When it comes to dieting, most people are aware that your ability to lose or gain weight usually comes down to the calories you ingest versus the calories you expend. However, low-carb diets have become extremely popular, and the way that they work is actually somewhat contrary to this notion.

Generally speaking, the aim of a diet very low in carbohydrates is to cause the body to enter a state of ketosis. When your body is in this state, it begins using stored fat cells for energy instead of carbs. It is believed that through ketosis, the body expends more calories than it would through the usual conversion of carbohydrates to energy. This makes a low-carb diet ideal for people who are trying to lose weight quickly. Many bodybuilders also recommend low-carb diets for their potential muscle-sparing qualities. Additionally, some people experience other health benefits, such as improved blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

Although low-carb diets are a great choice for fat loss, there are also some drawbacks. When adjusting to a low-carb diet, many people come down with what is often called “the keto flu.” The symptoms of this include nausea, headache, and fatigue. Another drawback is that a low-carb diet may not be sustainable for a very long period of time. For some, low-carb diets can be good for a quick fix, but not a permanent lifestyle change. This means that there’s a risk of falling into the trap of “yo-yo dieting.”

If you do decide to try a low-carb diet, it is important to know what you can and can’t eat. Stick to meats, cheeses, and nonstarchy vegetables. Foods such as bread, potatoes, and pasta are loaded with carbohydrates and will quickly sabotage your diet efforts. Fruit is also not a good choice if you’re looking to keep your body in a state of ketosis.

Low-carb diets are a great way to lose fat quickly. However, they also require you to be careful and committed. If weight loss is your goal, a low-carb diet may very well be one of your best options.