The low carb diet is very popular. But what exactly is behind this form of nutrition? On this page we explain the concept and give you tips for implementing it in everyday life.
The term “low carb” means “few carbohydrates”. A diet of this kind is therefore a low-carbohydrate diet that is primarily based on fat and protein.
In addition, foods such as fish, meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds and dairy products are mainly consumed, while carbohydrate suppliers such as cereal products or legumes are largely avoided. There is no fixed amount of carb that one must not exceed – every special low carb diet has different values, which are usually between 50 and 150 grams of carbs.
How does low carb help me lose weight?
Quick initial success
In the beginning, low carb diets ensure rapid weight loss – which many people find motivating. These initial successes on the scales are largely based on water, which is excreted with the stored carbohydrates in the muscles and liver and with the fiber in the digestive tract. As soon as you give up the low-carbohydrate diet, this amount of water is quickly stored back in the body. But until then, you can not only look forward to less weight, but also to a slimmer line.
You avoid food cravings
Carbohydrates first drive the insulin level up, then it falls – which relatively soon leads to appetite again and sometimes to downright cravings. This problem does not usually exist with low carb diets, because you mainly eat fat and protein. By consuming these two nutrients, blood sugar fluctuates less, so that feelings of hunger occur less often.
You feel full longer
The fact that low-carb diets are based on a high-protein diet is also beneficial for weight loss. Because protein is the nutrient that is digested the slowest. In other words: proteins keep you full for a long time. And those who are full are less tempted to sin or overeat.
You boost fat loss
The relatively low insulin level with a low-carbohydrate diet has another advantage: If little insulin is released, fat loss can take place unhindered, because insulin is an anabolic hormone that ensures that the body builds tissue (fat and muscle). As long as it works in the body, the fat reserves cannot be tapped, because you cannot build up and break down fat at the same time.
You save calories by eating a protein-rich diet
Protein cannot be metabolized by the body as easily as fat or carbohydrates, which, in addition to being saturated for a long time, also means that the utilization process itself consumes quite a bit of energy. 18 to 25 percent of the calories from protein are lost in “food-induced thermogenesis”. So protein has a lot fewer net calories than “on the pack” – for example with protein powder.
You cook a lot yourself
After all, the positive thing about low carb diets is that they usually focus on fresh, little processed products – if only because the amount of sugar and starch it contains often increases with the degree of processing of a food. Those who use low carb optimally will also eat a relatively large amount of vegetables, which is very healthy thanks to the vitamins, minerals and fiber they contain.
How many carbohydrates are allowed?
Each specific diet has different limits for daily carb intake. The Logi method, for example, provides 80 to 130 grams of carbohydrates a day, while the very radical (and not recommended) Hollywood diet is well below 100 grams. At the beginning of the Atkins diet, you can only consume 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. With a protein diet, on the other hand, you reckon with around 15 percent carbohydrates.
We recommend everyone who wants to try out low carb as part of a diet to start with 100 grams of carbohydrates per day. If that’s too hard for you, you can increase this amount to up to 150 grams – it shouldn’t be more carbohydrates if you still want to talk about “low carb”. If 100 grams a day is too many carbohydrates for you, you will find our strict low-carb nutrition plan for advanced users below.
To try low carb, 100 grams of carbohydrates per day is a good guideline. The optimal amount of protein during a diet depends on your body weight: You should consume 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram per day. You get the rest of the calories from fats.
Prohibited and permitted foods
Are you now asking yourself “What can I eat with low carb?” The table will give you the answer: a selection of foods to avoid and foods that you are allowed to eat
Permitted foods during a low carb diet
- Fish and meat
- Eggs and dairy products
- Oils and fats
- Nuts and kernels
- Low-fructose fruit (e.g. grapefruit, berries, kiwi)
- Flour alternatives (see low carb flours)
- Konjac noodles / rice, tofu
- Water, coffee and tea (unsweetened)
- Beverages with sugar alternatives
Prohibited foods during a low carb diet
- Bread and pastries
- Potato dishes
- Peas, beans, lentils
- Fruit with a lot of fructose
- Ready meals
- Sugary foods
- Sugary sauces and dressings (also ketchup)
- Fruit juices and soft drinks
How does low carb work?
Instead of banning carbohydrates directly from your everyday life, you should first realize what they are: “the most important source of energy for physical activity and the brain”. If we eat carbohydrates, we relatively soon have an energy charge available that, unlike fats, we can also use it for intense and very intense efforts such as B. Can use strength training, an aerobics class, or heavy work. A good supply of carbohydrates is also beneficial for concentration.
Carbohydrates are therefore the pillars of our full physical and mental performance. But the crux of the matter is precisely that they are such an effective source of energy. When we constantly eat carbohydrates, we get our bodies used to using them primarily as a source of energy. As a result, he forgets, so to speak, that he also has another source of energy available: fat. From an evolutionary point of view, fat is at least as important a fuel as carbohydrates – it is not without reason that we carry it around by the kilo. We can always use it as a source of energy when we are doing light or medium-strenuous activities – almost always!
However, we have to get our bodies to use fat as fuel. And this is exactly where a low carb diet has its strengths: By reducing carbohydrates, our body temporarily dries up this beloved source of energy and it has to get its energy from (body) fat. To achieve this effect, it is sufficient to limit the carbohydrates – you do not have to do without almost completely. After a meal, if you do not follow activities such as strenuous exercise that really gets you out of breath, or mental challenges that require maximum concentration, you should be modest with carbs and switch to fat.
You can consume a lot of carbs if you have a hard workout or a tennis match a few hours after eating, for example, because with such high-strength activities the fat metabolism will not get you any further and you risk your body breaking down muscles in order to gain energy. Even after strenuous activities, many carbohydrates can end up on your plate in order to replenish your reserves and initiate regeneration.
You should consider carbohydrates primarily as an extra source of energy. Above all, consume them in abundance when you actually need this extra energy – for physical exertion or full concentration.
Tips for everyday life during a low carb diet
No carb in the morning
For those who have little or no appetite in the morning anyway, it makes sense to delay breakfast or to do without it altogether. The reason: the blood sugar level fell overnight and nothing stands in the way of burning fat in the morning and in the morning. If you can’t do without breakfast, eat mainly fat and protein in the morning, for example an omelette with tomatoes and peppers. This also keeps the blood sugar level down for now.
Low carb for working people
Most working people eat out for lunch or in the canteen – and they serve what almost everyone wants: carbohydrates. Low carbers only have two options: You can disconnect from the communal lunch and bring your own food. The other option is to register extra requests. For example, you can ask to replace the potatoes as a side dish with another serving of vegetables. At the kebab shop you can only get meat and salad in a box.
Low-carb on the go
Nuts and kernels, for example, are suitable as provisions for on the go: They are full of energy from fats and protein and can be easily transported. Long-life sausage or dried meat also meet all low carb criteria. In addition, low-carb vegetables such as peppers, mushrooms, kohlrabi, cucumber or radish can be taken away in practical Tupperware boxes. Protein bars are also practical: They are inexpensive and have a good satiety effect.
Less carbs in the restaurant
There are often several salads to choose from in restaurants, and fish dishes often come with light vegetables anyway. In contrast to pasta and rice, boiled potatoes are not a huge drama: 200 grams produce around 30 grams of carbohydrates – not a few, but not so much that they ruin your daily balance. If in doubt, you can always replace the carbohydrates with a side salad or vegetables. It should also be borne in mind that chefs often don’t mix low carb sauces together, but rather use fat and sugar as flavor enhancers.
Muscle building with low carb?
For people who exercise a lot, a low-carbohydrate diet tends to be less suitable, because carbohydrates provide the form of energy (glucose or glycogen) that athletes can best use. Bodybuilding is a special case. Here, the low-carb diet has a permanent place, namely to reduce body fat during the so-called “definition phase” without losing too much muscle mass. On the other hand, low carb is not suitable for building muscle, because the corresponding strength training is strenuous and requires the energy from carbohydrates that is available quickly and for a long time.
10 rules for successful low carb diet
Finally, the ten most important rules for a successful low carb diet at a glance:
- Maintain a calorie deficit of around 500 kilocalories per day.
- Consume a maximum of 100 grams of carbohydrates per day.
- Consume 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
- Prefer vegetable fats.
- Drink 2 to 3 liters a day.
- Obtain carbohydrates primarily from vegetables and fruits.
- Do strength and endurance training and generally move a lot.
- Increase your carbohydrate consumption before and after strenuous exercise.
- Eat out as little as possible and cook a lot yourself.
- Refrain from alcohol.
Frequently Asked Questions: Low Carb Diet
What to consider on a low carb diet?
Reducing carbohydrates sharply can make the diet low in fiber, so consuming enough plant-based foods is important to get enough fiber. Conventional sources of carbohydrates like bread can be replaced with vegetables like zucchini, mushrooms or carrots. Sufficient fluid intake (2 to 3 liters per day) is just as important, and sugary drinks should be avoided because they are high in calories and carbohydrates.
Are cheat days allowed?
A diet should not be perceived as something externally imposed and full of rules, where cheat days are the weekends off, so to speak. After all, tackling a diet like this is not only exhausting, it is also not very sustainable because you are obviously not dealing with a form of nutrition that suits you. The solution: Design the diet plan in such a way that “sins” have a permanent place in it, so that the natural need for sweets and snacks is regularly satisfied.
How long should I do the low carb diet?
There is basically no time limit for a low-carbohydrate diet. If you can handle it well, don’t feel weak, and have no digestive problems, you can make it your standard diet. On the other hand, a low carb diet for weight loss is only done until you have reached your desired weight.
What beverages can I drink?
Suitable drinks are primarily water, unsweetened tea and coffee and, in moderation, calorie-free light drinks. Milk and protein shakes can also help to meet protein requirements, even if they are not actually classified as “drinks”.
Is having a dinner important?
No, because the overall calorie balance over the day always counts first: There must be a calorie deficit in the end. This is responsible for whether a weight loss occurs or not. Those who eat and drink fewer calories than they use up lose weight – with or without dinner.
How to increase the chance of success?
Regular exercise or sporting activity is an essential part of the diet, as it optimally supports the success of the diet. It makes weight loss easier in general and is an important factor when it comes to being able to maintain the desired figure in the long term.