Does low-carb increase anxiety?
September 10, 2010 6:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm doing a nutrition and exercise coaching program through Precision Nutrition, , which basically slowly introduces 10 basic habits and a schedule of workouts designed to help lose body fat and build muscle. One of the "habits" is to eat starchy carbohydrates only after exercise. When I do this, I am really low energy, moody, and anxious. Has anyone else experienced this reaction while doing low carb eating? What can I do to prevent it?

More explanation: PN advocates lots of veggies, lean protein with every meal and snack, and starchy carbohydrates only after exercise. It's possible that some of the anxiety for me is coming from a past eating disorder- it's difficult for me to "diet" because it brings back some of the anxiety I experienced then. However, it would be helpful to hear about others' experiences with low carb, or Precision Nutrition in particular.
Thanks, all!
posted by mrstrotsky to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How long have you been doing this program? I did Phase 1 of South Beach for two weeks to kick start my weight loss program, and I was a mess for the first five days. Headaches, lethargic, grouchy. Then it suddenly passed - I guess my body was adjusting to not having crazy sugar swings - and the second week was much easier.

(FWIW, I switched from South Beach to Weight Watchers after Phase 1 because I didn't think SB would work for me long-term, but I've cut back overall on the amount of carbs and starches I eat. )
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:09 PM on September 10, 2010

I've been on a very low-carb diet for a few years now. My advice is to go heavy on the protein, and don't be too afraid of fat. I can see where "lots of veggies, lean protein with every meal and snack, and starchy carbohydrates only after exercise" could add up to a problem -- there's not much "there" there in terms of energy, and what is there (starchy carbs after exercise) may be contributing to an insulin spike and subsequent crash.

Based on my own experience, I would swap the after-workout starchy carbs for a whey protein shake made with 2% or whole milk and/or a protein-heavy meal. Include a big portion of veggies in your meal -- something like green beans, cauliflower, or carrots will give you some carbs, but a lot less than you'll get with rice or potatoes. And don't be afraid to have some pork, lamb, a little beef, etc. now and again... despite what people say, living on boneless skinless chicken breast is not all that conducive to building muscle. Your body needs some fat to provide energy (especially in a low-carb diet), to stimulate testosterone and other hormones, and to help turn protein into muscle. If you really want to stick with lean meats only, taking some fish or flaxseed oil as a supplement with dinner might help increase your energy level.
posted by vorfeed at 8:06 PM on September 10, 2010

Switching to low carb takes quite an adjustment. There is the physical craving, and then the mental too. It took me about two weeks to stop missing carbs when I switched into the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (no starch, no grains, no sugar). After that it was easy. But the first couple weeks sucked. It may have been better if I did it gradually, but I bet it would still have been hard regardless.

As a teen I tried atkin's and failed miserably because I didn't eat the alternative foods regularly. therefore, nothing I could eat sounded good, and so I just ate way less. So keep an eye out on how many calories you're taking in as well.
posted by gilsonal at 11:41 PM on September 10, 2010

Also: reread and noticed you have an eating disorders background. Its good your conscious about how this triggers some of that old food anxiety. Just remember that these "rules" are more like guidelines, and try not to get too hung up on perfection. Dieters who are flexible in their rule usage are more likely to be able to lose and maintain weight loss.
posted by gilsonal at 11:44 PM on September 10, 2010

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