What is a carb detox?
A carb detox is strict avoidance of foods containing carbohydrates, especially refined carbs from sources like bread, pasta, rice, and processed foods and often lasts for three days. This helps the body slow down the production of glycogen.
During the detox period, the body sheds excess water weight and adjusts to the new level of macronutrients. A person might feel weak and tired after three days since the body typically relies on carbohydrates for energy. Once the body becomes accustomed to the dietary changes, it burns fat for energy instead of carbs. This can have many benefits, including weight loss, better focus, more stable energy levels, and increased physical and mental health.
Preparation for a sugar and carb detox
Detox leads to a drop in insulin levels and an increase in leptin, which means it’s inadvisable to begin the detox process without preparation. Reducing or eliminating carbs immediately can cause serious, and potentially dangerous, side effects and should be done with careful consideration for current health conditions.
Individuals should slowly reduce carb intake in the days leading up to the detox. They should focus on avoiding sugar and refined carbs, giving time for the body to become fat-adapted. Don’t keep tempting foods nearby, which may lead to “cheating” during a carb detox. Make sure all food supplies are ready beforehand. Extra, unnecessary store visits might lead to impulse purchases of high-carb and sugary processed foods.
Recommended physical activities during a carb detox
Physical activity boosts metabolism and improves digestion. Exercising during a detox can be beneficial. During a carb detox, the body lacks high amounts of energy, so high-intensity workouts should be limited or avoided altogether. Less-strenuous physical activities include walking and stretching. Consider replacing morning jogs and weight-lifting with 20-30 minutes of brisk walking and flexibility exercises like yoga and Tai Chi. These exercises help with digestion as well as fitness, all without exerting much energy. When exercising during a carb detox, it’s important to listen to the body and understand its limits.
Recommended foods and beverages during a carb detox
- Fluids, including lemon water, apple cider vinegar, and mineral waters. Electrolyte supplements can also reduce the severity of flu-like symptoms. Apple cider vinegar and lemon water in particular help suppress appetite and reduce cravings, which are crucial during a detox.
- High-quality proteins such as whole eggs, beef, lamb, turkey and oily fish like salmon and sardines. It’s crucial to increase the body’s fat intake, but avoid unhealthy cooking methods like deep frying.
- Microwaved, boiled, steamed or raw low-carb vegetables. Such vegetables include spinach, broccoli, cabbage, zucchini, celery, onions, kale, asparagus, peppers, and cauliflower.
Carb detox symptoms
Neuroscientists have found evidence that excessive sugar intake can be addictive. Sugar affects the brain like a drug and this is true for other types of carbs as well. Bodies react differently to carb reduction, depending on how many carbs a person typically consumes. Common withdrawal and flu-like symptoms experienced during a carb detox include mental fuzziness, fatigue, mood swings, cravings, irritability, and dizziness. These are the same symptoms that people experience when they stop taking an addictive substance because drugs and sugar have an impact on the brain. These symptoms resolve in time, however, just like drug withdrawal symptoms from a traditional detox.
Who should avoid a carb detox?
A carb detox is usually safe, but it isn’t recommended for certain people, such as pregnant or nursing women, children, people with certain health conditions and people taking certain medications. However, in some instances, a carb detox can be used to improve health issues such as diabetes, neurological conditions, and metabolic syndrome. It may be recommended by a doctor as a primary or supplemental form of treatment. People who can’t undergo a carb detox because of pregnancy, age or medical conditions should consult a health professional to help them develop a meal plan.
While a carb detox has many potential benefits, don’t expect immediate results. A well-planned carb detox can contribute to long-term success on a ketogenic or moderately low-carb diet.
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