What is a low carb diet?


Eat as much meat, fish and dairy products as you want and still become slimmer? This is what the so-called low-carb diets promise, in which carbohydrates are largely avoided. While some low carb programs actually promote a balanced diet, others are more detrimental to healthy weight loss.

How does a low carb diet work?

The term “ low carb ” comes from English and means “ few carbohydrates ”. The German Society for Nutrition recommends a daily carbohydrate intake of 55 to 60 percent of the daily nutrient intake. 10 to 15 percent should consist of protein and 30 percent fat.

With a low carb diet, the carbohydrate content is reduced to 15 to 30 percent (equivalent to around 100 to 120 grams per day). The aim of low carb diets is to stimulate the body to break down fat deposits by avoiding carbohydrates.

The principle behind it is called ketosis: The body prefers to use glucose, which it obtains from carbohydrates, to generate energy. The brain alone uses 120 grams of glucose daily. If there are fewer carbohydrates available than the body needs for energy, the metabolism changes and after a few days it enters the state of ketosis. Fats are converted in the liver into ketone bodies, which then supply the body with energy. This diet is intended to stimulate fat loss.

How strictly carbohydrate-containing foods are eliminated from the diet varies from low-carb diet to low-carb diet.

In moderate forms such as the LOGI diet, up to 130 grams of carbohydrates per day are allowed. LOGI stands for “Low Glycemic and Insulinemic Diet”, which aims to keep blood sugar levels and blood insulin levels low. Strict low-carb diets such as the keto diet  allow a maximum of 15 grams. Very radical forms (“ no carb diet”) are almost completely free of carbohydrates.

Which foods are allowed and which are forbidden on the low carb diet?

The diet during a low-carb diet primarily contains the nutrients protein and fat. On the other hand , foods that contain a lot of carbohydrates are only allowed in moderation on low-carb diets. These include:

  • Grain products (e.g. bread, pasta, rice)
  • potatoes
  • Fruit, vegetables and often legumes with a high carbohydrate content (such as dried fruits, grapes, bananas, corn)
  • sweets
  • alcohol

Since plant-based foods in particular are often rich in carbohydrates, a low-carb diet often consists predominantly of animal products:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • milk and milkproducts

But some plant-based foods are also low in carbohydrates:

  • cooking oils
  • Nuts, seeds
  • Mushrooms
  • Fruits and vegetables with a low carbohydrate content (such as collard greens, asparagus, spinach, tomatoes, avocado, apricots, berries, citrus fruits)
  • Some low-carb diets also include legumes such as beans, peas and chickpeas. Although they contain plenty of carbohydrates, they also contain a lot of vegetable protein.

Also find out which low-carb foods are suitable for your diet.

Lose weight with low carb

When the body gets a lot of carbohydrates, it converts the excess into fat so it can be stored. This is where low carb comes in. With this diet, the body does not get enough carbohydrates to ensure its energy supply – and therefore it uses the fat reserves. In this way, rapid weight loss is possible.

In addition, there are no cravings if people trying to lose weight avoid simple carbohydrates and opt for complex ones. By the way, you can save a lot of calories.

When does the low carb diet start to take effect?

It takes a few days and some stamina for the body to reach the state of ketosis (also called “hunger metabolism”). On average it takes three days to a week. During this time you may feel tired, weak and have a headache. After a few days the body will have adjusted and the symptoms should then disappear.

Studies show that you can lose weight quickly and a lot in the first six months. In addition to fat, the body also loses a lot of water.

What types of  low carb diets are there?

Atkins diet

In the first two weeks of the Atkins diet, only 20 grams of carbohydrates – the amount in about four medium-sized raw carrots – should be eaten per day. As soon as the desired weight is reached, the carbohydrate content is increased to 90 grams. Protein and fat, on the other hand, can be eaten in unlimited quantities.

Lutz diet

The Lutz diet works similarly to the Atkins diet. She focuses on protein-rich foods such as meat, fish and dairy products – as well as vegetables. Carbohydrates are allowed in moderation.

Glyx diet

The Glyx diet relies on foods with a low glycemic index. These only cause the blood sugar level to rise slowly, which also keeps the insulin level low. Protein-rich foods such as fish, meat and eggs, high-quality fats such as vegetable oils, plenty of fruit and vegetables, as well as whole grain products and other carbohydrate-rich foods are allowed in moderation (internal link: fats and oils – not yet online ). If possible, white flour products and sweets are avoided.

If blood sugar levels rise, the body releases the hormone insulin to lower it. However, insulin can stimulate fat cells to store energy. The Glyx diet aims to achieve the opposite.

LOGI diet

Like the Glyx diet, the LOGI diet prefers foods that only cause a moderate increase in blood sugar levels: low-carbohydrate fruits and vegetables, high-quality fats, dairy products and low-fat meat. Carbohydrate-rich foods that only slowly raise blood sugar levels are allowed in moderation, such as whole grain products and legumes. Overall, carbohydrate intake can be between 80 and 130 grams per day.

Dukan diet

In the first phase of the Dukan diet, carbohydrates are almost completely avoided in favor of meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. In a second phase, certain types of vegetables can be eaten. Later, carbohydrate-containing foods such as whole grain bread and fruit will be allowed again.

Keto diet

The keto diet or ketogenic diet is one of the strictest low carb diets. Foods rich in carbohydrates are taboo. Instead, the menu includes foods rich in fat and protein such as meat, fish, dairy products, nuts and seeds. Low-carb vegetables and fruits can be eaten in small quantities. Overall, the carbohydrate intake is ten to 15 grams per day.


Followers of the Paleo diet only eat foods that existed or  are said to have existed in the Paleolithic era (hence the name) . Above all, meat, fish, fruit, nuts and vegetables are on the menu; grains, legumes, milk and dairy products are avoided. The daily intake of carbohydrates is 50 to 100 grams.

What are the benefits of the low carb diet?

  • Protein and fatty foods, which are mainly on the menu in low-carb diets, fill you up well. Therefore, with many low carb diets you don’t have to starve to lose weight.
  • A diet in which carbohydrates are only moderately reduced – for example the Glyx and LOGI diet – enables a balanced mixed diet. There is no need to fear  a nutrient deficiency .
  • Studies have shown that a low-carb diet leads to greater weight loss in the short term than a low-fat diet . (However, the differences had evened out after a year. In the long term, avoiding carbohydrates does not lead to greater weight loss results than avoiding fat.)
  • Unhealthy foods such as sweets or alcohol are avoided on low carb diets due to the high carbohydrate content.

Low carb diet: what should you pay attention to?

It is important not to eat too little. This increases the risk of nutrient deficiencies. Even with strict low-carb diet variants, you should keep an eye on your nutrient supply.

Also drink enough and prefer mineral water that contains sodium. However, you should be careful with special low-carb products because many contain a lot of fat and are also comparatively expensive. Tip: The healthiest are moderate low-carb forms that focus primarily on vegetables.

There are different answers to the question of how long low carb diets can be carried out. Some adherents eat this way long-term, but several studies (such as in The Lancet ) have concluded that people who eat very low-carb diets long-term have an increased risk of premature death and diseases such as stroke, cancer and heart disease .

Lose weight and keep it off with low carb

In order to maintain your weight after successful weight loss with low carb , it is helpful not to go back to your previous eating habits. Especially with strict forms, there is a risk of the yo-yo effect as soon as you return to eating the way you did before the change. Tip: Increase your carbohydrate intake gradually, eat a balanced diet and incorporate exercise into your everyday life.

What are the disadvantages of the low carb diet?

Low carb diets in which carbohydrates are strictly avoided – e.g. Nutrition experts are critical of certain foods,  such as  the Atkins diet or the keto diet .

  • Mainly foods of animal origin are eaten, which the German Nutrition Society (DGE) advises against in favor of a predominantly plant-based diet.
  • Vitamins, minerals and fiber, which are found in many plant-based foods, are often neglected during a low-carb diet. There is a risk of nutrient deficiency .
  • Maintaining a strict low-carb diet can be very difficult.
  • low carb diet can lead to side effects such as headaches, fatigue or constipation.
  • To lose weight, it is not enough to just cut out carbohydrates. It also depends on the calorie balance.
  • A strictly low-carbohydrate diet creates metabolic products that some people cannot break down well. They increase the risk of gout and kidney problems.
  • The high intake of protein and saturated fatty acids can worsen the course of the disease in people with certain underlying diseases (such as increased uric acid levels, kidney failure or vascular diseases).
  • Ideally, people who want to lose weight should learn to eat healthily in the long term. However, with strict low-carb diets, such a learning effect falls by the wayside.

If you have illnesses – e.g. If you suffer from gout, diabetes, kidney or vascular diseases, please consult your doctor before changing your diet.

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