The body conscious community never ceases to create new and fresh “diets” to keep the body fit and healthy– of these, the latest to be passing around these circles is the low carb high fat diet plan.
As the name claims, this diet includes foods that are LOW in Carbohydrates and HIGH in Fat. Sounds too different from the usual kind of diets you’ve heard of, which absolutely fear the very mention of fat? Well, then, there is justified proof that this kind of diet actually works.
Though it sounds a little drastic and ironic, studies have proven that this diet is, in fact, more beneficial than all others, especially for athletes. It is said that this diet has been in existence for over 150 years and there are a large number of ongoing studies which prove that it is quite a positive change in your life.
What is a Low Carb High Fat diet?
This diet regimen specifically propagates the consumption of real foods which have high amounts of protein, vegetables, and natural fats, while restricting the intake of foods which have high sugar and starches, for example, bread and pasta.
The rough plan percentages are that 50% calories should come from Fats (hence the mention of HIGH FAT), another 25% from carbohydrates and the remaining 25% from proteins (In normal diets, as per government food departments, is 50-60% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 10-20% proteins).
There is a very particular list to be followed in the foods that should be eaten, that shouldn’t be and those that can be, but in moderation.
Benefits of a Low Carb Diet
There are many reasons as to why this particular diet is so popular; because it produces results- actual, proven and solid results. That’s not something that can be said of all the diet plans running around in these circles.
Briefly put, the following points highlight the positive outcomes from an LCHF diet, and why you should stop everything else and just stick to this plan:
For athletics and sports:
- Athletes claim to have more endurance after following a diet rich in fat and less in carbs
- There is no necessity for additional carbohydrate supplements like gels or pills.
- There also seems to be significant improvements when it comes to the onset of fatigue and low blood sugar levels – which commonly occurs due to fast energy burn-outs in sprinters.
- A stable blood glycemic index is reported which helps control blood pressure
- It also helps regulate insulin and thus helps in cases of Diabetes Type II patients
- No reduction in power and stamina and energy levels – at the same time, there is reduction in weight – every athlete’s dream come true
- Reduced carbohydrates mean no additional weight gains!
- Fats fill the stomach faster and stay for longer, meaning lesser hunger cravings
- Stabilized insulin levels mean more fat burning and even pressure
- Higher the fat content, longer the duration between meals
- Only loss of fat is observed, not loss of health and nourishment
- Improvement in HDL cholesterol (the good one) and no worsening effect whatsoever on LDL cholesterol (the bad one).
How can a diet HIGH in fat be of any benefit?
It is, and to a very large extent! – Science argues.
For the athletes:
Traditionally, in the diet world and health world, fats have always been the worst demon to contend with. The idea of including a high amount of fats in a regular diet was frowned upon and was believed to increase the cholesterol levels in the body. Thus, athletes followed the method of carb-loading – consuming enormous amounts of carbohydrate-rich food to increase stamina and endurance. However, based on recent findings, the concept of low carb high fat diets is on the rise amongst health conscious folk – especially those looking for a healthy way of reducing weight, without losing health.
Why HIGH Fat?
Glycogen, the base fuel for our body stored in muscles, is stored in the body only in particularly limited amounts – the amount of calories the average human body can store in the form of carbohydrates is of 2500 calories – this reserved amount of calories is what is used up when the body exerts itself, such as in running or swimming. Carbohydrates are the easiest burnable calories in the body. On the other hand, the body’s storage capacity in the form of fat is about 50,000 calories! – a much bigger amount of fuel can thus be stored in the form of fat!
Researcher Stephen Phinney of MIT conducted a study on this very topic, where he strived to find if athletes’ bodies can be trained to burn fat and not the carbs, thus giving them a substantially larger amount of reserve fuel. With cyclists, this experiment proved a success – the 31 male cyclists showed similar results on an LCHF diet when they shifted from their normal traditional diet plans.
There is, however, a small catch. In the studies of efficiency in fast runners, it proved that the speed of said runners was compromised – this is because, carbs burn faster than fats do, meaning faster fuel production for the body to run. Thus an LCH diet may not necessarily help when speed is a motive.
For endurance and performance
The case is reversed when endurance is the motive, that is when distance is more important than speed. In such endurance athletes, fat as a source for calorie burning can help those who have a history of sudden bonking, as it retards the arrival on fatigue thus helping the athlete endure for longer. This also reduces the necessity for additional needs for the athlete to depend upon other sources of carbohydrates – such as gels or liquids.
There are some other added benefits beyond the promise of better performance – studies reveal that enabling and training the body to take fuel from burning fat, as opposed to carbs, ensures a much stable blood glucose level – this is a large advantage in the athletics world, where hypoglycaemia (less blood sugar levels) is a prevalent threat to athletes, like in the now famous case of athlete Hyvon Ngetich who suffered a sudden attack of hypoglycaemia during a marathon and had to crawl to finish line instead.
Also, this diet helped athletes to lose weight, without compromising severely on their power and strength requirements to perform well.
Scientific studies in the effectiveness of a Low Carb High fat diet are so far only limited and numbered, and results highly varied and mixed – it is a much less research done so far, with more studies going on now. Maybe with a better understanding of everything, the future will hold even better improvements.
Low Carb Weight Loss
It is common knowledge that the first step in reducing weight is the lessening of water stores in the body. Since carbohydrates have the natural tendency to attract more water, a reduction in carbs intake is an obvious step towards weight loss.
Moreover, some studies also prove that carbs are less filling than fats are, which means that even though fats have more calories per gram than carbs do, they will keep u satiated for much longer AND reduce those sudden and dire hunger pangs.
A recent study found that people who followed a low-carbohydrate diet reported an average of 14 pounds’ loss of weight – this figure is 8 pounds more than the loss of weight reported by people on a low-fat diet. What’s more, the low carb diet folk also showed no loss of muscle, only fat loss, and more proteins intake made them more energetic and fresh when compared to their low fat diet counterparts.
So, should you try this diet plan?
Of course, some things are just not meant for everyone. That’s true in normal everyday life matters, and even more so when it comes to matters of the body and its health. Each person’s metabolism works different, and this low carb high fat diet might not have the same effects or produce the same results for everyone in the same time frames – there will be certain variations in time duration for the effects to show, and in some cases, some people can be so totally unsuitable to such diets that they may get burn out or end up sick.
The major negative effects though are not that prevalent, confined just to around 1% of the people who follow this diet. There can only be the harm in affecting your speed as an athlete, otherwise not much to worry about – it will help in weight loss and in some way improve distance capacity and power.
And, it is not quite necessary to keep an extremely LOW carbohydrate content that it may become detrimental to health in any way – significant results have been pronounced even with minor reductions in carb percentage in the daily diet. It’s best to decide based on each individual’s needs and capacity.
When to consider a more precautious approach to an LCHF diet
Low carb diets are very effective in controlling the effects of diabetes, both type 1 and type 2! In the case of Type 1, low carb diet helps in regaining the control over the level of sugar in the blood. In the case of Type 2, it can actually reverse the effect of diabetes.
Some precautions are mandatory, however, prior to committing to a low carb diet, if you are a patient of Diabetes. Consult the doctor and let him help you through the process of planning.
If you are being treated for diabetes only through a normal diet treatment plan or basic pills such as Metformin, there are no extra precautions necessary, you may begin your diet right away with no worries!
If you are prescribed insulin injections as part of your treatment plan, it becomes necessary to reduce the doses of said insulin, by about 30-50% or sometimes even more, based on the strictness of your diet. This is because on a low carb diet, the sugar level in the blood decreases naturally thus negating the need for the injection of more insulin which will only further reduce the sugar levels. It is important, thus, to make sure you are taking the right insulin doses by taking a regular blood test, at home with the help of instruments like Accucheck, or at the clinic.
In type 1 diabetes, it is also essential to keep a medium low-carb diet and not be too strict in carbohydrate reduction, as it may lead to a condition called ketosis and become detrimental to health. Consider having at least a minimum of 50 g of carbs in one day’s meals.
- Blood pressure:
It is safe to say that low carb diets may completely stabilize the blood pressure, in most cases. There are a few things to take precaution for, though.
As was the case with diabetes, if taking medication for blood pressure, it is necessary to consult the doctor on reducing dosage as the low car diet will cause a further reduction in blood pressure, and it may lead to extremely low blood pressure. If witnessing symptoms of dizziness and weakness, consult the physician immediately.
It is generally recommended to take extra salt and fluids in the first few weeks of commencing on a low carb diet, in order to take care of some side effects that may occur, such as headaches. In the case of blood pressure, however, this needs to be supervised as more salt may increase blood pressure even more, a huge risk factor.
- During the period of Breastfeeding:
Considering a low carb diet immediately after giving birth is a good and natural way of reducing the gained baby weight and at the same time ensuring good nutrition and whole foods. However, an extremely rigorous low-carb diet of less than 40g of carbs can be dangerous while breastfeeding, because in the process, the mother’s body loses sugar, around 30g a day, thus requiring more sugar as she is feeding not one, but two bodies. If this is not taken care of, it may lead to ketoacidosis, which is highly dangerous.
So maintain medium levels of carbs, say around 50g per day, for example, by the simple inclusion of 3 large fruits in the low carb diet plan.
Either way, an LCHF diet’s main principle focus is healthy food habits, and anyone can reap the benefits from that, right! Essentially all you’re doing by switching to this diet is replacing all the junk and fast foods to a more whole and healthy food types which can only be helpful in maintaining health in the long run
Some other common side-effects:
The sudden absence of carbohydrates may give some unnecessary side effects such as dizziness, weakness, fatigue, headache, bad moods and irritability etc.
There is a very important transition phase when you first adopt this diet plan – it’s called the fat adaptation phase and will at least last two weeks, plus or minus a few days based on individual’s capacity. This phase is when the body is trained to extract and burn calories from the fat reserve of the body, and not the carb reserve. Time the phase such that it does not interfere with your regular training schedule, and give space for your body to adapt – it is a new change after all, and will take time to get used to.
These side effects do disappear after a while when the body has learned to adapt and there is a higher level of fat burning.
Consider taking some extra amounts of fluid and salt, to acclimatize the body and control any side effects of a sudden low carb content diet, like a headache. Liquids like broth can help too. This is due to the fact that with the disappearance of carbohydrates, there is a substantial decrease in the water retention capacity of the kidneys. This reduction has to be compensated with more liquids and some more salt.
Not convinced yet?
Just give it a go, and see for yourself!
So now that you know the background and probable effects, let’s move on to
Low Carb High Fat Diet Plan
In traditional diets, whole grains replace the unhealthy refined processed carbohydrates. Similarly, here too, the fats are to come from healthy natural foods and not processed foods. Just remember the rule, that WHERE it comes from is just as important as WHAT it is – source as important as the nutrient.
In a nutshell,
What to Eat: Unprocessed meats, Eggs, Natural fats such as butter, cheese, vegetables, fish (for the protein)
What not to Eat: Sugars of all kinds, and starch items (such as pasta, bread, rice, or at least white rice, vegetables like beans, and those that grow below ground like potatoes).
Some basic rules:
- Eat when hungry, and it ONLY till you feel satiated.
- Give the stomach time to realize it’s full enough, munch slowly.
- Avoid industry manufactured so-called low-fat products like the plague.
- Do NOT believe in labels. Read the ingredients and contents well before buying
- Avoid self-proclaimed “Low-carb” labeled foods. It may as well be a scam. Go natural – eat organic, buy local.
- Always follow the plan, even if you’re outside, try to stick the original master list of allowed foods.
As mentioned above, a low carb high fat diet means the following proportions of nutrients- 50% fat, 35% carbohydrates and 25% protein. To achieve this, it is important to compile a list of all edible things, and all periodically or never edible.
Thus, it is essential to cut down as many carbs as possible from your current diet. This is not a very difficult task at all, it’s as simple as using diet which has least carbohydrate matters. The following lists contain foods with the amount of carbs found in them written in brackets. Figures are mentioned in grams of carbohydrates found per 100g of food.
Low Carb Diet Foods
By consuming these foods majorly, you can easily maintain a 25% portion of the daily carb intake;
- Natural Fats (0 carbohydrate content)
Thicker sauce foods with butter can keep the stomach filled for longer. Natural butter and cream can all make this easy, plus they are very delicious too! Consider sauces such as Béarnaise. Also, olive oil is highly valuable. Coconut oil is also a decent choice.
- Meat (0 carbohydrate content)
All kinds of organic meat can be consumed – beef, poultry, mutton, pork, and even game eat – all can be consumed.
- Seafood (0 carbohydrate content)
All kinds of fish, mackerel, anything in the sea is edible – this also provides the needed 25% protein content.
- Eggs (1 carbohydrate content)
Can be eaten in any form, boiled, omelet, gravy, raw and even poached. Keep it natural.
- Dairy products (Varied carbohydrate content)
It’s best to choose items that are full-fat – such as full cream, high-fat cheese, full milk, yogurt. Avoid sugary products such as sweetened yogurt or milk drinks which have high glucose content- they just beat the whole purpose.
- Above terrain vegetables
It’s a generally known rule that all veggies that grow above soil have fewer carbs, while those that grow below have significantly higher carbs.
For example, sweet potatoes and normal potatoes contain the highest amounts of carbohydrate grams, charting 17g and 15g respectively.
On the other hand, Spinach and lettuce have just 1g and 2g respectively.
But keep in track how many vegetables of the lower carb kind you use too – for instance, a tomato has 3gms carbs but we tend to use tomatoes in large quantities in any dish. Keep the count to around 20g of carbs per day, and you’ll be fine.
- Nuts – a great snack but keep them in check. Nuts like brazil, pecan and macadamia have fewer carbs, but others like cashews are the worst and have excessive amounts. Read well and research prior to consumption.
- Berries – also in moderation
- -Fiber – good for digestion. Absolutely no case of carbohydrates present.
The Eat as LESS as you can List:
Your worst enemy when it comes to a low carb diet. And its sweetly present in all delicious foods like – soft drinks, juices, baked goods, pastries, ice creams – everything and anything. Avoid at all costs! Candies and chocolates have the highest amounts – around 60g average carbs per 100gm weight!
All kinds of bread (46gm), pasta (29gm when cooked), beans and peas, kinds of rice (28gm, when cooked), muesli, oats, porridge, legumes. Whole grain products are only minutely less bad, so avoid them too if possible.
Butter is a much better and safer substitute to margarine, especially that which is manufactured in the industry. It has an abnormally high amount of omega-6 and tastes much worse than butter. It also has other bad effects such as asthma and inflammatory diseases.
Yes, as disappointing as this may be, you will have to let go of those Friday night weekend raves as much as possible. A Single glass of around 12oz can have 17 gm of carbs – that’s not good numbers. It is easily absorbable too, making it all the more obsolete on your diet plan.
Yes, fruits are very healthy to body, but they are also the natural candies available on Earth – on average fruits have high carbs, around 7-20 gm. Thus one single fruit might be your daily carb intake.
The DRINK EVERYDAY list:
Ah, the elixir of life. Has zero carbs and fills the stomach for short periods of time. Keeps you hydrated too.
Consider adding milk or full-fat cream to it, increasing the fat content
The have RARELY list:
Maybe once in a while. Look for chocolates having high cocoa content, like 86% or so.
Wine contains much less carbohydrates than beer. Some alcohols like vodka and pure whiskeys are spirits and contain no carbs at all, but the market versions of these may have added sweeteners.
Champagne is probably the best, contains just 1 gm of carbohydrates in a typical serving glass.
Beer is the worst, contains a dangerous 13gm. It has the nickname of liquid bread and as all know, gives rise to pot-bellies and the like – definitely not going to help with the whole big weight loss plan. There are quite a few “low-carb” beers available in the market, which contain as less as 1gm per bottle.
A general word of caution: It is believed that while on a low-carb diet, it is observed that small amounts of alcohol is sufficient to induce intoxication, thus exercise caution while consumption.
How “Low-carb” should you go
Depending on the expected outcome, the amount of carbs you allow yourself should be planned. The lower the carbs you plan for each day, the faster the results – but it will also be much more challenging and difficult for the body to adapt to the sudden absence of carbohydrates. If you feel sudden bouts of dizziness or weakness, consider going easy on yourself, and gradually reduce the carbs, not drastically.
Generally, there are three kinds of low-carb diets, graded based on the carbohydrate content:
- Strict (Low carb content of 0-20 gm)
For people who need drastic measures – like extreme cases of body weight, diabetes type 2 severe, and people with clinical cases of addiction to food and sugar.
- Moderate (Medium carb content of 20-50 gm)
People with better carbohydrate tolerance, but want to maintain their weight and fitness
- Liberal (High carb content of 50-100 gm)
People who don’t even need to be on such a diet, but can eat slow natural carbohydrates, and not processed ones.
Why a Low Carb High Fat Diet is the most natural thing in the world
Before the advent of agriculture, man was a cluster of nomads who based his livelihood on hunting and gathering for natural foods available to him from the forests – this generally consisted of meats, vegetables scavenged from the ground up and so on – in essence, these are the same foods you would have found in the “Eat as much as you want” list above.
Yes, it is exactly how it looks.
From the beginning of time, man has been accustomed to food habits which are low in carbohydrates and high in other nutrients like fat and protein!
At that time and age, man did not have all these purely starch foods like processed flours and bread, potatoes, pasta, and so on. These kinds of foods have become available to man only around five thousand to ten thousand years ago – a very small amount of time to allow the human body to naturally adapt to new foods. With the advent of the industrial age, it became even more easier to large-scale produce and manufacture such highly-processed foods rich in sugar and starch such as white flours – all these are fast absorbed pure carbohydrates. This further worsened the unadaptable condition of the human body.
These days, consumption of highly-processed starch and sugar products increases day by day. This has led to more and more cases of obesity in most countries, with Us being called the most obese country in the whole world. The misconception that “Low-fat” foods will help battle this situation only made it worse – the logic being that if less fat is consumed, more carbs need to be consumed for compensation.
The curious case of Insulin
When carbohydrates are consumed, the digestive system breaks them down to simplest sugar forms which are then absorbed into the blood stream. As a result of higher sugar levels, the pancreas secretes the hormone, insulin, which prohibits fat burning and stores it in the fat cells. After a few hours of eating, this is perceived by the body as a low level of glucose in the blood, thus instigating hunger which leads to more food consumption and thus fatness and obesity.
This kind of phenomenon doesn’t occur when we eat low-carb foods. The blood sugar level remains more stable and thus there is a higher percentage of fat being burnt to produce the required energy. Less obesity, and less fat, especially along the waistline.
Low Carb Success Stories
Despite the limited scientific proof available for the effects of this diet, several prominent celebrities and athletes swear by this diet as the reason for their health and fitness achievements.
Medal winning triathlon athletes such as Ben Greenfield and Simon Whitfield attribute their success to this diet program. Greenfield managed a win in the Canada Iron man in 2013 with absolutely no carbs at all in his entire diet.
Timothy Olson has the honor of setting a world record for the speediest accomplishment of The 100 mile course in the Western States – all with a low carb high fat diet.
Overall, most athletes feel there is considerable improvement in their field performances and that the low carb diet also promises less mood swings and food cravings which are normally associated with a carbohydrate-loading diet plan.
Actors Melissa McCarthy who is well known for her round plumpness recently carried out an extensive weight-loss program and now boast of an impressive loss of weight of 45-pounds,
Kim Kardashian also followed this diet in order to find an easier and better way for reducing her baby weight gained during the pregnancy.
A 7 Day low carb meal plan for a week
In order to provide a basic idea on how to plan your low carb high fat diet, there is as follows a tentative plan. You can replace any of the items with any of the others presented in the sections above, as is appropriate.
Just stick to the basic rules, and you’ll be fine. Consider having at least one fruit per day, with loads and loads of fresh vegetables and zero starch. (Except those mentioned to be below ground).
Breakfast: Vegetable tossed omelet, fried in pure natural butter or with some coconut oil.
Lunch: Natural high fat yogurt with some kind of berry flavoring, blueberries and a small fistful of almonds.
Dinner: A Cheeseburger (with no baked starch bun), placed with sides of healthy vegetables and some relishing salsa sauce.
Breakfast: Fried or baked Bacon with a side of eggs.
Lunch: Some burger with natural vegetables, as a salad tossed.
Dinner: Baked fresh Salmon with high-fat natural butter and above-ground vegetables.
Breakfast: Any form of Eggs served with vegetables, fried in natural butter or any oil
Lunch: A fresh Shrimp salad tossed with salt and olive oil.
Dinner: Grilled or fried chicken served on sides with a salad of vegetables.
Breakfast: Vegetable filled Omelette, fried using either natural butter or small amounts of coconut oil.
Lunch: A power-packed Smoothie containing some coconut milk and any kind of berries. You can also add some little almonds for protein.
Dinner: Steak served with side vegetables
Breakfast: Fried Bacon and any form of Egg.
Lunch: Chicken tossed in a salad with natural olive oil.
Dinner: Pork chops, served with side vegetables.
Breakfast: Vegetable filled Omelette
Lunch: Natural high-fat berry flavored yogurt and a tiny fistful of walnuts
Dinner: Meatballs fried and served with vegetables.
Breakfast: Fried Bacon and any form of Egg.
Lunch: Smoothie with quite small amounts of heavy cream, a spoon of chocolate-flavoured topping ingredient and some added berries.
Dinner: No rice sushi steamed and rolled hot with raw greens like lettuce or spinach
Not up for a Meal? Then take some Low Carb Snacks!
Match whatever is in your pantry or fridge with the foods you’re allowed to eat.
- A yogurt smoothie high in fat
- Cheese fingers
- Some fruit pulp or raw fruit (no sweeteners)
- Any form of Egg
- Cheese and meat combos
- Some small amounts of nuts (except cashew)
- Raw edible vegetables, like carrots
With the rise in popularity of low carb high fat diets, there are now so many resources available, both literature and online, about this. There are many products which now naturally come with low carbs (be cautious though) and there are also many health bloggers who have gone in length to discuss it. Many recipes can also be found online to guide you in your cooking manners. In particular, you can also bake low-carb confectionaries and so on.
The working of Man in modern times has greatly compromised on our time to take good and sufficient care of our bodies. There is hardly time for additional exercise that we should be doing in order to maintain health and weight. In such time-pressed situations, following a good and simple-to-follow diet is the best and easiest way to take care of health too.
In that case, the low-carbohydrate high-fat diet brings us closest to our ancestral and genetic body functioning. Highly beneficial to all human beings, irrespective of whether they are an athlete looking for a better performance, or a diabetes patient looking for natural control measures or a regular person waiting to lose some excess obese weight.
It may be a little of a daunting task in the beginning when you have to draw up a plan and raid and clear the fridge and pantry. But once it’s all set, you will realize the maximum benefits of following a diet like this. Go step by step – start with replacing your soda bottle with a bottle of water, a chocolate cake with some fresh yogurt base – start slow and aim big.
But just keep moving towards your goal.
Though the body will take some time to adapt back to its original state, it will totally be worth it. Consider talking to you doctor about this switch in diet plans, today!