Have you tried eating a low-carb diet? Almost every woman I talk to has tried one type of low-carb diet or another. Yet, many are still frustrated and confused because they are not seeing their waistlines shrink nor are they getting rid of the roadblocks that hold them back from weight loss success.
When it comes to fat loss, it is totally true that eating a high-fat / low-carb diet is the best approach. However, especially for women ages 30+, an understanding of how certain carbs affect your hormones is the key to making a low-carb diet work for you.
The Big 3 Macros
We all need certain nutrients to grow, heal, make hormones and neurotransmitters, keep our organs functioning well, and to stay alive. Think of nutrients as “fuel” for your body and all its processes.
Macronutrients are the larger nutrients that all food is made up of – carbohydrates, protein and fat. The ratios of macros in all foods differs depending on the food itself.
To produce energy for our cells to keep going, we need all the macronutrients to varying degrees.
We also need micronutrients to ensure that the health of all our body systems is maintained to its best levels. Micronutrients include vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals.
The Importance of Protein
Protein is probably your most important macronutrient if you want to ditch a few inches. It takes the most amount of work or energy to break down, which means your body burns energy to digest it. And, because it breaks down slowly, it keeps you feeling full for a lot longer.
Women who follow a low-carb diet generally get enough protein. Depending on your activity level, you need 15-25% of you daily caloric intake to be protein.
Protein is needed for growth of muscles, tissue repair and immune function. It also helps to preserve lean muscle mass, which is super important for blood sugar and insulin balance and, thus, fat loss!
If you eat a very low-carb diet, protein can be used as energy as a last resort.
Protein isn’t just in animal products. You can find it also in nuts and seeds, beans and legumes and some starchy vegetables.
The Low-Carb Diet Master Macronutrient
When you start a low-carb diet, you have to replenish the lost nutrients and calories with something else.
Your best bet?
Fat is essential for survival. Your hormones rely on healthy fat to stay at a healthy balance, which is KEY to successful long-term fat loss.
A diet high in healthy fats, approximately 60% of your daily caloric intake, helps to keep your blood sugar low and helps to boost your main fat burning hormone, glucagon.
Yes, dietary fat has a bit of a bad rap. And today a lot of people are not eating the best quality dietary fat, which is causing a LOT of health issues. Toxins are stored in body fat, so choosing a lot of animal products to fill up your daily fat quota may end up causing you some problems down the road.
Instead, choose mainly plant-based, un- or minimally processed fats. The best choices are olives or extra virgin olive oil, full-fat coconut milk or coconut butter or organic virgin coconut oil, raw nuts or seeds, and avocados and avocado oil. Whole eggs, wild-caught salmon, sardines, nitrate-free bacon or sausage (in small doses), and mackerel are also good.
Avoid processed vegetables oils like canola, safflower, peanut or soybean, and stay far away from trans and hydrogenated fats!
The decision to eat a low-carb diet can seem like an easy one. Most of the women I talk to tell me they eat low-carb diets because they don’t eat bread or pasta anymore. Unfortunately, a lot also tell me they avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes or carrots (and have this idea that white potatoes are bad).
Here’s the thing:
Carbohydrates are your third main macronutrient and women need a decent amount to be at their healthiest.
The actual problem with carbs is not that they, themselves, make you fat.
It’s that your body can develop a sensitivity to carbs over time. Which means that, the more you eat, even the healthy carbs, the less your body can handle them.
All carbohydrates are broken down into glucose. Of course, the more fibre a food contains, the slower that carb digests. However, the end product is always glucose.
So, over time, as you eat more and more carbs, your body gets quite a bit of insulin. Then, eventually, your body stops responding to all that insulin, whose job is to remove glucose from your blood.
Hence, eating carbs can make you fat because insulin has to shunt all that excess glucose to fat cells for storage because your body won’t respond to insulin!
Healthy High Fat / Low Carb
So, of course it seems like the best thing to do to lose those extra inches is to ditch all the carbs in your life.
Only…you can’t survive long without some carbs. And, honestly, the low-carb diet craze has become very confusing!
A woman’s body, with her unique hormonal levels, needs a certain amount of carbs. She can likely get away with eating low-carb vegetables and fruit and still lose weight and feel healthy. But she has to also choose foods that support her entire endocrine system, not just blood sugar.
One of the biggest mistakes I see women making when they want to lose the muffin top is to turn to traditional keto. This diet promotes too low of carb intake to keep your body safe and healthy; plus, the foods promoted in traditional keto are the very foods that create chronic low-grade inflammation and spike your stress hormone, cortisol.
And cortisol and inflammation both cause…belly fat!
If you really want to lose the extra inches and be as healthy as you possibly, you should follow a whole foods-based diet that is 100% focused on women’s hormonal health. You need to ensure that the macros inside the diet you’re eating support low insulin, low cortisol, detoxification of estrogen and boosted thyroid function.
Ideally, your macro ratio should be 20% carbs, 20% protein and 60% healthy fats, mainly from plants.
If you’re looking for a structured approach to fat loss that’s based on what YOUR body needs and that helps you make this a lifestyle change, check out my 40 or Less Method.