A low carb diet helps to limit the number of carbohydrates that a person consumes. Carbohydrates, or carbs, are one of the three main types of food that your body needs to work properly – they give your body energy. The other two food groups are protein and fat. Your body is able to either immediately break down the carbs that you consume or store them for later, depending on what you need at that time. If your body determines that you don’t need the carbs for energy as soon as you eat them, then it stores them in your muscles and liver to be used at a later time. However, if your body does not use up the carbs that have been stowed away, then it will convert them to fat.
Many people choose to follow low carb diets believing that if they don’t give the body extra carbs, or more than it needs for energy, then the body won’t create and store excess fat. The idea is that by limiting carbs your body gets enough for energy and will tap into the existing reserves, which will promote weight and fat loss.
Many people will find low carb diets to be challenging, especially at the very beginning. If you are interested in learning how to start a low carb diet, there are a few things you will need to know beforehand:
- Select the right low carb foods
The first step to starting a low carb diet is to know how to pick the right low carb foods. Low carb foods include:
- Lean meat like sirloin, chicken breast, pork or turkey
- Fatty fish like salmon, herring or sardines
- Organic eggs
- Plenty of leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach
- Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli
- Nuts and seeds, as well as nut butters like almond butter and peanut butter
- Coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil and grapeseed oil
- Certain fruits like blueberries, strawberries and apples
- Full fat dairy like butter, sour cream, Greek yogurt and high fat cheeses
It’s also very important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. When following a low carb diet, you need to stay away from sweetened or sugary drinks like soda and juices. It is ok to enjoy coffee and tea in moderation, but if you choose to add milk or sugar use minimal amounts. Alcohol consumption is not recommended, but if you are at a special event then you can drink in moderation and opt for refreshments like dry wine, vodka and gin.
- Eat breakfast every day
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, for more than one reason. When you eat a healthy meal first thing in the morning you jump start your metabolism, and it helps to stop you from overeating later. When you eat well in the morning you set yourself up for success throughout the day, you are more likely to be more productive at work, have more energy, stay focused and be in an overall better mood. Even if you’re not hungry for a big plate of food, you can still enjoy a light breakfast with yogurt, an egg with avocado or a fresh smoothie. Just don’t skip it!
- Educate yourself on counting carbs and serving size
The most difficult part of following a low carb diet is learning about serving size and counting carbs, but once you understand it it’ll become second nature to you. Most low carb diets allow for 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day. Some examples of foods that have approximately 15 grams of carbs include 1 cup of berries, 8 ounces of milk, 1 small baked potato or 6 ounces of plain yogurt.
- Meal plan & meal prep
Making a meal plan and preparing your food ahead of time is a wonderful way to keep yourself on track with any diet. If you prepare a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners then you can store them in containers and even freeze any extras so you can enjoy them later.
Healthy and consistent exercise is an important part of maintaining your overall health. One thing to remember about exercise on a low carb diet is to avoid long periods of intense activity or training, because you will need extra carbohydrates to fuel your body and maintain high energy levels.
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