I know the feeling well.
2-3 weeks into a low carb diet, the world becomes a darker place.
There is no doubting the effectiveness of low carb diets when it comes to fat loss, but the fact remains that no diet is effective if you cannot stick to it.
So while your fitness memes will claim that “pain is just weakness leaving the body” and “don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done” I’m going to give you some real advice you can actually use.
In today’s post, I’ll run through 5 little techniques which can be applied during a low carb diet.
And the best part?
These bad boys work a treat.
In fact, most of my clients who use this style of fat loss dieting are utilizing a minimum of one of these techniques at any given time.
So let’s get stuck in!
1. A Good Low Carb Diet Works In Phases
Easily the biggest mistake made during a low carb diet, is our apparent rush to get to the end zone.
We all know a friend who is always saying bullshit like this:
“I’ll have a blow out this weekend, then from Monday, that’s it – no more.“
Fuck this approach.
Going from a diet which is high in carbs to suddenly cutting them out right down – or even worse, cutting them out altogether – will set you up for one thing.
Not only is this “all or nothing” approach totally unsustainable, you don’t actually need to push it so hard to get results.
None of my clients use this approach.
Instead, they reduce carbohydrates in steady phases, working down from their maintenance level and reducing carbohydrates each time they reach a sticking point – which is usually every 2-3 weeks.
Once fat loss is achieved, they’ll steadily reverse their carbohydrates back up in much the same manner, avoiding the temptation to suddenly bang their calories back up to maintenance levels.
This allows them to retain their leanness achieved from a low carb diet while increasing their calorie intake.
2. Get In & Out
Let’s get one thing straight.
Carbohydrates are fucking awesome.
My clients never dip below 0.5 grams of carbs per lb of body weight.
They never, ever go zero carb.
It’s unnecessary, unsustainable and complete nonsense to do so.
They also restrict their lowest carbohydrate phase to a maximum of 2-3 weeks before beginning to increase carbs again.
Another approach you can use here is daily carb cycling, which will see you alternate between low, medium and maintenance levels on a daily basis.
Both approaches are effective.
Because nobody – and I don’t care how hardcore they claim to be on social media – wants to be really low carb for long periods of time.
It just isn’t fun.
Keep your low carb diet phases short and sweet, then get out of there.
This will make the results you obtain far easier to maintain in the long-term, and your diet much less stressful.
3. Increase Your Fiber
Getting on top of your fiber target makes it much easier to stick to any diet.
That’s because it’ll fill you up and provide you with a wealth of benefits, such as a healthier gut.
So yes, even when we are in a state of low carbohydrates, we still want to be trying to hit our daily fiber goals.
This means we have to be more selective of the foods we eat. And that’s a good thing!
For instance, we could just zap our daily carb target by inhaling a pizza. If overall calories are controlled, this is definitely doable.
However, it would leave you with no more room in our carbohydrate target and feeling very hungry for the rest of the day.
This means you would probably succumb later in the day, and that’s what would throw you off your diet.
But wait, the suck gets harder.
We would also be nowhere near our fiber target.
This – and the vitamins and minerals they are packed with – is the primary reason why energy dense foods like fruits and green vegetables will become your biggest allies during a low carb phase.
For they will allow you to consume a pretty large serving, with plenty of fiber, without taking as big of a chunk out of a reduced daily carb target.
And failing that, these days you can also supplement it, so there’s really no excuse.
4. Use Caffeine
During a low carb phase, energy is understandably low.
But rather than walking around like an extra from The Walking Dead during the any tough phases of a fat loss diet, I always encourage clients to use caffeine either by drinking coffee or in supplement form.
Caffeine is the king of energy-boosting substances.
And, even in a state of low carbohydrates, it is still able to perform its job to the maximum degree.
Of course, there is use and there is abuse.
Your body will adapt to anything over time so I recommend using it sparingly. Keep it for your preworkout supplement, and use it a little later in the day to top up your energy levels if you hit a bit of an afternoon lull.
5. Drink More Water
Water is nature’s best “supplement”.
And here’s the thing – most people are totally overlooking it!
Water plays an important role when fat loss is the goal and when hunger is high, as it will temporarily curb your appetite and spike your metabolism – particularly if you drink it ice cold.
There’s two great reasons to drink more of it, right?
And the first one is particularly important.
You see, while the metabolism boosting effects of water sure are “nice”, it won’t make the difference between an average physique and a great physique.
However, the fact that you are able to curb your appetite and protect against over-eating during a dieting phase?
If you lift weights – and I’m presuming that you do, since you are reading this website – then keeping on top of your water intake is even more valuable.
Because not only will you reap the rewards above, you will also be providing your body with a crucial substance when it comes to building lean muscle tissue.
You see, our muscles are over 70% water.
And research shows that even a slightly dehydrated muscle suffers from a 20% reduction in contraction force, meaning that drinking plenty of water will dramatically improve your performance when training.
There’s no supplement out there which can duplicate it better.
But despite these great benefits, hardly anybody pays attention to their water intake.
In fact, most of the time when we feel like snacking, it is because our body is thirsty.
So even if you’re not in a cutting phase, staying on top of your water intake is a sure-fire way to cut down on unplanned snacks.
Aim for between 3-4lt per day.
Incidentally, this works very well with tip number 7.
6. High Carb Day
Note – high carb day and cheat day aren’t the same thing.
One is a tool which will help you burn more fat.
The other is a day of binge eating where it’s easily possible to undo your hard work in a matter of hours.
During a high carb day we are boosting our carbohydrate target back to maintenance levels or slightly higher in a bid to boost production of a hormone called leptin.
Leptin regulates our hunger levels and plays an important role in the muscle building process.
However, when we are in a state of low carbohydrate consumption – anything under 1 gram of carbs per lb of body weight being considered low – leptin productivity is significantly blunted.
So by adding a high carb day to your eating plan every 7-10 days, you can reap the full rewards from topping up your body’s leptin levels.
If you are worried about gaining fat due to the increase in carbohydrates, fear not.
By scheduling your high carb day on a non-training day, you can lower your typical protein and fat targets, replacing the deficit with the additional carbohydrates.
When this is done, your total calorie intake is the same and therefore weight gain is a non-issue.
The heightened carbohydrate target also means this is a good day to sneak in a few more treats which are richer in carbs.
As you can see, a high carb day serves a purpose.
Whereas a “cheat day” is just bogus nonsense.
If you worked hard to place yourself in, say, a 500 calorie deficit Monday-thru-Saturday, that means come Sunday morning you’d be at a 3000 calorie deficit for the week.
It’s easily possible to go over that with a day of gauging on junk food.
That’s why those who follow this approach typically see only minor changes in their physique from month-to-month.
7. Eat Your Carbs
This is a mistake I made back in the day.
Eating your carbs is much more fun than drinking them.
See, when we are following a high protein diet we typically use a whey protein shake to top up our protein requirements around our daily food.
And that’s fine.
But if you are trying to stay quite low in carbohydrates, make sure it fits your needs.
When I first started training I used Maxinutrition Cyclone.
It’s a decent product, if a bit overpriced.
Back then I figured “it’s just a protein drink”.
But with its 21 grams of carbohydrates per serving, I was smashing much of my daily carb target before I’d even eaten any food.
Not a good idea.
It’s a sure-fire way to find yourself up at 3 a.m. with chocolate smeared all over your body.
Instead, I recommend finding a protein supplement which hits you with around 20 grams of protein while keeping carbohydrates under 5g.
8. Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is an effective dieting protocol in it’s own right.
But it works incredibly well when coupled with a low carb diet for cutting body fat.
Well, it’s based upon the principle of restricting our calorie intake to a designated 6-8 hour window each day.
During that window we eat our entire daily calorie targets.
It’s a bitch for the first day or two but, like anything else, the body adapts rather quickly and the benefits of a fasting period for fat loss are well documented.
And when we are on a low carb diet, cramming your full caloric requirements into that 6-8 hour window will greatly reduce your urge to tuck into unplanned junk foods throughout the day.
You see, once the body has adapted to the idea of intermittent fasting, we become accustomed to avoiding foods until our feeding window begins. We know we’re simply “not allowed”, because it’s not time to eat.
And once the window does open, well, you have just 6-8 hours to consume your full calorie target.
This means you’re not as tempted to sneak in additional calories because you’re too busy already.
And while the benefits of the fasting window are all well and good, the fact that you’re not over-eating is the real hidden treasure offered by intermittent fasting.
Bamm! That’s it for today.
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