How can a low carbohydrate diet give you an advantage in weight loss or help you maintain weight permanently? Here is a step-by-step guide that explains everything you need to know about the low carb diet and why you should follow a low carb diet for weight loss.
What Is the Low Carb Diet?
The low carb diet is a very low carbohydrate diet that forces the liver to produce ketones for use as an energy source. The name of this food program was granted in 1924 by the American researcher and nutritionist, Russell Wilder, at the Mayo Clinic.
The diet focuses on the consumption of natural fats with the intake of suitable proteins to reach the optimum state of ketosis. This regimen limits carbohydrates from 2% to 5% of total calories, compared to Western diets in which people obtain between 45% and 65% of their carbohydrate calories.
Low carb is not a diet high in protein, but in fats with a moderate intake of these and a restriction of carbohydrates. A typical meal of this feeding program includes a little protein with butter, coconut oil, olive oil, pork fat, cream and other foods containing natural fat and some green leafy vegetables.
How Low Carb Diet for Weight Loss Works
Low-carb diets have been around for a long time. But do low carb diets work or actually help to lose weight quickly. Carbohydrates are the main source for the production of glucose in the body. The glucose molecule is the most easily converted into energy, so it is the most immediate energy agent and the first to be chosen by the body.
When there is glucose, the body releases insulin, a hormone produced to metabolize blood sugar.
The body stores unused fats as a reserve because it uses glucose as the main source of energy. The body converts high-carbohydrate foods into glucose to use its energy; the more carbohydrates are consumed, the higher the sugar in the blood.
The body will change the way to obtain energy by receiving more foods of natural fats and proteins, because it will resort to stored fat from the body as an energy source and not to glucose, which causes the rapid loss of weight in the low carb diet.
By drastically reducing the intake of carbohydrates, the body is forced to use fats as an energy source. The process continues as follows:
- The liver converts fats into ketones.
- Ketones work as an energy source.
- The body reaches a state of ketosis.
Ketosis will be the main goal of the low carb diet. In addition, ketones are an excellent source of energy for the brain and heart.
The low carb diet will not be confused with diabetic ketoacidosis, a pathology totally different from ketosis due to a low carb diet.
In diabetic ketoacidosis there are high blood glucose levels with high ketone body levels; in the low carb program there are low levels of glucose with high levels of ketones.
The body produces organic compounds (ketones) through a process of decomposition of fats in the liver during ketosis, which achieves energy intake that does not come through carbohydrates.
The body will burn ketones as a primary energy source when deprived of carbohydrates and loaded with fats and proteins. An optimum level of ketones will favor the loss of corporal weight and a better physical and mental performance.
The low carb diet is not synonymous with hunger, but with extreme carbohydrate deprivation.
What Are the Benefits of Low Carb Diet
The low carb diet will favor weight loss, control of blood glucose, improve body energy and mental concentration.
The low carb diet can help you lose weight
The low carb diet is an effective way to lose weight and decrease the risk of metabolic diseases. Research in recent years found that this type of diet is much better than the low-fat diet
It is easier to lose weight with a low carb without counting calories or to keep a strict control of what you eat.
23 randomized, controlled studies showed that a low-carb diet causes 2-3 times more weight loss as the standard low-fat diet that we’re still being told to follow.
Also in a recent research published in the Lancet, they found that people eating HIGH quantities of Carbohydrates had a nearly 30% higher risk of dying during the study than people eating a low-carb diet.
A study in the United Kingdom concluded that patients with this program lost weight twice as fast, than those with a diabetic diet recommended by the authorities of that country. Increased ketones and decreased blood sugar help improve insulin sensitivity.
Increased ketones, decreased blood sugar help improve insulin sensitivity
The benefits of dietary weight reduction are evident because the fat has to be burned to get the energy the body needs, one that is no longer provided by carbohydrates.
The organism becomes a fat burning machine because of the considerable decrease in the level of insulin, the hormone used to store these lipids.
By incorporating a “medium triglyceride chain” (MTC) oil into the diet, coconut oil will increase ketone production and, consequently, weight loss.
Control of blood sugar
This feeding program will naturally lower the blood sugar level by the almost zero intake of carbohydrates. The low carb diet has also been popularized for its effectiveness in preventing and controlling diabetes, compared to low-calorie regimens.
Pre-diabetic patients or those with type 2 diabetes should consult their doctor before beginning a diet of this type.
Greater mental concentration
Many people start a low carb diet to improve their mental performance, since ketones are an important source of “fuel” for the brain.
By reducing the consumption of carbohydrates avoids the generation of high peaks of sugar in the bloodstream, which favors a better focus and concentration in activities. The high intake of healthy fatty acids included in the low carb diet also has a beneficial impact on brain function.
Increase in energy
Fats are the highest performance molecules to produce energy when burned. It is the food that provides the most satiety, so with this feeding program the person will be satisfied faster and for longer.
Control of cholesterol and blood pressure
Diets low in carbohydrates and high in healthy fats have the ability to significantly increase HDL or good cholesterol, while lowering LDL or bad cholesterol.
The low carb diet will improve the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, the main compounds responsible for the accumulation of plaque in the arteries.
Diets with very few carbohydrates proved to be more effective than other regimens in the regularization of blood pressure. The weight loss achieved with a low carb directly attacks the problem of blood pressure.
This diet has been used successfully since 1920 in the treatment of epilepsy and it continues to be one of the most used therapies for children suffering from this condition. The program also reduces the doses of drugs while still providing good control of the disease.
Insulin resistance may favor type 2 diabetes if health is not adequately controlled. The low carb can help position insulin to a healthy range.
High performance athletes will benefit from the optimization in the use of insulin, which allows a diet with large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
The metabolic changes of the body by reducing the intake of carbohydrates have positive consequences on the skin.
A study published in 2012 by the National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health of the United States, highlights the decrease of lesions and inflammations of the skin as a result of the low carb diet.
Another study published in 2007 by the same institution points to the probable relationship between high carbohydrate regimens and increased acne vulgaris.
Foods That You Can Eat and What You Should Avoid
The more net carbohydrate intake is limited, the faster the optimal ketosis state will be reached. For this purpose, a menu should be planned and the places chosen for breakfast, lunch and dinner should be chosen, since in many of these, high-carbohydrate processed foods are sold.
What are net carbohydrates?
They are the carbohydrates of a food minus the grams of fiber contained in it. For example, if you want to eat a cup of broccoli, it has:
- 6 grams of carbohydrates
- 2 grams of fiber
The result of the subtraction will be the total of net carbohydrates. In this case, 4.
The intake should be 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbohydrates. The allowed carbohydrates are (you must count the calories to not exceed 5% daily) nuts, vegetables and dairy.
Those foods high in carbohydrates will be avoided or eliminated.
- Foods with sugar: Soda, fruit juice, milkshakes, cakes, snow, etc.
- Grains or Starches: Products based on wheat, rice, pasta, cereals, etc.
- Fruit: All fruits, except berries such as strawberries.
- Beans or legumes: Peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils, etc.
- Vegetables and Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, etc.
- Diet or low fat products: These are highly processed and often rich in carbohydrates.
- Some condiments or sauce: These often contain sugar and unhealthy fat (Barbebue sauce, ketchup, dressings, etc).
- Unhealthy fats: Limit your consumption of processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
- Alcohol: Due to the high carbohydrate content, many alcoholic beverages harm your state of ketosis.
- Sugar-free Diet Foods: These are often rich in sugar alcohols, which can affect your ketone levels. These foods are highly processed.
Foods You Should Eat in the Cytogenetic Diet
Your meals should be based on these low carb diet foods:
- Meat: Red meat, meat, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken and turkey.
- Fish: like salmon, trout, tuna, and meckerel.
- Eggs: Eat whole eggs that contain omega-3.
- Butter and Cream: Preferably come from animals fed on grass.
- Cheese: Raw cheese (cheddar, goat, cream, blue cheese or mozzarella).
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, nuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
- Healthy Oils: Mainly try to consume extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil.
- Avocado: Whole avocados or freshly made guacamole.
- Low Vegetables in Carbohydrates: The majority of green vegetables, tomatoes, onions, peppers.
- Condiments: You can use salt, pepper, herbs and spices. It is best to base your diet on these foods.
Appetizers That You Can Eat in the Low Carb Diet
The following are snacks to eat on a low carb diet.
- Fish or Meat
- A fist of nuts or seeds
- Cheese with olives
- 1-2 boiled eggs
- Dark chocolate (90% or more of pure cocoa).
- A milk low in carbohydrates such as almond milk, cocoa powder and almond butter.
- Yogurt mixed with almond butter and cocoa powder.
- Strawberries and cream
- Celery with guacamole and salsa
List of Low Carb Vegetables That You Can Eat
Dark green vegetables are great allies of the keto diet. Ideally, many of the foods in this regimen include a vegetable protein and a component that provides extra fat, such as chicken breast fillets topped with extra virgin olive oil, plus broccoli and a serving of cheese. fatty. It could also be a beef fillet covered with some butter, more spinach sautéed with olive oil.
The following are common vegetables lower in carbohydrates and the amount of grams of net carbohydrates, in half a cup of each of them:
- Raw spinach: 0.1 gr
- Raw Chinese cabbage: 0.2 gr
- Romaine lettuce: 0.2 gr
- Steamed cauliflower: 0.9 gr
- Raw cauliflower: 1.4 gr
- Raw cabbage: 1.1 gr
- Broccoli: 2.0 gr
- Berza: 2.0 gr
- Steamed kale: 2.1 gr
- Steamed green beans: 2.9 gr
Most dishes should be protein with vegetables and added fat, for example, chicken with olive oil plus broccoli with cheese. The almonds or some cheeses will serve to calm the cravings during the day.
Not all fats are the same. It is not the same to consume fried food, processed hamburger meat, margarine and other trans processed fats, than natural fat such as coconut oil, avocado, olive oil.
Less grams of foods high in fat are consumed than those with a high protein or carbohydrate load, since one gram of fat has 9 calories and one gram of protein or carbohydrates adds up to 4 of them.
How to Start a Low Carb Diet
- Decide on a way to count carbohydrates. I recommend using fitbit.com, it’s a free software on the Internet, from the popular wrist band to count steps, which works as a personal diary of your daily foods, it tells you how many carbohydrates each food has and you make the macronutrients sums and calories.
- Purify your refrigerated carbohydrates. Find all the carbohydrates you have in your refrigerator or store and give them to your neighbor or someone you know can take care of them. Make sure you do not have bad carbs in your house.
- Ready your kitchen. Buy foods that are within the list of foods for the low carb diet, this is very important. By only having foods that are within the low carb diet you force yourself to stay in the diet.
- Prepare to last a little longer in the kitchen. This is very important. A menu of the low carb diet involves cooking and eating real foods. If you do not know how to cook, you should try a little, there are recipes that are very easy to prepare.
- Plan your meal menu. This will help you buy the necessary foods when you go to the grocery store and it will help you to know what to cook and eat at meals. If you know that you are going to eat tilapia and broccoli at night, it is easier to avoid falling into the bad habits of eating refined carbohydrates.
- Change your habits. If before going to work you went to the cafe for a donut and a mocha frappe, change it to go to the cafe and have a green tea and 10 almonds.
- Stay hydrated. Take 6 to 8 glasses a day.
- Find a way to keep track of the foods and carbohydrates you eat daily. This is very easy on fitibit.com since it has an app for your cell phone too (there are for iPhone and android). On the USDA page live nutritional information of each food. If you register your food diary, you can know what type of food worked best for you to lose weight.
- You anticipate certain social situations that you will have. Anticipate if you are going to a meeting with friends that may be full of food high in sugar or other elements harmful to the body, do so that you do not deviate from your diet.
- Do not focus on your weight. Do not obsess with weighing yourself every day, if you are going to lose weight but it will take you at least a week. Focus better on the health benefits of this type of diet.
7-day Menu of the Low Carb Diet
To start the ketosis diet here is a 7 day menu:
- Breakfast: Eggs, tomato and bacon.
- Food: Chicken salad with olive oil and feta cheese.
- Dinner: Salmon with butter and asparagus
- Breakfast: Omelette with tomato, basil and goat cheese
- Food: Almond milk, peanut butter and chocolate protein
- Dinner: Vegetables with ground meat, cheese and tomato
- Breakfast: Almond milk, Protein and peanut butter
- Food: Roast beef salads with avocado and olive oil
- Dinner: Ribs with broccoli and tomato salad.
- Breakfast: Avocado Omelette with peppers and onions
- Food: Chicken with cream cheese and pesto.
- Dinner: Salmon salad with avocado and tomato
- Breakfast: Yogurt without sugar, mixed with strawberries and peanut butter and sweetened with splenda.
- Food: Chicken with broccoli cream served with mushrooms
- Dinner: Meat with egg, bacon and cheese (as if it were a hamburger)
- Breakfast: ham and cheese Omelette with spinach
- Food: Almonds with ham and cheese as a side dish
- Cena: Fish made with butter
- Breakfast: Fried egg with bacon and mushrooms
- Food: Hamburger meat with cheese, salsa and guacamole.
- Dinner: Meat with broccoli Try to eat vegetables between each meal, and vary the vegetables you eat, as each vegetable gives different nutrients to your body. (Broccoli, spinach, pumpkin, zucchini, laughing cabbage, cucumber, etc)
Supplements for a Low carb Diet
Supplements are not necessary, but they can help you.
- Medium Chain Triglyceride Oil (MCT Oil): You can add it to your drinks, it increases your energy and helps raise your ketone levels.
- Minerals: Minerals along with salts are important to maintain water and mineral levels in the body. Ideally, drink water with a teaspoon of salt to control them when entering ketosis.
- Caffeine: Caffeine gives you more energy, helps you burn fat and increase your performance.
- Creatine: Creatine has many benefits for your health and performance, while you exercise.
- Protein Powder: You can add half a spoonful of protein in your yogurt to increase your protein intake.
Tips for Eating Out and Do Not Break Your Diet
It is not difficult to find a restaurant that is friendly with the ketosis diet. All restaurants offer dishes that are based on meat or fish. You can always order these dishes and replace any food high in carbohydrates with vegetables.
You can also eat foods that have eggs, such as an omelet, or eggs with bacon.
One of my favorites is eating hamburgers without bread.
You can change the fries for vegetables, add avocado, bacon or cheese.
All Mexican restaurants, you can substitute any high carbohydrate food for meat, extra cheese, guacamole, salsa and sour cream. When you want to eat a dessert, you can order strawberries with cream.
Does the Low Carb Diet Affect Physical Performance?
Yes, but only in the short term. It is likely to reduce physical performance while the body adapts to the new metabolism, but that will be overcome when the body gets used to the consumption of more fats and normalizes its levels of fluid and electrolyte replacement.
The aerobic resistance of pedal riders who underwent a low carb diet for 4 weeks remained intact, as was their muscle mass, during a scientific study. Their bodies were adapted through ketosis, limiting glycogen and glucose reserves and using fats as the main source of energy.
Other research undertaken with 8 professional gymnasts yielded similar results. In both evaluation the athletes followed a strict diet of green vegetables, high quality fats and proteins.
The only time that ketosis can suddenly lower physical performance is during explosive action exercises. This will be prevented by eating between 25 and 50 grams of carbohydrates 30 minutes before starting training.
Can I Build Muscle With the Low Carb Diet?
Yes. Carbohydrates are not essential for building muscles. The glycogen reserves can be replaced with a low carb diet, in which the consumption of proteins becomes of crucial importance.
To gain muscle mass you will consume daily between 1 and 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body mass. The formation of muscles will occur slower with a feeding program of this type, because the increase in body fat will not be so fast.
There are two variants to the standard low carb diet used by athletes; the directed and the cyclical.
Low carb directed diet: what distinguishes it from the standard is a small amount of carbohydrates of rapid digestion, to be consumed before a training session.
Cyclic low carb diet: directed to bodybuilders. It is the standard diet for 5 or 6 days a week ingesting meals with high carbohydrate contents one or two days, to replenish glycogen reserves.
Does the Low Carb Diet Involve Any Danger?
No. The only challenge is to enter optimal ketosis. The possibility of medical intervention is null.
Ketone production can increase excessively in the body, a condition known as ketoacidosis, but it is very unlikely under normal circumstances.
The main exception with ketoacidosis occurs with type 1 diabetics and can happen when the insulin level is very low, a strange situation in a person whose pancreas functions normally.
Despite the numerous scientific studies published in the last 30 years regarding the benefits of diets high in quality fats and low in carbohydrates, there are still misconceptions about these feeding programs.
Many people often confuse the low carb diet with those regimes high in both fats and carbohydrates and that are harmful to the body, much more if there is consumption of fatty foods and loaded with sugar.
It is scientifically proven that low carb is healthier and more effective than any other low-fat diet.
The body becomes a natural machine to produce glucose by receiving foods rich in carbohydrates and fats. Since carbohydrates are the most easily digestible macros, the organism begins with them, leaving the fat as an accumulated reserve in the waist, thighs, arms and other bodily areas.
The consequence of this process is the increase in weight and health problems associated with a fat that does not burn and an excess of glucose. Regimens high in carbohydrates and fats have nothing to do with the low carb diet.
Care will be taken if a medication is being consumed as additional control may be necessary. It is not ruled out that lactating women need to increase their carbohydrate intake.
What Happens to My Body When I Start a Low Carb Diet?
The body is used to a simple and comfortable routine of carbohydrate decomposition, using them as the main source of energy before the low carb diet. It maintains an “army” of enzymes for this repetitive process and only allocates few to deal with fats, which leads to body stores.
One day, the body faces a lack of easy glucose and an increase in fats, a situation that redefines the supply of enzymes, whose consequences is the induction of a low carb condition, while the body continues to use the remaining glucose. It is possible to feel that energy fails and that one is in torpor when glycogen is depleted.
Many people suffer from headaches, dizziness and mental confusion during the first week of the diet, because the body drains its reserves of electrolytes since ketosis is diuretic, because it is the importance of hydration, to increase salt and to ensure to replenish the sodium that will help increase the retention of liquids and other elements.
What Are the Most Common Side Effects of the Low Carb Diet?
There is a set of side effects of low carb diets that are among the most frequent within the community of beginners with the low carb diet. It is common that these effects are related to the lack of adequate hydration or a deficit of micronutrients, such as electrolytes and vitamins, in the body.
If you make sure you drink enough water, about a gallon a day, and eat foods with good amounts of micronutrients, the chances of these side effects will decrease significantly. The most common are:
Leg cramps are frequent and usually occur in the mornings and nights. They are warnings of a mineral deficit, specifically, magnesium.
Drinking a lot of liquid and adding salt to foods will help reduce the loss of this chemical element. A magnesium supplement will be necessary if the cramps continue.
Constipation is a response to poor hydration. This will not happen if you drink at least three and a half liters of water a day. Soluble fiber is another alternative to avoid this alteration of the intestine. Ideally, vegetables should have a little fiber but not starch.
The powder of the psyllium seed husk or a probiotic could be the solution to the problem if it persists.
The strong, rapid heartbeat is a normal response and usually not a concern during the transition to ketosis. Drinking a lot of liquid and eating enough salt will be a measure to control this effect. Potassium supplements once a day may also resolve this condition, if the previous alternatives do not work.
How to Minimize the Side Effects of the Low Carb Diet
To minimize the side effects of the feeding program you will start by doing a low carb diet during the first weeks, which will help the body burn more fat before completely eliminating carbohydrates.
It will also be necessary to consume at least 3,000 to 4,000 grams of sodium, 1,000 milligrams of potassium and 300 milligrams of magnesium per day.
When starting, it is recommended to eat until you are satisfied and avoid counting calories. The low carb diet initially causes weight loss without a strict caloric count.
Can You Do the Low Carb Diet if You Are Vegetarian or Vegan?
Yes. We have a guide on “effective low carb diet for vegetarians” for vegetarians who want to follow the low carb diet.
How much weight can I lose with the low carb diet?
It will depend on each person. Adding an exercise program to the consumption of diet foods will accelerate weight reduction.
An initial weight decrease that will manifest in a few days will be determined by the loss of water, a consequence of the diuretic effect of ketosis. This is just a sample of the body adjusting to its new role as a fat burner.
Weight losses with the low carb diet are slower in the long term. They are subject to the discipline and the exercises undertaken.
How Can I Monitor My Carbohydrate Intake?
The most common way to track carbohydrates is through portals like MyFitnessPal, which has an application for mobile.
For now it is not possible to monitor in the application the net carbohydrates consumed, but all you have to do is also look for the total fiber and do the subtraction. The application of FatSecret allows to track the net carbohydrates.
What Happens if I Cheat?
Traps will not only not work, altering the diet will cause the body to begin to retain water again, the scale’s needle will start to fluctuate and the weight will probably increase or at least stop its decreasing tendency.
Is weight loss guaranteed?
Yes, as long as the diet is respected.
Stress, sleeping or sleeping poorly, hormonal changes, alcohol consumption and not exercising are factors that can slow down and even not losing weight on a low carb diet.
Fat loss is not always linear due to a variety of factors, including fluctuations in the level of water in the body.
You can expect a weight loss of between one and two pounds (between 0.45 and 0.9 kilos) in a week, but that will not mean a series of weeks with those reductions consistent.
Another thing is that sometimes there are changes in size that are not reflected in the scale. If after 4 or 5 weeks there is no progress, the situation will be reevaluated. In this case, the macros will be reviewed again to ensure that it is on track. Evaluating water consumption and electrolyte replenishment plus decreasing milk will be another measure to take.
Can I Do the Diet if I Do Not Like Eggs or Dairy or Meat?
Yes. The only unshakable rule is that of macro proportions: almost no carbohydrates, moderation with proteins and a good amount of high quality fats.
Some people add butter to coffee to ensure fat intake. Others consume everything allowed by eliminating milk or nuts.
What Happens if I Leave the Diet After Reaching My Ideal Weight?
The weight will be recovered. Even if the diet is abandoned and the dietary intake is kept very controlled, it is likely that even then it will gain weight just by replenishing the body with glycogen.
Many people stay attached to the low carb diet for weight loss or any other low carb diet just to feel better.
Is the Low Carb Diet Expensive? How Can I Save Money?
No, the low carb diet is not more expensive or different in budget to other regimens recommended for a healthy lifestyle. Everything depends on knowing how to choose the food and where to buy it.
There will always be a coupon or an offer in the three macronutrient groups to buy diet foods. These savings methods are found in brochures and flyers in homes, in store portals and in ads posted in the same stores.
Wholesale purchases can offer discounts on the unit price of the products. Only the precaution of reviewing the articles close to their expiration date will be taken.
Preparing meals at one time, saving some in the freezer or in the refrigerator, will be another advantage of wholesale purchases.
Do things yourself
Prepackaged, pre-cut or precooked items can be more practical, but definitely more expensive and may contain ingredients or additives bad for the diet.
In addition to saving, when preparing mayonnaise and dressings you will enjoy consuming something healthier and homemade.
It is proven that eating low amounts of carbohydrates along with a consumption of many quality fats and proteins in moderation, will be positive in general health, including the reduction of body weight, cholesterol and blood glucose. Energy and mood will also be improved.
The low carb diet may be difficult to understand at first, but at the beginning and overcoming the transition the process will be simple, easy and healthy.
The people who obtain the best results with low carb, especially those interested in weight loss, are those who consume carbohydrates at values below the recommended limit. The elimination of sweets and sweeteners is important in this process.
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