Low Carb Diet Programs have been around for years, and they’ve endured with good reason – they work! In fact, more and more studies are confirming what some experts have known all along. Going low carb not only helps us lose weight, but can have incredible health benefits as well.
Some of you may be wondering if restricting carbs is really that easy to do. We’ve all started new diets, only to quit a few days later because they were either too complicated, too restrictive or too expensive to continue.
In this article, I’ll dig into some popular, low carb plans and compare the benefits and challenges side by side, so you find one that suits your individual needs for success.
Dr. Robert Atkins published his first diet book back in the 70s, starting the first low carb craze. According to Atkins, cutting calories didn’t work, his idea was that we should focus on what we eat, not how much of it. He was immediately called a quack by the medical mainstream.
They couldn’t believe he would tell us that eating meat and dairy was healthy. Back then, the conventional ‘wisdom’ was to simply eat less. Eggs and butter were bad, margarine was healthy. Of course, we now know that the good doctor was actually ahead of his time. His diet helped many lose weight, while still enjoying fatty, satisfying foods. His legacy lives on, here’s the plan in a nutshell:
On Phase 1, you’ll cut all starchy carbs, eating only meats and other protein, leafy veggies, nuts and cheese. You must keep your daily carb grams under 20. This means most of your carbs will come from vegetables and a few from nuts for the first 2 weeks, minimum, or until you’re within 15 pounds of your goal weight.
You see, on Phase 1, by going cold turkey on sugar and starchy carbs, you break your body’s dependency on these carbs, and I know from experience that there is a type of addiction going on…the more you eat, the more you want. Cutting them out completely for awhile will curb the cravings that can sabotage your success.
Phase 2 introduces fruits back into your diet and high fat dairy, such as cream. Your weight loss will be slower than Phase 1.
Phase 3 and 4 slowly introduce more carbs back into your diet until you reach 100 grams per day max, hopefully training you along the way not to over indulge until you reach goal and enter in the maintenance phase.
Atkins also offers many prepackaged convenience foods to help you avoid cheating when healthy choices may not be readily available.
You won’t be counting calories or weighing and measuring your portions, but you will be tracking carbs and you will eventually need to deal with the possible effects of adding starchy carbs back into your diet. This is when a lot of dieters have simply gone back to their old eating habits and gained the weight back.
Of course, if you find the weight creeping back, you can always go back to Phase 1…
Keto or Ketogenic Diet
The Keto diet is a high fat (70%), moderate protein (20%) and low carb (10%) diet. It is very effective for weight loss and is also being used by doctors to control epileptic seizures. How exciting is that?
Ketosis is the process of your body burning fat for energy (yay!) because it’s not getting enough carbs. Other diets cut carbs, but are too high in protein. If that happens, your body can actually convert protein into energy, thus thwarting the burning of fat. This means that you may actually have to work to get enough fat in your diet! Butter in your coffee, anyone?
It’s important to note that you may see Keto diet plans ranging as high as 100 net grams of carbs a day which is very reasonable to maintain once you’ve broken your body’s addiction to sugar and starch.
To seriously burn fat though, you must stay in ketososis, meaning you must maintain the correct percentage of fat to protein to carb intake or your weight loss will slow down. How do you know your body is in ketogenesis? You can check with special testing strips, which are available online.
It is a highly effective way to lose fat, if you can stick with it. Staying at 20 grams and under a day felt too restrictive to me after 2 weeks, but I am able to pull off 50 grams or fewer a day on a regular basis and I’m still losing weight, so ultimately you’ll have to play with carb count/food until you find your comfort zone.
The way I see it, if doctors are able to greatly reduce epileptic seizures with this way of eating, what other health benefits from the Keto diet may they discover? That’s actually pretty exciting when you think about it.
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On the Paleo diet, you’ll eat protein, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Just like our paleolithic ancestors did before the agricultural age. No dairy, no cheese, no sugar at all and most importantly: no grains whatsoever…ever.
The Paleo folks agree with most other low carb plans, in that grains were not meant for human consumption and can cause all manner of nasty conditions including weight gain. Once again, effective at weight loss, but I dare you to stick with it the rest of your life.
Unless you have food allergies such as gluten intolerance, you’ll be hard-pressed to stay on this one. I mean, you can only eat so many eggs. It can get boring, fast.
Pros and Cons of Low Carb Diets
- Dramatic weight loss in Phase 1
- Packaged foods available for convenience
- Ability to add some starchy carbs back eventually
- Great website for support and recipes
- Phase 1 can be restrictive – only 20 grams or fewer of carbs which may be difficult to sustain for those with higher weight loss goals
- Dramatic weight loss
- You get to eat rich, creamy fatty foods, which help you feel full and satisfied
- Great online resources available including abundant low carb recipes
- Carbs are pretty restricted. You must maintain the right balance of fat, carbs and protein to stay in ketosis
- Some keto recipes can be over-the-top fat laden and can cause some people gastric issues
- Effective for weight loss if protein levels are kept moderate
- Great for those who are gluten intolerant as no grain products are allowed in any form
- Super restrictive, hard to sustain (especially forever)
- Supporting packaged foods are expensive and may be hard to find
Known Side Effects
When you cut starchy, baked goods from your diet, you also dramatically reduce your intake of sodium. This is normally a good thing, but you should be aware that when levels of salt plummet, so can levels of potassium and magnesium – essential to our health.
If you experience fatigue, constipation or leg cramps while eating low carb, you should talk to your doctor about adding these minerals back in – possibly in supplement form.
Magnesium citrate is safe to add on your own, but potassium supplements should always be taken under your doc’s supervision.
Which Low Carb Diet Plan Do I Recommend?
As you can see, any of these low carb diet programs will help you lose weight effectively, but the key to success is consistency. Unless you must eliminate gluten for diagnosed health reasons, Paleo will be the toughest to stick with, so I can’t recommend it to most people.
Keto is great. I used it for several weeks to eliminate my cravings and kick-start my weight loss. I know others who use it intermittently. You can lose weight eating a high fat, medium protein, low carb diet without constantly tracking your carb count or even staying under 20 grams of carbs per day. I still eat this way for most meals and snacks and there are some great websites for Keto recipes and cookbooks. M
There’s also another plan that you may find even simpler. Unlike the plans above, your weight loss is not dependent on completely eliminating whole food groups at all. While you will have to restrict your intake of sugar and starchy carbs, you can still eat enough of them to satisfy a sweet tooth as long as you know how and when to eat them.
Once you learn this (and it’s super simple), you’ll not only be able to enjoy some of the foods you grew up eating and still lose weight, but you’ll gain confidence knowing you have the tools to allow you to eat healthy the rest of your life without feeling deprived.
This is not a “food combining” diet, but one that uses the science of how the body processes and utilizes food to prevent starchy carbs from doing their dirty work.
Find out more about this exciting plan and how it helped me hit my goal weight in just weeks, cured my addiction to starchy carbs, and most importantly, knocked my blood glucose level down from prediabetes to normal. I couldn’t have done it without this important information.
To Your Success,
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