According to the CDC, approximately 70 percent of Americans are either overweight or obese. If you’re fighting the tide by going on a diet, make sure you educate yourself first. You might feel compelled to avoid sugars and carbs at all costs — but doing so could seriously harm your body. Carbohydrates are essential for your hormones and muscle building and maintenance.

Your muscles are made up of protein, which are composed of only 20 amino acids. Your body uses carbohydrates to produce 10 of these, called nonessential amino acids. Your body can’t produce the other 10 (essential amino acids), so you get them from eating protein. Your body also needs these 20 amino acids to synthesize enzymes and hormones which regulate most of your bodily functions, from temperature regulation to fat breakdown.

Fat can’t be converted into the nonessential amino acids you need. Although not eating carbs rushes your body into burning fat, burning fat gives your body energy, not protein. Your body will then break down your muscle to get protein to make amino acids. Thus, not getting carbohydrates will result in muscle loss. This is worse if you’re simultaneously exercising and dieting; your body won’t be able to repair your muscles post-workout, leaving you sore and weak.

You might consider eating protein to replace carbs. Fitness experts advise against this for two reasons. If your protein source is meat, you’ll be increasing your cholesterol, which is dangerous long term. If your protein sources are zero-carb protein shakes, your body still won’t be able to fully repair or build muscle without carbohydrates.

Losing weight is great if you’re overweight. Make sure to eat foods with slow-burning carbohydrates, like blueberries or red potatoes. Your body needs carbohydrates to build your muscles, enzymes, and hormones. Some amino acids require carbohydrates to be synthesized; because of this and the high cholesterol involved, a meat-only diet is even more harmful than a no-carb diet.