Low-carb diets are effective weight-loss diets even if you don't count calories. But if you're trying to lose weight quickly, you may consider counting both carbs and calories. Most health care professionals agree, however, that you shouldn't eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day to lose weight. To avoid serious problems, a high-protein, low-carb, 1,000-calorie diet should be followed only under the direction and supervision of a physician.
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The High-Protein, Low-Carb, Low-Cal Plan
There's more than one way to do a low-carb diet, but low-carb diets generally restrict your intake to 50 to 150 grams of carbs a day, while a very restrictive low-carb diet limits you to 20 to 50 grams a day. Many popular low-carb diet plans start by restricting your carbs to very low levels, then increasing your carbs as you approach your goal weight.
Low-carb diets are naturally higher in protein and fat. However, for safety, you shouldn't get more than 35 percent of your calories from protein, according to a 2006 article published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. On a 1,000-calorie diet, that means not more than 350 calories from protein, or 88 grams, a day. On a 50-gram carb restriction, which is equal to 200 calories, you're left with 45 percent of calories from fat.
Maximize Nutrition With Food Choices
To keep carbs and calories low without feeling starved, you'll fill up on animal and soy proteins and low-carb veggies. Lean sources of protein -- best to help you stay within your 1,000-calorie restriction -- can include white meat poultry; lean sources of red meat such as pork chops and top round; and fish and soy products such as tofu and tempeh. Low-carb veggies are also low in calories and include greens such as lettuce, kale and spinach, as well as cucumbers, peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and cabbage. Choose healthy fats that aid hunger management, such as avocados, nuts and cheese. Just keep in mind that you still have to be mindful of portion control with these foods to keep calories low. For example, while half an avocado has only 1 gram of net carbs -- total carbs minus the fiber -- it has 117 calories.
A Typical Day's Menu
If you're restricted to 50 grams of carbs on your low-cal, high-protein diet, make breakfast a two-egg omelet stuffed with 1/2 cup of cooked spinach and served with 1 cup of fresh strawberries for a meal with 210 calories, 15 grams of protein and 10 grams of net carbs. At lunch, try 2 cups of romaine lettuce topped with 4 ounces of grilled chicken and 1 tablespoon of ranch dressing. If you add a small orange, your meal will have 288 calories, 33 grams of protein and 14 grams of net carbs. Halt mid-afternoon munchies with 12 almonds and 1 cup of fresh raspberries, which supplies 145 calories, 3 grams of protein and 8 grams of net carbs. Four ounces of grilled salmon with 1/2 cup of a baked sweet potato and 1 cup of steamed broccoli completes the day and has 348 calories, 32 grams of protein and 18 grams of net carbs.
When following a very restrictive diet, like a high-protein, low-carb, 1,000-calorie diet, it's important to be closely monitored by your doctor. Eating 1,000 calories or less a day makes it hard for you to get all the nutrients your body needs for good health, so your doctor may suggest specific supplements. You also risk a slowdown in your metabolism, or calorie-burning, due to your body's need to conserve energy when being fed so few calories.
You may also experience side effects such as fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, headaches or muscle cramps when restricting carbs. Too much protein may lead to elevated amino acid and ammonia levels, which -- in addition to causing side effects similar to those resulting from carb restriction -- can be dangerous.
- American College of Sports Medicine: Metabolism is Modifiable with the Right Lifestyle Changes
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Low-Carbohydrate Nutrition and Metabolism
- International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism: A Review of Issues of Dietary Protein Intake in Humans
- Atkins: Carb Counter
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Avocados, Eggs, Spinach
- Atkins: What Are Net Carbs?
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Strawberries, Romaine Lettuce, Chicken
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Ranch Dressing, Oranges, Almonds
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Broccoli