You hear a LOT about low carb diets these days. I think there is a lot of misinformation out there on what that means. And worse, I think most low-carb solutions are not set up to be sustainable over the long term. I have a friend (TNT Man) who has been successfully living a low carb lifestyle for about 8 years. He's living proof that if you do it correctly, you can have good results and can make it a permanent change.
If you've read my own posts, I don't live a low-carb lifestyle and don't intend to. I achieved my weight loss success by including some carbs, but with minimal refined carbs and sugar. But I do like to present valid, healthy alternatives. I don't think there is one set way to be healthy. Everyone needs to do their own research, try different things and figure out what will work for them. Check out TNT Man's low carb journey below and see if doing something similar might be beneficial to you!
The following is from TNT Man:
There is a difference between an eating plan for weight loss and one for just living. Not everyone gets that. I didn’t. I have lost a great deal of weight (30% of my body weight) two or three times, and a lot of weight (5-10% ) enumerable times. I was super successful each time. Man, I could lose weight with the best of them.
First attempts at weight loss
While in high school and then college I just used portion control and eliminated sweets. In my mid 20’s, I did Weight Watchers – the original – back in the early 70’s and got down to super thin – a 32 inch waist. Each time I gained back the weight and more. The original Weight Watchers diet formed the model for my ensuing weight losses – but that was modified by the Low fat movement that was foisted upon us. I hated eating low fat. I never was able to tolerate eating food that tasted like cardboard and plastic. Calorie counting became a way of life. Some exercise was in the mix, but as my will power to eat right waned, so did my desire to go to the gym.
As time went on and life got in the way, I cared less and less about my weight. By the time I was in my early 60’s, I had hit 260 pounds and climbing. A visit to the doctor for a cough that would not abate resulted in a hard smack up side the head. High blood pressure meds were prescribed along with blood tests and the warning “don’t exercise or start a diet until we do all the testing.”
Introduction to low carb living
I ignored the doctor's advice and headed to the book store for some guidance on weight loss. I found a small book by Dana Carpender, which had a couple of pages explaining a low carb diet and the rest was a compendium of food carb content. The updated book is on Amazon, Dana Carpender’s NEW Carb and Calorie Counter-Expanded, Revised, and Updated 4th Edition: Your Complete Guide. I followed the advice to the letter, aiming for no more than 25-35 grams of carbs per day. That book went with me everywhere as I learned the carb count of various foods. I already knew the calorie count. I started eating low carb on the day I joined a gym on March 12, 2007.
The TNT Diet
I discovered the TNT (Targeted Nutrition Tactics) Diet in November of 2007. The diet was outlined in the November issue of Men’s Health magazine. That issue changed my life. It opened my eyes to the fact that dietary fats were not the devil’s spawn. I bought the full Men’s Health TNT Diet book once it was published.
The TNT diet had several “Plans.” Each plan was tailored to your needs based upon the amount of weight you wanted to lose and how long you were already eating low carb. It does not quantify calories, grams of carbs, protein or fats. It gives you lists of foods you can eat and suggested meals and recipes. In many ways – similar to Weight Watchers. There is a full top-of-the-line exercise plan that goes with it – although any good structured plan would work. Along with it, there is a TNT Forum on the Men’s Health site which answers any question you may have.
As I read more and more, I came to understand that Plan A is what I now know to be a ketogenic diet – one designed to eliminate your body’s dependence upon glucose (the product of eating carbs) and switch to ketones (the product of eating fats) for energy.
TNT Diet Plan A overview
An analysis of Plan A was straight forward – the basic formula for a Ketogenic Diet. Here it is in a nutshell:
When I started I was 260 pounds, exercising 3 times a week. My goal was 180 pounds. To maintain the 260 pounds I had to eat close to 3,600 calories a day. To maintain 180 pounds, I would have to eat approximately 2,500 calories a day. Assuming a goal of eating 2,500 calories, here is the macro-nutrient break down:
The actual breakdown varies on a day-to-day basis. This is NOT a NO CARB diet. You must eat your non-starchy veggies which have carbs. There are carbs in almost everything we eat.
This is NOT a HIGH PROTEIN diet. This is more than the bare minimum protein that the FDA requires for you to live healthy, but in no way is it HIGH. There are those who feel that to be fully on a ketogenic diet that the protein should be reduced to closer to 100 grams, but I don't believe they are taking into account exercising. A “balanced” diet of 30% protein would have you eat closer to 190 grams a day. Now that's a high protein diet.
I was able to lose 80 pounds total, most in 10 or so months and then the last 10 pounds over the next 1-3 months. It took another couple of months to stabilize and find my "sea legs." During that time I experimented with various aspects of carb cycling as laid out in the TNT Diet. I finally decided that sticking with a straight ketogenic diet worked the best for me. I have maintained my weight loss now for about 7 years.
A high fat diet?
This is a HIGH FAT diet. There is no question that fat is the source of your energy. Period. You cannot eat low carb and low fat simultaneously – your body would have no energy to survive. One of the biggest mistakes that folks make when they first dip their toe into low carb eating is to significantly reduce their carbs while maintaining a low fat diet. They crash and burn quickly.
Dietary fats are your only variable for controlling your weight loss. Reduce them to lose more, increase them to slow the weight loss process or gain weight.
The transition to burning fat
“That is insane – your cholesterol numbers are going to be off the charts. You are killing yourself!” the world shouts at me. Here is a chart of my blood work. You decide. Simply put, if you are not eating carbs then your body burns dietary fats for energy, and those fats don’t cause a problem. Strange but true.
It takes 2-3 weeks for your body to switch from a carb burning machine to a ketone burning machine. When you read the articles concerning various studies, look behind the hype and see how long the study had the individuals eating low carb. Most of the time it was for maybe 2 weeks. That is not enough time to prove anything.
Myths about low carb living
I get a bit crazy reading the strange things on-line. Some of the myths and down right false ideas:
A ketogenic diet is the true low carb diet
Eating a ketogenic diet is eating a very low carb, normal protein and high fat diet. It is the true low carb diet. Eating more than 50 or so grams of carbs is probably eating a reduced or low carb diet but not a ketogenic diet. Everyone is different. At what point does your body stop being in a ketosis and revert to burning carbs? That's a moving target a varies from person to person and from year to year. There is no question that eating above 100 grams (400 calories) of carbs will shut down ketone production.
Is the reduction of carbs without transitioning to ketosis bad for you? If you are eliminating highly processed foods it can only be good. The question that you must answer is - what works for you? Knowing that you want to keep protein close to 1 gram per pound of lean body mass, the question remains – how do you balance fats and carbs? Eliminating fats has proven to be a false idol. Eating a high carb diet is just plain fool hardy. Your own body must be your guide.
There are many books out there, some good, some not so good and some worthless. If you are interested in reading further check out Drs. Volek and Phinney’s The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living. It is pretty close to the definitive statement and guide.
If you'd like to just watch an informative video, here’s one to watch with Dr. Mary Vernon:
From Shrinkinguy: My thanks to TNT Man for sharing his experience and methods for successfully living a low carb lifetyle!