Can you Live Without Carbs in your Diet? - Understanding Carbohydrates
Making a Success of Living without Carbohydrates in you Diet
Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of fuel, which is why you feel tired and sluggish when you miss out on breakfast or quit eating them altogether! However this quick access to ready available fuel for the body and mind, does come with it's downsides.
The catch is, too many carbs can make you gain extra weight, can be bad your your blood sugar levels and can cause higher than usual inflammation in the body.
Whilst an all round varied diet is the best option for long term health, If you’re curious about carbohydrates, or someone recently mentioned the keto diet to you, and you want to find out what keto is all about then this guide explores carbohydrates in detail and explains their role. How much you need of them, the studies that show if low carb diets are beneficial or not, and what experts have to say about the Keto and Low Carb Diet.
How well we can live without Carbs in our Diet
Carbohydrates under the microscope?
What is a Carb?
Carbohydrates are the foods that we eat and digest in various combinations to obtain energy to live. Carbohydrates are an important category of nutrients because they provide energy to our bodies through their consumption during digestion.
Carbs give us energy by being converted into simple sugar and released into the bloodstream, from here on they bind with insulin which is created in the pancreas. The sugar is then carried into cells by insulin and helps to provide us with energy partly from the DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) and ADP (adenosine triphosphate) cycle with helps with energy metabolism and lipid (fat) control
Types of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are a type of food that belong to the larger group of macronutrients that includes fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are broken down into three categories:
- Sugars (monosaccharides – single sugar molecules like glucose)
- Complex Carbohydrates (polysaccharides – multiple sugar molecules linked together like starch)
- Fiber (plant carbohydrates that can’t be digested by human bodies), which all have different properties among the three.
Carbohydrates effect on the human body?
Carbohydrates as a Source of Fuel
Carbohydrates serve as fuel for our bodies, they give us the energy to function, and allow our bodies to create a number of different substances, including proteins in the immune system, chemicals which help control cell death in disease development, essential chemicals important to blood clotting and providing the body with energy.
During the digestive process, sugar and carbohydrates are broken down into glucose molecules. If these molecules aren’t used by your body, they can be stored as glycogen in your liver and muscles until they're needed later on. Otherwise, high amounts of carbs (food or unused food) will get converted into fat and deposited within fat tissue cells.
When it comes to Fiber, however, it’s important to note that your body doesn’t digest fiber well at all. Which means you can intake a bit of Fiber during a low carb diet to help with digestive problems and help with the richness of the gut microbiome.
Negative impacts from excessive Carbohydrate Consumption
Overeating of carbohydrates especially simple forms such a sugars can have a negative impact on the body, the extra sugar causes insulin spikes and high blood sugar levels
Untreated high blood sugar can be dangerous, leading to a serious condition in diabetics called ketoacidosis.
Chronic high blood sugar increases the likelihood of serious diabetes complications like heart disease, blindness, neuropathy, and kidney failure. (1) - https://www.healthline.com/health/blood-sugar-spike - Corinne O'Keefe Osborn
Another study found that increased sugar levels can aid to hair loss by increasing the bodies production of DHT which has long been an established link to male pattern boldness MPB
Try avoiding foods that can raise your blood sugar levels. An increase of blood sugar causes a release of more insulin affecting the hormonal balance in the body. Higher insulin levels can lead to reduced sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) levels which are needed as they bind to DHT and stop it from binding to hair follicles. Essentially, higher blood sugar can lead to higher insulin levels, reduced SHBG levels, greater risk of DHT binding to hair follicles, and greater risk of hair loss-amidst other medical conditions. - https://socahcenter.com
Because the sugar reacts with the DHT and the ADP cycle for energy and lipid utilisation, it can have a direct impact on your hormones and eating too much sugar or carbohydrates can have a negative impact on your health.
Whilst excess sugar in the diet can raise testosterone levels in women, contradictorily it may lower testosterone levels in men, leading to lower libido and erectile dysfunction as well as obesity and diabetes. https://rosewaylabs.com
Like we said earlier its all about moderation and carbs can and often do play a major part in a healthy diet but they can cause problems when not eaten with a balanced diet or eaten in excess without the proper exercise to utilise them.
Ways to Improve Carbohydrates effect on the body
We can improve the way our bodies work with carbs by getting them from healthy sources, processed foods with refined sugars or natural fruits with a high glycaemic load are far too quickly absorbed by our bodies.
Your body doesn't want to loose the benefits of this energy source so it will take steps to make the most out of these quick acting sugars.
To deal with them your body will spike your insulin and flood your bloodstream with all that sugar in one hit in order to utilise them as energy or to store them as fat, doing this over a long period of time can cause harm and can even lead to diabetes.
A classic example of refined carbohydrates is white bread, whole grain bread is actually made up from from all parts of the grain, hence the name whole grain, this includes the three main parts of the grain, the Embryo or Germ, the Seed coat or Bran and the Endosperm.
White bread is refined as most parts of the grain are removed leaving only the Endosperm which is a very simple sugar like carb. That's why white bread browns so well in a toaster it slightly caramelises the sugar.
Unhealthy carbohydrates include things like sodas and packaged snacks as well as sweets and desserts.
So how can we eat healthy carbs?
We can utilise complex, slow release carbs, carbs found in certain fruits with a low glycaemic load, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and dairy, are all examples of healthy carbohydrates.
These carbohydrates are essentially healthier because they release themselves slower into the human body and in tern the body has to take less drastic steps to put them to use.
They essentially provide energy slower over a longer time giving us less of a sugar rush and less of a crash resulting from the slow down.
However, even with these healthier slow release carbs, we can still overload our system with too many carbs and you will need to ensure you undertake a healthy balanced diet to remain healthy.
So what about the Keto Diet! - Do we really need Carbs in our Diet?
You’ve probably heard that cutting carbs from your diet is bad for you. But there are plenty of studies proving that such a dietary change can be safe and even a healthy and beneficial change to your life.
For example, people who cut carbs and replaced them with more protein seemed to have added health benefits like a lower chance of diabetes, lower blood sugar levels and lower inflammation levels in the body.
"People who follow a low-carb diet for just 12 weeks increases their chances of putting type 2 diabetes into remission by 32%, a study has found" - https://www.diabetes.co.uk, Editor (Joe Smith, Viney Mistry)
Another recent study suggests that low-carb diets may have some protective effects against heart disease.
Diets with high levels of carbohydrates, especially refined or high glycemic index carbohydrates, also appear to be associated with hypertension, coronary heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and increased risk of mortality. - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Your body is a clever thing that can adapt, and when following a low-carbohydrate diet, your body can use ketones as an alternate fuel source instead of relying on glucose it can synthesize carbs and nutrients from your protein and fat intake to provide enough carbs for the bodies requirements and to maintain a health lifestyle.
Essentially this means that there are no established minimum daily requirements for carbohydrate intake because your body is capable of synthesising the required carbs it needs.
Chris Master John PHD writes a good article on this titled "We Really Can Make Glucose From Fatty Acids After All! O Textbook, How Thy Biochemistry Hast Deceived Me!" and you can read the article here
It's also becoming increasingly clear that deliberately inducing nutritional ketosis tied in with a low-carb diet or Keto Diet or even just intermittent carbohydrate restriction can have a range of health and weight loss benefits.
There is slowly becoming more and more substantial evidence that your brain and body don’t require carbs to function and thrive.
What is life like on a Low Carb Diet ?
The keto diet requires cutting carbs to under 50 grams per day before your body enters the metabolic state known as ketosis where your body uses fat stores for energy rather than carbohydrate stores. In this state, blood ketone levels spike in your body, that makes your body change its fuel source from carbohydrates to fat.
This changeover process normally lasts for around 5 days after which your energy levels will be just the same as before you started the diet.
Your body is capable of using the fat you consume to produce energy and if you're making enough ketones in your blood, you don't need carbohydrates to do this. The protein you consume on a keto diet is used sparingly to preserve function and muscle as well as assist with some biological functions.
Early documents showing what life is like on a keto diet can be seen from the Schwatka expedition in 1878.
The head explorer, Lt. Frederick Schwatka, wrote in his journal
“When first thrown wholly upon a diet of reindeer meat, it seems inadequate to properly nourish the system, and there is an apparent weakness and inability to perform severe exertive fatiguing journeys. But this soon passes away in the course of two or three weeks.”
To get the most out of you Keto Diet ensure you have a good and balanced diet to go along with it, by doing this the Keto Diet can be a very healthy diet to follow.
Include in your diet, food from a with variety of sources such as
- Meats - Poultry, Red Meat, + any meat is fine.
- Seafood, Fish and Shellfish,
- Vegetable and Leafy greens, a good rule of thumb is that green vegetables have the least amount of carbs
- Nuts and Seeds,
- Non-starchy fruits - Some berries are fine in moderation.
- All fat is generally fine, although like unhealthy food try and stick to the more healthy options when it comes to fats like coconut oil etc.
Things to be careful of on the Keto Diet
Your body does require a certain amount of carbohydrate and it acquires this by synthetizing proteins into carbs, but its a slow process and the amount it produces will just be enough to maintain and support the health of your body.
This does mean you cannot do intensive workouts or heavy weight lifting, your body simply won't produce enough carbohydrates to repair the muscle tears that are associated with high impact workouts, instead try and undertake more gentle exercise and limit the time you are going it for.
Like all diets you also have got to be strict and follow it properly
You have to be committed to the Keto Diet, its extremely simple as diets go but, but its extremely sensitive to you not sticking to it. It totally relies on your body being in Ketosis that way your body is forced to use fat as fuel as soon as your out of Ketosis if you continue eating carbs and high fat foods, you will just put on weight.
If you want a fool proof Keto Diet plan to follow instead to make things easy, Find out more about a Tailored Keto Diet Plan or if you fancy making small changes first why not check out our Slim Rice for sale
Ensuring you have enough nutrients in your diet
Focusing on selecting a substantial range of whole food ingredients is vital if you're trying to manage your weight, or you want to live a healthy lifestyle.
You should always select only the freshest low-carb and all-natural ingredients that appeal most to you which can provide your body with the nutrients it needs (such as fiber and protein) in order to perform optimal when it comes down to these key life functions such as energy production and overall metabolism.
This is particularly important for long term users of the Keto Diet, you will want to ensure you are giving your body the nutrients and support that you would normally have gotten from your carb diet.
The best way to do this is to eat a variety of vegetables and other low carb friendly food that contain a full range of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
Ensuring adequate carbs levels through gluconeogenesis
We have already talked about the bodies ability to synthesize proteins and fats into carbohydrates this process is called gluconeogenesis, but lets take a closer look at gluconeogenesis and ask whether carbohydrates are necessary to produce glucose for energy?
The truth is that the body always makes glucose, and to some ability gluconeogenesis is always taking place but the process increases to include other sources of conversion when a person goes into a fasting state.
Once in Ketosis many foods are broken down and converted to produce glucose during this time. Proteins from food and fats as well as amino acids and glycerol from fat metabolism in the liver.
So to sum it up your body doesn't need carbohydrates to create glucose!
The Research undertaken on Keto and Low Carb Diets
There has been several long and short term research studies undertaken in regards to the effects and benefits of low carb diets over the years
Research undertaken on Type Two Diabetes
With the global diabetes prevalence in 2019 is estimated to be 9.3% (463 million people) - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31518657 (3)
Diabetes is a major concern to the health of an individual and the nation, and as such many trials and research papers have been undertaken on the diabetes.
A study involving 238 participants showed impressive results. After 10 weeks of an individualized program that included nutritional ketosis, the recipients experienced better blood glucose control, weight loss, and were able to reduce their medication use - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32093385 (2)
A further study found that people who followed a low carb diet for just 12 weeks on average put their type two diabetes 32% into remission.
"People who follow a low-carb diet for just 12 weeks increases their chances of putting type 2 diabetes into remission by 32%, a study has found" - https://www.diabetes.co.uk, Editor (Joe Smith, Viney Mistry)
Keto Diets effect on Weight Loss
In a one year-controlled trial, 63 individuals who were overweight were asked to follow either a low-carb diet or a low-calorie, high carbohydrate diet. The study showed that participants who followed the low-carb diet lost about four percent more weight than those following the typical low-calorie, high-carb diet. - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12761365/ (4)
Research on Cardiovascular Health
Another benefit of the Keto Diets are lower blood pressure and higher good HDL cholesterol levels which were discovered during several month long blind trials.
A Ketogenic Low-Carbohydrate High-Fat Diet Increases LDL Cholesterol in Healthy, Young, Normal-Weight Women: A Randomized Controlled Feeding Trial
The LCHF diet induced a rather modest increase in HDL cholesterol (effect size 0.32 mM) in the current trial. - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ (5)
The Keto Diet works extremely well for weight loss, and excessive weight can be one of the leading devices to a short life.
"For persons with severe obesity (BMI ≥40), life expectancy is reduced by as much as 20 years in men and by about 5 years in women" - Osama Hamdy, https://www.medscape.com/ (6)
The Low Carb Diet's effect on Exercise
Research on the sporting effects of the Keto Diet are less known, but a study in which five male cyclists volunteered for, showed promising results.
Although the cyclists had a lower muscle glycogen level than the other participants in the endurance race, they were able to last longer distances as their bodies were able to metabolize fat more efficiently.
The study suggests that delayed fatigue may be related to the body's ability to regulate its own energy source partly by its efficient metabolism of fat and not just by utilisation of its glucose reserves.
This is practically relevant to long endurance exercise as most people will use up there glucose and carb based energy reserves within 1 hour and 45 minuets of exercise.
At a moderately steady pace of exercise, you metabolize blood glucose at 1 gram per minute or 60 grams per hour, according to exercise physiologist David Peterson. With full liver glycogen stores, a less fit athlete will run out of glycogen after one hour and 45 minutes of exercise - Michelle Fisk https://www.livestrong.com
Because the participants were on a low carb diet, their bodies were used to using energy from fat and protein more so they managed to continue to function at a better rate once the glucose reserves had been used up.
The Keto Diet and supporting Muscle Mass
A recent study that was undertaken on several men was the ability for low carb diets to support muscle mass.
Each man used to go through a normal diet every day. But then for 6 weeks, these men went through a Keto Style / Low Carb Diet only using up to 8% carbohydrates in their diet.
So what happened? They all lost significant amounts of body fat in just 4 weeks or less! and gained a slight improvement in muscle mass.
The Honest Truth with the Keto Diet with Exercising and the GYM
The study here although promising highlights the need for carbohydrates in an active lifestyle. The participants included carbs at up to 8% in their diets and although the human body through gluconeogenesis can synthesize and produce more, it can't do it quick enough to supply the carbs needed for intense exercise and weight lifting.
You will essentially lack the required nutrients to properly repair muscle damage and as such a low carb diet opposed to a full style Keto Diet is always recommend for an active or sporting lifestyle.
Research on Alzheimer's disease and brain health
Ketones that originate in low carbohydrate diets are being studied for their ability to improve the energy crisis that exists in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
In a study completed by researchers, ketone bodies were found useful as a potential neuronal protective treatment to alleviate devastating symptoms related to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Furthermore, clinical studies have indicated cognitive benefits from an increase in ketone bodies when patients were consuming them. - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33233502/ (7)
We hope this has helped you answer whether you can Can you Live Without Carbs in your Diet?
Obviously this will be up to your own personal choice but a lot of evidence supports the fact you can.
Many people choose to utilise a low carb or keto diet in the short term to loose weight and there are thousands of success stories relating to this. Other may choose it for a more drastic and long term use.
If your considering either a Short or Long term use of the Keto Diet.
Have a look at our article on the The Health Benefits and Cons of the Keto Food Diet
You can also have a look at the information below to understand more about the different approaches.
Short term use of the Keto Diet
Short term use of the Keto Diet up to 6 months is perfect for loosing weight and improving many other ailments as documented in this article, you should see most of your weight lost within the first 3 months, and improvements to mood, health and energy levels by the end of the same period.
Long term use of the Keto Diet
long term use gets a little more cloudy, and it totally depends on your lifestyle, if you have an active lifestyle you might find the Keto Diet restrictions won't allow you to fully maintain your muscle mass and you don't recover from exercise as well, if your a gym user, you will find it has affects on your body's ability to cope and recover.
There are two things you can do about this
Option one is to carb cycle on the Keto Diet and have a cheat day every Saturday or Sunday. This allows your body to get a boost of carbs to repair its muscles from strains and aches during the week and the short 24 hour period of eating carbohydrates won't allow your body to exit Ketosis.
Option two is to transition onto a Low Carb Diet instead and slowly increase your max allowed carbs from less than 50 grams a day to around 100-150 grams a day.
At this point you will leave Ketosis and your body will revert to using carbs as its main fuel source, the good news is on the low carb diet on a day that you need more energy just eat more carbs. but try and eat what your body requires without going back to eating high carbs every day.
The low carb diet will also mean you have to a be a little more careful on your fat intake as you won't be able to have as much as you would on the Keto Diet.
You can even use this Low Carb Diet as a break for a few months before going back onto the Keto Diet. if your doing it long term try and have a break every couple of months.
More about the Carb Free Zone
Welcome to the Carb Free Zone, as regular keto diet users ourselves, we know how hard it can be to find those Keto and Low Carb friendly products.
This is why we created the Carb Free Zone, a place to show-off unique products that can help anyone on a low carb diet.
Feel free to have a browse of the products we list on our site and by purchasing them through us, you can help to make the Carb Free Zone a great resource for people undertaking a Carb Free Lifestyle.
The health information that The Carb Free Zone provides across all of it sources, including this website is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice.
Be sure to consult with a qualified health professional or your doctor for your individual needs
(2) Alcubierre N, Granado-Casas M, Real J, Perpiñán H, Rubinat E, Falguera M, Castelblanco E, Franch-Nadal J, Mauricio D. Spanish People with Type 2 Diabetes Show an Improved Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet. Nutrients. 2020 Feb 20;12(2):560. doi: 10.3390/nu12020560. PMID: 32093385; PMCID: PMC7071466. - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32093385/
(3) Saeedi P, Petersohn I, Salpea P, Malanda B, Karuranga S, Unwin N, Colagiuri S, Guariguata L, Motala AA, Ogurtsova K, Shaw JE, Bright D, Williams R; IDF Diabetes Atlas Committee. Global and regional diabetes prevalence estimates for 2019 and projections for 2030 and 2045: Results from the International Diabetes Federation Diabetes Atlas, 9th edition. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2019 Nov;157:107843. doi: 10.1016/j.diabres.2019.107843. Epub 2019 Sep 10. PMID: 31518657. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31518657
MLA Burén, Jonas et al. “A Ketogenic Low-Carbohydrate High-Fat Diet Increases LDL Cholesterol in Healthy, Young, Normal-Weight Women: A Randomized Controlled Feeding Trial.” Nutrients vol. 13,3 814. 2 Mar. 2021, doi:10.3390/nu13030814
APA Burén, J., Ericsson, M., Damasceno, N., & Sjödin, A. (2021). A Ketogenic Low-Carbohydrate High-Fat Diet Increases LDL Cholesterol in Healthy, Young, Normal-Weight Women: A Randomized Controlled Feeding Trial. Nutrients, 13(3), 814. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13030814
NLM Burén J, Ericsson M, Damasceno NRT, Sjödin A. A Ketogenic Low-Carbohydrate High-Fat Diet Increases LDL Cholesterol in Healthy, Young, Normal-Weight Women: A Randomized Controlled Feeding Trial. Nutrients. 2021 Mar 2;13(3):814. doi: 10.3390/nu13030814. PMID: 33801247; PMCID: PMC8001988. - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8001988