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This Low-Carb Diet and Workout Will Blast Body Fat


For individuals trying to improve body composition -- more specifically reducing body fat -- carbohydrate depletion has proven to be the most effective approach

First, it's important to explain the effects of carbohydrates on your body. When you eat carbohydrates or sugar, it causes a spike in blood sugar to a degree largely determined by the food's glycemic load.

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In response to this elevated blood sugar, your body secretes the hormone insulin to encourage the storage of nutrients and reduce the amount of glucose (sugar)  in your blood.

But while insulin is critical to our health, paradoxically, this response also promotes energy storage (or fat accumulation) of any extra macronutrients you've eaten. For this reason, it's important to avoid high-fat foods when consuming carbohydrates or sugars.

If you consume both in significant quantities, you're creating an environment ripe for energy storage (fat accumulation from elevated blood sugar, thus insulin secretion) and providing the body the supplies (fat and extra carbohydrates) to do exactly that.

[Read More: 5 Fast Paleo Lunches]

In my meal plan below, I keep carbohydrates low while encouraging fat and protein consumption as an alternative. 

Both carbohydrates and sugar act to replenish glycogen levels in the body (liver and muscle tissue) -- our body's primary source for energy production. If you have adequately "filled" glycogen levels, your body has ample resources to meet energy demands, so it won't need to burn extra energy that your body has stored.

Bottom line: High glycogen levels, while useful for high-intensity exercise, prevent substantial fat loss.

I've developed a plan that has been overwhelmingly effective across a wide spectrum of my clients. I found this approach to offer transformative results while incorporating techniques that are sustainable in the long-term.

I do find some value in carbohydrate consumption for people who do high-intensity resistance training. When performance goals are the primary driver, we time carbohydrate consumption around a sufficiently intense workout.

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This is simply to optimize workout intensity (energy) and muscle recovery. What you'll find is the amount of carbohydrates needed to support pre- and post-exercise demands is surprisingly low. When you are consistent about eating a low-carb diet your body becomes more efficient at burning fat for energy, and a small amount of carbohydrates will simply act as a primer.

We want to keep this to approximately 25 to 35 grams of carbohydrates before and after exercise; an apple, mixed berries or sweet potato would be some good examples.

No matter your fitness goal, a well-developed weight-training program is critical to sustain weight loss and improve health, muscle tone and metabolic efficiency.

Here is a sample workout plan I've developed. It combines strategies I've found optimally effective at burning body fat and improving body composition while building muscle and developing strength:

1. Dumbbell squat, curl and press: 3 sets of 20 reps
2. Elbow planks push-ups: 3 sets of 10 each way
3. Walking lunges: 3 sets of 20 reps
4. Straight-leg raises: 3 sets of 20 reps
5. Squat with cable row: 3 sets of 20 reps

It's important to understand that your body will eventually adapt to the workout, likely causing weight loss to plateau.

There's a simple solution: Supplement fat intake. In order to avoid this plateau, we provide just enough fat to avoid metabolic shifts and negative hormonal responses, while further encouraging fat burning.

[Read More: 8 Foods to Boost Energy]

Beyond the clear physiologic benefits, a diet that's moderate in fat intake is considerably easier to sustain than one without any fat or carbohydrates. Choose fat over carbohydrates and sugar when you have limited options.

Here are two examples of a low-carbohydrate daily meal plan, taking into account a weight workout in the evening (option 1) or morning (option 2). If you don't lift weights, simply replace the carbohydrates with green vegetables.

Carbohydrates: 75 grams
Protein: 1.5 grams per pound of muscle tissue (not body fat)
Fat: 70 grams
Total Calories: 2,200

Sample Day (Evening Weight Training)

1 whole egg and 3 egg whites (1/3 cup)
1/2 avocado
Mixed peppers and greens (combine with above to make an omelet)
1/4 cup all-natural salsa (low or no sugar)

MEAL 2 (snack)
1 scoop whey protein
1 tablespoon almond butter
3/4 cup almond milk (unsweetened)
Ice cubes
1 to 2 cups spinach or kale
Blend all ingredients; sprinkle with cinnamon

Chicken or turkey breast (palm-size)
Mixed greens and vegetables

MEAL 4 (snack, pre-workout)
1 apple
1/2 scoop whey protein in shake (optional)

MEAL 5 (meal, post-workout)
5 ounces of sweet potato, sprinkle of cinnamon and pepper
6-ounce tilapia filet

Sample Day (Morning Weight Training)

MEAL 1 (consume either before or after your workout; if doing cardio, consume this meal after)
1 scoop whey protein
3/4 cup almond milk (unsweetened)
Ice cubes
1 banana
2 tablespoons powdered peanut butter
Blend all ingredients.

MEAL 2 (post-workout snack)
Celery sticks
2 tablespoons hummus or all-natural almond butter

Chicken or turkey breast (palm-size)
Mixed greens and vegetables

MEAL 4 (snack)
Homemade tuna salad (palm size)
2 tablespoons all-natural almonds (roughly 16 almonds)

6 ounces of tilapia or salmon
Broccoli, spinach or any green vegetable (unlimited)
1/2 avocado

Here are some fun and delicious recipes you can cook while staying on the low-carb plan:

You'll love this healthy spaghetti squash recipe. It's easy and filling. And, with squash replacing the noodles, it's hearty, delicious and fun to make.

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Start off by poking holes in a spaghetti squash and bake in the oven for one hour at 350 degrees. (Poking holes in the squash prevents it from exploding). Short on time? Microwave the squash for 10 to 12 minutes, then let stand for five minutes or so afterward to finish steaming.

While your squash is cooking, it's time to make your sauce: Here is quick recipe for a simple, light -- and vegan -- tomato sauce, with the option to make a meat version:

* 1 tablespoon minced garlic
* 3 Roma tomatoes, quartered
* 1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
* 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
* 2 tablespoons of olive oil
* Freshly ground pepper to taste
* 1/2 package of lean ground turkey (optional)

1. Blend all ingredients (except for the turkey) on low. A few pulses will give you that chunky, rustic consistency. Warm over low heat for a few minutes. If desired add cooked turkey. On the go? Use sauce from the grocery store. Be sure to look for one with little to no added sugar, no preservatives and made with olive oil.

2. Now it's time to make the "spaghetti." Cut the cooked squash in half. Grab a fork and scrape through the flesh to create noodle-like strings. Keep going until you hit the rind.

3. For a fun dish, serve the spaghetti squash inside the hollowed-out rind. Garnish with fresh basil and edamame.


* 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into four-inch-long, one-inch-thick strips
* 2 teaspoons Mediterranean spice
* 1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette
* 4 romaine lettuce leaves, shredded
* 1 tablespoon thinly sliced red onion
* 1/4 cup red-wine vinaigrette
* 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
* 12 butter lettuce leaves
* 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
* 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
* 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
* Tzatziki sauce for garnish (if desired)

Courtesy Evan Shy

1. Preheat a grill pan over high heat. Season chicken with one teaspoon Mediterranean spice and place on grill.

2. Cook about two minutes per side, basting with balsamic vinaigrette and turning once, until cooked through. Season cooked chicken with remaining teaspoon of Mediterranean spice and remove from grill; set aside.

2. Place shredded romaine lettuce and red onions in a medium bowl; drizzle with red-wine vinaigrette and toss to combine. Divide mixture evenly among butter lettuce leaves and drizzle each with one teaspoon of tzatziki.

3. Top each taco with one piece of chicken and garnish with chopped tomatoes and Greek yogurt (if desired). Season with parsley, basil and oregano before serving.


Readers -- Have you ever tried a low-carb diet? If so, what were your results? Was it difficult to maintain in the long-term? What are some of your favorite low-carb recipes? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Evan Shy, owner of ShyTown Fitness, is a personal trainer, motivator, life coach, elite fitness competitor, world traveler and icon in the health and wellness community. His mission is to empower people all over the world in their quest for optimal health through tailored workout programs, nutrition consultation and systematic accountability. 

For more information, visit his website and follow Evan on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

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