There are so many new diets constantly popping up that you might find yourself confused about which one is “best”. In fact, a low-carb diet has been said to be so many different things that it leaves dieters unsure how to get started. However, if you follow general guidelines around the low-carb diet, you will be able to find something that works for your body in no time. Below, we will take a look at the benefits of a low-carb diet according to those who have tried it, as well as food suggestions and tips on sticking to the diet. Let’s get started.
What exactly is the low carb diet?
Those who follow a low carb diet eat food high in healthy fats and moderate high quality protein. Still, there are many ways to follow a low carb diet. It is often equated to the Keto diet, low carb high-fat diet (LCHF), The Zone, Dukan diet, Atkins diet, or Banting. But while each of these diets have different names and methods, they have similar principles which include reducing carbohydrate intake and focusing on consuming whole foods.
Benefits of a low carb diet
People who have followed the low carb diet claim that it has helped them lose and maintain weight, mitigate metabolic syndrome, and control type 2 diabetes. The diet works on the basis of depleting its glycogen stores and instead burning fat as its backup source of energy.
When the body burns fat for energy, this is called lipolysis, and the fat used as bodily fuel are called ketone bodies. When your body is in a dietary state of lipolysis, the ketone bodies provide a steady, constant source of energy.
This natural process actually happens when metabolically healthy people are asleep. The low carb diet aims to encourage the body into this process during the daytime. The low carb or Ketogenic diet as we now know it gained popularity after being used for many years as a form of treatment for Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, and epilepsy.
How to start a low carb diet
The name “Low carb diet“ is very vague as it can point to any of the diets mentioned above or none at all. There is no fixed number for daily carb intake on a low carb diet, as it works differently on each body. For instance, one person may be able to enjoy a daily serving of carbs on the diet, while another dieter might have to restrict and exclude all these foods when going low carb. It takes a bit of trial and error, as well as some consultations with a health professional, to figure out exactly what works for your body.
One common factor is that a low carb diet should begin with an Induction. This is a period of two weeks where the dieter forces their body into ketosis. They do this by limiting the amount of carbohydrates eaten, just like a ketogenic diet. In the first few days, dieters will experience “keto flu” that goes away after a few days. This is your body getting used to this new way of eating. After a number of weeks following the Induction process, you can slowly increase your intake. You increase the amount daily until you arrive at the exact carb amount you can consume everyday while continuing to lose weight.
What to eat on a low carb diet
Low carb dieters have to get most of their calories from healthy fats, some high-quality protein, and a small portion of carbohydrates. Low carb and low starch vegetables and leafy greens are also your best friends. Unprocessed nuts and seeds can also provide essential nutrients, fibre, as well as clean fats. However, they are also a source of carbohydrates and should be limited. Low carb fruits like berries are also fine in moderation.
If you find yourself craving a pack of chips or other junk food, you can try having some beef biltong or other high protein, low carb air dried meat. While the debate over the nutritional value and taste of jerky vs biltong still stands, it will help to do some of your own research around what snack foods you can eat on a low carb diet.
How to stay on track on a low carb diet
There are many free carb intake tracking apps and websites that can help you stick to your diet. But while you can get an exact numerical overview of the carbs you are eating every day, it is not absolutely necessary. Just keep an eye on your net carbs (daily total carbs minus fibre). Try to keep your net carbs count below your personal threshold if your goal is to lose weight.
An easy and accurate way to determine carbs of a recipe you are following on the diet is to use a kitchen scale. By simply weighing raw foods before cooking, it will save you from having to convert units and numbers between different recipes. This way, you don’t have to weigh the food after it’s cooked. You can just literally divide it into portions.
Get started with the low carb lifestyle
Now that you have had a brief introduction to the low carb diet, you should be able to start deciding if it is something you can do. It is important to consult a health professional and your GP before making any big changes to your diet. After all, the goal is to achieve optimal fitness and health, regardless of what that may be for you.