Starting Low Carb (my FAQs)

I have already wrote about what drove me to adopting a low carb lifestyle – my own health indicators and physically seeing the impact this way of eating had on my friend Jim. If I am being totally honest with myself, I doubt I would have believed never mind started this it was not for him.

There are some common questions I keep getting asked, so I have decided to write this blog post to help explain.

What does low carb mean ?

For me it means restricting my carbohydrates to under 40g carbs a day (<3 slices of breads worth of carbs), which usually works out at around the 5% – 15% mark of my daily food intake. The rest is protein (10%-25%) and fat (60%-80%) [and sometimes, Alcohol]. For others, it could mean keeping under 20g carbs a day, others try to go “zero carb”. It all depends on what is right for you.

How does it work ?

Simply put, I have switched my body from using carbs for fuel/energy to using fat for fuel/energy – our bodies can do this quite easily. There is a lot of science and mis-science out there, reading via google will confuse you. Happily, there are a few people who are helping shine a light on the misinformation. See the “how do I find out more” section later. Best thing about this is that I already have an abundant store available for my body to use up.

What do you eat ?

  • Chicken, pork belly, lamb, streaky bacon (any fresh meat really), fish, eggs, nuts, cheese, some salad, avocados, olives and occasionally berries.
  • I cook everything in butter (Kerrygold..Mmm) and/or Olive oil – no other oil / spread.
  • I eat veggies, but only stuff like broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower and sprouts etc. Actually, I NEVER used to eat cauliflower or sprouts until recently.
  • I bake goodies using Almond flour and 85%+ dark chocolate
  • I take cream in my coffee.

Jim put together this page for easy reference

There are loads of recipes to try, the ketogenic forums has a whole section on recipes and one member there has pulled together a list of books that are currently free to download onto your kindle. The link points to the US amazon site but to the right you will see a link to go to the UK site. This list is forever changing so keep a regular eye on it for new books.

Do you not miss bread, rice, fruit etc ?

  • Bread – nope – When I need to eat bread, say with a fried egg, I can make some using Almond flour.
  • Rice, Pasta – nope – I now love cauliflower rice (grated cauliflower) cooked in butter with salt, turmeric and red chilli powder.
  • Fruit – nope – I do eat the occasional berry, but not even once a week
  • Potato – nope – though I hold my hands up and confess to having the odd chip or crisp every now and then
  • Milk – nope – use double cream, tastes way better
  • Cereal – nope – in fact, this was the last carb that I let go, ironically it was probably the one that has negatively impacted me the most during the last 40 years.
  • Beer – well, beer is basically liquid bread and I have not given it up, so I can’t say I miss it 🙂
  • Spirits – Rum, Whisky, Brandy, Gin etc are actually 0 carbs, just watch the mixers as even the “diet/low sugar” ones can have sugar in the form of fructose (fever tree tonic for example), others like Britvic have 0g carb sweeteners so are great.

Isn’t fat bad for you ?

Depends on the type. Again, lots of good and bad information that you will need to read/listen to make your own mind up. My view is that natural fats are good, “processed” fats are not – but again, you will need to decide for yourself.

How do you keep track of the food and the fat, carb, protein content ?

You dont need to if you avoid the high carb foods, but if starting out, I would advise you use a food tracker. If you have a fitbit, there is one built into their app. Otherwise there are others out there, MyFitnessPal is one, Cronometer is another. I use the latter as I find both the web and mobile interface very easy to use.

Do you also go to the gym ?

Nope – I try to walk around 5 miles a day. though the last month I have been lazy, eating more that I usually do and my weight moved +/- 1lb in August.

How do I find out more ?

I strongly recommend you listen to a few podcasts from the 2ketodudes. The first one on the list is only 17 minutes long, and if you feel you want to know more, then listen to the other two.

  • Episode 89 – Keto for Absolute Beginners (17 minutes)
  • Episode 48 – Starting Keto (65 minutes)
  • Episode 104 – What We Got Wrong (79 minutes) – This one is good and I wish I listened to this before I started as I made a few mis-steps which they highlight.

After that, you can start from Episode 1 and work your way to the present day.

Some of the podcasts are where the dudes (Carl and Richard) do all the talking, in others, they have a guest. Here are the ones with guests (I have put in links to their twitter accounts) which led to several light bulb moments and led me to further investigate areas (such as Calcium Scores, Cholesterol and Spotting Bad Science):

Many of these have their own blogs and podcasts if you want to go deeper down the rabbit hole.

OK, I want to try this, what do I need to do/be aware of ?

  • I would say you need to make a personal commitment to yourself that you will try this for at least 3 to 6 months. (anecdotally, women appear to take longer than men to adapt, so stick with it and magic will happen)
  • If you have any medical conditions, or as a matter of best practice, discuss this first with your GP.
  • Join the Ketogenic forums – all the questions you have will most likely already have been asked, if not, ask away and you will get a huge community ready to help you
  • Ask me, if I cant help, I can certainly point you to someone who can (or who knows someone who can)
  • Give yourself one month to phase out the carbs, rather than cutting them out all at once. It should help avoid the “keto flu” or carb withdrawal as we like to call it.

Anything else ?

Well yes, I have found that my knee pain has reduced, now is that due to the reduction of carbs or due to me losing weight, maybe both. Same goes for my blood pressure. Others claim they get increased mental clarity – I have not had this yet, probably as I am not as strict on my carbs as I should be, maybe also because I don’t really fast that much. I’m saving that for when I eventually hit a stall.

So, follow the links, any questions, ask away.

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