A low carb high fat (LCHF) lifestyle/diet doesn’t totally remove all the carbohydrates (carbs) from your diet. It reduces them to a small amount. However, some people go the “whole hog” and reduce their carb intake to next to nothing (<30g) and rely on a metabolic state called ketosis to fuel the bodies needs. The evidence suggests that a low carb ketogenic diet is very effective for weight loss. Some believe weight loss is caused from a reduced caloric intake (due to satiety from protein consumption) whereas others contend it is due to a more advantageous metabolic state. For those not worried in the science of how it works, the result is the same – WEIGHT LOSS.
The type of food from which you get your carbs are as important as the amount you consume. For a typical LCHF diet you look to get your carbs from vegetables, fruits and some low GI pulses in the form of kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc. Low GI is important as a higher GI carb will induce a higher insulin release. Higher amounts of insulin released will reduce the fat burning capability. The amount you consume is very much an individualised decision based on your goals and needs. Someone wanting to lose a few pounds may include more carbs in their diet than someone wanting to maximally improve endurance performance.
Before starting the LCHF diet, I had a normal healthy diet . Typically 3 square meals with healthy snacks. No sugary drinks, sweets, cereals, white bread, chocolate (very rarely). Breakfast usually consisted of fruit, porridge, toast, eggs, or a variety of these. Lunch was salads from time to time, but mainly wholegrain brown sandwiches, with a variety of fillings. I practically lived on sandwiches and used them as my go to filler. Dinner consisted of either a pasta, rice or potato dish with meat and veg. Evening snacks were again “the sandwich”.
To go LCHF, I didn’t have to change too much. However it was still a challenge. There are a couple of different ways to begin a LCHF lifestyle. One way is to make gradual changes over a long period of time (4-6 weeks). Another is to go cold turkey and cut out all forms of carbs for two weeks and then gradually introduce the unrefined whole food carbs mentioned above. For me I chose the latter route.
The initial three days were tough with withdrawal symptoms manifesting in the form of hunger no matter how much I ate. Added to this I cook for the family who were not included in this experiment of mine. Preparing and cooking the food I wanted but denied myself was mentally self-inflicted torture. For those out there that have undertaken various diets, I felt your pain! I have never had or felt the need to diet before. For me this is not about weight loss, but rather increasing performance.
On the fourth day I began to feel more like myself again. The hunger no longer nagged at me. From then on I took it each day as it came until two weeks had passed. I then slowly added in some carb containing foods to monitor their effects if any. The only food that gave me a problem was pasta. I felt bloated and my stomach was unwell for the whole day afterwards. In spite of pasta being the only food that gave me discomfort, I decided to stay on the routine I was in. After only two weeks I didn’t want to go back. This short two week test gave me a glimpse of what it was like on a LCHF diet. I certainly got the impression that it was sustainable.
Most advocates of a LCHF diet such as Dr. Stephen Phinney, contend that it takes up to 6 months to become totally fat adapted. Four months have passed since I began (I sound like I’m in rehab) the LCHF lifestyle and I have noticed a few changes in myself. I have more energy, never feel bloated after meals, rarely hungry, my recovery has improved and I have a new level of concentration. My vegetable intake and variety has probably trebled which is never a bad thing. I ate veg before but was never a lover of them. I kind of ate them because I knew they were good for me. Now I would eat a bowl of broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, peas, whatever vegetable, on their own. What I believe is, my body no longer needs or wants refined carbohydrates. It fuels its self on fat, protein and a small amount of whole food unrefined carbohydrates. My taste in food has changed and subconsciously my brain is letting me know which foods are more beneficial for me.
In the following clip, Dr. Aseem Malhotra, a UK Cardiologist on BBC Breakfast explains why not to fear fat and why the NHS has failed the public with their national dietry guidelines.
Dr. Malhotra is a low sugar high fat advocate and was recently asked to speak at the British Parliament in relation to the negative effects of sugar and a possible implementation of a sugar tax. Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health, announced today that he is considering a similar tax here in Ireland. Malhotra takes an evidence based approach to highlighting the dangers of the modern, western high carbohydrate/sugar diet. Food for thought!
In my next blog I will show some trends that have occurred in my training since the LCHF introduction. I will also plot some of this data against previous data non LCHF.