Food Freedom Friday Edition 141 - Low Carb Pitfalls

Conventional wisdom says adopting healthy lifestyle changes including cleaning up your diet, lowering your carbohydrate intake, moving your body more and more regularly and going to sleep a few hours earlier will all help you feel and look better. Doing something is better than doing nothing at all, right?

The problem is, what works for someone else may not always work for you. As with all things health related, there is no singular answer to achieving your wellness goals, but some pitfalls can set you back more than others, even when you have the best of intentions. Adopting a low carbohydrate nutrition approach is no different.

Have you fallen into a few of these pitfalls? They may be derailing your efforts…

Not Getting Sufficient Essential Electrolytes

When you eliminate carbohydrates from your diet, the body stops holding onto essential electrolytes and flushes them out, along with all that water that high carb diets cause you to hold onto. This is particularly important for the body’s primary electrolyte; sodium. One of the most common low carbohydrate diet mis-steps is not replenishing your electrolytes and eliminating salt from your diet (like you have been conditioned to do). Make sure you replace your electrolytes to maintain health long-term and stave off the dreaded keto flu as you begin the process.

Extreme Caloric Restriction

In the initial phases of Adopting a low carbohydrate protocol, it is advised to ignore calorie restriction all together. Even then, calorie restriction should be a careful calculation, just enough to lose excess weight but not too much to cause and exacerbate symptoms associated with lack of energy.

Remember a low carbohydrate diet has a tendency to blunt hunger signalling through the suppression of the hunger hormone ghrelin. With a little attention and not much effort, you can adapt to not over eating naturally, without making it a chore. Excessive caloric restriction is not only a fundamental low carbohydrate mistake but is responsible for the failure of so many other diets.

Downsizing Portions Dramatically

This is a similar error to the one above. Sticking to appropriate portion sizes will support you feeling good and losing weight. If you cut them down too drastically too quickly, your hunger hormone ghrelin will spike, signaling to your brain that you are not full or satisfied. At the same time, your body fails to produce as much of the satiety hormone leptin.

As a result, you risk ending up in a perpetual state of ‘starvation mode.’ This often results in overeating followed by the subsequent feelings of guilt, shame, or failure from not ‘following your diet,’.

If you want to reduce your portion sizes the right way, you will need a balanced ratio of protein, vegetables, and healthy fats to feel satisfied for the 5 recommended hours in between your daily meals.

Excluding Good, Nutritious, High Fiber, Above-The-Ground Vegetables

A big misconception, that many who have not cared or bothered to read into low carbohydrate dieting make, is that people on this type of eating plan do not get sufficient fiber and vitamins from vegetables. They assume because it is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that this approach to eating does not include vegetables. these people could not be further from the truth. Make sure you get a good serving of vegetables with your meals, you need them!

Eating Too Many Omega 6 Heavy Foods

It is vital to understand that Omega 6 Fatty Acids are inflammatory and counteract the anti-inflammatory properties of Omega 3’s. Consuming high amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids through foods such including nut and seeds (or man-made crop oils and processed ‘low-carb’ foods and bars) can leave you with aching joints, especially if you are a regular exerciser and happen to be the other side of 40. Reduce Omega 6 consumption and include lots of healthy Omega 3’s (cold water fish, grass-fed ruminants and free-run eggs) for heart health, joint function, and general well-being.

Focusing Solely On The Scale

Yes, most people will see a dramatic weight loss in the initial weeks of starting a low carbohydrate diet. That weight loss will mostly be water due to the excess water stored with carbohydrate in the body.

Do yourself a favor and get rid of the scale.  Replace it with a measuring tape, skin fold calipers and, a camera. Your main focus now should be inches, not pounds or kilos!

You will be sorely disappointed if you watch the scales alone as low carb ohydrate diets have been shown to be effective at preserving muscle. 

Eating Multiple (4+) Meals a Day

You have definitely heard that you should be eating 6 meals a day to keep your metabolism running and fat burning at its peak. This is complete and utter nonsense!! Do not force feed yourself. Eat when you are hungry, do not starve, eat no more, no less.

Simply fuel your body, it will tell you when it needs food. You may find when carbohydrates are reduced and leptin is stimulated, you need to eat less often, and that is perfectly okay.

Eating Too Much Protein

Use a Keto Calculator to determine your specific protein needs depending on your current condition, goals, concerns and energy expenditure. Stick to your macros. Too much protein can, in certain instances, prevent ketosis and may indeed prevent fat loss by stopping fat from being the primary source of fuel. Protein can absolutely be converted to fuel. You only need enough of it to repair and restore tissue and maintain muscle mass.

Cheat Days

While there “might” be some argument for performance athletes or bodybuilders to carbohydrate load, for the average person, cheat days are totally unnecessary and the perfect way to sabotage your diet.

Think about this, do alcoholics have cheat days? NO! So why would you get stuck into that addictive carb-loaded pizza and garlic bread on a Sunday, only to have to start all over again on Monday? (Warning: You will feel quite sick the next day by the way if you do).

Note: If you have a properly formulated low carbohydrate plan that includes raising and lowering your carbohydrate intake on certain days or at certain times because this serves you and your goals, please continue with this protocol. Cyclical carbohydrate intake or the occasional mindful indulgence are not the same as a weekly scheduled day to throw caution to the wind!


Pushing Your Unsolicited Diet Advice Or Knowledge Onto Others

That’s right! No one likes to be told what they are doing is wrong, even if you have all the best of intentions. Everyone has their own opinion on what the best diet plan is, regardless of whether or not you think they are right or wrong.

Let your results speak for themselves. People will come to you wanting to know how you got that amazing figure or overcame that health obstacle or concern whilst eating delicious bacon and eggs.

The last thing you want to do is repel people and invite unwanted conflict into your life with unsolicited advice to somebody slurping on a smoothie next to you in the gym. Go about your business and reap the rewards

In Conclusion: It’s not hard to slip here and there, but if you are aware of how you are dieting and adapting, avoiding some of these common mis-steps when following a low carbohydrate plan will become second nature.

Michal Ofer