PS from the low carb dabbler – Part 2
Although my food diary wasn’t as complete as it could have been during the 7 day ‘low carb high fat’ experiment, and the FoodWorks software used to analyse it has its limitations, this is what it found:
- Most of my calories were definitely coming from fat, although according to Mikki, an even higher fat % and lower carb % would be desirable on a LCHF (or ketogenic) diet. Suggested ratios are Fat > 75%; Carbs 5-10%; Protein 5-15%. Mine were…..
- Of more interest to me however was the total grams of carbs consumed each day and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this averaged 79 g. Although not at ketogenic levels (<50 g per day), it was certainly below the 100 g suggested for a LCHF diet. Not bad for a dabbler! In fact, on one day, I consumed only 33 g. I wouldn’t have thought this was possible without me keeling over!
- Despite all that fat, total energy intake was considerably less than the Estimated Energy Requirement for a moderately active, lactating, 37 year old female. Less even than if I wasn’t lactating. This is probably partly due to error in the recording and analysis of my food diary, but even so, it still suggests that total energy intake might actually be reduced when fat intake is increased.
I kept meaning to do the experiment again and do some pre- and post- measures, but it’s become more about how I feel and less about what the numbers say. And I feel great – stable energy levels, reduced bloating and diminished symptoms of one of the more annoying side-effects of two pregnancies. I kept a more accurate food diary for a while, to get a feel for my carbohydrate intake, and this was a useful exercise but not something I would recommend doing long term. I learned a lot about what my body needs and likes (it can perform quite nicely with as little as 20 g carbs a day, has often been getting less than 50 g a day, and has only had more than 100 g once in over a month), all without having any effect on my mood or milk supply. I could get my ketones checked, but the fact that I rarely wake up starving now, despite sometimes being up to feed Tom a couple of times in the night, would suggest that my body is now using sources other than sugar for fuel.
The fact is that I’m eating more fat than I’ve ever eaten in my life, and eating meat for the first time in years, and without wanting to or trying to, my jeans are feeling looser than they were before I was pregnant. I have no idea what I weighed at the start, but I must have lost weight and if I have, I’m pretty sure it’s fat and water rather than muscle. It seems like it was impossible not to lose weight. I’ve drunk as much, if not more wine, than I usually do and I haven’t felt deprived, skipped meals or ignored hunger. So if your goal is weight loss, and if you avoid fat and/or meat in an effort to achieve this, I’d say think again. Clearly the key is cutting out the sugar (all types) and replacing it with fat, so that a) you feel satisfied; b) your body has plenty of this essential nutrient to ensure proper vitamin absorption and metabolic functioning; and c) you’ve got access to an efficient fuel source for physical and mental performance.
I have got a few more questions though:
- When I start upping my training for an event, what does the LCHF approach suggest I should eat before, during and after training and racing?
- If for a period of time I just choose to go “lower” carb rather than “low” carb, what should I do about fats and protein? Or is there no point in doing this in the first place?
- If/when I choose to eat some carbohydrate, is there a better time of day to do this?
- Whether eating LCHF or not, I think there are times I eat/graze out of boredom, but maybe during the 7 day trial I kept this in check so as not to ruin the experiment. My point is, once the novelty of a new way of eating has worn off, will people who need to lose weight still boredom/comfort eat, even if their bodies are more satisfied?
- And finally, how can we make this way of eating attractive, accessible and affordable to those who need it most?
So I’ve started to think about ‘where to from here’. And this is what I’ve decided: I’m going to listen to what my body’s been telling me about some of the foods I used to eat and use some common sense moving forward. If I was more carbohydrate sensitive and wanted to lose lots of weight, my plan would be different, but in my current state of health, this is what I’m going to do….
- Breakfast will usually be variations of YCBNS, but every so often I might have a weetbix thrown in or some porridge, for variety and to warm me up as winter draws in
- When I’m out it will be an omelette, or bacon and eggs
- I’m going to avoid full strength hot chocolate and other sweet drinks – I feel too sick afterwards
- Meat is back on the menu, but no processed stuff
- I’ll only eat sweets, cakes, biscuits, etc on the odd occasion, just like I always did
- The sugary cereals and flavoured/reduced fat yoghurts are out, and the nuts, cheese, cream, full fat milk and butter are in (for the whole family)
- I’ll eat rice and pasta occasionally, but bread rarely
- I’m not going to beat myself up about having an occasional/small Pepsi Max. It doesn’t make me crave other sweet stuff, causes me no side effects (yet) and we’ve all got to have one vice surely?!
- Chips, crackers, etc will be occasional treats, for me and my cracker-addict daughter
- Same for canned baked beans…they will no longer be our ‘go-to’ meal for her
- Lastly, I will not be using any more sugar, preservative and additive-ridden packets and jars.
So to go back to my original post, I’m happy to say that I think I’ve tackled most of the issues I set out to address on a personal level. I’ve banished my sugar highs and lows, I’ve learned that I don’t need carbs to be dominant at every meal to be satisfied, and my fears relating to changing my whole way of eating and consuming more fat were unfounded. I was, however, right to worry about how I would cope as a pescatarian and am sorry that I wasn’t able to address that issue for those people who really don’t want to eat meat. Maybe someone else could do that?? My concerns for the rest of the family have resulted in us all eating less processed food and trying out new things, and it hasn’t quite broken the bank.
But there are still plenty of questions to be answered, at a public health level and for individuals with different needs, so let’s keep tapping away with personal case studies, group challenges and full-on randomised controlled trials, to see if we can really make a difference to the long term-health of the whole of New Zealand, and indeed the world!
 The EasyDietDiary app is great – just ignore the calorie counter and focus on the grams of carbs. The myfitnesspal app does a similar thing but uses a UK database of foods. Both are useful tools to give an indication of your carb intake and/or to find out the nutritional content of a food. After a while, you get to know what’s what and can stop recording.