If you can eat your meat without potatoes, the low-carb diet may be the diet to help you drop those unwanted pounds. Men who followed a low-carb diet lost more weight than those following a low-fat diet in a 2008 clinical study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. But severely limiting your carbs may have side effects, so discuss the diet with your doctor before getting started.
What a Low-Carb Diet is Like
There isn't just one way to do a low-carb diet, but most of the commercial plans start with about 20 grams of carbs a day. This restriction helps turn your body into a fat-burning machine by putting you into ketosis -- where your body burns fat instead of glucose for fuel -- to help you lose weight quickly. A helpful side effect of ketosis is that it helps suppress the appetite. You'll be limited to 20 grams of carbs for about two months. Then, you'll gradually add small amounts of carbs back to your diet to slow down the rate of weight loss until you've reached your goal. Typically, you'll cap off at about 120 grams of carbs a day for weight maintenance, but you may go as high as 150 grams.
What You Eat
To keep carbs low, especially during those first couple of months, skip the bread, pasta, rice and cereal. Instead, fill your diet with meat such as beef, pork, chicken, turkey and fish. Some non-meat sources of protein also work, including tofu, tempeh and meatless soy products such as meatless chicken and bacon. Low-carb veggies, such as spinach, broccoli and salad greens should also be a mainstay of your diet plan. These nutrient-rich veggies keep you feeling full and act as a source of health-promoting vitamins, minerals and fiber. A few low-carb fruits also fit the plan, including avocados, olives and pumpkin. Round out your meals with other naturally low-carb foods such as cheese, fats such as olive oil, ranch or Caesar dressing and herbs and spices such as garlic, basil, pepper, ginger and cilantro.
Good For Your Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite being high in saturated fat, the low-carb diet may be good for your heart and health. When compared to a low-fat diet, the low-carb diet not only helped people lose more weight, but also increased their HDL cholesterol -- the good kind -- and lowered triglycerides, according to a 2014 clinical study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. According to a 2012 meta-analysis published in Obesity Reviews, the low-carb diet was shown to be effective at improving blood pressure, blood sugar and insulin levels and helped shrink waist circumference, as well. If you're concerned about saturated fat in your low-carb plan, use more vegetable fats such as olive oil and avocados, and swap out red meat for more fatty fish such as salmon and tuna.
Sample Low-Carb Meal Plan
Carefully tracking carbs is most important during the early phase of your low-carb diet plan. On 20 grams of carbs a day you might have an omelet filled with 1/2 cup of diced green peppers and 1/2 cup of sliced button mushrooms with 1 ounce of Swiss cheese, which supplies 5 grams of net carbs. Fill up at lunch with a burger made from lean ground meat topped with half a Haas avocado, sliced tomatoes, sliced red onions and two pickles -- all wrapped in a lettuce leaf. This lunch has 6 grams of net carbs. For dinner, enjoy grilled tuna steak with 2 cups of roasted broccoli and 1 cup of mixed greens topped with crumbled bacon and 2 tablespoons of Caesar dressing to complete your day with 10 grams of net carbs.
As you progress with the diet and your carb allowance increases, you may add healthy higher-carb foods such as fruits, beans and whole grains. Use a carb counter to help you track your intake and stay within your daily limits.
- New England Journal of Medicine: Weight Loss with a Low-Carbohydrate, Mediterranean or Low-Fat Diet
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Low-Carbohydrate Nutrition and Metabolism
- Atkins: Phase One List of Acceptable Foods
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Men and Heart Disease
- Obesity Reviews: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials of the Effects of Low Carbohydrate Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors
- Atkins: Carb Counter
- Annals of Internal Medicine: Effects of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets: A Randomized Trial
- Today's Dietitian: Low-Carb Diets — Research Shows They May Be More Beneficial Than Other Dietary Patterns