The myths abound. On a no carb diet, you’ll lose 100 pounds – with no exercise. NFL linemen can train harder and feel less pain with zero carb intake. And other claims are even wilder, and harder to believe.
So what’s the deal with a no carb diet?
Is it good – or bad? Should you try it – or not? What to eat – and when? That’s what we’ll discuss in this report.
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A low carb diet is not the same as a no carb diet. A zero carb diet is much more intense and excludes all carbohydrates. So how does your body get energy then? Fat becomes your main source, with protein for backup. You’ll eat eggs, cheese, fish and meat.
A no carb diet makes you ketogenic. Dietary fat is converted into ketone bodies. These are oxidized for energy. Because this isn’t how your body normally works, you should talk with your physician before going on a no carb diet.
Although it’s called a no carb diet and restricts intake to less than 50 grams of carbohydrate daily, you’ll be surprised that even when you eat more carbohydrate, you’ll still continue to lose weight.
It’s not easy to get started on a no carb diet and stick with it. So give yourself some time to prepare. Concentrate on the food you’re permitted to eat (No carb diets can be tasty and you won’t have to give up something). Enjoy trying out new recipes and meal plans.
The first step is to determine how much carbohydrate you can eat and still lose fat.
Cutting down on carbs optimizes your body composition and improves biomarkers of health. However, many dieters don’t understand that carbohydrates are necessary for the body, especially if you are physically active or in training.
By eating enough carbs to keep liver stores of glycogen topped up and to fuel your brain with glucose, you’ll lose fat without any drop in energy level, mental function or mood changes.
Paleo diets and the Atkins diet are low / no carb diets which work well in sedentary populations, but not with active dieters. If you run, ski, train with weights, go cycling or engage in any other high energy activity, a no carb diet won’t provide enough calories.
Diets must be tailored to your specific circumstances, body type, health conditions, activity and goals.
Think about it like driving a car. If your car is always locked up in the garage, it won’t matter if you fill the tank with gas or not. But if you drive long distances every day, you’ve got to top up frequently, or you’ll run out of fuel.
Your body is just like that. Loading up on carbs while you’re sedentary only floods the blood with extra glucose which is stored as fat, leading to diabetes, high cholesterol, insulin resistance and other problems.
But if you starve yourself of carbs while you are active, you’ll experience fatigue, irritation, depression, muscle and bone loss, suboptimal performance, insomnia, lower sex drive and a slower metabolic rate.
Nutritionists typically recommend that 50% to 65% of your daily calories come from carbohydrates, 20% to 30% from fats and the rest from protein. A no carb diet, on the other hand, provides 70% of energy requirements from fat, 30% from protein, and almost none from carbs.
Since body fat has to be converted into ketones before use as fuel after glycogen depletion, this is also called a ketogenic diet, or simply “keto”. Bodybuilders adopt a no carb diet before contests to retain muscle mass while shedding water and fat by forcing their body to burn fat for energy.
A no carb diet is therefore not unhealthy, but produces some unusual metabolic changes in your body which now adapts to a low carb intake by finding alternate sources of energy such as converting fat and protein to glucose which is stored as glycogen. Your brain switches over to using this alternate source of fuel when your carb intake drops to less than 50 grams daily.
Originally recommended for people with morbid obesity or epilepsy, a no carb diet is now gaining popularity among other dieters after a lot of research was done on balanced carb diets.
As the linesman of New York Giants Geoff Shwartz says of a zero carb diet, “You’ll feel leaner, more energetic and recover faster from workouts. You’ll just feel better in general.”
The message to athletes is clear. On a no carb diet, you’ll train harder and for longer – and hurt less.
Two benefits of a no carb diet highlighted by nutrition specialist Dr.Steve Phinney are that fat loss is replaced with lean muscle, and anti-inflammatory mechanisms are activated leading to less soreness after training.
Phinney says, “On a no carb diet, your body gets efficient at burning fat for energy, both during exercise and at rest.” Six days without carbs and a lot of protein is enough for this effect to kick in. Small amounts of nutritious sources of carbs like fruits and veggies are alright.
UCSF dietician Katie Ferraro doesn’t agree. She thinks a no carb diet is inefficient at processing fat and protein for energy.
“It’s like trying to run a car on empty!” says the articulate assistant professor, likening a no carb diet to filling a luxury car’s unleaded petrol tank with diesel… and then expecting peak performance from it.
“That’s not a good way to eat over a long time,” she says.
A no carb diet requires you to eat natural (unprocessed) foods that are low in carbohydrate content. Eat egg whites and cheese for breakfast. Chicken and veggies for lunch. Hamburger patties, cheese and more vegetable for dinner. Supplemented with low-carb protein shakes.
Schwartz, a nutrition expert, says that it’s tough to ensure that 70% or more of your calories come from fat. Eating that much fatty food is hard, even if you add plenty of coconut and olive oil, avocado and more to your recipes.
How to lose weight fast? It depends on your health status, your activity level and your weight. Pick less processed food items that fit your budget. Your diet will include protein and fat, with very little carbs.
The base could be pork and eggs or other meats and fish like tuna and salmon. Fish oil or flax seed oil can make up the rest of your calorie requirements. You can eat meat, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, reduced-fat cheese, yoghurt, sour cream and healthy oil.
You should avoid sugar, trans fat, wheat and highly processed foods. If weight loss isn’t your main goal, you can eat more carbohydrate like sweet potato, rice, oats, quinoa and legumes and drink coffee, tea or soda without sweeteners.
A no carb diet can appear severely restrictive in terms of your eating choices (see ‘Weight Loss Calculator‘). You might have to rely only on plant oils, spices and salt for flavouring. All carb-containing foods are off the menu.
The longer you stay on a zero carb diet, the more stress will be placed on your kidneys and liver. Headache, nausea, tiredness and bad breath are common side effects of a ketogenic diet. Prolonged low carb intakes might even reduce libido.
Also, in a practical sense, a no carb diet becomes restrictive in food choices. After a while, a meal of mushrooms, spinach and asparagus begins to look unappealing, even if you’re shedding extra pounds of fat.
A more balanced approach to fat loss than a no carb diet will have a wider following. Among the best choices is Shaun Hadsall‘s’14 Day Rapid Fat Loss’ program with its emphasis on healthy eating and other healthy practices.
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