When it comes to eating a lower carb diet and achieving results there are a five big mistakes I’ve seen many clients routinely make that hindered their progress.
Lowering carbohydrate intake can be an effective strategy for certain folks, but there are a lot of other factors that impact the success you will have on a low carb diet that go beyond carbs, fats and protein.
In this blog we are going to cover the five biggest low carb mistakes that cause people to have sub par results, and how to fix these mistakes.
1. Long Periods of Under Eating
When switching from a higher carbohydrate diet over to a low carb high fat diet people are surprised by their decreased hunger.
Protein and fat are both high satiety foods that keep you feeling fuller for much longer than carbohydrates. When you add in a bunch of fiber rich non starchy vegetablesles you will be fuller for longer.
If you imagine the metabolism like a fire think of fats and carbs like two different fuels for the fire.
Fats are like a log on a fire they burn slower for a much longer period of time. Carbohydrates are like kindling; they burn bright but need to be replenished quickly.
Many people end up unintentionally in a calorie deficit based on the fact that they weren’t hungry as often and experienced less intense hunger by eating low carb high fat.
While many people would love to be able to undereat by accident, in the long run this prolonged caloric deficit can create appetite rebounds that lead to overeating.
This unintentional calorie deficit can be good for a short period of time to kick start fat loss, however if you undereat for a long enough it can start to impact your thyroid, adrenals and metabolism.
Your Fix: Track calories for a few days to see where your natural eating rhythm falls on a daily basis. I recommend women eat at least 1,800 calories and men eat at least 2,2000 calories per day.
2. Eating Too Many Sneaky Carbs
What constitutes low carb changes depending on who you are talking to. Many people get great results in the 100-150 gram per day range.
Some people will need to drop carbs even lower in the 75-100 gram range to kickstart their progress.Those who are looking to achieve a state of ketosis will usually need to be more extreme, and go below 50 grams of carbohydrates.
While most people eating low carb know to avoid grains and sugars, there are a lot of foods that contain far more carbohydrates than you would think like cashews, carrots, beets and peanut butter.
Your Fix: Tracking calories and carbs for a few days can be really helpful. Track your daily carb count and identify any sneaky sources of carbs that are putting you over your daily limit.
If everything looks good and you aren’t going over carbs it may be time to try a lower carb bracket. Mark’s Daily Apple has a really helpful carb curve infographic.
3. Not Eating Enough Fat
Your body prefers to use fats or carbohydrates for fuel. We have the ability to use protein to make glucose, but this is a starvation mechanism meant to keep us alive in a famine.
When you go on a low carbohydrate diet you are forcing your body to adapt to using fat as its main source of fuel in place of carbohydrates.
A problem arises when carbohydrates are lowered, and fat isn’t increased by nearly enough to meet the body’s energy needs.
If carbohydrates are going to be lowered, fat needs to be significantly increased to meet the energy requirements of the body.
When carbs are lowered and fats aren’t increased enough the body is left without an ample energy source to use.
Without enough fuel stress hormones will be released to mobilize any energy, and muscle mass can be sacrificed to make glucose for the body.
Most people I’ve spoken with who said a low carb diet wasn’t working for them were dramatically under eating calories and fat.
When you get these same people to increase their fat intake, and bring their calories up around 1,800-2,200 they start to feel significantly better and will actually lose fat.
The Fix: Eat more fat! you will need to experiment and see what your specific needs are in terms of fat intake, but chances are it is higher than you think.
You can get more fat in the diet by opting for fattier cuts of meat at meals, cooking in butter or coconut oil, using heavy whipping cream in coffee, or adding half an avocado to meals.
4. Not Replacing Sodium
Low carb diets keep your main storage hormone insulin low. With insulin low it allows the body to tap into fat as an energy source
Insulin also communicates to the kidneys to retain sodium, which in turn allows us to hold water in your tissues and stay hydrated.
When you go on a lower carb diet the body starts to release excess sodium, which causes more water to be flushed from your body. Many people notice quick weight loss for the first few weeks.
The body is shedding a lot of water weight because you don’t have the carbs or sodium to retain the water you are drinking.
While it can be exciting to lose weight quickly, the fact remains that sodium is a crucial electrolyte that our body requires.
If the kidneys release too much sodium you can have some unpleasant side effects such as: fatigue, light headedness, constipation, painful joints and headaches.
The Fix: Increase sodium intake by using sea salt to season your meals.If that doesn’t help you can always put ½ teaspoon of salt in your water twice a day.
As a bonus putting salt in your water before a workout can help provide a boost to performance, and salt in water before bed has helped more than a few of my clients improve their sleep.
5. Consuming Too Many Nuts
Nuts are a great source of fat, and contain some protein and fiber as well, but just because a few are good for you doesn’t mean half a container is better.
Nuts can make for a quick snack in a pinch, but they are food that people notoriously overeat and can create a significant roadblock to progress.
Another consideration is that nuts are very calorie dense. While calories do matter, food quality and the impact on the body due to that food quality needs to be taken into consideration as well.
There are a lot moving parts to the calories in, calories out equation that go unaddressed. Things such as thyroid, metabolic health and hormones all impact your ability to burn or store calories.
If someone is making good food choices, and not seeing progress it may be time to look at calories for a few days and see what foods could be creating roadblocks.
Nuts are surprisingly calorie dense, and contain a good amount of carbs especially cashews! Roasted and salted nuts are notoriously easy to overeat and it’s no problems for someone to toss back an extra 1,100 calories without thinking twice.
The Fix: I recommend that people consume nuts like they would a condiment, small portions. If your goal is fat loss, there are much more nutrient dense foods that will promote fat loss.
While nuts are high in fat, the carbs can creep up unexpectedly when you have a few handfuls. Limit your consumption to two half cupped hand servings per day and you should be fine.
As you can see there is a lot more to consider than just lowering carbs and eating more fat to make a low carb diet work for you.
I do believe that low carb or a ketogenic approach can be great for a lot of people, but there are others who it won’t work for.
You will have to experiment to and see how you look, feel and perform on a low carb diet. By knowing and addressing these common mistakes you will be able to avoid the roadblocks people encounter and let derail them.
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