My (Sort Of) Low-Carb Diet Failure

You may remember that last week I was trying to go low-carb (for me) and not eat ANY processed carbs at all, and fewer than two servings per day of whole grains and higher-glycemic index fruits. Well, that did not happen.

I did pretty well on the “fewer than two” restriction, finding plenty of other fruit to snack on and limiting servings of steel cut oats and brown rice to one per day, but the most important part – the “no processed carbs” part – met with much lower success.

Virtually every day, I had at least one serving of something forbidden, and by Friday, I just said, “Aw what’s the point?!” and then ate three bowls of cereal and a Puerto Rican pastele (50 grams of carbs, easy).

And this is why one should never go on a restrictive diet. At least for many of us, the mere notion that we “can’t” have something makes us crave it all the more, and eventually our willpower runs out. And let me tell you, that boomerang comes around with a forceful vengeance!

On the plus side, one of my primary goals in attempting the diet was to break out of my hum-drum eating cycle and to look for meals and snacks that were higher in protein. While I was very sick of Greek yogurt and tuna by the end of the week, I learned just how good for you they are, and when eaten in moderation, they are delicious as well. I also came up with a tasty, quick and nutritious black bean salad, and I learned a LOT about what carbohydrates and protein each do for a body.

Example: Many of us who strength train, and especially those who are trying to build muscle think that we need to eat a lot of protein in order to fuel those muscles. But no – a muscle’s primary source of fuel is glycogen – a carb, of course! Protein is important for the repair and building process that occurs after a weight workout, but in order to get the most out of that workout in the first place, we need carbs!

I also read an interesting article on the timing of meals that underscores just how important it is to eat a large snack or a small meal within 45 minutes of ANY workout – both for muscle recovery, and also to speed fat loss! So the next time you think you’ll just be undoing your hard work in the gym by eating right afterward, think again – you actually maximize those efforts by eating a snack that replaces 1/2 to 2/3 of the calories you just burned. Importantly, you want that meal to consist of 2 or 3 parts carbohydrate to 1 part protein (20 grams protein + 60 grams carbs = 320 calories, so adjust accordingly depending on each workout).

 Also surprising to me was the fact that you actually want a mix of simple carbs – the dreaded sugars! – and complex carbs. My post-exercise snack today consisted of 1 cup of Greek yogurt, 1/3 cup of Grape Nuts cereal, 1/2 cup sliced strawberries and 1/2 Tbsp honey: 316 calories, 54g carbs, 1 g fat, 28g protein. That was a 2:1 carb:protein ratio, with 70% of the carbs being complex, and it replaced about 2/3 of the calories I burned during my workout. Also, it was delicious!

So, although I didn’t strictly adhere to my diet, I did accomplish my goal of finding new things to eat, and I learned a lot in the process. Next time, though, I think I’ll try something less restrictive, so that I can keep it up for the long haul.…

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