Challenges when Starting a Low Carbohydrate Lifestyle.

My Main Challenges

When I start back on low carbohydrate eating there are always a few challenges that I face in the first week or so with the change in my diet, especially when living in a household with small children. During my time eating low carbohydrate I’ve never changed my children’s diet, they have continued to eat rice, potato and pasta. Have bread for their sandwiches for lunch, some carbohydrate-based snacks and fruit. I can’t remove those items from my home so I have to dig deep to find the self-control not to eat those things that I find the most tempting. Bread and Cereal for me is a huge temptation. I always feel terrible when I eat bread but I can’t resist the aroma. I love cereal and always develop a bad habit when I’m eating carbohydrate again. I love a bowl of cereal before I go to bed which is an absolute NO! NO! All that extra carb is being digested into simple sugars which are not being used while I sleep and are just being loaded, you guessed it onto my body as excess fat. Please see more on how your body digests the foods and beverages you consume on the How Your Body Processes Foods page which talks about the difference between how carbohydrates are used as an energy source and how you can switch to using Ketones as an alternative energy source through low carbohydrate eating.

 

Keto Flu

One of the other symptoms talked about when we get our bodies moving back into Ketosis is the “Keto Flu”. Everyone’s body is different so the symptoms between people can be quite different. Some experience them and others may not. Symptoms of aches, pains, tiredness, sore muscles, irritability, difficulty concentrating, all those symptoms that typically come with a regular flu. This few days can be quite difficult especially if you are facing a few stressful days at work. To help me get through this phase I do a few things –

  • I always increase my intake of water to at least 2 Litres of water per day to ensure my body is fully hydrated.
  • With the change to low carbohydrate eating, your insulin levels drop from where they were before. Insulin regulates your kidneys to help control the amount of water that you lose from your body and therefore the amount of salts (potassium, sodium and magnesium) or electrolytes that are lost along with the water. You therefore pass more water which reduces bloating but also drops your electrolyte levels. To combat this, you can add a small pinch or two of extra salt to your water or to your meals throughout the day. The levels of salt in the processed high carb foods you previously were consuming were probably far higher than you ever thought so this additional salt is not going to hurt and it will help maintain your electrolyte balance.
  • If I absolutely must I find Panadol or a weak pain killer can be really helpful to just knock the edge of any aches and pains that I’m experiencing.
  • Also, just knowing that this state won’t last for longer than a few days keeps me motivated to keep move forward and not to give up.

Supplements

Supplements or multi-vitamins are really not necessary as you will be consuming a much larger amount of fresh vegetables, (hopefully in all the colours of the rainbow) to ensure you are receiving a broad range of the vitamins and minerals you need. There is one supplement however that I find I need to take every day as I don’t consume enough in my diet. I know this because I regularly used to get a tell tail symptom of magnesium depletion being muscle cramps. Usually in the legs and at night which is not a great way to wakeup and a throbbing leg doesn’t make it easy to get back to sleep. I take a supplement every morning with my first glass of water as routine and I’ve had no problems since.   

Times to Eat

I find there are some basic rules for eating low carb and when I stick to them, I have a better chance of success. When you are in Ketosis you find that your cravings for food disappear, your blood sugar stabilises and you can easily go without snacking between meals. This is an opportunity for you to re-set the old bad habits that have got you into this position in the first place. I found some simple rules really helped. These include –

  • Drinking a large glass of water first thing in the morning before eating. This can be either plain or with a squeeze of lemon juice.
  • I always have a magnesium supplement every morning.
  • I wait at least an hour before eating breakfast after waking up.
  • Make sure I eat at least 1-2 salad or vegetable based meals per day.
  • Don’t eat food after dinner and right before bed. If you’ve had a good dinner you shouldn’t need more food prior to bed. A lot of the time it’s just a bad habit we have formed needing this final snack and if you can be strong and resist the urge you can reset this bad habit to a good one. Absolutely have a cup of herbal tea or water. I find the heat in the tea makes me feel full and helps to get me to sleep.

 

Meal Planning and Preparation

Meal preparation for the week, especially for those of us working full time and then coming home to take cook for the family needs to be easy, quick and simple. To be able to do this however and ensure you have plenty of low carbohydrate food options on hand you do need to be organised. I find that setting a night aside for planning, usually a Friday night, is the best way I have found to ensure I’m ready with my weekly meal plan, shopping list for Saturday and an idea of what pre-preparation I’m going to need to do on Sunday to be ready for the week. I can tell you now, the fastest way to ensure you don’t succeed on this diet is to be stuck with hungry children after running late home from work. When your stressed and tired after a long day that’s when the smell of KFC becomes so tempting, just to get something in front of the kids but this also leads to temptation which is best avoided. If you prepare well enough in advance you will have everything on hand ready to go. Try to get some time to yourself for your planning, a few hours on a Friday night and a few hours on Sunday afternoon for your preparation where you can focus on making the meals for the week ahead.

One of the great things for me about this lifestyle is that you will find that you aren’t looking for specific foods just for a specific meal. After 40 years of being told that Breakfast has to be cereal or toast, I’ve come to realise that breakfast can be anything you like. It’s now leftovers from the night before, two simple pre-boiled eggs from the fridge or a quick omelette depending on how much time you have.  

Breakfast

Breakfast can be a tough one if you are rushing to get the kids out the door and yourself ready for work. At the beginning of the week I cook around 6-8 boiled eggs (the kids will always take a few), chill them and keep them in the fridge for the next few days. 2 eggs are enough to get me through to lunchtime but if I want to boost my calcium intake I also add a piece of cheese. Eggs are a fantastic source of nutrition and are easy to cook and transport.

If you find that you have forgotten to have breakfast and your heading out the door, you can always pickup 2 fried eggs and 2 meat patties from McDonalds. Try to avoid the smell of the coffee here as it’s usually very high in carbs as discussed below.

Main Meals

To ensure that I’m not cooking two different meals, I cook the protein portion for the meal and serve this with a carbohydrate for the kids or vegetables for myself. A big bowl of steam broccoli is my staple vegetable and it’s so simple and easy to prepare in the microwave and can be a quick substitution for pasta or rice.  I always make enough for leftovers as these are quickly used for lunches or reheated for an easy breakfast. We will talk more about Main Meals in a later post.

 

Saving Money

The money you save as a result of being prepared when being on a low carbohydrate lifestyle also needs a mention. By taking your own meals from home to work the next day you will be surprised how much you will be saving over say a week and how that translates to a month and to a year. Do the sums, how much do you spend on a weekly basis on snacks, meals and a breakfast on the run?

Take away coffee?? How much do you spend on coffee a week?? Since the high amount of milk in a standard medium sized cappuccino in Australia is between 370 – 425ml, the carbohydrate level of one cup of coffee using full cream milk at around 4.7g/100ml of milk, makes that cup of coffee a whopping 17.4 – 20g of carbohydrate, all from Lactose (Milk sugar). Don’t forget we are trying to keep our daily intake to around 20-50g per day. 

Thickened cream contains around 3.4g/100g of Carbohydrate. It is thicker and stronger and you need much less to make a delicious creamy coffee that will stick with you and provides satiety (something that makes you feel fuller for longer). Making your morning coffee by starting with a long black and adding say 3 tablespoons of cream or just 60ml will reduce the carbohydrate level of your coffee to only 2g and it will keep you going till lunch, no problems. Purchase your favourite brand of coffee, keep it in your desk so no-one pinches it and when you pack your lunch, add a small container of liquid cream.  You can add some no sugar sweetener if you wish and I’ll be talking about my favourite products for this in a new Product Review section shortly.

If you have any questions or comments on these points, or if there are other topics you would like me to cover please let me know. In my next information Blog, I’ll be talking about the best ways to eat Low Carbohydrate when you are heading out to a Restaurant or takeaway with friends or family!!

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