By decreasing carbs, you quickly cut calories, reduce sugar intake, lower insulin levels, and eventually, get your body to switch from burning carbs to burning fat for energy (woo!).
Yes, if you want to transform your body into a lean, fat-burning machine, the carbs gotta go. Those unwanted fat cells will shrink as your body uses fat for fuel, and you’ll be one happy camper as the number on the scale nosedives.
While we just painted a pretty picture of weight loss on a low-carb diet, it’s never as easy as it sounds. If you’re currently on a low-carb diet and having trouble losing weight (frustrating ... we know), it’s possible your own mistakes are to blame.
Let’s take a look at the 10 common mistakes people make that prevent them from losing weight on a low-carb diet. Cutting carbs is never easy, so what’s the point if your hard work isn't paying off?
Before you pull your hair out in frustration and stress eat your way through an entire pizza, let’s audit your low-carb diet. The following 10 common mistakes can halt your weight-loss efforts.
“Low” is a subjective number. However, the general rule of thumb for a low-carb diet is ~20-100 grams of carbohydrates per day, depending on the individual (this infographic from Diet Doctor gives a great breakdown of carb ranges). For those on the popular Keto diet, ketosis generally occurs when eating less than 50 carbs per day.
Unfortunately, the majority of us underestimate our carbohydrate consumption, which could very well be the limiting factor in your weight-loss efforts. Since there are no one-size-fits-all standards for a low-carb diet, you need to constantly test and evaluate your results. If you’re not losing weight now, the first thing you should do is progressively decrease your carbohydrate consumption. Some people will need to get down to ~20 grams of carbs per day to finally hit their sweet spot.
Empty calories and artificial ingredients are staples of supplements that do you no favors when trying to lose weight. The low-carb supplements and bars you grab on the go have been stripped of their nutrients during processing. While the label might say all the right things, you’re always better off sticking with whole food snacks.
Look at all of of your supplements — bars, powders, vitamins, etc. — with a critical eye. First things first, don’t make the mistake of only considering the carbs, sugars, and calories. You need to match these things up to the serving size to ensure you’re not underestimating your intake. If that checks out, take a look at the ingredients. A long list filled with ingredients you’ve never heard of is a major red flag. Or, if you don’t want to go through the hassle of all that, just stop with the supplements and grab some veggies :).
If you haven’t already given up on dairy, you might want to consider some changes. Milk contains insulin-spiking lactose and is considered an insulinogenic, meaning it promotes the release of insulin.
In fact, one study found milk to be even more insulinogenic than the arch enemy of weight loss, white bread. In case you didn’t already know, insulin and weight gain go hand in hand. Your best bet? Be wary of dairy.
You may be patting yourself on the back for cutting the sugar-filled junk you used to binge on, but you’re not in the clear yet. Several sneaky sugar sources could be to blame for your battle with the scale, including condiments, breads, cereals, yogurt, and dressings (who knew?).
Did you know 1 measly tablespoon of ketchup has ~4 grams of sugar? BBQ sauce is pushing 6 grams of sugar per tbsp. And even an ultra-healthy salad can be ruined with fat-free, bottled dressings loaded with more sugar than their condiment brethrens. Keep in mind, artificial sweeteners and simple sugars activate hunger, increase your desire for more sugary foods, muddle energy levels, and can slow metabolism. #SugarSucks
Cheating is a choice, not a mistake. If you want the remarkable results that can come from a low-carb diet, you can’t be constantly cheating. If you could get by cheating, you probably wouldn’t feel how you do right now.
Cheat meals come with drastic spikes in blood sugar, a surge of calories, and in most cases, way too many carbs. I mean, what’s your cheat of choice? Pizza? Ice cream? Triple-decker cheeseburgers? All of the stuff you (and I) crave is loaded with carbs, which goes back to the number one mistake low-carb dieters make: Eating too many carbs! Stop cheating and start trying.
Nuts are a health and fitness industry darling: You always hear good things, you see Hollywood icons and athletes chewing on them, and they’re an easy treat when you’re on the go. The problem? No one's telling you the truth about nuts.
Nuts are high-fat, calorie-dense snacks with two major causes for concern: Miniscule portion sizes and unhealthy toppings. Think about it: When’s the last time you just had 6-8 nuts. At the ballpark, you down a whole bag easy peasy … and no one in the history of the world has had just one little palm-sized handful of trail mix. If you’re going to snack on nuts, make sure you limit yourself to one handful of plain options like almonds, cashews, and walnuts.
We’ve discussed too many carbs, but we haven’t touched on too many calories. Low-carb diets often reduce appetite, helping you eat fewer calories without battling major cravings and hunger pangs. However, raise your hand if you struggle with weight loss (don’t be shy; if you made it this far, I’m sure it’s a challenge). People who battle with weight loss tend to underestimate caloric intake by up to 40%.
The solution is incredibly simple, yet many won’t embrace it: Track your food. If pen and paper isn’t your jam, there are a plethora of mobile apps you can download on your phone to easily input what you eat and get an instant breakdown of your daily calories. Pair tracking with a better understanding of portion sizes. Protein should be the size of your palm and carbs the size of your first, or else you have a recipe for disaster. If I were you, I’d get comfortable reading nutrition labels and track everything you eat over the next week. Smart money says you’ll be shocked at how many calories you’re actually ingesting.
It’s not the most glamorous topic, but a lack of bathroom breaks should catch your attention. Allow me to explain: Low-carb diets can lead to drastically low fiber intake. Fiber plays the important role of regulating digestion. Without fiber, your body could be carrying up to 28 pounds of undigested fecal matter.
Gut health is becoming more and more of a hot topic in the industry, and one of the best ways to protect your gut is to get enough fiber. Eat more high-fiber, low-carb foods like broccoli, spinach and avocado. If you’re not getting at least 25 grams (women) - 38 grams (men) of fiber per day, you’re likely damaging your body. Worst case, supplement with a sugar-free fiber source and be sure you’re hitting the bathroom regularly.
We classified this as a “mistake,” but it’s more of a “concern.” If you currently have a condition that requires medication, it’d be wise to take a look at the side effects of your meds. If you’re doing absolutely everything right, yet still seeing no weight loss, it’s possible your drugs are to blame.
If your medications are safe and you’re certain you’re doing everything right on a daily basis (be ultra-honest with yourself), we suggest seeing a medical professional. Don’t scare yourself by scouring WebMD, simply see someone for a check-up. In all likelihood, you’re fine, but it won’t hurt to have an expert examine you.
You should expect to lose roughly 1-2 pounds of weight per week. Anything more than that is a bonus. Anything less than that means your diet and activity need tweaking.
Sure, some weeks you’ll lose more and some weeks you’ll lose less - that’s part of the weight-loss cycle. But expecting to lose a ton of pounds quickly is setting you up for frustration and failure. Think of if it this way: If you lose just 2 pounds per week for a year, you’ll have lost more than 100 pounds. That will be the kind of life-changing transformation that will catch the eyes, ears, and hearts of friends, family, and co-workers. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
We’re firm believers in low-carb diets for weight loss. When done right, inches and pounds can pour off your body. Below is a review of the 10 most common mistakes we covered that lead to minimal weight loss on a low-carb diet.
Cheating too much. Surges of calories, sugar, and carbs are hard to overcome.
Eating too many nuts. Stick to plain nuts and small portions.
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