“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.” -Voltaire
In my last post, I explained why you should eat low carb.
In this post, I’m going to explain how to eat low carb without driving yourself nuts or falling off the wagon. You can have the best diet or exercise plan in the world, but if it’s not sustainable, then it’s won’t work. In fact, the reason most diet plans fail is not because they aren’t effective. It’s because people don’t stick with them over time. Sustainability is the most important factor in any diet plan, including a low carb diet plan. So how exactly do you sustain a low carb lifestyle when it’s difficult enough to eat low carb to begin with? There are three tips I practice that allow me to do this. However, before you try this, you must adopt the belief that living low carb is the way to go. Otherwise, you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle no matter what. If you are skeptical at all about this, then you should just skip this article. If you are on board, then keep reading.
Tip 1: Eat fewer than three meals per day
Are you more likely to eat more calories if you’re eating twice a day or three times a day? It’s not rocket science… the answer is three times a day. If you’re eating four to six times per day, forget it. The same principal applies to carbs. You are more likely to eat more carbs if you eat three times a day. By eliminating that third meal, you are in effect taking in a zero calorie, zero carb meal. Just think about how much progress you can make right off the bat if one out of every three meals is zero carb! Note: this takes some getting used to if you are accustomed to eating three or more meals per day. Read about how I adopted the Lean Gains method of intermittent fasting for more detail on this. I will say that once you get this down, it becomes incredibly easy to skip one meal per day. Not only this, by reversing the amount of time you spend in a fasted state versus in a fed state, aside from reducing your overall carb intake, you will reap all of the other benefits of intermittent fasting.
Tip 2: Have a set of go-to low carb meals
Many of the low carb books I read try to lure you into the lifestyle by providing these intricate low carb recipes that are worthy of a five star restaurant. The problem is most of us are busy and don’t have time to prepare intricate meals. This is why you need a few simple, but great-tasting low carb meals that you can whip up in 15 minutes or less. Yes, this means cooking. It is extremely difficult to find satisfying low carb fast food options. Believe me, I’ve tried. The good news is that if I can cook, then anyone can. I tend to use either a skillet or the slow cooker, probably the two easiest cooking utensils to operate. Some of my go-to low carb meals include a giant steak salad, eggs with spinach and bacon, garlic lime shredded chicken in the slow cooker, and barbeque pulled pork in the slow cooker. Remember, sustainability is key. Unless you are rich enough to afford a personal chef, learn to cook a few basic low carb meals that don’t take long to make. Kris has some great ideas in this post.
Tip 3: Schedule predetermined anything goes cheat meals every week
In the case of eating low carb as with many other things, the 80/20 principle applies. If you eat low carb 80% of the time, that should be good enough to help you to become fat adapted and will certainly put you in a better position health-wise than most of the population. Some people don’t recommend cheat meals. However, I do for a couple of reasons. First, it makes your eating plan more sustainable long-term. Tim Ferriss adopts similar reasoning for including a no holds barred binge day of cheat meals in his Slow Carb diet. If it helps you stick with it, then do it. Second, I actually want to enjoy my life. Dining out is one of my favorite things to do and I wouldn’t enjoy it as much if some of my favorite foods were off limits. I couldn’t imagine not ever being allowed to indulge in French fries, pasta, or ice cream. It’s just not fun and nothing that makes you miserable is worthwhile.
By employing the 80/20 rule in conjunction with Lean Gains style intermittent fasting, I’m able to have my cake and eat it too.
With Lean Gains, I usually eat two meals per day, so let’s say 15 meals per week. I’ll give myself three predetermined cheat meals per week where I eat absolutely whatever I want. The other 80% of my meals are very strict, clean low carb. The cheat meals give me something to look forward to and help keep me motivated to stick to my eating plan. If you are striving to be a bodybuilder or fitness model, then you probably shouldn’t cheat. For the rest of us, eating clean 80% of the time is good enough to maintain a lean and healthy physique. Even if your cheat meals are 2,000 calories and 200g of carbs, if your non cheat meals are around 30g of carbs or less, which is what I shoot for, you’ll still only be eating less than 1,000g of carbs per week or less than 140g per day which is about half what the normal “carb adapted” person eats. Most of your days will be less than 100g per day which is the sweet spot for fat adaptation.
So there’s my blueprint for living low carb the easy and painless way. I’d love to hear your tips and strategies as well!