PJ, over at the Divine Low-Carb!, recently issued a challenge in a post, You Choose! The March of Madness for PJ, where she asks experienced low-carbers to present a plan for her to follow throughout the month of March.
So here is a challenge for the many experienced lowcarbers out there. March is coming up in 5 days. Present a plan for me that is:
1 - LOWCARB AND SIMPLE (not 'cycling' and not 'moderate carb' and not 'atkins by the book according to OWL modified by xyz...')
2 - HAS NO MORE THAN FIVE MAIN RULES (though a given rule can have details, e.g. if supplements is one of the rules it can have a list/dosage, if fat is one of the rules it can have types/quantity)
3 - WITHIN THE PARAMETERS ABOVE (no seafood or gluten etc.)
Here's what I will do:
1. I will choose one of them and officially follow it for March, from the 3rd to the 31st, four full weeks starting on a Monday -- because that is how my weight spreadsheet is set up LOL.
2. I will track and graph my weight every day
3. AND how I feel every day
4. AND what I ingest/do every day (I use a digital gram scale for measures)
5. AND do measurements before/after,
and at the end of the month we will all see how well that given plan worked out for my body. I may not be perfect on it but I'll track what I do so it's fairly known what degrees of it I may have screwed up.
MY THEORY IS, that since I don't have ANY given goal-setting plan that inspires me enough to make a commitment to it, that instead, I will make a commitment to someone ELSE: the commitment just happens to involve a given lifestyle plan.
Can you do it?
RULE 1: NO SPECIFIC GRAM COUNTING - just eat what's allowed & simply enjoy your meals
In the current state of affairs, eating is becoming terribly complicated by an under-current that suggests we feel guilty for eating, seek to limit our desire and pleasure from good food, and contantly count calories, grams of this or that and worry about everything we place in our mouth.
No more of that - eat and enjoy what is allowed and simply pass on anything not on your list of good foods to eat.
In addition, we don't live and eat in a world of grams - it isn't even natural to have to divvy up portions by cups, ounces or any other measure. We're supposed to just simply eat, but somehow we've come to a place where that's no longer a simple affair.
Rather than fight that totally, I'm going to present information to calculate minimums for some things, that have to be included each day, ranges for others, and optional add-ins - these are to be calculated out for an individuals current weight so they're eating enough each day to avoid a state where the body conserves energy in the face of famine conditions, while also providing variety and good habits to build upon over time.
RULE 2: Eat Enough - Starvation Level of Calories Doesn't Work Long-Term
In order to eat enough, one has to know how many calories they need, at minimum, each day - over the years I've found the basal metabolic rate (BMR) to be a good minimum to use. Online calculators, like the one at Discovery Health, are accurate enough for this purpose. Once you enter your information, it will return how many calories you need each day for basic metabolic function, before any movement or physicial activity.
This is the minimum calories to target eating each day and it allows a +/- 5% range, so if you miss by 5% one day that's OK; if you're over now and then by 5%, that's OK too. Recalculate BMR with every 20-pounds of weight loss.
RULE 3: Consume Adequate Protein
Protein is, in my opinion, the most critical of foods/macronutrients to consume each day - it helps to regulate appetite, but more importantly provides the essential amino acids to repair and build within the body.
Calculating out a minimum amount of protein to be "adequate" is fairly easy - you take your body weight in pounds and multiply it by 0.40. This will allow for an adequate intake of amino acids for both essential needs, and for the production of glucose through gluconeogenesis.
But who lives in a world of grams? It's easier then to take the gram target and convert it into ounces each day - makes it easier to decide what to eat! So, to determine how many ounces each day, you simply divide the grams by 6.5 - the average amount of grams of protein per ounce in meat, cheese, eggs, poultry, fish. Now some have 7g, some have 6g - I suggest using the 6.5 as an average.
Do not count plant protein in your minimum - so you can eat whatever cuts of meat, poultry, fish, game you want, and include eggs, cheese (real, whole milk cheese only - see below). You may also boost protein with whey or egg protein powder or RTD-shakes that contain only whey protein and less than 2g carbohydrate per serving. No soy protein isolates are allowed in the shake option.
Eggs ideally will be from organic, free-range chickens; meats (ideally) should be grass-fed, pastured.
Recalculate protein requirements with every 20-pound weight loss. Each day, eating enough protein is critical, so target eating at least the calculated minimum; eating more than that is fine if you're hungry and often necessary if you're active...so if you find you are hungry, eat more protein if needed, but avoid excessive protein consumption, which is hard to define, but generally means more than 35% of calories or greater than 0.8g-1g of protein per pound of body weight (depending on level of physicial activity).
Dairy is included in your protein, but do not consume more than a combined total of 4-ounces of dairy foods each day - this includes plain whole milk yogurt, real whole milk cheese (no processed cheese allowed), heavy cream and/or half & half. Dairy must be organic.
RULE 4: Choose fats wisely
For cooking and topping vegetables, use ONLY the following fats and oils:
Olive oil, organic butter, virgin coconut oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, sesame oil, macadamia nut oil, drippings from bacon, real mayonnaise, or rendered fats from chicken or meat.
What isn't allowed is anything that contains canola, soybean oil, vegetable oil, partially (or fully) hydrogenated oils or corn oil.
Two exceptions: Salad dressing is one exception to this rule if one is using commercial dressing - canola based dressing is allowed in this case, if the carbohydrate content is 1g or less per 2-TBS serving. Real mayonnaise is the other exception if you cannot find one that is made with the acceptable fats/oils.
The meats and animal foods consumed have fat content, so added fats/oils should be used to top vegetables and salads and the amount should be individualized to meet calorie intake minimums. Adjust fats & oils as appropriate with weight loss. If you are using an online food journal to keep track of things, like FitDay.com, the percentage of calories from fat will be high - greater than 60% each day, sometimes as high as 70% or more.
RULE 5: Eat Enough Plant Foods
Plant foods - vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, legumes - provide variety and also are nutrient-dense. The same cannot be said for most grains, so while you're losing weight, avoid grains, but eat enough of the allowed plant-foods each day to keep things interesting.
As a rule of thumb, absolute minimum of non-starchy vegetables each day is 3-cups - choose whichever non-starchy vegetables you wish and top with whatever fats/oils you like, season however you want.~ You may include up to 6-cups of non-starchy vegetables each day if you wish. Herbs and spices may be used as desired.
You may also include up to 1-cup of select fruits each day - any type of berries, canteloupe, honeydew melon or tomatoes.~ The caveat with the fruit is it must be accompanied by a protein-fat food, like cheese, yogurt or meat.~ For example, if you'd like 1/2 cup of blueberries, enjoy them in a 1/4 cup of plain whole milk yogurt topped with a tablespoon of walnuts or pecans, or in 1/4 cup of heavy cream.
You may also have up to 2-ounces of any nuts/seeds each day.~ Nuts you may have include: walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and macadamia nuts; also nut/seed butters are an option. Two that are not allowed are peanuts (legume) and cashews. If your current body weight is greater than 300-pounds, you may include up to 4-ounces of nuts if needed to bring calories up to meet BMR.
You may include up to 15 olives in a day - green or black; and/or 1/2 an avocado; and/or 2-TBS of legumes (chickpeas, red kidney beans, navy beans, peas, etc. - but no peanuts).
Essential Nutrient Insurance
While it's definitely possible (and not all that difficult) to plan menus with 20g to 60g net carbohydrate and all the essential nutrients we need, it's not something someone new to low-carb does well without practice, and even those who have followed controlled-carb for a period of time sometimes miss hitting nutrients that are essential because they don't know which foods are best to include for nutrient-density. So, rather than write a book about this, an unofficial "rule" - it's a good idea to include some "essential nutrient insurance" in your day....two key vitamin supplements:
A. Basic multivitamin-mineral complex that is not a "mega"....choose a capsule vitamin, not the brick-hard type; it should include 100% of RDA, but not "mega" levels.
B. Cod Liver Oil and/or Fish Oil; depending upon time of year and where you live. During the winter months - mid-October through mid-April, if you're in a central or northern latitude, use cod liver oil; all others in sunny year-round locations, get sun and use fish oil instead; during mid-April to mid-October use fish oil if you're in a central or northern latitude while also getting your sunshine!
Dose is generally 1-teaspoon per 50-pounds of body weight, with a maxiumum of 1-tablespoon per day.
For those with significant weight to lose - 50+ pounds - it can also help to include:
C. Chromium picolinate (200mcg)
D. Alpha Lipolic Acid (600mg) + L-Carnitine (1g)
E. Krill oil capsules (500mg) [do not include if you have a shellfish allergy]