lowcarb protein weightloss fitness
June 15, 2009 2:44 PM   Subscribe

Half a day on a low-carb diet and I already feel like hurling. Advice?

Ok, so I'm wondering if a low-carb diet - 25% carb, 40% protein, 35% fat - is a bad idea for me. It's only been half a day and I feel heavy and nauseous. I can suck it up ( I elected to do this, right?), but I could use some advice.

Maybe my feeling ill is just sqeamishness? To my mind (and palate) meat is ok, large quantities - gross. Lots of fat - really gross. Protein shakes without soy milk and fruit - gross and indigestable. Fish - mostly gross. On the positive side, I love tofu and nuts. And shellfish. Eggs are ok.

Anyhow, why low-carb then? Because despite my best efforts, I've only lost 2 pounds after 9 weeks of effort. I'm 5'2, 136 pounds, 29, female. I've been eating about 1400 cal/day, doing cardio (walk/jog/bike) 3 days a week and weight training another 3 days a week. On top of this, I also walk from work to the gym (40 min) 5 days a week. With only four weeks left to really work it before my vacation, I figure I need to switch something up. I'd love to lose 5 pounds. Is that too much to ask!!!!? So - I plan to maintain the same amount of exercise and the same number of calories, but switch to a low-carb diet. From what I've read, it's a pretty surefire method.

My question is this: will this feeling of grossness fade over the course of a few days? Advice for mitigating the yuck? Your low-carb success stories for encouragement?
posted by kitcat to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm just guessing here that any diet that is 35% fat is going to be pretty icky. But, uh....

Try adding cheese, avocado, and nuts anywhere you can. A good dish that can be made any way you can imagine is a frittata. Scramble 6-8 eggs, mix in meat or tofu or whatever you like. Bake at 350 till the eggs are nearly completely set, then sprinkle cheese on top and set under the broiler till cheese is bubbly and brown. You can fit pretty much any combination of meat and whatever else you're allowed to eat, and it tastes fantastic.
posted by Night_owl at 2:49 PM on June 15, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, Night_owl. That reminds me - with no crust, how do I not burn the bottom of a frittata?
posted by kitcat at 2:52 PM on June 15, 2009

Seconding nuts and cheese, avocado if you like it. Can you use almond milk or oat milk in your protein shakes?

(I don't think your tags are going to be very useful for people searching for low-carb, high-protein diet threads in the future.)
posted by headnsouth at 2:55 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

That reminds me - with no crust, how do I not burn the bottom of a frittata?

Provided that you don't burn the bottom while the eggs are on the stovetop -- and you won't, provided that you cook them on low heat, like you should always do with scrambled eggs -- you won't burn the bottom while it's under the broiler. That step is only going to take 2-3 minutes.

posted by mudpuppie at 2:55 PM on June 15, 2009

I'm no expert, but could it not be that you are losing fat but putting on extra muscle?
posted by fearthehat at 2:56 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've happily eaten diets with 60% fat, so it can be done.

This is probably something you just need to get used to, especially if you've been eating high-carb, low-fat. Fat and protein are far, far more filling than carbs, so your body and appetite are naturally going to gear you towards eating less food. If you are having trouble meeting a certain calorie requirement, try eating smaller meals.

As for not liking all the meat and stuff, I'm not sure what to tell you--perhaps try lighter, less fatty cuts, like chicken breasts?

(Regarding a frittata, I always learned to make them without crust--you scramble the eggs until they're almost done with whatever non-cheese filling, then throw it in a baking dish, mix in the cheese, and bake)
posted by Anonymous at 2:59 PM on June 15, 2009

Eat almond butter out of the jar.
posted by jgirl at 3:01 PM on June 15, 2009

You can either do as mudpuppie suggested or just cook them through in the oven, without even starting them on the stove. It may take a little longer, but it's harder to burn.
posted by Night_owl at 3:04 PM on June 15, 2009

Are you measuring & writing down everything that you eat? 5 pounds in 4 weeks is absolutely doable, but you need to create a regular caloric deficit between what you consume and what you expend.

It's very easy to underestimate food intake and over estimate energy expenditure.
posted by burntflowers at 3:04 PM on June 15, 2009

Do you have a food scale? How carefully are you measuring your portions? I suspect the scale is not moving because you're miscalculating your caloric intake.
posted by telegraph at 3:07 PM on June 15, 2009

Can I make a suggestion that takes you in a totally different direction? I read this quote in your Question:

"To my mind (and palate) meat is ok, large quantities - gross. Lots of fat - really gross. Protein shakes without soy milk and fruit - gross and indigestable. Fish - mostly gross. On the positive side, I love tofu and nuts. And shellfish. Eggs are ok."

And the first thing I thought was: Go vegetarian/vegan! Or, you could go "pescatarian" to keep the shellfish in your diet, if you really love it.

I'm aware that my suggestion is somewhat at odds with the current trend in dieting advice, which is that carbs=the devil! And while I agree with South Beach/Adkins et al. that refined sugars are a bad idea for dieters, other carbs (namely vegetables, whole grains, and fruits) should (in my opinion) make up a significant portion of any healthy diet. The good thing about eating a diet that is plant based is that you can eat a larger volume of food to get your target amount of calories in. Ideally, this leaves you more full and feeling less like you are starving yourself.

Anyhow, I don't want to take up too much space with a suggestion that is somewhat at odds with your question. On the other hand, if my answer piqued your interest at all, I suggest you borrow a copy of T. Colin Campbell's book The China Study for a more thorough exploration of the health benefits of a plant-based diet. He's a pre-eminent researcher at Cornell on the subjects of nutrition and epidemiology, and a chapter of his book is devoted to the links between meat and obesity.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 3:20 PM on June 15, 2009

Use lighter meats like chicken, as suggested above, and whiter, flakier fish which tend not to taste so fishy. Also mix it with non-meat, but still high-(protein/fiber/fat), things like hummus. Oh yeah, in the general case - fiber is "good" too on these types of diets, though it's technically a carbohydrate. It is processed very slowly and helps regulate blood sugar and prevent spikes in appetite. This should help you add some options - like whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes, and brown rice (in small quantities of course).

Have you calculated your basal metabolic rate? Are you sure that 1400/day isn't too LOW? It could be throwing your body into starvation mode where it thinks you need to pack on the fat to rebuild your buffer.

Also, realize that "high fat" includes things like olive oil, not just beef and pork and dairy.
posted by rkent at 3:24 PM on June 15, 2009

Half a day? Seriously?

Half a day is a meal, maybe 2? And your body is already reacting negatively? Perhaps you're just ill.
posted by Rendus at 3:26 PM on June 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

1400 calories/day is way too little with the amount of exercise you're doing. I would be really surprised if your body was willing to give up any weight under those conditions.

I would suggest not going on a fad diet, but instead realistically assessing your energy expenditure versus calorie needs. A website that I personally love for doing this is My Food Diary.
posted by sickinthehead at 3:28 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Rendus. Food poisoning can occur within a few hours. And it might not even be what you ate, but something you touched then later introduced into your system. Definitely something to consider.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 3:37 PM on June 15, 2009

Based on your activity level: You should consume about 1,507 calories a day to reach your goal weight of 128 lbs This is at a reasonable weight loss average of 1 lbs per week, which should be reached by August 11, 2009.

Experts recommend weight loss at the rate of 0.5-2 lbs/week. Remember that this estimate is based on your body weight, height, age, gender, and activity level. It may vary slightly depending on other factors.

Generally, women should not consume any less than 1,200 calories per day, and men should not consume less than 1,500 calories per day.

Want more? Create a free Calorie Count account, and gain access to advanced analysis tools, food and activity logs, a journal and our community features.";


Don't worry about carbs\fat\etc...you just need to count calories.
posted by zephyr_words at 4:52 PM on June 15, 2009

Best answer: 25% carbs is not really all that low. 35% fat is not really all that high. This sounds like a pretty much normal diet (equivalent of four servings of pasta per day for a 2000 calorie diet).

If you really want to do low-carb, I suggest you buy, read, and follow an actual low-carb diet plan.

But, as for quick weight loss, don't count on it. You're already pretty low and since you've been dieting and exercising, you're not likely to get a huge boost from starting a different plan. Still, a pound a week shouldn't be too difficult if you up the intensity of your workouts.
posted by paperzach at 5:01 PM on June 15, 2009

Best answer: Seconding that this diet isn't really low carb as much as it is... normal. What specifically have you eaten that is making you feel gross?

Because just anecdotally, I tend to feel lighter and brighter when I keep my carbs in that range. Or lower.

What you may be experiencing is the lack of blood sugar swings? Some of us are so used to the carbohydrate ups and downs that when they aren't around, we don't feel "right".
posted by gjc at 5:12 PM on June 15, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, all. Just a quick follow-up: from the get-go, my calculations pretty much matched zephyr_words. I bumped my calorie goal down to 1400 for extra oomph. It's unlikely that I'm overeating - I've been going more with packaged stuff than cook-at-home specifically because of the nutritional info.

Am I undereating? Who knows.....like I said, I did the calcs and I've been feeling full enough.

I ate boiled eggs with mayo for breakfast, followed by a snack of kolbassa and another snack of protein powder mixed with water before I wrote. Later, I had a frozen dinner (shrimp with pasta) - and that had 38 grams of carb.

I still feel kind of sick to my stomach and have little desire to eat, but I'll stick with it. Maybe the food poisoning theory has some merit. I like gjc's idea about no-blood-sugar-swings wierdness, though.

I'm only allowed 89 grams of carb on this diet. I guess it's doable, just tough since I'd rather be eating more fruit and veggies. I think more planning is in order for me to accomplish this. E.g., save the carb grams for fruit and veg.

I'm heartened to hear that some of you thing this is a 'normal' diet. Hats off to you!
posted by kitcat at 6:21 PM on June 15, 2009

You might try going for raw foods instead of low carb. More of what it sounds like you enjoy eating.
posted by misha at 6:44 PM on June 15, 2009

Response by poster: Oh yeah - and the muscle gain thing is a great point, but I want that wonderful muscle to be visible underneath the fat! The scale's gotta budge a little bit more.
posted by kitcat at 6:49 PM on June 15, 2009

Mayo, kolbassa, protein powder, frozen food? I'd be feeling sick on that, too. If you'd rather be eating fruits and veggies, do it - it sounds healthier and better for you than what you're currently eating. Just stay away from breads and eat some chicken and lean meats, too.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:54 PM on June 15, 2009

Best answer: Bleah. Yeah, I agree - that menu would have made me want to hurl, too. If you're gonna go THAT low carb, the best thing to do is cut out all pasta, breads, and grain products. If you do that, adding in lots more vegetables shouldn't be too hard to do and still remain within your carb limits. Here's a list of vegetables grouped roughly from lowest carb content to highest. You can find similar lists all over the web.

Greens are especially good. Greens are your friend! They are packed, PACKED with nutrients, and they are super-low in carbs.
posted by Knicke at 7:19 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 89g of carbs isn't that low, and I probably eat 35% fat a day most days. It'll take some getting used to, and yes, eating low-carb can be slightly nauseating at first. But one of the benefits of lower-carb diets is that you should be able to eat fewer calories because you aren't as hungry, and while 1400cal/day is fine, you shouldn't feel like you have to force yourself to eat that much if you aren't really hungry.
I wouldn't try and push yourself to do 3days/week of cardio though, especially if it is at all intense. Trying to eat low-carb and do intense cardio is really hard in my experience, and kind of counter-productive.
What was your carb ratio before this diet?
posted by ch1x0r at 7:19 PM on June 15, 2009

Response by poster: I'll venture a guess at my previous ratio (only for the past 9 weeks, as I was thinking - a calorie is a calorie is a calorie):

55% carb, 30% protein, 15% fat
posted by kitcat at 7:38 PM on June 15, 2009

So you've more than halved your dietary carb content, and I guess you've probably cut all those simple carbs you were depending on for your sanity... yeah, that can make you nauseous. If it makes you feel better, I would be very surprised if you didn't drop water weight on this low-carb diet that will make you feel awesome in a week or two. Just be sure to keep it up till vacation. It's berry season, so my advice is to stock up to the gills on those and use them to stave off all but the worst carb cravings. And relish the fat uptick, nuts and nut butters can also help.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:06 PM on June 15, 2009

Best answer: Buy Doc Atkins' book. It will help you understand the science and reasoning behind the low-carb diet.

What I use as a general guideline -

1) Avoid starches and sugars like the plague - no beans, grains, pastas, potatoes... at all. Even tomatoes and fruit should be done in moderation. Save your carbs for the green stuff.

2) Two cups of vegetables a day. At the very least. This will counter-act the heavy feeling, keep you feeling full, and prevent, ahhh... irregularity. A mixed-greens salad with a simple olive-oil-and-basalmic vinegarette, topped with some nice Kalamata olives and crumbled feta and almond slivers. If you feel "heavy" after that kind of lunch, yer doin' it wrong. Bonus points: freakin crazy awesome tasty. I watch all other carbs like a hawk, but I let all the veggies I want into the diet. It helps rather than hurts weightloss and general health. With dinner, mix your shrimp in with sauteed spinach instead of noodles. So good...

3) Lots. Of. Water. Iced tea is a fine way to get it, despite the good doctor's dislike of caffeine. (Avoid diet sodas and the like, it will only make you hungry and crave bad things, in my experience.)

4) Don't force the fat or the meat into your diet, do it with grace. Try your eggs with canadian bacon instead of mayo, and sliced pepperoni and cheese for a snack. Get your protein from cold roast chicken or a slice of lox instead of powder-mix in the morning. Eat things that are low-carb because they are delicious, not because it's protein and fat and you're trying to meet some sort of quota.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:50 PM on June 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'd be feeling absolutely disgusting if I ate the amount of sodium you've just described.

I also think that you're eating too little. At your size, your body may not want to lose weight, and wacky processed diets are not going to help you.
posted by decathecting at 8:52 PM on June 15, 2009

You can probably drop a couple of pounds by eating less processed food and drinking more water. Processed food has a significant amount of salt in it and can cause you to bloat.

I've also heard good things about Making the Cut by Jillian Michaels. It's specifically for losing the last few pounds.
posted by kjs4 at 9:20 PM on June 15, 2009

That is absolutely not a low-carb diet. Buy Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution if you want to know more, and stop eating that nasty processed food in any case...it's not doing you any favors.
posted by bink at 10:19 PM on June 15, 2009

Honestly, if it's making you feel sick, I'd say stop. If the whole point of losing weight is to be "healthy," then what's to gain by following an eating plan that makes you feel ill?

Your fat % is not wildly divergent from normal, no. But you have substantially changed your carb/protein ratios, though they still mightn't be as extreme as some low-carb diets.

The Dietary Reference Intakes gives an Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range of 20-35% fat, 45-65% carb, and 10-35% protein. The RDA for carbohydrate specifically is 130 g per day, and for protein is 46 g per day. 89 g of carb/day may not be enough for you to function properly. Your brain requires carbohydrate for basic energy needs (via glucose.)

According to a quick HBE calculation with an activity factor of 1.5, you require somewhere around 2100 kcals per day. At 1400, you're definitely going to feel it -- this might even be what's making you feel ill.

The thing is, pay attention to what your body is telling you. If I were in your situation, I'd be asking myself why I felt the need to lose weight. What is it that you're trying to achieve? Better health? Better stamina? Better body image? Strength? Looking good in your bathing suit on vacation? What, exactly?

Because there are ways to achieve those goals that aren't going to make you feel sick, or like you're fighting a losing battle with your weight along the way. I really don't mean to pee on your parade, but if it reaches the point where you feel frustrated and like you're struggling, it could be time to re-evaluate the entire premise, and look into intuitive eating.

Anyway, whatever you decide, good luck. I hope you enjoy the hell out of your vacation, because after this, you definitely deserve it.
posted by peggynature at 8:31 AM on June 16, 2009

I'm no expert, but could it not be that you are losing fat but putting on extra muscle?

Not on that diet, no. Nthing that this isn't really a low-carb diet, though. Stop eating processed foods. Eat whole foods that you cook for yourself. If you're allowing yourself 25% carbs, there's no reason you can't put fruit in your protein shake.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:24 AM on June 16, 2009

Best answer: I ate boiled eggs with mayo for breakfast, followed by a snack of kolbassa and another snack of protein powder mixed with water before I wrote. Later, I had a frozen dinner (shrimp with pasta) - and that had 38 grams of carb.

Echoing all the other recommendations to read a book or three on low-carb dieting.

Caveat: I'm not a doctor or a biologist or anything, just someone who's researched and followed low-carb diets before. Examine my claims skeptically.

Most people encourage using an "induction" period at the beginning of a low-carb diet, that is extremely strict. I know this sounds odd, but restricting carbohydrates to under 40g a day for the first few days can be very helpful in making the diet bearable. Something like a frozen shrimp with pasta dish should be a once a week treat, after a couple of weeks on the diet, when you've slowly raised your carbs up to something less than 100g/day.

For someone who doesn't much like meat and fish, for the first few days, I'd suggest something like:

- Breakfast: an omelet with cheese, mushroom, and broccoli.
- Lunch: a chef's or Cobb salad with no croutons and plain oil and vinegar for dressing
- Dinner: a garden salad with no croutons and plain oil and vinegar for dressing, and a chicken breast or a small steak or a filet of some fish you can stand eating or two dozen clams/mussels/oysters, with more broccoli or cauliflower.
- Snack: hard-boiled eggs and dry roasted edamame -- but only like 1/4 cup
- Dessert: sugar-free Jello

The idea here is to avoid any foods that are going to spike your insulin, and to include plenty of fiber in every meal to help further tamp down blood sugar changes and make you feel fuller. I find that avoiding processed meats is good at first, because all the sodium in them can hide any losses in water weight, and many include some sugar. Be careful about going overboard on nuts and cheese, as they are very calorically dense. Remember that all carbs are not created equal. Glycemic index and load are important.

Try not to look at things as "I can have X numbers of carbs today, so I can be good and then have them all in a carby dinner like pasta!" ... one reason ketogenic (low carb) diets are effective is the hormonal changes caused by avoiding any major spikes in blood sugar. With less insulin released, and more glucagon around, your hunger pangs will reduce, more of your fat cells are going to get tapped for energy, and less energy from your food intake will be stored in your fat cells.
posted by jbrjake at 4:17 PM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

I used to suffer from this problem as well! But you just need to buy those ready-made shakes and bars and soups (e.g., Tony Ferguson diet, Optifast, Celebrity Slim). They're yummy and packed full of protein. I'm not really a meat or fat person, I'm a carb person, so these shakes and bars do a really good job of approximating that and I don't feel sick. They're expensive for just one bar, but seriously try it for a few days and see how you feel.
posted by mjao at 6:12 AM on June 17, 2009

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