What Is A Low Carb Diet
A low-carb diet is somewhat of an umbrella term, which basically refers to an eating plan that limits daily carb intake and restricts the consumption of foods high in carbohydrates, especially those that are referred to as “glycemic” or insulin triggers because they raise blood sugar levels, including simple sugars and starches.
The main reason behind the success of this type of diet is it keeps blood sugar levels stable, reduces insulin load, and replaces the dietary carbs the body uses for energy with fats, which triggers ketosis, a metabolic process that burns body fat for energy instead of dietary carbs.
All foods with carbohydrates break down in our bodies to simple sugars during digestion. They are then absorbed into the bloodstream as glucose. Extra glucose is converted to glycogen to be stored in the liver and muscles to be used as fuel for our activities – from the simplest to the most rigorous.
However, when we consume more than we use, the extra amounts of glycogen are turned into fat. For many, this is a leading contributing factor in their obesity.
The US Dietary Guidelines recommend that about 50% to 65% of our daily calorie intake should come from carbohydrates. This means that anything below that percentage, ranging from 45% to 5%, would be considered a “low-carb” diet.
The Ketogenic diet, one of the most strict low carb plans advises a maximum of 50 grams daily, but preferably 20 grams in order to trigger ketosis and limits their sources to non-starchy vegetables, some dairy and nuts.
If you decide a low-carb diet is right for you, it’s best to talk to a qualified health professional to make sure it is safe for you and that you are on the right track to reach optimum results.
For a hassle-free, healthy transition into a low-carb diet, make sure you’re avoiding these common mistakes.
Make sure to give your body time to adjust, about a week or two will suffice to adapt to your new eating regimen.
At first, you may have cravings, or feel a bit tired and sluggish – normal side effects, which are referred to as the “low carb flu.” All of this is normal because your body is adjusting to burning fat for energy instead of carbs.
In the keto diet, you eliminate starch and sugar carbs but eat vegetable carbs instead.
Don’t make the mistake of not getting enough, as they are all part of a successful low carb plan and a great source of fiber and other key nutrients, which is something that can be easily overlooked when starting a new diet.
While protein intake is important in a low carb diet, its intake should be moderate and not extreme. Some people hear the words low-carb diet and assume they need to increase their meat intake. However, remember, eating too much protein puts a lot of stress on the kidneys since they have to work double-time to get rid of the excess nitrogen from all that protein.
Another issue is that excess amounts of protein are converted to glucose inside the body and this process can kick you out of ketosis. Protein is both 46% ketogenic and 58% anti-ketogenic, as some protein will convert to glucose in the bloodstream and inhibit ketosis, so intake should be enough to prevent muscle loss, but not so much that will disrupt ketosis.
Everybody is different, so figuring out what amount of protein works for you is key. This can depend on your size, activity levels and most important your lean body mass index.
- Sedentary lifestyles should consume 69 – 0.8 grams of protein per each pound of lean body mass
- Mildly active should consume 8 to 1 grams of protein per each pound of lean body mass
- Heavy strength training/bodybuilding and exercise: 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per each pound of lean body mass
You can use any of a number of online lean body mass calculators to figure yours. Keep in mind these are just general guidelines.
Fats have been given a bad rap for so long that the fact that there really is something called “healthy fats” (really!) is often overlooked.
They are a necessity for any eating style to reach its goal, whether it’s weight loss, coping with certain health issues, or simply maintaining good health. Keep in mind that the main premise of a low carb diet is to use fat for energy instead of carbs, a process known as ketosis. Therefore, you need those fats and lots of them to get your energy and to sustain the process of ketosis.
On a keto diet, when in doubt eat more fat!
Additionally, if your diet is lacking in the right amount of fats, your body will go into survival mode. Basically, it fears for its existence and decides to preserve as much fat as it can; hunger sets in and fat loss slows down – the exact opposite of what any diet wants to accomplish.
Moreover, our bodies need fats to function. Our brain tissue is made up of nearly 60% fat and a diet low in fat robs the brain of all the healthy material it need for proper function. There are a significant number of vitamins, which need the presence of fat in order to be transported by the body.
Even our skin, lungs, and immune system can’t do their jobs if there is not enough fat in the diet. The key is to eat the right fats.
What are the healthy fats in Keto?
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Cold-pressed or expeller-pressed canola, peanut, and grapeseed oils for stir-fries
- Pure Unrefined Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
A main function of the hormone insulin – besides all the other jobs it has going on – is that it tells the kidneys to hold on to sodium. Since insulin levels drop when you go on a low-carb diet, then your body will start getting rid of the excess sodium and water in the body.
That’s why people feel lighter with a reduced “bloaty” feeling when they reduce carb intake, it is naturally diuretic.
Make sure to increase your sodium intake accordingly in order to avoid any future complications. The recommended sodium intake is 3400 mg, which comes out to about a little more than one teaspoon (1 tsp = 2300 mg).
An easy way to increase salt intake is to drink 1 to 2 cups of broth daily or from soy sauce over food.
One thing that’s inherent in all human beings is the need for change. We get bored, and like to change things around every now and then.
So if you feel like you’re starting to get bored from eating the same foods day in, day out, then it’s time for a little variety in your diet. It makes it more interesting and also a varied diet is better for you anyway from the nutritional aspect.
Did you know there is an unlimited combination of low carb meals and recipes online? Did you know that there are low carb swaps for pancakes, pizza, and even lasagna? Yes, there are!
A great way to maintain interest is to plan ahead. Having a well-researched and varied meal plan will help you turn low carb into a healthy way of life.
Additionally, knowing your choices ahead of time will help kill off negative habits like grabbing the closest thing when you’re hungry without thinking of its nutritional value.
Exercise should always be an integrated part of your life, whether you’re simply going for a walk in the park, or doing a full 20-minute HIIT workout at the local gym.
Yet, it’s quite easy to forgo exercise all together when you find yourself losing weight without breaking a sweat. However, even though that may be the case in the beginning with the low-carb diet, fat loss will eventually start slowing down as your body starts adapting to the new eating regimen.
Besides, exercise is good for the heart and a great way to stay fit and tone muscles so when that fat comes off you will have a much nicer look to your body.
If you are worried about the lack of carbs needed to fuel intense workouts don’t be. A good MCT oil supplement with the highest concentrations of caprylic acid, or medium chain triglycerides will you give you a quick burst of intense energy without the necessity of a carb load before a heavy workout because of how quickly it is metabolized into available energy, much faster than sugar as it skips the liver in the metabolization process.
With MCT oil, you can fuel your workouts without the surge in insulin and blood sugars and it is also a high quality fat that is recommended for a low carb diet plan. This is good for both cardio/HIIT workouts and weight lifting.
It is human nature to want to give advice and even judge. Don’t be surprised if people in your life look down on your new low carb lifestyle, tell you you’re weird because you lettuce wrap your burgers or advise you that you need whole grains to live.
Letting this type of negativity get into your head when the lifestyle is working for you and you are losing weight is a big mistake that can only sabotage your good efforts and ongoing results.
The truth is many people simply do not understand the value of low carb or how it really works. The only opinion that matters is yours, and the only valuable gage of what works is results.
Thousands of people have changed their lives, and lost significant weight when they switched to a low carb lifestyle, and several large scientific studies have shown low carb diets to result in more weight lost than low fat diets and as being better indicators of a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease.
If you are lacking support in your personal life, go online to the several low-carb diet forums, where people understand and will support your new lifestyle.
Low carb eating naturally suppresses the appetite. One reason this happens is that blood sugar levels are stabilized resulting in the eradication of out of control cravings and uncontrollable hunger.
Another reason is that low carb diets reduce triglyceride levels in the body, allowing the hunger hormone leptin to reach the brain and register satiety, greatly alleviating hunger, and allowing for a natural reduction in caloric intake through natural satisfaction.
Many who follow a low carb diet report not feeling hungry, and sometimes this can result in not eating enough food.
It is important to eat small meals several times throughout the day to keep the metabolism working and ensure optimal nutrient intake.
Going out is a part of life, and since low carb is not some temporary fad diet that should make you miserable, but instead a lifestyle that you sustain over the long term, going out to eat is a part of the lifestyle.
Unless you feel that your new low carb lifestyle is not yet solidified enough to resist temptation, feel free to go out, just make sure to choose wisely from the menus.
Just remember the rules:
- No sugar
- No starches
There are hundreds of ways to enjoy low carb at restaurants and even fast food joints when you learn to make the right choices. Get your burgers lettuce wrapped; enjoy grilled meats and fresh vegetables, order salads and straight spirits instead of sugary cocktails.
Don’t be afraid to ask how food is prepared and for substitutions, such as a side salad instead of rice, fries or potato side dishes.
The main rules are no starches and no sugars; this means the possibilities are really unlimited when eating out.