Often, when I talk to people about a low carb lifestyle, I mention that I have a very low carb threshold.
Most folks don’t understand what I mean when I say it. The simplest way to explain is that the number of net carbs (carbohydrates minus fiber and any sugar alcohols) is 23. When you are dieting on Atkins, your target for the initial phase is 20 net carbs. After that, you can begin adding a few carbs a week until you hit your threshold. While some people who have efficient fat burners (metabolism) can eat 30, 40, or more net carbs, I quickly learned that I can’t exceed 23 before I gain weight.
Your next question might be, “how do I find out what my threshold is?” This is explained in the Atkins diet, and if you follow the process, you will learn two things. First, you will determine what your threshold is. Second, you will begin to learn which foods your body does not utilize well.
You may think that all calories are the same, no matter what the source. One friend who believes weight loss is all about the calories attempted to argue it with me saying that it the only the amount of calories count. But from my experience, I can say that some foods provide better fuel for your particular body than others. While calories aren’t irrelevant, I can say that if I eat 900 calories a day, I will lose weight and I will be hungry all the time. With a low carb diet, I can eat way more calories, always find a low carb snack, and still lose weight. The key to it is eating what your body uses for energy.
When you begin the steps to learn what foods you can eat without gaining weight, you also find out how many net carbs you can eat. It is a trial and error process.
First, if you’ve been on the induction phase of Atkins, your food choices have been limited to ones that are primarily low carb vegetables, fat, meat, and white cheese. The second phase adds in the next food groups and vegetables with a slightly higher carb count. The recommended way to do it is to add them one food at a time and weigh the next day to see if there is an increase in your weight. Sometimes, a weight fluctuation is normal. However, you can continue to eat that same food a few times throughout the week. If you haven’t gained any weight at the weekly weigh-in, then the food is probably not a problem. If you’ve lost, it isn’t affecting your weight loss. If you’ve gained, then it is probable that your body isn’t using the item well. Take it back out of your diet and try another.
You repeat this process with all the foods you add to your choices, keeping the ones that have no effect on your weight loss and bypassing the ones that either stall it or add to your weight. Once you establish this, then you begin to add more net carbs to the amount you eat daily.
As I said, at the beginning you have 20 net carbs. So add 5 net carbs to your total and track your weight with the added carbs. If you stall or gain, then drop back a carb for a few days and weigh again. If you are stable at the added carb number for a couple of weeks, then you have reached your threshold. This would be the number of carbs you can eat each day to maintain your weight. To begin losing weight again, you need to go below the threshold number.
So, for me, finding the threshold weight came within the first week of adding carbs. With only an additional 3 net carbs added to the initial 20, I still pretty much maintain that same eating plan as I initially used. For many people, the net carbs are more plentiful. More activity and exercise might increase your threshold number allowing you more choices and larger portions in your food intake.
This is probably the most significant thing I learned with this pass on the Atkins diet plan. These two steps gave me the key to controlling my weight – not that I always follow it, but it is what I constantly target for my guidelines. I know that if I eat over 23 net carbs, then I will gain weight. I know if I eat less than 23 net carbs, I will lose weight. I also know that if I have gained more than 10 pounds, I will probably have to cut back to the phase one food choices to effectively get my body back to the weight loss mode again.
Overall, the low carb eating plan is not difficult to follow, but it is challenging. If you stay at home and prepare all your food, there are many options to remain low carb and still enjoy a variety of food. The difficulties come with dining out, going to parties, and grabbing quick food on the run. If it were easy to do this, none of us would regain any weight we lost, but it is not that simple. Unless you make the food knowing everything that goes into it or you order food that doesn’t have sauces or additional carbohydrates added, then you aren’t in control of what you eat when you’re out.
I love food, so I have been working to adapt my favorites to a low carb option. That’s why I have created my blog and my cookbooks. My recipes are almost all under 10 net carbs per serving, and most are less than that. I have been up to 330 pounds, and I don’t ever want to go back to that weight again. I won’t pretend that it’s easy to keep on track. It takes work, planning, and commitment. But it’s also not the most difficult thing either.
So if you want to be successful in your weight loss efforts and at maintaining your weight, learn your net carb threshold and be aware of how many carbs you are eating at each meal. It will be worth it.