A History and Guide
Today I want to talk about what constitutes a low carb approach. There is overwhelming talk and information out there about this but understanding where this approach is stemming from and how it has changed over the years can help us better understand how to experiment and utilize the approach best for our individual bodies.
Evolution of Low Carb
The low carb approach has evolved over the years because people’s views of what is high or low carbohydrate has evolved.
If you look at some of the advocates for low carb diets, you find Dr. Tim Noakes, Michael Pollan, Nina Teicholz, and many others. These people and many others are investigative journalists, they’ve written books about low carb diets, and they share loads of information about the approach and the history of how we have gotten to where we are today.
They say that in the 1960s, the average American diet was about 40% carbs (that was average) and then split 30% protein and 30% fats. So this idea of 40, 30, 30 is being promoted in those eras and the population was for the most part, following these trends.
These days, a 40% carbohydrate diet would actually constitute as a low carb diet, especially in clinical trials. So, the average American is said to eat anywhere from 55% to 65% of their diet in carbs these days. That’s why carbs are vilified in our modern society. They are looked at this evil thing that is responsible for the obesity crisis.
That is the shifting paradigm (it used to be fat which was the villain) and now we are seeing the problem becoming an overconsumption of foods in general, leading to high insulin responses. For the most part, carbs can be blamed for the most egregious insulin rises. Fat and proteins create a little bit of a rise in insulins as well but right now are nowhere near as vilified as carbs.
Modern Low Carb Approaches: Intro of Keto
The thing to think about with a low carb approach is that you can make it as low carb as you want, or as high carb as you want, all depending upon your muscle mass and your activity level. It varies from individual to individual.
When I first read about a Ketogenic diet, there was this guy named Lyle McDonald, and he is from the trenches of the bodybuilding world. A Keto approach is an approach that a lot of bodybuilders do in their cutting. This is when they want to lose a lot of fat very quickly.
They do this very differently than what is currently known as a Keto approach. They use more of a protein first modified fast and that means that they are just focusing on protein and keeping everything else really low so their body goes searching for that energy source and burns up their carbohydrates and fats so they cut weight really quickly.
This process is usually an 8 week period that a lot of bodybuilders use when getting ready for events. They will shed 30 pounds or more with this strategy in such a short time. So, it’s kinda crazy.
As I said, this approach is not necessarily how we choose to approach Keto for the average person, but understanding the background and evolution of the Keto diet helps us understand how it can affect our own bodies.
Experimentation is Key
My point here is, you should experiment if you want to know where your carb threshold is. If you were to cut really low carbs for a week, do so and note how you are feeling and what you notice. Do you feel tired? Did you lose muscle? Did you lose water weight? Do your eyes look sunken? Do you have muscle cramps? There are a lot of things you can figure out. But there are good ways and bad ways to go about it. Being safe is the most important things and to do things safely, you need to be educated first.
When laying the groundwork out for you and your experimentation, I encourage you to focus on protein, focus on hydration, focus on salt and minerals and begin changing other items. All of these are really important to have as your baseline when you start to manipulate your other macronutrients: your carbs and your fats.
Below, I’m have outlined some different ideas that you can use for understanding low carb approaches. They help you get a better idea of what you should be aiming for based on your own lifestyle and goals. Check it out and let me know what you think and if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out.
Here is my generalized view of how carbs may fit into your diet depending on your goals.
Does this Keto and low carb background help you understand your goals better? I’d love to hear how you are doing or answer any questions you have. Please feel free to contact me or connect with me on social media as you move forward in your experimentation and journey. And remember, when experimenting, safety is of the utmost importance. This begins by being educated so be sure to check out some of my other resource articles or do further research elsewhere before beginning your own experimenting.
-Dr. Jerome Craig