Among all the diets, why choose a low-carb diet? The main reason why diets come and go is that dieters cannot sustain or incorporate those diets into their lives. Since Low-Carb is not as restrictive as other diets, it is easier to maintain or stick to.
If your health goal is to find a diet that can be part of your lifestyle, choosing a low-carb diet may be the best for you.
What is Low-Carb Diet
What is a Low-Carb Diet? Basically, it is about limiting your daily intake of carbohydrates (sugar). While most diets are popular for losing weight, doctors prescribe a low-carb diet to people with diabetes or insulin resistance and other metabolic diseases (including obesity).
Low-carb diet is research-based. It is unlike fad diets that only work short-term and are popularized by celebrities or influencers. While other diets restrict some food groups (ie. Vegetarians prohibit meat), there are no strict food exclusions in a low-carb diet.
Why does Low-Carb Diet work?
In food, you can find 3 types of carbohydrates: fiber, starches, and sugar. Fiber and starches are complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides). Our body cannot break down fiber, instead, our gastrointestinal microorganisms process them and convert them to fatty acids.
Sugar or simple carbohydrates are easy to digest. When broken down into glucose, it can go to the bloodstream and be delivered into cells. Glucose is the energy source of our cells.
The amount of glucose in the blood is regulated by insulin (hormones). When there is enough glucose circulating in the body, the excess will be converted into glycogen and stored in our liver and muscle tissues. It will be available for immediate use. However, some of the sugar is converted into fats for long-term storage.
As long as we do not eat more carbohydrates than our body needs, there will be no glucose-to-fat conversion.
In a Low-Carb diet, your goal is to minimize your carbohydrate intake –especially sugary food. If you eat complex carbohydrates, it stays in your stomach longer, which delays conversion into glucose. As a result, your blood glucose will not be elevated and there will be no extra glucose to store.
During Low-Carb, when your blood sugar is insufficient, your body will be forced to burn/consume energy from fat –a process known as ketosis. According to MedicalNewsToday, one can reach ketosis faster when low-carb is combined with increased physical activity and short-period fasting. An Insider article mentioned that it may take one week of low-carb or fasting for more than 12 hours to induce ketosis. Exercising for more than 1 hour (running or cycling) can also deplete your glucose (if you are on Low-Carb).
How to Start a Low-Carb Diet?
Traditionally, we are told to eat less fat, medium protein, and more carbs. Now, we know that not all fats are bad and that too many carbs can cause different illnesses and inflammations.
There is also the misconception that Low-Carb requires increasing protein and fat intake. This is not always the case.
In a conventional low-carb diet, only 10% to 25% of your plate should have carbohydrates. So, if your daily caloric consumption is 1500, you can only have 375 calories from carbohydrates (equivalent to about 1.5 cups of white rice or half a cup of chickpeas). For every 1 gram of carbohydrate, you get 4 calories. If possible, you want to limit your carbohydrates intake to less than 125 grams per day, which is about 500 calories
The Keto diet requires having less than 50g of carbs per day to achieve ketosis in four days.
Suggested Steps in Low-Carb Diet
Below are our recommendations for starting your Low-Carb journey. We understand that this is a life-changing endeavor. Your experience and situation may be different.
Step 1 (week 1)
Keep a food diary
For the next 5-7 days, list all the food, drinks, and even supplements or medicine that you consume. It is important to know your starting point so that you can easily identify your progress. Also, this will serve as your wake-up call. You will realize how much carbs you are ingesting every day.
Step 2 (end of week 1)
Calculate your calorie intake.
If you can approximate the macro contents of the food in your diary, then better. If not, just assume the calories and carbohydrates of each food item. Identify the calorie-dense food that you can eliminate.
Step 3 (week 2)
Eliminate junk food and soda
For the next 5-7 days, continue your food diary and eliminate your junk food and soda. By the end of the week, calculate the average calories you consume per day.
Weigh-in and find calorie excess
Several online calculators can help you approximate the number of calories you should consume to maintain or lose weight. We used this one. After getting your numbers, subtract that from your average calorie consumption for the previous week.
Step 5 (week 3 – 4)
Minimum carb serving
Instead of consuming 3 cups of rice or 3 pizza slices, try to reduce them to 1 serving or have the smallest serving. At the same time, try consuming the protein first during mealtime. If you are still hungry, try adding complex carbs or food rich in fiber into your diet.
Step 6 (week 4 – 5)
Half the Carb
If possible, only take half servings for carbs. At this point, increasing water intake and sipping green tea with chia seeds in the morning can help. You can also replace or mix your carbs with complex carbs. For example, use sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes or brown rice instead of white rice. You can also mix chickpeas with brown rice and carrots.
Step 7 (week 5 – 6)
Remove Main Carbs
A high-carb diet often includes rice, bread, pasta, or noodles. Now, you need to remove it completely. Your main carbohydrate sources will be fruits and vegetables. Do this strictly for a week. This will help you reach ketosis but you need to drink even more water because ketosis produces ketones, which are bad for our kidneys when there’s too much.
Step 8 (week 7 and onwards)
Maintain No-Main Carbs
If you can check your weight again, take note of your progress. Only continue with no-main-carbs if you can sustain it. Otherwise, you will be on a yoyo diet, which does more harm than good to your systems and metabolism. If you think it is impossible, you can switch back to half-main-carb daily and have 1 minimum serving of carb during your cheat day.
Step 9 (week 8 onwards)
Once again, KETO is having not more than 50 grams of carbohydrates in your diet (including fiber). While many are claiming positive results, we believe that this is not sustainable and could be harmful as a lifestyle. There is a danger of going to extremes (not having any carbs at all), which can result in ketoacidosis (a life-threatening condition).
Note that a low-carb diet is simply reducing the carbs or sugar in your diet. It is not the same as KETO. A low-carb diet can be effective when you use more calories (exercise) than the calories you eat (food).
As explained above, adding exercises and fasting can hasten ketosis. However, we do not believe in generating fast results. Allowing the body to adjust (both in metabolism and palate), is the key to a low-carb diet being effective and sustainable.
For those with metabolic diseases (obesity, PCOS, diabetes), ask your doctor before making changes in your diet or taking supplements. Some supplements that can aid fat loss are choline with inositol, L-carnitine, green tea extract, and glucomannan. Again talk to your doctor first, because supplements can have side-effects