Most people who have an interest in losing weight, reducing their body fat or generally improving their overall health will have come across low carb eating in one form or other along the way.
How to make, low carb eating, work for you.
Some have great success with it while others really seem to struggle and soon go back to eating as they did before... but why is this? Is there a difference between eating low carb and no carb? Or, might you just be getting your low carb and no carb eating plans wrong?
Well yes, there most certainly is a difference between eating a low carb diet and eating a no carb diet and if you do get the difference wrong it will most certainly make what should be a very simple process of shedding unwanted body fat very difficult and frustrating indeed. It is also possible to get either eating plan wrong without ever mistaking one for the other.
This really is a shame too because get either eating style right and you really will find it very easy to shed any amount of unwanted body-fat you care to lose.
The good news is that getting either form of low carb eating right isn't very hard, it just takes a little knowledge and a touch of observation.
Before we get down to how you may be making low carb and no carb difficult for yourself lets first look at how both work at lowering your body fat.
How lower carb eating Works
The way a lower carb diet works is quite simple.
Whenever you eat them, carbohydrates of any sort (simple sugars, or so called slow release, low GI carbohydrates) cause the release of insulin in the blood. Insulin's job is to get that sugar out of your blood where it is quite poisonous and instead deliver it into your liver, muscles and fat cells, where it is stored safely and can be used at your body's leisure.
However, if you are gaining weight or have gained a lot of weight in the past and never managed to shift it, then you are suffering from a certain amount of insulin resistance (a lot more on this subject in upcoming blogs). This Insulin Resistance causes a lot more of the carbs you eat to get shuttled straight into your fat cells, bypassing your liver and muscles, (this important concept is the reason why a calorie is not always a calorie).
This process of storing too much sugar in the fat cells leaves your muscles and other organs starved of its sugar fuel, which triggers hunger and cravings, which leads to more carb eating, more weight gain, more cravings... and so on.
If you follow the guidelines for most lower carb diets (typically allowing 100-150 grams of cabs per day), this will normally lower the amount or the frequency of insulin your body releases and so the amount of carbs that can get stored as fat.
But wait there is more....
As the insulin levels in your blood start to go down the levels of the hormone Glucagon start to go up. Glucagon's job is to raise blood sugar levels when the body detects they are starting to drop down a bit low. It does this by tapping on your liver to get it to start releasing some of those carbs it has been storing.
Glucagon also taps your fat cells for stored fuel too.
So, Insulin and Glucagon have a completely dependent relationship; one stores calories that have been eaten, the other releases them. When one is high the other must be low and vice versa.
So, that is how a lower carb diet works... Lower insulin means higher Glucagon...Higher Glucagon means more fat burning.
How, No Carb, eating Works
People often assume that no carb eating is just a more intense variation of lower carb eating and that the mechanisms behind how the two ways of eating burn off fat are the same... but they most certainly are not.
Yes, just as with lower carb eating when we are, no carbing it, (anything below about 50 grams of carbs per day), insulin drops and Glucagon rises and fat burning is increased... but once the liver and muscles run dry of stored sugars; normally by the end of the first full week of no carb eating, things radically begin to change.
With no sugars left in the liver to trickle out between meals the body needs to seriously step up its conversion of fat to fuel if it is to fulfil its energy requirements and to do this the body must completely change how it makes fuel.
You see, while on a lower carb eating plan the body may well be burning off excess fat but it still turns to those 100 – 150 grams of carbs you are eating each day as its primary source of fuel but if you, “no carb it,” then the body has no access to carbohydrate and must convert to burning fat as its primary source of fuel and it does this through the process of Ketosis.
Ketosis is the critical difference between low carbing it and no carbing it and with ketosis there can be no half measures; you are either all in or you are not in at all.
When the body is in ketosis, fat liberated from the fat cells by glucagon is sent to the liver where the liver converts the fat into ketone bodies. These ketones are then used as a replacement for all carbohydrates.
And that is how No carb eating works.
So how do you get the two most powerful fat burning protocols wrong.
Okay, so now that we know how these two, powerful weight loss eating plans work, let’s look at how you can get them so wrong that instead of melting the fat from your body they will leave you feeling like you have just been run over by a steam roller, or worse yet leave you gaining weight...
How you can get, “lower carb eating,” wrong.
Most lower carb eating plans will have you swapping some of your carbs for fat. This is a great idea because the modern diet is very low in essential fats but the the first mistake arises when our "would be low carber" doesn't lower their carbs enough and ends up eating enough carbs to keep their insulin high and storing excess carbs, while at the same time consuming large amounts of extra fat in their diet. This can only lead to one thing, weight gain.
The second unfortunate thing that can happen to lower carbers is that they get a bit too enthusiastic about the number of carbs they are cutting and they cut a little too deep. This normally happens a few weeks in. It is common for lower carber to drop a lot of weight in the first few weeks due to the body dropping a lot of water along with the carbs. Then when the weight loss starts to slow, the newly initiated can get a bit panicky and in an attempt to match the losses of the first few weeks they lower their carbs even more. They might go from 120 grams a day to 70 or 80. But now their carbs are too low to sustain a comfortable sugar burn but not low enough to enter ketosis... The result is chronic tiredness, cravings and ultimately binge eating.
Occasionally the lower carber will even cut their carbs right down low enough to enter ketosis but unaware that the first week or two of entering ketosis can be a bit rough as the body starts to switch over to producing ketone bodies (a sensation often referred to as keto flu due to the similarities it has, to feeling like you are getting a cold), they break, as they wrongly believe that their body just can't cope on low carbs.
The solution: If you are on lower carb diet you must keep your carbs between 100 to 150 grams depending on your size and activity levels. This is the sweet spot and will give you the results you are after. Go higher and you will produce to much insulin, switching off glucagon production and fat burning. Go to low and you will just feel exhausted, unless you are prepared to go full keto.
How you can get, "No carb," Wrong
The first mistake you can make when going, no carb, is to underestimate how entering ketosis will make you feel for a few days. The symptoms of keto flu can normally be felt by the end of the first week and generally last about a week after that, (although you can get the odd dip or 2, normally only lasting a day or so, for up to month).
The worst of the effects can in fact be mitigated against by taking it easy in the gym that week, or at least not expecting too much from yourself when you are under the bar. Taking plenty of salt on your food will also help a lot, salts are flushed out along with the excess water and this, drop in, sodium can be the major cause of feeling a bit off at first. It is also worth remembering that insulin also causes the kidneys to store sodium, so adding salt to you ketogenic diet is a good habit to get into.
The second mistake new, no carbers, can make is not eating enough fat. Remember, you have just cut your body off from all access to the fuel it has probably being running on for your entire life. If you want the body to start burning fat you need to start feeding it fat.
Coconut fat is particularly good due to it high concentration of MCT's which convert to ketone bodies far quicker than other forms of fat. This will certainly help with keto flu and will pep you right up… Bullet-proof coffee, (coffee made with added coconut oil and butter) is my personal favourite, no carb pick me up. In fact one of the first real clues that you are entering ketosis is when your energy levels suddenly shoots up after a fat coffee.
The third mistake people can make when going keto is the inability to recognise Keto flu for what it is; the body switching over to burning fat, possible for the first time in your entire life. A lack of knowledge as how to best deal with this sensation often has newbies running for the cookie jar in a cold sweat... Which is a real shame because when people enter ketosis for the first time they are often amazed at just how much energy they have and just how sharp their thinking becomes.
The fourth mistake, no carbers, can make is that they start to test their carb tolerance too much. Having had a little more carbs than usual without any negative effects they start to slowly push their carb levels up. Ultimately this results in their carbs climbing to high, which takes them out of ketosis, (so their bodies switch back to trying to burn sugar for fuel) but they don’t just have a the sugar in the system to meet the job and they crash or get hypoglycaemic, (cold, pale, sweating, and generally feeling really bad).
The solution: The trick to getting ketosis right is to stay below 50 grams of carbs per day. If you can do that the results can be truly amazing.
Another trick some people like to use is to buy keto glucometers or the newer keto breath tubes. These devices can be great at helping you to determine just how high a carb limit you can tolerate and still stay in ketosis.
Occasional high carb splurges can be perfectly fine for most people too, once they have been on a keto diet for a month or two. The trick is not to let them happen too often. Once a person is established on ketosis a large carb meal once every 10 days or so is doable. Yes, you will come out of ketosis but you are normally back in after a day or so, as most of the carbs gets stored in the liver and muscles, and are quickly burned up.