I once wrote a fitness article for someone who requested it, but did not reply after. Since all good things should be shared and not wasted, here it is for free!
How to Stay on Track with Your Low-Carb Diet Regime
Suitable for most beginners and popular among fitness veterans, the low carb diet is a clear mainstay of the dieting community. The benefits are easy to see within weeks of starting: tremendous fat loss, greater energy throughout the day, and easily controlled weight in the long run – these are some of the common perks associated with the diet.
From Atkins, to Southbeach, to the Zone, dieters can pick and choose from a huge variety of low-carb diets on the market. Or better still, you can even create your own! The basic principle is to limit carbohydrate intake, which will lower insulin response in your body and in turn trigger longer periods of ketogenesis, the fat burning state that dieters strive to achieve.
If you’ve just started on the diet, you may be greatly motivated by the results achieved in under 2 weeks. Dieters usually report incredible weight loss during this period. However most of it is water weight lost through reduced water retention, which is the natural result of reduced insulin production. To reap the true benefits of this diet, you must be able to stay on it for a long period of time. It’s best if you could turn it into a lifestyle instead of just letting it pass as another temporary phase! But the question for some is: how do we achieve this when our chocolate cravings come around?
1. Use Peer Pressure to Your Advantage
Humans are social creatures. Our private capacity of persistance and perseverance tends to get taxed heavily when we go solo, and compliance over a longer period of time becomes harder and hard if you try to hang on by yourself. The most effective way to achieve your low-carb goals is to find or build a community around the same mission. They can foster a sense of kinship and keep you motivated, or evaluate your failures so that you can get back up on your feet in good shape. Most importantly, they can give you the push you need if you’re being too lazy! When it comes to the grind, never underestimate the power of peer pressure.
2. Avoid Nutritional Extremism
While some hardcore advocates may advise zero carbohydrate intake, this level of nutritional extremism is not beneficial (nor is it recommended!) for the rest of us. We may still want to take in some sugar and carbs in the form of whole fruit and vegetables as they come with the added fibre and vitamin bonus. In fact a total avoidance of carbohydrates could lead to health problems. Stamina tends to drop faster after a period of sustained cardiovascular activity in atheletes who avoid carbs entirely as compared to those who have consumed some. Since this will limit our ability to perform endurance exercises, it is best that we still consume a low amount carbohydrates, preferably foods with low Glycemic Index (GI) such as brown rice, oat brans, broccoli, and apples.
Another example of nutritional extremism includes to-the-decimal calorie counting for every bit of morsel consumed. Not only is it incredibly time-wasting, but calorie counting alone is hardly as useful as it appears to be. All calories are not the same. We can quickly lose weight while eating an imbalanced diet with a low calorie count, but it will not be beneficial for developing fitness. For the purpose of building health and fitness, keeping track of protein consumed in grams is more effective, as proteins are necessary for muscle building. Making things too difficult for ourselves is the fastest route to discouragement and failure!
3. Cheat Your Way to Success
Cheating hardly ever pays off, but in this case, cheating is essential! The key to long term compliance without plateauing in your fitness level is to allow for weekly binge days. During these binge days, you can eat as much carbs as you want without being too concerned. The purpose is twofold – firstly, to prevent bodily adaptation to low carb intake, which would render your dieting efforts futile, and secondly, to prevent premature failure because of the strictness of the regime. Your natural appetite and a couple of tricks can serve to limit the unhealthy downside of these cheat days.
For instance, try doing a couple of squats or pushups 30 to 45 minutes before and after a cheat meal. These light exercises should last for up to a minute as they serve to redirect the body’s glucose absorption channels from the gut to the muscles instead. If you are planning to load up on a large serving of carbs, do not go thrifty on the lemon juice. Citric juices, preferably freshly squeezed, can go a long way in burning fat as they contain thermogenic properties to boost metabolism. Consuming a spoonful of cinnamon as sweetener for your coffee or tea can also help in that respect.
To conclude, a low-carb diet may be easy to start but difficult to sustain… unless you really, really want to! Since desire is always necessary but never sufficient, do implement the tips given in this article immediately (where possible) and on a regular basis for the best result. Wishing you a lasting success with your fitness goals!
Note: some of the ideas do come from various authors and websites, but I have not kept the list of resources unfortunately. Off my head I can only name Tim Ferriss of the 4-Hour acclaim. If you spot any idea that sounds like it came from you, let me know so that I can acknowledge and thank you!