Low Carb FAQ's
If you are just starting a low carb way of eating (WOE) you probably have lots of questions. Here are some of the most often asked questions and answers to them. We are not doctors so the answers are based on our own experiences and those of our fellow members here at the Cafe. If you have any medical questions or concerns please discuss them with your own doctor.
What Supplements should I be taking?
First of all you will need a good multi-vitamin. Because we drink so much water on this WOE we tend to wash out the water soluble vitamins. After that, it depends on your own body's needs. Many people find that potassium helps to alleviate leg cramps. Vitamin E is supposed to be a good anti-oxidant and good for your heart. Garlic capsules can help with yeast infections and so forth.
How in the world can I eat fat and LOSE fat?
It does sound crazy doesn't it? The truth is that our bodies use three main sources as fuel. Alcohol, carbohydrates, and fat. Alcohol is used first as it is the easiest to burn. If you use alcohol your body will burn off the alcohol first and then switch to burning carbohydrates which is the second easiest for it to burn. Fat is the hardest fuel for your body to use as energy and that's the one we want to switch to. By not using alcohol and cutting back on carbs, we force the body to switch to burning fat as fuel. The more fat we burn, the more weight we lose. We are not talking about eating huge amounts of fat and not all fats are created equal. You should stick to good fats found in olive oil, butter, avocados, and nuts primarily. Avoid all hydrogenated fats (margarine and shortening). These have been shown to clog arteries and are unhealthy. Many fats that have been processed have been damaged by heat. These are also not very healthy. Stick to natural sources as much as possible. Fat is not a problem unless it is eaten with an excess of carbs.
How long it will it take me to lose all the weight?
I can't answer this question. We all lose at different rates. Some people have a tremendous loss right in the beginning and others don't lose much at first. There are a couple of general rules that seem to apply: the more you have to lose the faster you lose, and those who lose weight slowly tend to have fewer problems keeping it off. Don't get discouraged, just stick to it and you will reach your goal.
Water: How much to drink, whether it will enhance my efforts, can I drink "too much"?
A good "rule of thumb" is to drink half your weight in water daily. If you weigh 200 lbs., for example, drink 100 oz. of water. As your body burns fat, toxins are released into the bloodstream as byproducts and need to be flushed out. It is also very important for the health of your kidneys to keep them well hydrated. You can drink too much water but you would have to drink much more than this amount to overdo it.
Is this WOE safe? I am worried about my health because people "freak out" so bad over this woe.
There are lots of "facts" out there warning people about this WOE. Unfortunately they are based on a misunderstanding of what exactly a low carb diet really is. Some of the ones I hear most often are that it is unhealthy to cut out all carbs, that you can't eat vegetables or fruit, that you must eat fatty meats that are dripping in grease. The truth is that you eat lower carbs NOT no carbs. We don't feel that it is necessary to eat fewer than 20g of carbs per day on any LC plan. Many plans allow more than this. Dr. Atkins recommends eating 3 cups of vegetables daily even during induction (the first two weeks) and his plan is the strictest. After the two weeks are up you add in even more! Fruit is also allowed after induction on Atkins and from the beginning in many other plans. We do try to choose fruits that have lots of fiber and the lowest sugar content. Eating fat is important on low carb but that doesn't mean you need to eat fatty meats swimming in grease. You can eat meats that are lower fat without any problems. You just do not need to avoid fat.
What else could I eat besides meat, chicken etc?
What about side dishes? First of all, vegetables, and lots of them! They are very important for good nutrition and contain lots of fiber and vitamins. There are many low carb cookbooks on the internet and in print that contain hundreds of recipes. Things like "mock-a-roni" and cheese" and "faux-tatoes" make excellent side dishes. You can also eat eggs, cheese, nuts, fruit, etc. Variety is very important so don't hesitate to experiment. Many of your own recipes can be adapted to low carb by simply substituting low carb items for the sugar and white processed flour products.
How strictly do you have to count carbs?
This depends on the plan you are following. Some are more strict than others. When you do count the carbs, remember to subtract the grams of fiber from the total carbs before counting them. This is because the fiber doesn't stay in your body it just passes through. So if a cup of broccoli has 5g of carbohydrate and 3g of fiber you would count it as 2g.
Are there Bread replacements available?
Yes there are low carb breads available and recipes for making your own low carb breads too. Grain products are not allowed during induction on the Atkins plan. This gives your body time to get rid of all the sugar and starch you've been feeding it and begin burning fat. Doing this eliminates the cravings for starches and sweets. If you eat breads during this time (even lc) you will sabotage yourself and the cravings will continue. Later on in your low carb journey, you will be able to add in whole grains including breads with lots of fiber.
Wondering if I have to really buy all those expensive low carb products that I heard about?
Definitely NOT. In fact I think you will do better without them, at least in the beginning. Eating "real" food and avoiding anything processed or man-made will help you lose weight faster. In the front of most low carb books there is a list of "allowed" or "free" foods. Stick to these as much as possible for snacks. Eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, and lots of non-starchy vegetables. Use healthy fats like butter, olive oil, cream for cooking and in sauces and you will do just fine.
How do you calculate "net" carbs?
Check the labels and see what the total carbohydrates are. Next look for the total grams of fiber and the total grams of sugar alcohol. Subtract the fiber and sugar alcohol from the carbs and you have "net" carbs. This is the figure you want to count.
Is it OK to drink alcoholic beverages on a low carb diet?
Because alcohol will be burned first by your body as fuel, it will stop your body from burning fat until the alcohol is used up. Then your body will go back to burning fat. For this reason, it is not recommended in the Atkins phase of induction. After induction alcohol in moderation can be a part of your plan. Dr. Atkins recommends wine as being a good choice. Stick to the dryer wines and avoid sweet wine. If you don't care for wine, straight liquor (gin, vodka, scotch) has no carbs as long as it isn't mixed with something containing sugar. Use diet soda for mixers. There are some sugar free mixers available at several low carb sites. If you add alcohol to your diet and your weight loss stalls, you might want to re-think whether or not it's worth it to you.
Do I have to exercise? How much and what kind?
You do not have to exercise in order to lose weight on a low carb diet. However, exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and does help to speed up weight loss. First of all make sure your doctor approves of your exercise regimen. Walking is one of the best exercises you can do and is usually safe for most people. Lifting weights is very beneficial for your bones and will increase your muscle mass which will, in turn, burn more fat. Find an exercise you enjoy and make it part of your lifestyle.
Are there things I should avoid?
Yes! If you want to lose weight as quickly as possible avoid caffeine, alcohol, nitrates, sugar, processed flour, (grains of any type during Atkins induction phase) and excess salt. All of these things can cause you to stall and may even cause you to gain! Some people have no problems with caffeine and others find it stalls them. The only way to tell is to try it and see. If you drink coffee daily and aren't losing, try cutting it out or switching to decaf and see if that helps. Nitrates are pretty hard to avoid completely but read labels and try to find things that have as little as possible. Switch from Deli meats (most contain nitrates) to real meat you prepare yourself.
How can I cook for my family when not everyone is eating low carb?
It really isn't necessary to prepare two completely different meals. You want them to eat healthy food even if they are not low-carbing. Make some type of meat, fish, poultry, vegetables and a salad. This is what you will eat. Now make a side dish that the family can add. This might be a baked potato, whole grain bread, brown rice, etc. Try to give them nutritious whole grains and "real" food rather than pre-packaged things that are full of additives. Most of the recipes that are for maintenance will work fine for the whole family. Many of the low carb recipes are fine for everyone. Things like the deep-dish pizza quiche and the Italian beef and cheese roll-ups can be enjoyed by the whole family and are found in the cookbooks on this site.
What advice do you have for starting out?
Research the diet plans that are available. Atkins, while an excellent plan, isn't the only one out there. It is important to find a plan you feel comfortable with and can follow for the rest of your life. This really isn't a diet, it is a lifestyle change and will only work well if you make a commitment to changing your eating habits.
Once you select a plan go to the library or a book store and get the book. It is very important to read the book. In it you will find out how your plan works and why. You will learn what is realistic to expect and what isn't. There are tips for problems that may arise and how to deal with them. Most people who try to do low carb without reading the book are doomed to fail. There is lots of advice and help available on the internet but nothing beats reading the book!
Don't get discouraged if you don't lose weight quickly or if you stop losing weight for long periods of time. Everyone loses weight at a different rate and there will be times when that darn scale won't budge. Take your measurements and keep track of them on a weekly basis. Many of us have found that during times when the scale wasn't moving we were still losing inches.
Drink plenty of water (1/2 your weight) and eat if you are hungry. Unlike low fat diets, there is no reason to be hungry. If you are hungry eat something low carb until you are no longer hungry. If you keep your water up and eat enough you will lose weight. If you starve yourself, you can actually STOP losing weight. This is the easiest WOE there is because you never need to be hungry!
When you first start LC you may experience headaches and just plain feeling lousy (like you have the flu). This is temporary and will go away once your body gets rid of all the sugar/carbs. Take some Tylenol or Advil and make sure you are drinking your water. It will pass in a few days and you will start feeling better and better.
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