Low Carb Frequently Asked Questions - low carb and calorie counting?

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02-29-2008, 09:54 PM
Do any of you doing low carb also count your calories? So many theories out there.....I just don't know what to try but I'd sure like to boost the speed of my weight loss a little bit but I'm hesitant to decrease my calories below 1600 cuz I'm doing a fair bit of exercise.

I've been doing calorie counting (1600/day) for quite some time and the weight is coming off very slowly (less than a pound a week). This month I've been gradually dropping my carbs (from 150/day to 80/day to 40/day currently). No real weight drop experienced.

Current weight 240, 48yoa, 5'5", drinking 1.5-2L h20/day, exercising 6d/wk/60min (ST, HIIT & laps plus yoga/pilates a few days a week).

Any suggestions? Ideas?

02-29-2008, 11:00 PM
Kris, I hear that this whole weight loss thing gets a lot harder as you approach menopause. I'm getting a lot closer to it too so I feel your pain. I use fitday so I do track calories with my carbs but they don't have the same significance they do for people who are on calorie counting plans. Do you know what your BMR is? If you are doing that much exercise, you may actually need to eat a little more to keep your body from "thinking" it is starving. Just a suggestion. Good luck.

03-01-2008, 01:26 AM
I've been keeping track of calories and recently carbs as well, and I discovered that that I have to cut my calories much more drastically when eating high carb. This was a real surprise to me, because I really thought all calories were equal, but I'm finding that isn't true, for me. I've been diagnosed insulin resistant, and my doctors have suggested that low carb dieting seems to be more effective for insulin resistant patients. Still, I assumed it was a hunger issue, not a calorie one, but I was wrong. 1800 calories on a high carb diet, results in slow or no loss for me. On a low carb plan, those same 1800 calories result in much more rapid loss. In fact, some days I was exceeding 2000 calories and still dropping weight quickly. (I decided to try low carb dieting again to try and break my 350 - 360 plateau. During the low-carb week I dropped 6 lbs and finally was able to get under 350 lbs - after months and months of fighting the same 10 lbs over and over again).

I've noticed this before (that I can lose weight better on a low carb diet) but have had a hard time complying with the low carb diet, for a variety of reasons. Budget - hubby and I are on a very strict budget, and carbs are definitely cheaper. Fear - can't shake the common wisdom that low carb is unhealthy. Carb addiction (love those carbs). Stubbornness - I was convinced that calories were the bottom line and thought that I was unconsciously eating less while low carbing (which my food journal proved untrue). Habit - change is hard, no matter what you're trying to do.

But, I think I've finally come to grips with the fact that when I go off the low-carb wagon, I tend to undo all the progress I make. I do not know if this works this way for everyone, or whether being insulin resistant makes the big difference. But since I've been keeping track of the calories and have discovered that I can eat more and lose weight more easily on low carb, it's definitely boosted my motivation in sticking with the food plan.

I know there is still some controversy over the long-term effects of low-carb, but I figure I can monitor that as well, and change if I need to, based on the scale and my quarterly lab results. If at my next checkup my cholesterol or blood pressure go up, or any other important stats head in the wrong direction, then I'll make some modifications to my food plan.

I guess in my long-winded way, I'm saying don't be afraid to count both calories and carbs, and watch the scale, how you're feeling, and other measures of health (like cholesterol, blood pressure...) to determine what works best for your body.

03-01-2008, 06:18 AM
Thanks to both of you for your thoughts.

I calculated my BMR today from several different sites.....it was between 2100-2450. I figure I'm doing an average of 500 calories exercise per day. If I'm consuming 1600 calories per day that should give me the 2 pound a week weight loss I'd love to have......but, alas, my body must not know this. :o) It will be interesting on Monday to weigh-in and see how my 2nd week of less than 40 carbs per day went.

Kaploid - good job on your weight loss!

03-01-2008, 08:47 AM
Hi Kris,

I've been doing Atkins for nearly 4 years now....I'm almost 47 years old....I do walk aerobics as my form of exercise. I can honestly say, I've never counted calories....only carbs. My daily eating consists mainly of eggs, yogurt, salad, veggies, chicken, fish, pork, occasionally beef. I use real butter and extra virgin olive oil often. I drink a lot of water (approx. a gallon a day). I don't eat bread, potatoes, white rice, pasta, sugar, white flour....also, no caffeine.

If you think Atkins is something you would be interested in doing or perhaps you'd just like to learn more about it, get yourself a copy of Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution (2002 & prior editions). I'd also strongly suggest reading Gary Taubes Good Calories, Bad Calories as well.

All the best to you!!

03-01-2008, 08:58 AM
Kaploid-I have found the same thing to be true of low carb. I can also eat betweeen 1700-1800 calories and still lose weight but on high carb/low fat, I have to keep it around 1500-1600. Insulin resistance is probably one factor, but also think that "fat burning" is less efficient and that is part of it as well-you use calories turning protein and fat into carbohydrate containing compounds your body requires.

Kris-unless you are a very muscular man, that sounds like a very high BMR. Are you sure that isn't your AMR (active metabolic rate)? BMR is the number of calories required just to keep you alive-breathing, digesting, etc. I'm a little shorter than you but weigh about the same. Mine is about 1600. I haven't calculated the exact number recently. The general wisdom is that you should not eat below your BMR because this is the minimum number of calories your body needs to survive. Less than this and it believes it is starving and must conserve energy. Somewhere between there and your AMR should give you weight loss. Active Metabolic weight is BMR + activity level or some approximation of how many calories/day you are burning.

03-01-2008, 09:49 AM
I want to clarify that I don't think that most people need to count both calories and carbs. If you're very severely insulin resistant, or have serious compulsive eating issues, controlling calories as well as carbs might be necessary, but I think it's best to start with the assumption that you don't have to limit calories when you're restricting carbs - then modify your food plan if your body proves you wrong.

In fact, I think it can be dangerous to try to restrict calories too far while doing low carb (******* comes to mind). However, since you're concerned about eating too little, not too much, I don't think there's any harm in keeping track of both, even if only temporarily, to provide you with information on how your body works and give you peace of mind.

The reason I continued to count calories while counting carbs, was really more of an experiment. I was re-reading a few Atkins books that a neighbor had given me, and began wondering whether the reason I lost more easily on a low-carb WOE truly had very little to do with calorie restriction as the book suggested. In a sense, I was trying to prove Atkins wrong, but couldn't - it was an epiphany of sorts. I truly can eat more (calories, not just volume) and still lose weight faster.

03-01-2008, 03:48 PM
Petra, you're correct....I meant AMR not BMR. Oh, and I'm a woman and not all THAT muscular. :) The numbers I gave were after I added activity percents (I used sedentary rates on all calculations).

Jerseygirl, I think I've read all the Atkins books. The latest, Atkins for Life. I'll try to find a copy of the basic pre-2002 book and re-read it. I don't know why I'm hesitant to just dive into Atkins head-first. Perhaps because I've tried it before and although it seems to work the best of any food plan for me, I have never been 100% successful with it long term. I think I keep holding out that I can have a WOE that allows me to not rule anything out FOREVER. Then again, even with Atkins, I guess things don't have to be ruled out forever - just moderated so they don't cause re-gain, right?

One last thought - everything I read says that people that track their food have better success longterm (which is what I want at this point). I use fitday and that might be why I'm obsessing a bit on the calories. This week I think I'll try just writing my food DOWN - tracking carbs - and not worrying about the calories so much. I'll be my own little science experiment!

03-01-2008, 04:05 PM
Learning to stick with a plan that's working, even when it isn't working perfectly is sometimes a huge obstacle. In the past, I have had a tendency to give up on plans when I didn't experience 100% success. I was either completely compliant and "on-plan" or completely rebellious. If I broke a plan's "rule" it would drive me off the plan completely. Looking at diet and other health changes in all-or-nothing terms is a hard habit to break. You know, that feeling of "if I've had a cracker, I might as well now eat a huge piece of cake and keep eating every carb in the house until bedtime with the intent to start over tomorrow. or maybe Monday."

It isn't the small failures that keep us from success, it's believing small failures are big - and turning them into bigger ones because of it.

03-03-2008, 01:29 PM
I'm searching this site today as I'm new here. I too am insulin resistant, pre-diabetic, and haven't found a plan that works for me to get my lbs off. I will lose some (have lost up to 25lbs) and then plateau. My most recent plan has been through a gym that I belong to and it's a low-fat plan. But what I'm finding through reading is that low-fat is also high in carbs and not a good plan for me! I'm re-thinking some things and really want the support. Another thing I've found is not many people know what insulin resistance is or if they do, (this would be the books) they have THE plan and THEIR plan is the ONLY one that works. What to believe! ALSO---I would love to lose some weight and once that plateau hits---how do I get past it?? I can't seem to budge! I'm past menopause age and I think I'm moderately active with my gym involvement. I recently purchased a treadmill for at home so I don't have any excuses NOT to exercise. I generally do 40 minutes of exercise 3X/week plus have a stretch class that I participate in 2X/week.

03-03-2008, 01:48 PM
Have you ever read Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution & Gary Taubes Good Calories, Bad Calories? I think you'd find both very enlightening:)