The low-carb craze is going strong. Bread is out. Pasta is overrated. And dieters are experimenting with how low their carb intake can go. But grains are anything but all the same (just ask Bill Davis, MD, author of Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight). So whether you’re cutting out refined grains, whole grains, or carbs in general, the effects can vary widely. Here’s a look at the wide array of things that happen when you ditch the bread bags:
1. You lose water weight.
When you reduce your carb intake, the first thing you notice is how quickly, even magically, the weight falls off. But it’s not fat you’re losing. It’s water. “When carbs are stored in the body in the form of glycogen, each gram of carbohydrate stores three to four times its weight in water,” says dietitian and strength coachA?Marie Spano, RD. So as soon as you cut carbs and start using your glycogen stores, you’ll lose a good amount of water weight.
2. You catch the Low-Carb Flu.
“Carbs are the brain’s main source of energy,” says Spano. “When a person cuts down on carbs, the brain is running on fumes, especially as glycogen stores get low and become depleted.” Eventually, once all that glycogen is gone, your body breaks down fat and runs off of little carbon fragments called ketones. The result: bad breath, dry mouth, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, insomnia, nausea, and brain fog. Basically, you feel like you have the flu. Eventually, your body adapts to running on ketones so you don’t feel so bad, but they are still aren’t your body’s preferred fuel source, says Spano.
3. Your cravings subside.
Refined carbohydrates are infamous for sending your blood-sugar levels through the roof, only for them to crash back down again. And recent research published in theA?American Journal of Clinical Nutritionsuggests that the rollercoaster ride activates addiction centers in the brain, leading to subsequent cravings. Opting for fiber-rich whole grains, though, can keep blood-sugar levels from plummeting to prevent cravings, says nutritionist Alex Caspero, RD, owner ofA?Delicious Knowledge.
4. Your risk of heart disease and diabetes goes upa??or down
The type of grains you cut makes a big difference here. For instance, a 2014 study published inA?PLOS ONEA?found that refined carbohydrates drive up the body’s levels of a fatty acid (called palmitoleic acid) to raise the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Meanwhile, according to the American Heart Association, whole grains can improve blood-cholesterol levels and lower risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. The choice is clear.
5. You energy levels drop.
Whole-grain intake is a major player in how much fiber you get, according to a recentA?Nutrition ResearchA?study that found that 92% of U.S. adults don’t get enough of the grains. Fiber, the indigestible part of plants, like grains, not only helps stabilize blood-sugar levels, reduce the risk of obesity, and chronic diseases, but keeps your bathroom habits regular, says Spano.
7. You get really moody.
And not just because you’re eating all of your sandwiches as lettuce wraps. Carbsa??whether they are whole or refineda??increase the brain’s levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, says Caspero. So when you cut healthy carbs like whole grains, your mental health goes right along with it.