I get a dozen of emails every week with people asking me how to lose weight fast. Keyword: fast.
And just recently, one caught my eye. Not because I’ve never heard of it before, but because it’s the first time someone personally emailed me to ask me about it.
Here it is: “Hi Aqilah. I really want to lose weight fast. I’ve read a lot about dieting lately but am kind of stuck on which way to go. In your opinion, which is the better diet? Low carb or low fat? Please advise.”
I’m not one who likes to use the word diet and nor do I like to give a one size fits all nutrition plan because all of us have different needs and goals but for the majority of us who wants to lose weight or needs to lose weight, and if you want to do so fairly quickly, a low carbohydrate diet will trump a low fat diet anytime.
In fact, a low-carbohydrate diet can go a long way especially if we’re overweight, have a diagnosed metabolic syndrome or even lifestyle diseases such as diabetes.
Today I’m going to talk all about the difference between a low-carbohydrate diet and a low-fat diet. Towards the end, you can even download a sample one-day nutrition plan if you’re set on going this way.
Low Carbohydrate vs. Low Fat
Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to implement a low carbohydrate nutrition intake into your life, let’s first learn why low carbohydrate diet is better for you, your physique and your health. Knowledge is king and I love it so let’s get into it.
Low Carbohydrate Diets Lowers Triglycerides
One of the major risks of heart disease is due to the high levels of triglycerides in the body. How does this happen? Due to the high consumption of simple carbohydrates. A study in the Journal of Lipid Research has shown that high-carbohydrate diets increases saturated fatty acids synthesis, the kind of synthesis we do not need in our body.
For this reason, if we’re eating diets low in carbohydrates, we are technically reducing the synthesis of fatty acids in our body, further reducing our risk of heart disease.
Another win? Low-carbohydrate diets increases the High Density Lipoproteins in our body, the good cholesterol that is needed to bring the bad cholesterols away from our body periphery and towards the liver for excretion.
In turn, low-carb diets have the ability to turn the bad cholesterol (LDL) into good ones (HDL) according to a scientific research study published in Lipids and another one in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Low Carbohydrate Diets Improves Blood Glucose Levels
My mother has a history of diabetes. In fact, my whole family does. But since she swapped her diet to include more fresh vegetables, her blood glucose levels has markedly reduced for about five years now.
While I am extremely proud of her, her body is even more.
Being Asian and having descended from Singapore, diabetes is very common among my elderly and peers. Guess what appears to manage diabetes better, apart from drugs? Low-carb diets.
A study done in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism has shown that diets lower in carbohydrates shows greater improvements in gylcaemic control leading to lesser dependance on drugs.
Most Importantly: Low Carbohydrate Diets Leads To Greater Weight Loss.
Good news to all of is this: Research has shown that up to three times more fat can be lost on a low-carb diet compared to a low-fat diet.
An even better news? A higher proportion of the fat lost came from the abdominal area.
Low-carb diets are also easier to follow. Why? Because there’s less calorie counting, and portion control. You simply have to make better decisions when it comes to carbohydrate choices and increase your fat intake.
But wait, won’t a high fat diet make me fat?
A high fat diet won’t make you fat, a high fat and a high carbohydrate diet will. The latter is the typical of most diets out there, whether you’re North American (hello bagels and bread!) or Asian (hello noodles and yummy dim sums!).
In fact, if you’re following a low carbohydrate diet, it is highly recommended to increase your fat intake, and by fat I mean the better ones.
Carbohydrates Are Still Friends
I want to put this out there, carbohydrates are still great. They are your body most preferred energy source when it comes to things like strenuous exercise, but for most of us, we are simply taking in too much carbohydrates.
Worse, we might not even know that we are.
If this is your first time wanting to lose weight, I recommend you to track your diet first before you do anything else, and by that I mean literally take a pen and paper and record down every single thing you eat for a day. Be completely honest.
Once you’ve done that, use apps like MyFitnessPal.com to enter all the foods you’ve eaten. Forget the total amount of calories, but take a look at the amount of carbohydrates you’re consuming. If like any other person you’re having say, cereal and milk for breakfast, a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch (or even, pizza!) and a plate of meatballs spag for dinner, chances are you are consuming at least more than 150g of carbohydrates a day.
Add in fruits and your other ‘healthy’ snacks like a granola bar, it’ll go up to at least 200g of carbohydrates a day.
And while that number may look cool and all, it’s simply just too much for you, unless of course you’re an athlete or you’re currently running a marathon while reading this.
What happens to the extra unneeded fats will then be stored in your body as fats, which explains exactly why we put on weight over the years.
Instead of hating carbohydrates, learn to see them as something you look at when you really need them.
Ok, Sounds Good. Now How Do I Do This?
Now this is where the fun part comes into play and like I said, I don’t like to assume that everyone’s caloric needs are the same.
We are all different and the best way to handle this without any counting (calories, macros and doing any type of math) is this…
- Replace your usual carbohydrates with fresh vegetables.
- Have a portion of fats and protein at every meal.
- Reserve starchy carbohydrates to after your workout.
Three very simple things to do and something, in my opinion, easy to adhere. Let’s dive deeper into each point.
1. Replace Usual Carbohydrates With Vegetables
So you have spaghetti and meatballs for dinner? Replace the spaghetti with one cup of mixed vegetables. If you’re feeling ambitious, make your own zucchini pasta.
If you usually have cereal and milk for breakfast, reserve that to when you just had your workout. If you didn’t train that morning, replace the cereal and milk with an egg white and spinach omelette.
One more: If you usually have a grilled chicken sandwich for lunch, swap the bread with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and onions. Toss in some natural cheddar cheese and walnuts. It’s amazing.
You get the idea, right?
2. Have A Portion Of Fats And Protein At Every Meal
This is pretty clear cut and simple. Once you’ve replaced your usual carbohydrates with fresh vegetables, make sure you don’t forget to add in the protein and fats.
How much? Forget counting macros if you’re just starting out. Instead, get into the habit of making a habit in having protein and fats. Ladies, try to have a palm sized protein at every meal. Men, two palm sized protein at every meal. For the fats, a thumb sized is great for ladies and two thumb sized for men.
If you’re not convinced, a palm sized of protein contains approximately 20-25g of protein. If you have that for every meal, you’ll be on the right track.
3. Reserve Starchy Carbohydrates To Your Post-Workout Meal
Our bodies are most sensitive to glucose (aka the simplest form of carbohydrate that will be broken down into) right after our workouts. That said, if you do wish to consume carbohydrates, do so when you know the glucose you’re taking in will be used up, instead of being stored as fats.
A good old protein shake and banana can go along way. Or blend it up with ice and natural peanut butter. That way you’ll get protein, fats and carbohydrates in a shot.
Snacks, Restaurants and Other Stuffs
I find that if you eat enough protein and fats at every meal, you probably won’t feel that hungry to have a midday snack.
But sometimes, a midday snack is needed.
When it comes to snacking, choose the high protein, high fats variety of foods. Things like a handful of almonds and a hard-boiled egg. 1 scoop of protein powder mixed in water. Here’s a list of snacks you can have more of when you do feel the hunger pangs:
- Tuna and cheese on a piece of lettuce
- Mixed almonds and walnuts and a hard-boiled egg
- Leftovers from previous meals
- Protein powder mixed in almond milk or water
- A piece of fruit and peanut butter
- Baby carrots and peanut butter
Restaurants on the other hand is fairly easy to deal with too — remember, you’re not counting calories and neither are you counting macros. All you need to do is be sure you have your palm size of protein and tons of veggies. Protein, Fats and Veggies. Too easy, no?
What You Should Be Eating?
Now that we’ve cleared the air on how low carbohydrate diets is the way to go if you want to better manage your weight and health, here’s a list of food you should be eating, separated into it’s macros.
- Chicken breast
- Lean red meat (beef, lamb, pork, kangaroo — yes, kangaroo!)
- Fish — white fish like halibut, sole is great
- Salmon, sardine and mackerels
- Eggs and egg whites
- Vegetarian options: Tofu, tempeh, soya-based products
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Butter (not margarine, but butter)
- Unsalted raw nuts
- Cheese of any kind
- Leafy greens — lettuce, spinach, bok choy, kale
- Non-leafy greens — cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots
- Tomatoes, cucumbers
- Hot sauce (ever since I’ve moved to Canada, hot sauce is the best thing ever!)
- Any kind of herbs and seasonings
To make it easier, you can download this infograph I made and print it. Put it up somewhere visible so you can remember the foods that you should be eating on a regular.
Adhere To This 80% Of The Time
There will be times when you feel like you just need to have that slice of cake or a sticky date pudding. Yes, it happens. Instead of sacrificing almost every kind of special occasions, go easy and be kind to yourself. Remember this: special occasions are special for one reason — they only happen once in a while. And live a little, as long as you know that you’re enjoying small treats and you know you’re doing it consciously, not because someone forces you to.
Saying no is the best option and while it takes lots of willpower, allow yourself to have little treats every now and then. Live, and enjoy it.
Which is why, when it comes to eating foods that nourishes you, give yourself a 20% safety net. Let’s consider this.
Say for example you eat 3 meals a day, 7 days a week. That’s a total of 21 meals. If you can adhere to eating nutritious foods 80% of the time, that simply means you can give yourself some safety net for four of the meals (i.e. 20% of all your meals).
In other words, if you feel like having that slice of cheesecake on a Sunday afternoon with your group of girlfriends, go for it and take note of it, consciously. Savour the taste and enjoy every bite. And then when it’s over, remember how eating whole natural foods feels like.
Change does not happen due to the things you do once in a while. It happens as a result of the things you do consistently, all the time. 4 meals in a week is a good gauge to give yourself a treat. You don’t have to, but if you need to go for it.
You have my green light.
Your Sample One-Day Meal Plan
Now that we’ve come this far, here’s a sample one-day meal plan you can try. We covered a lot today and until you give yourself a chance to try it, you wouldn’t know how it feels like to do it.
If you’ve never done this before, I advice just following this meal plan once a week, and then build it up from there. That’s how you build amazing habits. If you can do it once a week for at least three weeks, build up the momentum and do it twice a week. Then three, then four and then over time it’ll be a week of adhering to meals that makes you feel good.
Most importantly, give yourself time to see changes. You did not gain weight overnight, you won’t lose them in three weeks either. But I assure you, if you follow this meal plan, chances are you will see positive changes to not only your health but your physique, and that will go a long way.
Phew, that was one long post isn’t it. Now that I’ve covered all that I can about low carbohydrate and low fat diets, it’s your turn to answer this question for me:
Have you tried a low-carbohydrate diet? What are your thoughts about it? If no, would you give yourself a chance to try this meal plan?
Leave me a comment below and I will personally respond to it! And remember, if you need any help at all, please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be happy to help you in anyway.
Have an amazing week!
Photo credit: GWP Photography