5 Signs You’re Not Eating Enough Carbs

Undereating carbohydrates
Photo Credit: Bonninstudio

January 31, 2021

By Isadora Baum

Low-carb everything is having a big moment. But while limiting highly-processed carbs like white bread, pasta, and cookies is definitely a good idea, saying “no” to all carbs might be a problem. After all, vegetables, fruit and legumes are all carbs.

Here are five signs you might not be eating enough carbs, according to Lauren Blake, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

1. You’re moody.

If your body isn’t getting its carb fix, you might find yourself feeling edgier than usual. “Carbohydrates are essential to the body’s production of serotonin, a feel-good chemical that’s produced in the brain. And when people cut down carbs, especially at first, it can make them irritable and crabby,” says Blake.

2. You get headaches.

Occasional headaches are normal, but if you have them every day, you may have taken your low-carb diet too far. “Carbs don’t require any additional processing to make glucose, so they effectively keep blood sugar levels steady. However, when you don’t eat enough carbs — or food in general — blood sugar levels can dip and cause headaches,” Blake says.

3. Your breath stinks.

“When you don’t eat enough carbs, the body burns fat and protein for fuel. It does so by a process called ketosis,” Blake says. This causes the body to generate different byproducts than a more typical eating style, which can lead to bad breath.

4. You’re constipated.

Along with vitamins and minerals, vegetables and fruit are loaded with fiber. There are two types of fiber: Soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and actually slows digestion to keep you full, Blake says. You’ll find soluble fiber in peas, nuts, seeds, beans, some fruits, and legumes. Insoluble fiber passes through the digestive tract and keeps digestion moving along; rich sources include whole grains and the seeds and skins of fruit — so don’t peel that apple before eating.

5. You’re too tired to work out.

“Carbohydrates are the first line of use for energy for the body, so when muscle stores of carbohydrates are low, it can make some people feel lethargic and less able to sustain a high-intensity workout,” Blake says. Some people perform better using fat for fuel, but even devoted low-carbers should keep an open mind about adding more carbs to fuel workouts, especially longer, more endurance-based activities.