Some may remember my first week back in the saddle of low-carb - I ate about 20g net (deducting only fiber) carbohydrate a day, didn't count calories, and even though it came with the peril of the dreaded "one golden shot," I lost ten pounds in one week. Week two I continued along, adding just a few more carbohydrates each day and lost another five pounds.
In those two weeks, I lost more weight than I did when I originally started the Atkins Diet back in 2001 and was considerably heavier with much more weight to lose.
What I didn't reveal in my weight loss chronicle was the changes I made to the diet rules. After seeing how the change potentially impacted weight loss potential, I invited a select few to try my tweaks to see if I was an anomaly or if there was something to the change I made.
Enter Jimmy Moore. He stepped up quickly to give it a try. He also graciously agreed not to publically reveal the modifications in his diet until he tried them and we could see if they made a difference. He also agreed not to alter his exercise pattern - and I confirmed that his exercise routine was indeed the same as always with only one minor change - he did his routine seven days instead of six. As you'll see, that one additional day is not enough to have made the difference in weight loss that Jimmy experienced.
Last week was his first week where he made the adjustments, and his results speak volumes - he lost 6.5-pounds in the week after already following the "rules" normally adhered to for the Atkins diet. Basically, he'd already established ketosis and experienced the expected loss of water weight before making the minor tweaks in his menus. After reviewing his menus, his weight loss also didn't conform to the "calorie theory" of weight loss. To lose 6.5-pounds, Jimmy would need to be in a calorie deficit of 3250-calories a day less than his active metabolic rate. His menu confirms he was consuming an average of 2300-2400-calories each day, a calorie deficit of, at most, 750-calories a day less than his active metabolic rate. According to the calorie theory, Jimmy should have lost just 1.5-pounds last week with his calorie deficit - instead he lost 6.5-pounds.
My own menus confirm I've been consuming between 1800-2200-calories a day. With an estimated active metabolic rate of 2800-calories per day, my weight loss also does not conform to the calorie theory. Over the last month, based on a calorie deficit of, at most, 1000-calories each day, my weight loss should be 8.5-pounds for the month...if I was consistently eating just 1800-calories a day. Instead, I've lost 17-pounds - twice as much as predicted by the calorie theory and my calorie intake has fluctuated between 1800 and 2200 calories a day.
So, what did I do differently and share with Jimmy to experiment with? Since I have no grand plans to write a diet book, I'll share with you the changes to make that just may be one of the keys to enhancing the effect of a low-carb diet.
First, you radically implement a limitation/elimination of two things - vegetable oils and sources of high omega-6 fatty acids (conventionally produced beef and dairy products).
Second, you also specifically increase omega-3 fatty acids from foods rich with omega-3 fatty acids (eggs, pastured meats, dairy from pastured animals, fatty fish, some nuts/seeds) and specifically include fish oils.
Third, you include supplements specifically shown to enhance fatty acid and glucose metabolism - Acetyl L-Carnitine and GFT Chromium Picolinate - and use the already recommended multi-vitamin without iron as a safety net along with other supplements you feel you want to include (while, of course being aware of potentially exceeding upper tolerable limits).
Fourth, your fat/oil sources are limited to nut/seed/fruit oils that are cold-pressed - like walnut, avocado, sesame, extra-virgin olive, etc. - and natural sources like butter, coconut oil and tallow.
Lastly, you stick with the basic rules with the above modifications - include non-starchy vegetables, low GI/GL fruits, nuts, seeds, meats, poultry, fish, game as you would normally (depending on what level of carbohydrate you're consuming) and let your metabolism do the rest as you eat to satiety and go about your normal routine.
Besides Jimmy and me, there are a few others behind the scenes who are making the same changes in their diet - they wish to remain anonymous. What I can tell you is that these folks are seeing similar results. Their calorie deficits are not explaining the ease of their weight loss.I cannot fully explain why these minor changes make a major difference.
I started with the changes myself as an experiment based on conversations I had with Dr. Barry Sears in January that I wrote about in this article Deadly Inflammation from Diet.
As I noted, [i]f Dr. Sears is correct, the solution lies in understanding what is triggering the inflammation and resolving that issue, not masking it with medications that alleviate symptoms of the problem without actually resolving the underlying problem. If the above research starts to open the door to our understanding, the main assault upon our body today is our diet - too many glucose producing sugars/carbohydrates that increase insulin coupled with too many omega-6 fatty acids, leading to an unbalanced state in the body.
So, with that insight, I looked at the foods listed as "allowed" along the way, and decided to eliminate or strictly limit those highest in omega-6 fatty acids while remaining cognizant of the fact that omega-6 is still an essential fatty acid for health. What happened with that modification, based on my menus, is that my ratio of omega-3:omega-6 has fallen to about 1:4; Jimmy's appears to be hovering in the neighborhood of 1:6. Both of our ratios are less than they were previously, and significantly less than the average American, whose diet runs as high as 1:20.
So the question you may be thinking is - what to eliminate, what to include if you'd like to give this a try?
Both Jimmy and I included an Atkins ready-to-drink shake each day. I planned this inclusion for the 2-teaspoons of soybean oil it contains along with a rich nutrient profile. So, a whey-based protein shake with 9g or less total fat with soybean oil as the fat ingredient used is one item to consider.
Liquid vegetable oils are eliminated from your cooking and salad dressing making recipes. Replace with oils based on fruits/seeds/nuts like olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, sunflower seed oil, sesame seed oil, walnut oil, etc. And don't be afraid of natural fats like butter, coconut oil or meat drippings - these are often very stable for cooking with less damage to their structural integrity in the cooking process.
With this in mind, you also need to be aware of other potentially high sources of vegetable oil - commercial salad dressing and mayonnaise. While sometimes difficult to eliminate completely, you can keep your eye on your intake and limit how much you consume. One quick way to reduce how much vegetable oil you eat from salad dressing is to take a salad dressing like ranch - if you normally use 4-tablespoons on a big salad, reduce that to 2-tablespoons mixed with 2-tablespoons of walnut oil. You'll maintain the flavor of the ranch dressing and reduce the amount of soybean oil you're eating at the same time.
In the US, our animal feeding practices have an effect on fatty acid profiles of the animal foods that are allowed in a low-carb diet. Grain-fed cattle is known to have a higher omega-6 content than grass-fed cattle, so meats need to be carefully selected - sources include organic meats that are grass-fed and imported meats from countries that do not feedlot their animals, like New Zealand and Australia.
Since grain feeding also affects the quality of the fatty acid profile in milk and milk products, it's prudent to choose dairy products from organic and grass-fed animals also. In addition, where possible, raw cheeses retain enzymes lost in pasteurization, and therefore when available, include if you can.Lastly, eggs are an important and allowed source of protein.
The best nutrient profiles are found in organic eggs from pastured chickens, not just "cage-free" but specifically free range, where omega-3 is found in significantly higher levels than conventional eggs.
Now while making all of the above modifications is difficult and, let's be honest, expensive - making enough changes seems to make a difference.
Jimmy, for example, changed his diet to include grass-fed beef and organic eggs and limited his vegetable oil intake....he didn't really change his dairy products and by mid-week found it difficult to abstain from his favorite soybean-oil based ranch dressing. Yet, by making the changes he did and including flaxseed oil and fish oil, it was enough of a change to modify his omega-3:omega-6 ratio and lose 6.5-pounds.
Are making changes in the omega-3:omega-6 ratios the key to enhancing the potential of a low-carb diet?
I can't make any guarantees, but it certainly seems to be an effective modification you may want to try. I'd love to hear back from those who do make the changes to see if it made a difference in their weight loss or not!
With the 30-in-30 Challenge in progress, and so many participating, this may be a great time to experiment as a group to see what happens. While it may not conform to the ideal of a scientific approach for a group, it just might work!
Who's going to join us to expand the results from a handful of individuals to a group of people all striving for the same goal - weight loss and improved health?