiber, Says Science.

Heart disease

french fries
Gilly/ Unsplash

You might think that going cold turkey and cutting out carb-laden junk food like french fries and donuts could only improve your heart health. While these kinds of empty-calorie foods can cause a ton of issues, don't expect life to get easier without any carbs of any kind. According to a study published in The Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, going without carbs can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and arrhythmia in the long run, undoing any kind of intended positive effects you might expect to see on a no-carb diet. Avoid these issues by giving yourself a break and introduce some carbs into your eating plan to make sure you don't run into this looming issue.

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Potassium deficiencies


If you only focus on cutting out carbs when you completely ditch foods with them, you might cause your body to flush out other positive nutrients, namely potassium. According to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a decrease in carbohydrate intake goes hand in hand with increased urination, a process that rids the body of certain nutrients.

Potassium ranks as one of the key minerals lost when you cut carbs, and dieters who adhere to a no-carb lifestyle might inadvertently cause long-term issues for themselves, including blood pressure issues and the creation of kidney stones, when they don't get enough potassium.

Don't fall prey to this easily overlooked side effect and make sure to load up on 21 High Potassium Foods That Keep Your Muscles Healthy and Strong if you decide to cut carbs.

Vitamin imbalances

fruits and vegetables with chlorpyrifos

Even if you avoid losing too much potassium from increased urination, you haven't made it out of the proverbial woods yet if you decide to jettison all carbs from your diet. In addition to expelling certain micronutrients, you can't easily obtain other vitamins and minerals unless you eat fruits and vegetables laden with carbs. According to a study found in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, eating plans that severely restrict carbs lack proper levels of vitamin B7, vitamin D, vitamin E, chromium, iodine, and molybdenum. These essential nutrients ensure proper organ functions and bodily health, and you can expect to see a range of issues, like hair loss, weight gain, memory loss, and much more.

Avoid these issues by closely monitoring what foods go into your body and make sure to get these key nutrients if you want to eat fewer carbohydrates.

Poor sleep

man stressed in bed that he can't sleep

When you aim to lose weight, you actively put your body into a new functional state, and with this change, you can expect some mental side effects alongside physiological shifts. According to a study published in Pediatrics, a no-carb lifestyle ends up resulting in very poor sleep quality, which has strong ties to poor mental function. If you need to stay sharp for your job or school, make sure to keep some carbs in your life to keep you on your A-game.

If you want to keep your carb intake low and increase your sleep quality, do yourself a favor and check out 20 Ways to Double Your Sleep Quality.

Erich Barganier
Erich Barganier is a health and food writer. Read more about Erich
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