This manual is suitable for those who are just starting with a low-carb, high-fat diet or a keto lifestyle.
This guide will give you all the information you need to begin with a low carb diet, such as a definition of the diet and related terms, an explanation of health benefits, sensible nutrition label reading and net carb calculation, food tracking tips, and examples of acceptable and unacceptable food items.
Being adequately prepared is essential — without it, making this change in one’s way of life could be unnecessarily complicated or perplexing.
Low Carb Diet
A diet that limits the amount of carbohydrates consumed is known as a low-carbohydrates diet. Certain sorts of low carb diets induce a state of ketosis and are known as ketogenic (“keto”) diets – one such example is the Atkins diet’s initial stage.
There is no strict threshold for a diet to be considered “low carb.” Some consider a low carb diet to be one where daily carb intake is between 50 – 150 g, which is above the level where most people will generate sufficient ketones, and a very low carb diet or ketogenic diet to be one where daily carb intake is below 50 g.
Because of reducing carbohydrate intake, the body will not have a high amount of blood sugar present, a situation similar to when one is fasting.
The response of the body is to start making ketones, which are made from fatty acids inside the liver. Ketones are circulated in the blood and disseminated to the brain and other body parts. Ketones take the place of glucose in becoming the main source of energy.
When there is enough ketones in the bloodstream, the body is in a state known as ketosis, which is also a successful method of treating tough epileptic seizures in kids.
In order to remain in ketosis, the majority of individuals should not consume much more than 20 – 50 grams of carbohydrates a day. This way of eating limits carbohydrate intake substantially, thus making the ketogenic plan a sort of low-carb, high-fat and middle protein diet.
You can check if your body is in ketosis by using a breathalyzer to measure acetone, which is one of the three ketone bodies that exist, the others being acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate.
The disadvantages of using breathalyzers is that the outcome is not always accurate, and accuracy depends on how you blow into it. Urine test strips can gauge the amount of acetoacetate present, though there is usually a weak correlation between this value and the amount of ketones found in the blood.
Lastly, ketone meters that use a finger-prick can measure the amount of beta-hydroxybutyrate that is present in the bloodstream.
Although your body could achieve a ketogenic state within a few days due to glycogen and blood sugar levels being reduced, it could take multiple weeks or even months to become ideally suited to the ketogenic diet.
It is important to point out that the body is able to keep acid-base balance during ketosis, which is not the same as ketoacidosis, an urgent situation where uncontrolled ketone production occurs, often due to an inadequate supply of insulin in individuals with type 1 or advanced type 2 diabetes.
Net Carbs and Macros
When beginning a low carb eating regimen, examine the nutrition label of every product at the grocery store carefully before making a purchase.
It’s especially tricky to know which foods contain carbs at the start when one is unfamiliar with the various options. Did you know that a single tablespoon of lemon juice contains 1 gram of carbohydrates? Or that even dried spices have carbs?
Everything tallies up, so you must be aware of the components of your foodstuffs so you don’t exceed your daily allocated number of net carbohydrates.
Most things include some carbohydrates, apart from pure fats (e.g. oils) or any sort of proteins. Be sure to always look at the nutrition label before purchasing food since various brands of the same food can differ greatly in their desired carbohydrate numbers.
On American food labels, the amount of carbohydrates present is stated, as well as how much of that comes from sugars and fibers. Net carbs are what matters to us because they represent the carbohydrates that can be metabolized by the body.
Net carbs are calculated as total carbs minus fiber. In cases where non-digestible sugar alcohols such as erythritol are used, net carbs are defined as total carbs minus fiber minus erythritol:
The amount of net carbohydrates can be determined by subtracting the total carbohydrates, fiber, and sugar alcohols (such as erythritol) from each other.
Be aware of the portion size specified on the nutrition facts label. A product may contain only 0.5 g of net carbs for each individual serving, however, if more than one tablespoon of it is necessary (for example, if a cup of it is needed) then these carbs should be added up.
The next action to take is to have an understanding of the number of net carbs present in everyday foods. Look at the labels on foods in your kitchen cabinets and fridge to get information about their nutrient content.
What foods surprised you? When you go to the grocery store on your next trip, look over the labels on certain products to comprehend what kinds of food contain a lot of carbohydrates.
Another term that you’ll hear often is macronutrients (“macros”). Our bodies receive energy from three major macronutrients found in food: fat, carbohydrates, and protein.
On a low carbohydrate diet, you’ll be eating an increased amount of both fat and protein due to the decrease in carbs. Some individuals prefer to have a daily target for macro nutrients and monitor their macronutrient intake on a daily basis, in addition to simply keeping up with total carbs. If that is relevant to you, go ahead to the subsection regarding creating daily objectives.
Daily Net Carbs, Protein, Fat, and Calories Consumption
No one approach to a low carb diet is universal. Certain individuals remain firm when devising their daily carbohydrate intake; limiting themselves to no more than 20 grams of net carbs. On the other hand, certain others may be comfortable setting their allowance at either 30 or 50 grams. A number of individuals steer clear of sugars and processed carbohydrates without bothering to record the amount of carbs they’re having.
If you’re not getting the outcomes you hoped for (e.g., fat reduction), it is strongly suggested that you log your net carbs and calories each day to identify the problem.
The best way to remain in ketosis is to consume no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day; however, it is nevertheless feasible to remain in ketosis while restricting yourself from 20 to 50 grams daily.
Choose a daily amount of carbohydrate that is achievable for your lifestyle. If 20 grams is not sufficient for you, then go for a larger quantity. Some people begin by consuming only 20 g of something each day and then incrementally increase that amount by five grams every week.
Find a low carb lifestyle that works best for you, since there is no single method that is suitable for everyone.
You can calculate the amount of protein, fat, and calories in addition to the net carbs. Your daily diet should include adequate amounts of protein for optimal health.
Once you have reached the amount of protein recommended for the day, there is no need to eat more; this is not a diet that consists of high amounts of protein. The main purpose of fats is to make you feel satiated. You can also establish a maximum number of calories you’re allowed to consume, particularly if you’re attempting to shed pounds.
There are a number of internet-based macro calculating tools available that will let you know what the ideal daily intakes should be for carbs, protein, fat, and calories on a ketogenic diet.
Keep in mind that protein should be consumed, the amount of carbs should be limited, and fat is what you need to eat to stay full. This eating regimen is considered to be low in carbohydrates, rich in fat, and moderate in protein.
It is advantageous to look into the proportion of calories taken from fat if one desires to be in a profound ketosis state.
A balance of 80% of calories from fat, and 20% from all other sources is a reasonable estimation to start from. This is a proportion of 2 units of weight to 1 unit of weight.
Starting a Low-Carb Diet Plan
Reducing the amount of carbohydrates one consumes can be difficult, but the job is made simpler by having a strategy. These steps will help get you started.
1. Consider your goals
Are you going low-carb for weight loss? For cognitive benefits? Figure out what you hope to accomplish through this diet, then…
2. Choose your low-carb plan
Once you determine the objectives you want to accomplish, you will have a clearer understanding of what strategy is most appropriate for you.
If you are looking to alter your metabolic rate significantly, adhering strictly to a ketogenic diet would be your top option. If you need more freedom in your diet, such as consuming sweet potatoes, a paleo-style low-carb way of eating might be a good fit.
Here are your main options. (Click the links for a deeper dive).
- The keto diet
- Cyclical keto
- The paleo diet
- Some combination (any whole foods diet that restricts carbs)
Here is a ready-made solution provided at the bottom of this article.
3. Remove carbs from your house
Once you make the decision to stick to a low-carb diet, get rid of anything that could be a source of temptation. Throw out your macaroni, loaves of bread, potato chips, crackers, and anything that has sugar in it. If it can be donated, donate it. Out of sight, out of mind.
4. Tracking Macros
Okay, you’re ready to start your low-carb diet now. When you do, be sure to track your macros.
If you’re adhering to a ketogenic diet, you will need to limit your carbohydrate intake to less than 10% of your total calorie intake. If you do not adhere to the ketogenic diet, you can augment the percentage to 25 or 30%.
Take advantage of this useful keto calculator to make sure your diet is on course.
What to Eat on a Low-Carb Diet Plan
Going low-carb isn’t complicated. Concentrate on unprocessed foods that contain naturally low levels of carbohydrates. Your diet can include:
- Meat like poultry, beef, lamb, and organ meats
- Fish like salmon and tuna
- Healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, butter, and MCT oil
- Nuts like hazelnuts, macadamias, and walnuts
- Non-starchy vegetables like spinach, kale, and asparagus
- Low-carb fruits like avocados and berries
Check out this comprehensive article to get a full rundown of low-carb food items.
What to Avoid on a Low-Carb Diet
Stepping away from consuming carbohydrates is mostly what a low-carb diet entails, however, there is more to it than just that. Basically, you’ll want to avoid:
- Anything with added sugar (sorry, no ice cream)
- Most packaged foods
- All grains (including whole grains)
- Industrial seed oils
- Trans fats
You’ll also want to limit:
- Roots, tubers, and starchy vegetables
- Dairy (unless it’s well tolerated)
- Most fruits
It depends on your diet plan as to how much you partake in that previous list. If you abide by a ketogenic diet, then you will not be consuming fruits or root vegetables. Too many grams of carbs.
Sample Low-Carb Meal Plan
Here is an example of a low-carb food plan using only natural ingredients with recipes to help you achieve your goals. You may consume the occasional sweet potato, potato, or carrot if you are adhering to a low-carb paleo diet.
- Breakfast: Blueberry Muffin Keto Mug Cake
- Lunch: White Turkey Chili with steamed broccoli
- Dinner: Quick Keto Egg Roll in a Bowl
- Breakfast: Quick n’ Easy Keto Egg Muffins
- Lunch: Low Carb Crispy Keto Chicken with leafy greens
- Dinner: Zesty Keto Taco Salad
- Breakfast: Keto Oatmeal: 5-Minute Low-Carb N’oats
- Lunch: Crispy Skin Salmon with Pesto Cauliflower Rice
- Dinner: Creamy Mushroom Chicken
- Breakfast: Acai Almond Butter Smoothie
- Lunch: Portobello Bun Cheeseburger with Celeriac Everything Oven Fries and Homemade Keto Mayo
- Dinner: Delicious Low-Carb Keto Meatloaf
- Breakfast: Savory Crustless Breakfast Keto Quiche
- Lunch: Zesty Chili Lime Keto Tuna Salad
- Dinner: Fathead Pizza: Low-Carb Keto Pizza
- Breakfast: Avocado Breakfast Bowl
- Lunch: Crispy Cheesy Chicken Salad
- Dinner: Savory Shrimp Keto Stir Fry
Benefits of a Low-Carb Diet
When you cut down on carbohydrates, maintaining low levels of blood sugar and insulin levels is achievable, thus facilitating to switch to fat-burning mode. Here’s why that’s beneficial.
1. Weight Loss
People commonly go low-carb to lose weight. Very often, it works.
Losing weight is partially achievable through following low-carb diets since they can decrease insulin levels. Insulin is the hormone that helps control the storage of fat, so it should not be increased when trying to lose weight.
In a single research, females who adopted a very low-carbohydrate eating plan shed more weight than those who limited their calorie intake. The ladies on the low-carb diet took in more calories yet still managed to shed more pounds.
The focus is: Losing weight does not only involve reducing calorie intake. Cutting carbs often works better.
2. Reduced Cravings
Carbohydrates have the most significant effect on blood sugar levels out of all the macronutrients. When your blood sugar falls, you will experience hunger. Cutting down on carbohydrates keeps your blood sugar levels from changing drastically, which prevents the hunger pangs.
Eating fat is also more satiating than eating carbs. Studies have indicated that a decrease in carbohydrate intake has a suppressive effect on ghrelin, the hormone associated with hunger. Less carbs, less hunger.
3. Stable Energy
Eating low-carb not only smooths out your appetite. It also smooths out your energy.
Yes. Taking steps to avoid dealing with the energy fluctuations that come with high blood sugar levels, and instead stay steadied on a journey powered by healthy fats, can shield you from the fatigue that comes in the late afternoon. Who needs coffee when you can have fat?
4. Cognitive Health
Your mind operates using two fuel sources: glucose and ketones. As you get older, your brain becomes less efficient at utilizing glucose and more efficient at utilizing ketones. There is evidence that the keto diet could be beneficial in maintaining cognitive abilities in the elderly.
Even if you don’t stick to a ketogenic diet, cutting down on carbohydrates could assist with your mental performance. People involved in a certain investigation found that when they ingested a glucose solution, their cognitive skills deteriorated after in comparison to those who drank something indistinguishable but inactive.
Best Time For Keto
The next step is to pick a start date. Beginning this diet quickly will result in you getting the rewards sooner. It’s best to begin this diet when you have control over your kitchen and can make your own meals.
It’s advisable to postpone your dieting until you get home if you’re about to embark on a holiday, as it can be difficult to source appropriate meals while travelling.
Once you have selected the day when you will start, it is wise to eliminate all items that are high in carbs from your kitchen which could potentially tempt you.
Transfer the items to a higher position, distribute them among other individuals, or discard them. Anticipate in advance so that any food item high in carbohydrates will either have been eaten or taken away by the time you intend to begin this dietary regimen.