Over the past twenty years, the popularity of low carb diets has grown astronomically. Once only prescribed by doctors for those who were obese or suffering from diabetes, now the low-carb diet craze has invaded our bookstores, televisions, computers, and for many, our waistlines. But, while much has been written on how to start a low carb diet plan for health and weight loss, less emphasis has been placed on the effects of sustaining a low carb diet for a longer period of time. Luckily, while the side effects of a long low-carb diet are potentially serious, they are avoidable.
While each individual’s reaction to any new diet or lifestyle change is different, there are a number of side effects that are typically experienced by those eating a low carb diet. These include dehydration, mood swings, low alcohol tolerance, leg cramps, frequent urination, and constipation. These side effects, however, should not deter someone from improving their health by cutting back on carbs. Many of these side effects are avoidable or easily managed, while others are actually a result of how your body should have been functioning all along.
Dehydration occurs because, with a low carb diet plan, you are stripping your body of glycogens: sugars which contain a lot of fluid. To avoid dehydration, it is important that anyone attempting a low carb diet increase their fluid intake as well. Water is your friend! Inevitably, you will experience increased urination, but that is actually a healthy side effect. Frequent trips to the bathroom mean that your body is getting the fluids that it craves.
Similarly, you may notice that you are constipated while on a low carb diet. This is because many of the carbs we consume are also our sources of fiber. Make sure that you are getting plenty of fiber in your diet and increase fluids to avoid constipation. Green vegetables and whole grains are excellent sources of fiber. Remember that balance is key.
Mood swings and leg cramps on a low carb diet are caused by your body burning more of its energy stores. After a while, this should balance out for those maintaining a low carb lifestyle. Many people have also suggested that altering their usual amount or type of exercise helps control these side effects as well.
The limited alcohol tolerance of those on a low -carb diet is easily avoided by decreasing alcohol consumption. Alcohol doesn’t fit in well with a low carb lifestyle, and cutting back is likely beneficial to your overall health and wellbeing anyway. When you do choose to have an occasional drink, just take it slow until you know how the alcohol will affect you.
The truth is, the benefits of a low carb diet far outweigh the risks from possible side effects. That said, only you and your doctor know your body and how it functions. Give your body what it needs, and it will respond by giving you the energy to live the active lifestyle that you love.
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