“I tried low carb for a week and I hated it!”
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard this and why I want to make a post to cover two important issues.
Issue 1 - Fat adaptation
Firstly it’s key to understand that any big change in your diet normally takes time for you body to adapt. With food availability what it is and marketing strategies encouraging people to snack all the time. Your average person is not well fat adapted these days, and tends to rely heavily on carbs as their primary energy source, even individuals who never exercise. As such transitioning into any diet where carbs are no longer the main energy source is difficult and quite frankly feels terrible for a period of time. Names such as the “low carb flu” or “keto flu” have come to light about this adaptation phase.
If you are in this category of not being able to burn fat effectively, you should 100% expect the initial few days/weeks to be difficult. Most people will give up during this period and claim such a diet strategy just doesn’t work for them.
Issue 2 - Keto is not just low carb
Secondly an important distinction to make is the difference between a “low carb diet” and a “keto diet”.
Low carb diets
Low carb essentially just means that carbs are low relative to the individual, this could be 20g for a coach potato or 200g for a full time athlete. Typically lower carb diets advise raising protein to make up for some of the calories and to help preserve muscle. Fat is often an afterthought and recommendations vary greatly.
Low carb diet gives you very few of the benefits of being in ketosis while also making you suffer in the process. Eating low carb without eating enough fat often puts the body in a state where blood sugar levels are unstable. You’ve no doubt felt the “hangry” feeling as your body releases hormones such as cortisol to try to get blood sugar levels back on track. Another downside to not eating enough fat is that your body will convert more protein into glucose via gluconeogenesis, this protein will either have to come from your diet or existing stores such as your muscles.
Your standard ketogenic diet is much more precise and advocates macro ratios of 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% or less of carbs. These ratios are important so that your body will go into ketosis and start producing ketones. However the ratios can be adjusted to suit, and more active individuals can often handle higher carb and protein percentages.
Being in ketosis and running primarily on fat and ketones is a completely different feeling. Energy levels are stable, hunger usually much lower and clearer/calmer thinking.
The Keto diet is great for some circumstances and sucks for other, I’ll cover these next...