Eating a diet low in carbohydrates is becoming a more and more popular approach for weight loss. Every diet that has its daily calorie intake limited to less than 25% can be classified as low carb. Most famous low carb diet approach is certainly Atkins diet, other popular ones you might heard of are Dukan’s and Paleo diet. I could add South beach diet here but it’s meal plan isn’t exactly low carb, its more about picking the right carbohydrate sources rather than restriction in quantity like the ones mentioned before.
All these diets have one thing in common and that is the basic assumption how human body responds better to feed like our ancestors used to with hunting and gathering their food sources which is quite different than what we have today. With rapid development of agriculture now we can grow food sources that have a very large amount of carbohydrates compared to what prehistoric man used to consume. High blood sugar levels which are result of over consumption of carbs forces our pancreas to release insulin in the blood stream which completely blocks fat mobilization and promotes fat storage. Insulin release sensitivity varies between individuals and that is one way of explaining how some people can eat tons of food and stay lean while others as they say “I get fat even from a glass of water”.
So the main assumption is that out digestive system and body functions respond better to high protein and high fat diets with just little carbs ingested found in Fat Burning Fruit or some other low glycemic index food which will keep insulin levels low and promote fat mobilization.
Are low carb diets good for your health?
Any diet that can help you reduce weight is healthy in my opinion. Long term obesity causes more problems than any diet can in a couple of months or weeks. Specifically there is nothing unhealthy about low carb diets however any rapid restriction in food might cause some negative side-effects if you don’t follow the guidelines. What makes a diet healthy or unhealthy is a matter of food choices. You can’t expect much improvement if your daily calories sources are processes foods, trans-fat, fried chicken and no vegetables. These diets if done right can be extremely successful for weight loss while improving and preventing some health conditions like diabetes.
Biggest positive impact on health will have individuals who replace the sugary processed foods with healthy green veggies and low carbohydrate fruits. When I was on low-carb last summer my carb sources were came from broccoli, green peas, tomato, green pepper with an exception of oats in the morning and some brown rice after workout. I had nice results with the diet even without counting my calories and to be honest I didn’t experience problems like hunger or fatigue, I guess High fiber intake from Vitamin rich vegetables and eating high protein slowly digested providing my body with a steady stream of nutrients all day.
Note: One of the most important supplements while losing fat with low-carb diets is BCAA if you want to keep your muscles. For those who don’t exercise for muscle hypertrophy it’s not so important.
How many carbohydrates can you eat during the day?
Typically these diets consist of 50-150 gram of daily carbohydrate intake. It’s best if you split this amount in 3 meals, the most important are breakfast, before workout and after workout. Moving carbs from before workout to after workout meal is also an option and can be beneficial if you want to Increase fat loss with cycling carbohydrates but also can lower your performance so it’s best to experiment until you find what works best for you. Read my article on How much carbohydrates per day do we need to maintain optimal performance while dieting.
What foods to eat on a low carb diet?
Here’s a list of foods for your meal plan while on carbohydrate restricted diet. I usually make a meal plan and stick to it for 3 weeks then after that I make some changes and do another 3 weeks. It’s much easier for me to cook same foods in larger quantity and just take the amount you need for the day than to cooks 2-3 times a day.
Recommended protein sources:
- Lean chicken breast
- Lean Beef
- Low-fat cottage cheese
- Whey protein
- Casein protein
Low-Carbohydrate food sources:
- Green peas ( Moderate consumption advised)
- Collard greens
- Green Salad
- Oats (Breakfast)
- All types of berries
Healthy fat sources:
- Fish oil
- Flax seed oil or Flax seeds
- Olive oil
- Nuts ( in small quantities because of carb content)
List of healthy snack choices
Low-carb diet is not very famous for letting people eat a lot of snacks and individuals who undergo this meal plan will have to be very careful on choosing the right food to snack.
Some of my favorite low-carb diet snacks:
- Pumpkin seeds – My personal favorite, these seeds Naturally increase testosterone
- Raw veggies like celery sticks dipped in low-fat cottage cheese
- Peanuts (very addictive and easy to over-do :D )
Even though I did say these are some of my favorites I don’t snack very often, even when I do have some snacks I always make sure the calorie balance for that day is in line with my goals.
Note: While on my Carb Cycling Cutting Diet I don’t eat snacks.
Foods you should avoid on low carb diet!
Low carbohydrate diets are only be effective if you limit food with high glycemic index, it’s crucial that you keep you insulin levels under control by having non-carb or very low GI foods most of the time. Only exception is the post workout meal or breakfast when energy reserves are empty so consuming such foods will have benefits on Muscle soreness recovery and won’t harm your weight loss goals.
Generally you should avoid all sweets, chocolate stuff and drinks with sugar in them such as fruit drinks or Harmful soda drinks. (Even if the label says 100% natural etc… AVOID IT.) I don’t even know why I mention this, it should be a common fact that these foods are the biggest enemy of weight loss.
I also advise you remove milk from diet, I know some of you will hate me for this but I believe milk is not very optimal food if you want to lose weight. Even though you’ll read that milk doesn’t have a high glycemic index it does generate a big insulin response which will reduce your fat burning to zero. Funny thing about milk is that low fat milk raises insulin even more than full fat milk since the fat slows down digestion but both of these options are bad for fat burning and weight loss. Best option to replace milk if you need it in the morning with oats is to add 1 or 2 scoops of Whey protein and mix with Green tea for more at burning.
From carbohydrate sources foods that you should avoid are:
- Refined grains – white rice, white pasta or white bread
- High sugar fruit
- whole wheat and rye only in very small amounts
Just stick to very low GI foods like legumes (beans, peas) and raw non-starch vegetables and you’ll be fine.
Good luck with your low carb diet, till next time!