Lower blood sugar levels, no ravenous appetite attacks and better performance: A low-carb diet seems to have a number of advantages - it is not for nothing that this type of diet is popular when it comes to losing a few kilos quickly.
The basis of the diet: eating little or no carbohydrates. The focus is increasingly on proteins and healthy fats and eliminate as many carbs as possible from the menu.
But in addition to the obvious advantages (weight loss, conscious eating), low carb also has some snags. What exactly these are and whether you can reconcile the lion’s share with a low-carb diet is explained below:
What actually are carbohydrates?
Along with fats and proteins, carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients our bodies need to survive. They consist of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen and are one of the largest suppliers of energy.
Carbohydrates are also known as sugars or saccharides. The reason: they consist of different sugar molecules. Breaking them down releases energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). This energy store is needed in every cell: the muscles, the brain, the intestines, the lungs... Carbohydrates are essential to be able to produce ATP. Although fats are also suppliers of energy, the production of ATP from fats (in contrast to carbohydrates) requires oxygen, which makes this process more complex.
Depending on the number of sugar molecules that form a chain, a distinction is made between single, double and multiple sugars. Examples of short-chain carbohydrates (simple sugars) are glucose or fructose. The double sugars include household or milk sugar and long-chain carbohydrates are understood to be multiple sugars, which are mainly found in whole grain products and legumes.
As a rule of thumb, the longer/more complex the carbs, the better. Multiple sugars cause our blood sugar to rise more slowly and also fall again gently because our body takes longer to break down the complex chains. In this way, the sugar does not get into the blood all at once, but gradually - and we avoid cravings and midday slumps!
These only occur when the blood sugar level suddenly drops again. This is exactly the case with single or double sugars: These sugar molecules, often referred to as “empty” carbohydrates, cause blood sugar to rise quickly, but fall again just as quickly.
Carbohydrates can be stored in the body in three different ways: as blood sugar, as glycogen in the liver or as muscle glycogen. For example, if we have more glucose in the body than we can use, the muscles and liver are used to store glycogen. However, if all stores are sufficiently filled, excess carbohydrates are converted into fat.
What are the functions of carbohydrates?
- Energy: Carbohydrates are the energy suppliers par excellence. The body cannot produce energy so quickly and effectively from any other nutrient.
- Maintain muscles: If the body does not have enough glucose, it can also use other nutrients to generate energy. For example, amino acids are converted into glucose - which leads to the breakdown of muscles, since amino acids are the basic building blocks of them.
- Biological functions : Carbohydrates are components of nucleic acids, have a protein-splitting effect and influence lipid metabolism as well as water and electrolyte balance.
- Digestion: Certain long-chain carbohydrates promote digestion. This is dietary fiber. They are not converted into glucose but leave the body undigested. This leads to a faster feeling of satiety, the stool volume is increased and the digestion process is accelerated. You can find out more about dietary fiber here .
What is the low carb diet?
“Low Carb” stands for “Low Carbohydrates” – translated: “few carbohydrates.” The name says it all: With this form of nutrition, as few carbohydrates as possible should be eaten. Avoiding bread, chocolate or fruit is also on the agenda, as is an increased focus on proteins and fats.
While you should consume around 240 g of carbs as a woman and around 300 g of carbs as a man in a balanced diet, the carbohydrate content of a low-carb diet is only 100-120 g - i.e. 15-30% instead of 50% of your nutrients .
Pasta, potatoes, legumes and grain products are largely eliminated from the menu and replaced with more vegetables, meat, tofu, eggs or dairy products. At first, it usually feels strange. After all, something essential is missing from the plate, isn't it?
The good news for low-carb fans: Your body can still manage it. Even without carbohydrates, it will reliably provide you with energy by converting fats and amino acids into glucose.
Because we constantly consume carbohydrates (be it porridge in the morning, banana as a snack or pasta in the evening), the body is used to drawing its energy primarily from these sugars. If we switch to low carb, we teach ourselves to use fat as an energy source: makes sense and is practical! It is not for nothing that our body regularly builds up fat reserves that can reliably get us through life and supply us with energy in “bad times”.
Nevertheless, you should make sure to optimize your protein intake. It should be between 1.5 g and 2 g of protein per kilo of body weight. You get the rest of the calories you need from fat.
What are the benefits of low carb?
- The pounds tumble: if you provide your body with few carbohydrates for a longer period of time, it draws additional energy from your fat reserves (= ketosis). This way you not only lose a few pounds of fat, but also prevent heart disease.
- Performance: Many people who do the low-carb diet report increased performance. The reason: the blood sugar levels do not fluctuate as much when you eat low carb as when you eat a normal amount of carbohydrates. This way your brain is constantly supplied with energy and you don't fall into the midday slump after a plate of pasta.
- Feeling of satiety: Low carb usually fills you up for a long time because the increased protein and fat content results in slower digestion.
- Fat loss: Since you make few carbohydrates available to your body, your insulin level is correspondingly low. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, so it's not needed if you're low on sugar. This allows the fat loss to take place without any problems. If insulin were to work in the body, the fat reserves could not be tapped.
- good for diabetics: The Diabetes UK organization recommends a low-carb diet for type II diabetics who are overweight. Although other options are also suitable for losing weight, low carb has the advantage, especially for people with diabetes, that it does not cause blood sugar to rise/fall as sharply.
Why aren't our dishes low carb?
Interim conclusion: Low Carb has been well researched, is relatively easy to implement and scores with a number of advantages. No wonder more and more people want to at least try the popular diet. We, too, have often been asked in support whether our dishes are suitable for low carb.
The answer: it depends. Our Italian bean stew , for example, only contains 57 g of carbohydrates per glass, so it can be integrated into your low-carb diet relatively easily, especially if you eat even fewer carbs with your other meals. Or how about having half a glass for lunch and half a glass for dinner? Add a low-carb side dish (e.g. some vegetables or a salad) and you're good to go!
The situation is different with our Chili Vegano : With 82 g of carbs per glass, this is not the carbohydrate bomb par excellence - but if you eat one glass a day, you should pay more attention to it, and less or none at all in your other meals Having carbs to stay within the recommended 100g-120g.
At Löwenportion, we expressly value a balanced nutrient and amino acid profile: fats, proteins, carbohydrates. We cover every macronutrient with every single one of our dishes. The main ingredient of every dish are legumes. On the one hand, these score with a decent amount of protein, on the other hand with certain long-chain carbohydrates, the dietary fibers.
As mentioned above, these stimulate intestinal activity: they cannot be digested, the feeling of satiety occurs more quickly and the chyme stays in the intestine for a shorter time - in this way, even carcinogenic substances do not have long to come into contact with the intestinal mucosa .
Why did we choose long-chain carbohydrates?
- they are extremely good suppliers of energy, as they cause blood sugar to rise and fall slowly. Cravings or a midday slump? No chance!
- Low glycemic index (GI): This number, between 0 and 100, indicates how quickly carbohydrates are absorbed into the bloodstream. In general, a glycemic index of under 50 is considered good, anything over 70 should be avoided at best. For example, edamame ( 15 ), green lentils (30), chickpeas ( 35 ), or kidney beans ( 52 ) have a low/good GI – all legumes.
- Complex carbohydrates fill you up better and longer. Our body needs some time to split the long chains, so the next hunger is a long time coming.
There is no question that our bodies need carbohydrates to provide energy. However, there is no question that this energy can also be obtained from low-carb foods, for example from fats and proteins. What is right for you now depends on your goals.
Building muscle with low carb?
Another reason why we didn't tailor our dishes to a low-carb diet: building muscle is extremely difficult. After a correspondingly strenuous strength training unit, the body demands energy that is readily available, i.e. carbohydrates. If you eat enough fat and protein, your body can also use it to produce glucose.
Firstly, however, this takes longer and secondly, there is always the danger that proteins, not fats, will be used as energy suppliers. The result: muscle loss.
To ensure that this does not happen, you would have to pay meticulous attention to sufficient fat intake with low carb. Even if you do it the right way and no muscles are broken down, energy from fats cannot be compared to that from carbohydrates: Fats provide more than twice as much energy per unit as proteins and carbohydrates, but they are also the slowest suppliers of energy. Fats are therefore not suitable for intensive sports sessions.
A low carb diet can be useful if you want to lose a few pounds, for example. But even if your primary goal is to lose weight: You can also achieve this successfully with other diets , since ultimately it is always about a calorie deficit.
As far as a balanced diet is concerned, demonizing carbohydrates per se because they are "bad sugars" makes no sense. Of course, single and double sugars are not good for your health, as they cause blood sugar to rise quickly and give you unwanted cravings.
Nonetheless, long-chain carbohydrates are definitely a part of a balanced diet, not least because they effectively provide energy and support your gut. They also keep you full for a very long time, just like proteins, for example.
The German Society for Nutrition also recommends that more than 50% of the energy intake should come from carbohydrates.
(Complex) carbohydrates are particularly important if you are regularly physically active, as they provide you with sufficient energy quickly. What is the perfect post-workout meal? Our chili , our mountain lentil stew , chickpea curry .....