Low Carb: Getting Started

Last time I shared some of the science behind low carbohydrate nutrition, who could benefit and the potential health advantages.

Today, I’ll provide my tops tips for getting started with a low carbohydrate way of eating, if you feel it might be right for you.

The intent with going low carb is to reduce the amount of glucose you have in your system to begin with and to switch over to burning fat instead of carbohydrate. Fat is actually a preferred fuel source for the body but because we typically have so much glucose floating around we use that up first.

When you become a fat burner instead of a sugar burner you may see a variety of healthy benefits including weight loss, reduction in cravings, constant energy, better control over your appetite, reduced inflammation, clear head and better sleep. Most importantly, you may even begin to reverse chronic symptoms and start down the road of preventing future illness and disease.

Here are my 10 top tips and steps to get you started on a low carb plan:

1. Decide on a timeframe. I recommend trying a low carb plan for 4 four weeks. Look ahead in your calendar, and find one month where you know you’ll be able to dedicate and commit yourself and book it in

2. What to eat. The main categories of foods you will want to focus on are: animal protein (chicken, fish, eggs, beef, lamb, pork); healthy fats (avocado, butter, coconut oil, seeds & nuts); vegetables (above ground have less glucose and starch than below ground); a little bit of fruit like berries.

3. Aim to eat between 20-50 net grams of carbohydrate each day. Net carbs are calculated by subtracting the fibre grams from the total carb grams. You can use a free program like myfitnesspal.com to track your carbohydrates. Use this as a general guideline to find the right carb amount for you.

4. Don’t eat too much protein. Many people make the mistake of eating too much protein when they go low carb. Your body can convert excess protein into glucose and you don’t want that. You want your body to learn to use fat for energy. So aim to eat low carb, moderate protein and plenty of good healthy fats. A good rule of thumb is 4 to six ounces of protein three times a day.

5. About the fat. You can’t restrict both carbs and fat, that’s not how it works. When you lower carbs and eat moderate amounts of protein, you need plenty of fat. Choose grass fed or organic butter, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, omega 3s found in fish (sardines, mackerel are good sources) or take an omega 3 supplement. The saturated fat in meat and poultry is fine, no need to trim the fat off anymore. Avoid rich sources of omega 6 fats found in vegetable oils such as safflower, canola, corn, soybean oils.

6. Eat regularly. Eat until you are full three times a day, and try to skip snacks if possible. This allows there to be a period of time each day when you have little to no glucose floating around for insulin to have to clean up. This will help to get your insulin back to working properly. It will also help you even out your blood sugars and get you off that sugary roller coaster and get over your cravings quickly.

7. Eat enough salt. When you eat low carb your body doesn’t retain water the same way, and sodium and other important electrolytes get flushed out more quickly than normal. So make sure to season your food with salt, between 2-3 grams of sodium each day (unless you are taking a diuretic medication). A great way to get additional sodium is through bone broths or drinking bouillon cubes melted in boiling water.

8. Drink lots of water. You want to keep your potassium levels up by drinking lots of water, eating vegetables and consuming a modest amount of salt. Hydration also helps you not to overeat. Aim for half your body weight in ounces of fluids each day. Use your urine as a gauge — it should be pale yellow and clear (note that some supplements will make the urine bright yellow)

The bottom line: Try and keep it simple. While all of this can be overwhelming at first, it’s actually pretty simple. Eat real whole foods. Get rid of the processed, packaged refined stuff. Eat mostly veggies, animal protein and healthy fats. Keep an eye on your net carb totals. Don’t count calories. Be patient and you’ll be on your way to low carb success!

If you feel like low carb might be right for you, I invite you to join my online group coaching program The Blood Sugar Shift. You’ll receive all the support, expertise, tools and resources to implement a low carb nutrition plan. Registration is open. www.thebloodsugarshift.com

Over to you. Have you tried eating low carb? Tell me in the comments what your experience was like. Has it been beneficial?

This post first appeared here in the Halifax Citizen on Feb 22, 2016.


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