This post isn’t about how to go on a strict low-carb diet, instead:
- I’ll explain what qualifies as a low-carb diet to explain what it is
- I’ll give the simple reason why it works. There are more scientific ones like hormonal balance, but that would require an entire book. So we’ll keep it simple
- And I’ll share how you can take advantage of why low-carb works without overhauling your entire life
What qualifies as a low-carb diet?
There are many different low-carb diets and there are other diets like Paleo that “low-carb-like” because they restrict certain carbohydrates. Today’s post focuses on the true low-carb diet that focuses on restricting your net carbs.
The quintessential low-carb diet, Atkins 20™, starts out restricting you to 20 grams of net carbs a day in Phase 1 (about 2 weeks) and increases that to 30-80 grams of net carbs per day in Phase 2 and on from there.
What Are net carbs?
Net carbs are the total carbohydrates in a food minus the fiber and sugar alcohol. The reason why net carbs are the focus is that these are the carbohydrates that will cause your blood sugar to spike and trigger your body to store fat.
To determine the number of net carbs in your meals, you’ll need to learn to read nutrition labels. To calculate the net carbs in the food you’re eating you’ll then need to do some math:
Net Carbs = Total carbohydrates – Dietary fiber
Now let’s go into some examples of some common foods and do the math to get their net carb contents. You can click the link on the food name to see the full nutrition label.
|Food||Total Carbs (g)||Dietary Fiber (g)||Net Carbs (g)|
(1 cup cooked)
(1 cup cooked)
|Whole Wheat Bread
(1 cup cubes)
(1 cup sliced)
(1 cup cooked)
Why do low-carb diets work?
Low-carb diets work initially because they’re restrictive in a way that automatically reduces what you eat. Think about it, if you eat a typical Nigerian diet or the standard American diet, you’re probably eating a lot of starchy vegetables, some processed foods that have a high net carb continent, refined grains like white rice and white bread, and some fruit and vegetables. This means that going on a true low-carb diet will eliminate almost all the foods you eat and force you to overhaul your eating.
And if you choose to minimize your processed food intake, your diet will become healthier than what it used to be. This is one of the reasons it works because it forces you to eat less and in some cases, better.
There are other reasons why it works, but that would make for a much longer article to cover it all. For now, we’ll focus on the restrictive nature of the low-carb diet and break down how you can use it to your advantage to lose weight without necessarily cutting out all carbs.
If what you’ve read has you feeling like you’re down for going the low-carb route, you can go ahead and start reading up on it. The Atkins website is one resource to start with as they’re the original low-carb diet.
How to take advantage of why low-carb diets work without going low-carb
I’m a strong believer that you shouldn’t have to change your entire life to lose weight. I believe that even small changes can make an impact. So I’m going to show you three tasks to help make the one small change you can make to take advantage of the simple reason why low-carb works. To do this I’ll use my old diet from when I was in college and first gained 33 lbs (15 kg) as an example.
Get to the root of the foods that are making your overweight
Like I said, low-carb diets work because they’re very restrictive. The typical diet of anyone, almost anywhere in the world, has a significant amount of carbs in it. And when you cut out the carbs, you cut down the food you’re eating. And when you cut down your food intake, you’ll lose weight.
So the place we’re going to look to change today is the major foods in your diet that are making you overweight. And I want you to break it down by meal.
I’m willing to bet that you already know what these foods are. It’s been over 12 years since I first gained weight in college, and I can still remember the foods that contributed to that weight gain. Here’s the list:
- Breakfast: Waffles, pancakes, or biscuits and eggs with syrup
- Lunch: Burger and fries at the cafeteria or from Burger King or a fried chicken sandwich from Chick fil A
- Dinner: Burger and fries again, Pizza, Rice and Stew, or Jollof Rice
As you can see my diet was quite unhealthy. And when I started working out, I added one more thing to the list:
- Post workout snack: 1 honey bun donut and 1 can of vanilla coke
If I was successful in my attempt at a low-carb diet, I would have dropped the weight fast because I would have had to overhaul my entire eating patterns. But instead I chose to make healthy swaps that took time, but still got me to my target weight. So we’ll do that next.
But first, make your list of foods that are making you overweight.
Choose healthy swaps for these foods
In this step, I want you to go through the list of foods that you currently eat and come up with healthy ideas for what to replace them with. These don’t have to be specialty foods like quinoa and kale, they just need to be healthier than what you eat now. For example:
- If you eat fried yam or fried plantain at any of the meals, can you boil them instead?
- Or if your list has swallow and soup can you switch to oatmeal fufu instead of your typical swallow and have one serving made from ½ cup of oatmeal (only 150 calories) and can you change how you cook your soup?
- Or if you skip breakfast and scarf down something unhealthy at lunch, can you pack a healthy snack to help blunt your lunchtime hunger?
- Or if you hit the drive-through for a quick lunch, can you do your homework in advance to help you decide on something healthier. Most popular fast food restaurants have nutrition info on their websites and can you use that to make better food choices?
Here’s how my original list changed:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with 2% milk and eggs or boiled potatoes, boiled eggs, and stew
- Lunch: A Grilled chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A, the occasional burger without the fries, and a smaller portion of whatever they were serving at the cafeteria
- Dinner: Same as lunch
- Post workout snack: a granola bar
After I made those swaps, the weight started to fall off.
Make a Plan to Use the Healthy Swaps Instead of Your Typical Food Choices
It’s one thing to have a list of healthy swaps, but it’s another to actually use them. So your last task is to make a plan to use your swaps. That’s it. Make the plan and execute.
Now that you’ve made it to the end of the article, I want you to take action. There are two possible things you can do after reading this article, and I want you to do at least one of them.
First, pick one of these two options:
- Decide to go forward with a low-carb diet, and use this article as a starting point to do your research.
- Decide to skip the low-carb diet, and do the three tasks to take advantage of the simple reason low-carb works.
Still on the fence about whether or not to try a low-carb diet? Then get the free eBook You Don’t Need a Diet
In the eBook, you’ll discover how to ditch the diet drama and use tools that actually work so you can lose weight and feel amazing in a body you love! Click the button below to get the eBook.
Originally Published: Jan 2016; Updated: June 2018