I have to open up with this and you know the drill — you must get medical advice from your medical doctor before starting any diet or exercise plan and the information in this article is simply my opinions and relevant to my own weight-loss journey and experiences. If you follow any of the ideas, opinions, and strategies outlined in this article then you do so at your own risk.
The timeline for you to lose weight and body fat on a low carbohydrate diet (low-carb) will depend on many factors that I will outline and I am going to use this article as an explanation of how I started the diet, the success I had and the problems and challenges that went along with it, in the hope it will help and inspire your weight loss journey.
My weight loss journey
I am going to explain my weight loss journey timeline through using the low-carb diet to reduce my weight from 108 kilos to 91 over a period of around two years and keeping to the low-carb lifestyle ever since.
I have always struggled with my weight and right from early childhood — I think it is because I was raised by my Grandparents who experienced food rationing in the Second World War and simply felt the need to feed me!
Unfortunately, I loved this process of always starting my day with a plate of bacon, eggs and bread fried in the bacon fat (in the winter it was accompanied by porridge sprinkled with brown sugar), then going to school and enjoying the school lunches, which were excellent and when I got home, having a chocolate bar, can of coke and maybe a cake before sitting down to dinner when my mother returned from work, followed by yet another bar of chocolate and more coke before bed!
Now I did burn a lot of energy cycling to school and back, plus playing football during the breaks and lunchtime, plus after school with my friends, but with a clearly expanding waistline, I was on the wrong side of the energy equation.
At the age of seventeen, I learned Martial Arts and that is where things started to go in my favor, with regard to getting a little leaner and being around fit and strong people, the subject of diet and exercise came up often and that is where my diet and exercise journey began.
Over the years, I have tried literally every diet under the Sun and without any long-term success until I found the most effective method for me to reduce body fat and lose weight and it was through a low carbohydrate, high-fat diet.
However, I didn’t get the diet right first time and made one serious error!
Low carbohydrate diet attempt #1
I had come into the low-carb diet form a high-carb one and that was what most people thought was a healthy diet and one that world governments and most doctors were telling us to follow.
Looking at the breakfast to the right at that time would lead me to believe that I was treating my body well, fuelling it with all of the nutrients it needs and if you add the right amount of exercise then you were on to a “winner.”
Now I could never really get lean on that type of diet for the simple reason that you are always hungry and that is without the intense exercise I was doing at the time — I was an Olympic Weightlifter and training hard for competitions, so I needed to recover between my two weekly workouts and that meant eating right.
I started to follow a low-carb diet, but I replaced the carbohydrates that I removed, with protein — lean protein with no visible fats!
A typical day would involve a protein shake in the morning, then a breakfast of an omelet, made with 6 egg whites and one yolk, coupled with some vegetables, then another protein shake mid-morning, plus a lunch where I would have grilled chicken and steamed vegetables, followed by another shake, and then dinner, which was similar to lunch, but maybe with some fish and here I had a small portion of rice or a small baked potato, finishing off with yet another shake before bed.
…And I still could not get lean — I was also miserable and constantly hungry!
Low carbohydrate diet attempt #2
I stumbled across the Atkins diet by pure chance and now I was absolutely full-on with this weight-loss thing and ultra determined.
Moving from a miserable egg white-dominated omelet with a few vegetables, to the smiling plate of bacon and eggs you can see in the picture was bliss — now I was on to something. Adding the next meals were simple as I could eat anything I want as long as I stayed in the induction phase, which was to last a couple of weeks…and that is where I experienced the problems.
You simply cannot tell a competitive weightlifter, who has struggled with his own weight for most of his life, that he can eat all he wants, even if it is from a restricted food group.
I had rigidly followed the Atkins diet for the prescribed induction phase and gained 5 pounds — I was distraught and then fell straight off the low-carb wagon and back into my old eating habits and promptly ballooned in weight.
Remember that I am giving you my opinions here and I am not a scientist although I should be given the number of books I have read on health, nutrition, and biochemistry — the Atkins diet at this time stated that calories didn’t count as long as you stuck to the diet rigidly which I did and that is the mistake and lesson to learn — you cannot over-eat on a low carb or any diet as you will put on weight
Low carbohydrate diet…finally
After my Atkins demise and a couple of weeks of feeling sorry for myself, I was searching around a health and strength forum and found a guy named Dr. Greg. Ellis and his book Ultimate Diet Secrets, who had a similar experience with Atkins like me and promoted his own version of the low-carb diet, which was the one I stuck to and followed ever since.
I followed and adapted the information found in the book and that is what I am going to reveal to you in the article and in particular, the timeline to weight loss when you follow the low-carb diet correctly.
The basic premise of the diet is to lower carbohydrates and replace those lost carbohydrate calories with fats — saturated animal fat being preferred!
Sounds like a dream and it was and still is.
One of my favorite meals is to have a nice grilled steak, served with a portion of french fries and when I liven in the U.S., many of my American friends would have a similar meal, but instead of the steak, they would have a baked potato. Now you may or may not add some vegetables, but having this meal in a normal everyday diet can create havoc with the digestive system as the two food groups – meat and starches have different metabolic pathways.
This is why many people reach for the antacids after such a meal and it really isn’t the meal itself that proves the problem, but the carbohydrate content of the meal — “So what,” I can hear you way, “I still can’t eat the fries or potato if I follow a low-carb diet can I?”
Well you absolutely can and this is what I will describe, but first, we have to address the timeline issue.
Low carbohydrate weight loss timeline
The key to getting the low-carb diet to work for you is to become “fat adapted” and by that, I mean when your body starts to use fat as the primary fuel source of the body and not carbohydrates.
One thing you absolutely must do is to get hold of a calorie and carb counter book or app — you need to put the work in and find out and learn the numbers and you are concerned with the number of total carbs in what you eat and not just the “amount that sugars,” as this is a trick I am sure by the food companies to make you believe you are eating healthier. You can, however, deduct the fiber element in the food from the total carb amount.
I can tell you that as a sportsman, I was constantly fed the information that you need carbs to fuel your activity and I bought into this mindset for years — after doing the low-carb diet correctly, I was able to get a much better performance from using fat, but I hat to get my body to make the switch from carbs (sugar) to fat and for me it took 6 months!
Don’t be put off by this timeline — I took the process incredibly slowly, which gave me much better longer-term results and also it allowed me to ease into the low-carb diet and lifestyle without some of the side effects that can accompany it — feeling tired, dizzy, experiencing bad breath among others.
this is purely down to switching your body over too quickly and that is why I don’t like induction phases as in the Atkins diet, where you restrict your carb intake to twenty grams a day for the first two weeks — way too little for my liking and it is why so many people fall off the bandwagon.
So here is what I did to make the switch and I was eating around three-hundred grams of carbs per day and wanted to get down to sixty, which after my discussions with Dr. Ellis, I believed would be optimal for me. I must stress that this was personal to me and I did have the luxury of being able to speak to the man himself.
I didn’t do this strictly mathematically and went by feel — for the first week I took out fifty grams of carbs per day and felt fine, so I extended that to the end of the first month and I noticed a huge difference.
I then slowly reduced it until I could survive easily on two-hundred grams per day and then one-hundred and fifty and so on.
I experienced no side effects and a lost a lot of weight, but like most weight loss programs, I hit a plateau.
It was a trip to Mexico City that broke through that plateau and took me down to the lowest levels of carbohydrates during the whole period and this is where I experienced the best results.
My trip lasted two weeks and it was literally a return to the induction phase of the Atkins diet…but I had eased myself into this and my only concern was alcohol — I was keeping this to a minimum and sticking to dry white and red wine or whiskey and soda at the time.
In Mexico however, I knew there would be a lot of entertaining so I was concerned — I didn’t need to be however!
My meals were the same each day — a breakfast buffet at the hotel, an afternoon snack, and dinner. I also kept packets of nuts on hand to eat if I felt hungry.
The hotel breakfast alternated from American style bacon and eggs and a delicious mix of beef, chilies in a tomato sauce with cheese, which took me right through to the mid-afternoon.
Our afternoon snack was a plate of cheese, cured ham and spicy cucumbers with white wine to drink.
Dinner was either a large steak with salad, or grilled fish with salad, plus copious amounts of red wine and whiskey!
Returning from that trip I needed an urgent appointment with my tailor as all of my suits had to be taken in!
So don’t rush the process and make sure you cut down your carbs and not out at least at the beginning!
How to do the low carbohydrate diet properly
So you now know that calories count, that you must learn the values of foods in terms of calories, total carbs, and fiber, plus you must ease yourself slowly into the program and not go “cold turkey.”
I have found that if I keep my carbohydrates under twenty-five percent of total calorie intake, I can get the benefits of fat-burning without putting myself into a state of misery…but that is for me and fifteen percent is way better, ten is ideal!
So using that idea, let’s look at someone who is eating 2000 calories per day:
- 25% of 2000 = 500.
- 500 calories must, therefore, come from carbs.
- Carbs have a value of 4 calories per gram.
- So total carbohydrate grams per day = 125.
Now that is quite a lot of carbs to eat and given that an average slice of bread contains fifteen grams of sugar!
You can work the figures out for yourself from here, but my advice would be to aim for fifteen percent and then when you hit your weight loss target and if you indeed feel the need, up it to twenty-five percent and measure the results.
Now I want to make one thing clear — I could never live my life happily without carbohydrates as it is too restrictive…for me anyway. I have gone very low carb, to moderate carb and completely off the bandwagon so I am going to give you some tips and strategies to help you:
Establish your calorie needs
Weigh yourself and write down everything you eat and drink for a week and then re-weigh yourself at the same time and under the same conditions you weighed yourself at the beginning.
You know what comes next and if you need to lose weight or are even, then you need to create a deficit in terms of energy output and input. Dr. Ellis had a great plan and he called it the 100/100 plan — you increased energy expenditure by a hundred calories and took the same amount out of your diet.
A low-carb diet will actually see you reduce your calories by around thirty percent and that is because you will feel fuller, due to the amount of fat you are consuming and therefore naturally eat less.
Weigh yourself daily
As a businessman, entrepreneur and now coach and mentor I encourage all of the people I work with to measure their results daily — in that way you can spot potential problems before they occur and act very accordingly.
You need to do the same when it comes to weight loss — I used to track my weight daily so that I could see the effects of what I had eaten the day before. Now I am so accustomed to “feel” that I don’t need to.
Don’t fear carbohydrates
Carbs are not strictly the enemy — the amount of them that you consume are! I use carbs for flavor and not so much for food and depending on where I am within my daily carbohydrate allowance.
As I am writing this, for example, I am having breakfast, which today is a piece of cheddar cheese (about an inch square and a half-inch deep) and a cup of black coffee with one teaspoon of sugar (5 grams of carbs). At the moment I am looking to keep my carbs under eighty grams a day.
Some days I will have a bacon sandwich with my favorite brown sauce, which contains a fair amount of sugar and that will lead to a carb intake of over 40 grams, but that will be a treat and I will not have carbs again that day.
I may also have a sandwich and count carbs on the same day and also my favorite food of steak and fries — I will count the carbs in the fries in relation to my daily allowance.
So don’t have any fear of carbs or any foods for that matter — just concern yourself with the total volume of sugar you ingest in a day.
Forget about the “good carbs bad carbs” idea
All carbs are created equal — in terms of ending up in your bloodstream as pure glucose! Yes, that humble piece of broccoli will ultimately end up as sugar in your blood, but if you consumed like for like between a pound of table sugar and a pound of broccoli, you would have a ton less total sugar from the broccoli — it’s common sense!
Eating fruit is an exception because the fruit sugar fructose is metabolized in the liver and most of it turns into fat, which is not good. I do not eat fruit for this reason and nor do my children unless it is used as a treat. Look at this study to see the effects of fructose on the liver.
Berries are an example of fruits that have much less sugar, so I will occasionally eat them and what you are looking for here is to control the total amount of sugar you consume in a period, such as a day, rather than the type of sugar.
Another word of warning and remember that I am talking from personal experience and not giving advice, but if you are diabetic, it is essential that you talk to your doctor as you have more specialist needs.
However, the good news is that many people are making a positive impact on their type 2 diabetes through this diet.
Don’t exclude foods you enjoy
I found I had the greatest success with the low-carb diet when I lost my fear of carbs and forgot that I was on a diet. I simply tried to eat a normal everyday diet of the foods I love and enjoy, while keeping my carbs to within whatever limits I need to and as I said earlier, I aim today for around eighty grams per day.
I never worry about going out for a meal and even if I go to a pizza restaurant with my kids, I will enjoy a couple of slices of pizza without any concern.
Equally, I will eat a lovely Spanish paella and enjoy it and on some occasions, I will have to get back to my normal carb intake over a period of days, if I really blow it.
I went on one vacation where I simply fell off the wagon and I didn’t actually put on any weight, but I did feel terrible in relation to digestion.
I couldn’t wait to get back to my normal routine and simply worked my way back down to my target daily amount of carbs and I was firmly back on track, so don’t fear vacations, birthdays, thanksgiving, Christmas or whatever occasion you celebrate and simply work your way back down — you did it once to get started, so you know how to do it!
It is amazing how different you can think when the pressure is taken off you — the word “diet” instills fear, deprivation and a regime that most of us know already that we cannot stick to, so use the strategies here to keep you on track.
Protein and fat on a low carbohydrate diet
When you look at the carb requirements for the 2000 calorie diet above, you have 500 of them coming from carbs, which means we need another 1500 from other sources and that leaves protein and fat.
I had made the mistake with too much protein in my first attempt at the low carbohydrate diet and I should have dramatically increased my fat intake.
Let’s look at protein for a moment and I think got the best results eating around 50-80 grams per day, which was not a lot really and it meant another 200-300 or so calories, (protein yields roughly 4 calories per gram) which left me 1200 or so calories to obtain from fat.
I say “think” because it was an estimation as I will explain:
If we take cheese for example, then we have a mixture of protein and fat, so that would cover both parts of the calorie counts and in the end, I tended to forget about precise measurements of protein and fats, taking the position of eating meats with a high-fat content or if eating say a chicken breast, keeping the skin on and smothering it in cheese!
Don’t make the mistake of eating too much lean protein and avoiding fat and whilst we are on the subject let’s look at the fats that are good to eat and get the best quality you can afford:
- Butter, lard, Duck and Goose fat.
- Extra virgin olive oil — don’t heat this above 320 or so degrees as the oil will burn and go rancid, use it more on salads.
- Coconut oil — treat as extra virgin, but it will solidify so keep it for gentle cooking
- Unrefined peanut (groundnut) oil — I use it to fry as it is stable at high temperature
If you are worried about saturated fats and heart disease, then I suggest you research the subject in detail and draw your own conclusions — I am not and eat saturated fats freely with the exception of butter as I don’t like it!
A word on alcohol and the low carbohydrate diet
There is a lot of controversy on alcohol and I can only talk about my own experiences.
For me, there has not been enough research on the subject and there seems to be an almost deep fear and hatred of the substance when it comes down to health and the guidelines that exist today regarding the consumption of alcohol and the amounts, seem almost draconian.
I am amazed at the idea that a couple of glasses of wine a day can make you an alcoholic in some parts of the USA and that it is harmful to the liver, which is fine, but you must also look to the excessive consumption of carbohydrates and the effect on the liver, which nobody seems to want to do.
For me, I had no problem losing weight if I drank alcohol, provided I counted the carbs in my total calorie intake and I stay away from cocktails, which usually contain a lot of sugar and stick to white or red wine, vodka, whiskey, and the occasional beer.
Mostly I drink wine and if I drink beer I know that I must be very careful with the carb counts.
You have to do what is best for you and remember, this is about my journey and I will say that I would have probably lost weight much faster if I had cut out alcohol, but I have to have some pleasures in life.
There is not much to say about the low-carb diet other than you simply should not go into it “cold turkey” and take your time to get down to the number of carbohydrates you need to on your journey toward your weight loss goals.
It is a very easy process if you follow my path as described above and certainly not a painful one.
Keeping your total carbohydrate intake to around twenty-five percent of daily calories seems to be the upper end as to how many carbohydrates you should consume and for me, fifteen percent is better and ten ideal.
Don’t concern yourself about the type of carbohydrates you can consume, but more about the total volume of carbohydrates you eat in a day — in this way you don’t have to obsess about eating “good” carbohydrates, just the amount.
Get yourself a good calorie and carb counting resource and familiarize yourself with the number of calories and carbs that exist in the foods you eat and enjoy.
Calories count and excess will lead to weight gain.
Don’t forget to increase your increase in fats and especially saturated fats as you lower your carbohydrate intake.
Don’t obsess over food types and use carbohydrates more for flavor than food and enjoy the journey.
If you want to go into more detail or have any questions, then please don’t hesitate to get in contact with me.
All the best in your weight loss endeavors!