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Side effects of Low-Carb Paleo/Zone?

by (248)
Updated about 5 hours ago
Created June 16, 2010 at 4:09 PM

After listening to a few of Robb Wolf's podcasts I decided to try out low-carb paleo/zone. I am a small female (10 blocks) and I work out about 4-5 times a week (although this week I have not worked out). On Monday I began the diet and finished each day with about 50 g of carbs but by late afternoon yesterday my vision became spotty causing a headache and nausea. Are these side effects of not eating enough carbs? I have followed paleo since January (unweighed/unmeasured) but I normally get an ample amount of fruits of vegetables to compensate for not eating grains. I am worried about going forward with this diet plan and for the side effects to continue. What do you think?...

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373 · December 11, 2010 at 6:18 AM

Eat more carbs. Low-carb is not paleo, and it's definitely not recommended if you're an athlete. Also, check out Matt Stone for a good critique of low-carb. Trust me, I've had all sorts of hypoglycemic issues since I began low-carbing, and it's just not worth it. Escape while you can. Health comes before weight. You could even do low-fat, high-carb on work out days, as Richard Nikoley and Martin Berkhan do. Plenty of healthy cultures run on carbs (Kitavans, Okinawans).

14aa918d730371ed14f8e7e7d6eb6587
373 · December 11, 2010 at 6:11 AM

Definitely not normal. Try increasing the carbs (potatoes, yams). If you're that low-carb are you eating enough fat?

5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f
8255 · December 11, 2010 at 3:47 AM

Sounds like something else is going on. I've heard 2-3 weeks, but 4 weeks sounds a bit long. What exactly are you eating, and are you drinking plenty of water? Anecdotally for me, when I went low carb, I took about 4 days to get into ketosis (I check with the ketostix), and it took me about 5 days to start feeling back to normal. I had all the symptoms you had except for the runs.

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec
1397 · June 18, 2010 at 9:29 PM

You're also correct about the low carb thing, it's not for everyone. The best thing you can do is try is for 2 months or so and see how you look, feel, and perform, then decide what you want to do. As an aside, I very rarely ever drink coffee.

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec
1397 · June 18, 2010 at 9:23 PM

Mike - As a general rule, you're right, people with insulin resistance have higher blood sugar much of the time, but referring to when they are adequately fed carbohydrates, and not in the middle of a transition to a low carb diet, the beginning in which the body is still burning mainly glucose for energy and insulin is still high. Hypoglycemia might occur at the point where liver glycogen runs out, and may not be propped up until the body adapts to a lower carbohydrate intake and insulin levels drop. This is what makes sense to me as well, since her symptoms are commonly seen in hypoglycemia.

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642 · June 17, 2010 at 4:40 AM

Yes, indeed, I would have been in serious trouble--for more reasons than you can imagine. But so would all the low-carbers who depend on their daily coffee fix to mask their declining adrenal function. Fortunately for me, however, we're out of the ice age and I can pound starch without getting fat while the modern Cro-Magnons stress over the carbohydrate content of lettuce.

08ce57b1bbb3bda8e384234389c36d94
1449 · June 17, 2010 at 1:07 AM

Mike, you would have been in serious trouble hanging with ice age Cro-Magnon hunters.

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642 · June 16, 2010 at 11:48 PM

Also, not everyone tolerates low carb so well, and everyone needs insulin secretion--without it, you'd die. Personally, I started wasting away on low carb and I did it pretty much perfectly as far as food quality (including organs) and gorging myself on saturated fat are concerned.

3eafb88d6a6d762fcfa8ed4eb0576260
642 · June 16, 2010 at 11:41 PM

Actually, from what I understand, hypoglycemia generally only occurs when you're still insulin sensitive. When you're insulin resistant, your blood sugar stays elevated, which is the opposite of hypoglycemia. But perhaps some of the symptoms of low blood sugar and high blood sugar/insulin overlap?

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec
1397 · June 16, 2010 at 5:29 PM

Insulin resistance is the need for more insulin than normal to facilitate the same amount of glucose transport into cells. It can help to think of it as "how close to type 2 diabetes" that you are, though you needn't worry about it too much, most people are a bit insulin resistant from the high carb diet they consume. A low-carb paleo diet will improve your insulin sensitivity rather quickly. Here is some info spcifically on insulin resistance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insulin_resistance

6c79890eb2299109d3caf4c6ecdfe6cc
248 · June 16, 2010 at 5:28 PM

yes I have heard of this as well. I assumed I would be lethargic and under-perform in my workouts but it was bad enough to make me not go to the gym. I guess this could be the atkins-flu and they symptoms were just a little more than I was expecting.

6c79890eb2299109d3caf4c6ecdfe6cc
248 · June 16, 2010 at 5:22 PM

Interesting. I will definitely try gradually reducing my carbs instead of what I did this week. Perhaps the extreme drop so quickly is what made me feel a little sick. Also- what do you mean by insulin resistance? Is there anything I should keep in mind regarding that possibility?

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1397 · June 16, 2010 at 4:51 PM

It sounds like you're getting into hypoglycemia, which might indicate you have a bit of insulin resistance. Given the amount of time that's passed since you went low carb, it seems like you've just run out of liver glycogen. I'd recommend taking a gradual reduction in carbs each day to avoid this, possible getting down to 50 grams over 1 week or so. Your body WILL adapt after around 2-4 weeks to being more fat adapted. 2-4 weeks is usually when people see things start to pick up again and start feeling better than before. Also, make sure you're not counting fiber in the number of carbs you eat (dumb I know, but I made this mistake when I originally started the zone...). Coffee MAY help, as it signals the release of adrenaline, and thus releases glucose from the liver, but there IS a following insulin response as well. Hope this helps!

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec
1397 · June 18, 2010 at 9:29 PM

You're also correct about the low carb thing, it's not for everyone. The best thing you can do is try is for 2 months or so and see how you look, feel, and perform, then decide what you want to do. As an aside, I very rarely ever drink coffee.

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec
1397 · June 18, 2010 at 9:23 PM

Mike - As a general rule, you're right, people with insulin resistance have higher blood sugar much of the time, but referring to when they are adequately fed carbohydrates, and not in the middle of a transition to a low carb diet, the beginning in which the body is still burning mainly glucose for energy and insulin is still high. Hypoglycemia might occur at the point where liver glycogen runs out, and may not be propped up until the body adapts to a lower carbohydrate intake and insulin levels drop. This is what makes sense to me as well, since her symptoms are commonly seen in hypoglycemia.

3eafb88d6a6d762fcfa8ed4eb0576260
642 · June 17, 2010 at 4:40 AM

Yes, indeed, I would have been in serious trouble--for more reasons than you can imagine. But so would all the low-carbers who depend on their daily coffee fix to mask their declining adrenal function. Fortunately for me, however, we're out of the ice age and I can pound starch without getting fat while the modern Cro-Magnons stress over the carbohydrate content of lettuce.

08ce57b1bbb3bda8e384234389c36d94
1449 · June 17, 2010 at 1:07 AM

Mike, you would have been in serious trouble hanging with ice age Cro-Magnon hunters.

3eafb88d6a6d762fcfa8ed4eb0576260
642 · June 16, 2010 at 11:48 PM

Also, not everyone tolerates low carb so well, and everyone needs insulin secretion--without it, you'd die. Personally, I started wasting away on low carb and I did it pretty much perfectly as far as food quality (including organs) and gorging myself on saturated fat are concerned.

3eafb88d6a6d762fcfa8ed4eb0576260
642 · June 16, 2010 at 11:41 PM

Actually, from what I understand, hypoglycemia generally only occurs when you're still insulin sensitive. When you're insulin resistant, your blood sugar stays elevated, which is the opposite of hypoglycemia. But perhaps some of the symptoms of low blood sugar and high blood sugar/insulin overlap?

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec
1397 · June 16, 2010 at 5:29 PM

Insulin resistance is the need for more insulin than normal to facilitate the same amount of glucose transport into cells. It can help to think of it as "how close to type 2 diabetes" that you are, though you needn't worry about it too much, most people are a bit insulin resistant from the high carb diet they consume. A low-carb paleo diet will improve your insulin sensitivity rather quickly. Here is some info spcifically on insulin resistance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insulin_resistance

6c79890eb2299109d3caf4c6ecdfe6cc
248 · June 16, 2010 at 5:22 PM

Interesting. I will definitely try gradually reducing my carbs instead of what I did this week. Perhaps the extreme drop so quickly is what made me feel a little sick. Also- what do you mean by insulin resistance? Is there anything I should keep in mind regarding that possibility?

Bee1be034ef8da3e1e5cf9587b8bb690
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588 · June 16, 2010 at 5:08 PM

There's something called "Atkins flu" that happens within a few days of starting a low-carb diet, as your body has to learn to not rely on carbs for energy processing. Upping the carbs can help and Drew has some great suggestions. Once your body adapts to using fats instead of carbs, this won't be a problem.

I started out as a low-carber after years of lots of carbs, no meat, and tons of sugar in my diet. I felt great with low-carb for a few days and then had a horrible time for about the next three days. I upped my carbs a couple of days and it helped. Went back down to lower carb and adapted within the following week. After that, my energy level was amazing for this confirmed couch potato. I WANTED to exercise (I was over 200 lbs at the time!). My low-grade depression disappeared, my mood was much more stable, and I dropped LOTS of weight quickly.

6c79890eb2299109d3caf4c6ecdfe6cc
248 · June 16, 2010 at 5:28 PM

yes I have heard of this as well. I assumed I would be lethargic and under-perform in my workouts but it was bad enough to make me not go to the gym. I guess this could be the atkins-flu and they symptoms were just a little more than I was expecting.

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10 · December 10, 2010 at 7:03 PM

I am on my 4th week of the Paleo diet, so no carbs from breat, wheat, pulses, peas, peanuts, potato, everything I love and I feel absolutely crap, flu like symptoms, headache, dizzyness, stomach ache, the runs then constipation, no energy just yeauk, is this normal????? and what can I do to make me feel better.

14aa918d730371ed14f8e7e7d6eb6587
373 · December 11, 2010 at 6:11 AM

Definitely not normal. Try increasing the carbs (potatoes, yams). If you're that low-carb are you eating enough fat?

5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f
8255 · December 11, 2010 at 3:47 AM

Sounds like something else is going on. I've heard 2-3 weeks, but 4 weeks sounds a bit long. What exactly are you eating, and are you drinking plenty of water? Anecdotally for me, when I went low carb, I took about 4 days to get into ketosis (I check with the ketostix), and it took me about 5 days to start feeling back to normal. I had all the symptoms you had except for the runs.

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0 · May 07, 2013 at 6:58 PM

I started this diet in 3/23/13 and I am followed by a personal trainer who measures me and wieghs me once a week. He has me on a great exercise program. My hypoglycemica only lasted 3 days and then I felt better. Drink lots of water and eat protein. I feel great on this diet and have lost 8 pounds of fat and 10 pounds of weight. I was told no carbs and no dairy. I take a vit. D3 and magnesuim supplement daily. I just started to add 2 tsp. of flax seeds also. The diet works great with an exercise program.

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1973 · June 16, 2010 at 6:28 PM

Try consuming around 1 gram of carbohydrate per kilo of bodyweight after your workout. It will accelerate glycogen re-synthesis, and probably help prevent the 'hypoglycaemic' state you experienced.

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