Have You Had Your Essential Carbs Today?

If there’s one thing that tends to upset people who come to see me more than anything it’s the idea of reducing carbohydrate intake. I don’t ask everybody to back off the carbs, but it’s safe to say that a vast majority get (at the very least) a short-term low-carb bootcamp. And while some take it with a sigh that indicates they kinda knew it was coming, and some are so keen and determined to change that they’re prepared to suck it up and do what it takes others look at me as though I’d asked them to slice’n’stirfry their dog (not saying you’d be one of these people of course).

The objections come in all shapes and sizes –

“I’ve tried that before and I just couldn’t do it. I felt too awful” (Detoxification hurts. But then you feel amazing. And you realize that what you thought your body ‘needed’ was actually the worst thing you could eat)

“Last time I gave up starch all my bloating went away, but it’s just not sustainable, is it?” (Um, yes. What would you have done if you lived in an era where processed grains did not abound? And don’t even get me started on the bizarre logic of those who admit it worked for them previously but yet still aren’t quite prepared to do it again)

“But what about fiber?” (Eat green vegetables. The stalky ones in particular are very fibrous, and excellent for detoxifying excess estrogen, otherwise known as butt and hip lard)

“It’s too expensive” (So is illness. Or the myriad of things you flash your cash for in an effort to feel better about yourself when you can’t commit to doing what it takes for optimal health and physique)

“It’s not practical. I work long hours – I don’t even have time for breakfast, let alone to prepare anything for during the day! And I don’t get home until after 7!” (Um, next time you complain about working late, don’t do it to your Personal Trainer – they hardly ever make it home before 9 or 10, and still find time to cook dinner PLUS their food for the next day. Long story short? Real food is for fuel, not fun or convenience. Only if you want results of course.)

“There’s not enough variety” (That’s just a fear-based perception. I’ve heard it said that the average Westerner eats only 18 different foods per year – sure, you might mix’n’match your grains so it looks like more, but grains and sugars – however they appear, and disregarding the fact that they’re actually the same thing – are grains and sugars. There’s only so many ways that cookie crumbles. You want real food; real variety? Beef, lamb, ‘roo, rabbit, pork, venison, duck, any game meat, buffalo, organ meats, eggs, fish, crustaceans, raw cacao, super-foods, green veg of at least 20 different varieties each season, real salt, and pepper, and full-fat dairy, and spices, and herbs, and coconut oil and coconut milk, and olive oil, avocado, beef – okay I said that but it’s just so good, and oh! olives, and so much more I’ve left off. Now that’s variety.

“It just sounds too tough. I don’t know if I can do it” –

And that’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? It’s the same with any great challenge we face in life. Invariably and most particularly with anything that threatens to actually make life better. It’s tough. It takes effort. Sacrifice. Commitment. And you don’t always know if you’ve got what it takes. You’re scared of what might happen if you try and find out. So you rely on vaguely remembered ‘evidence’ that eating low-carb is not healthy. Like that old chestnut about protein causing kidney problems. An idea based on a study in which participants with existing kidney failure were found to improve when they avoided sugar-based and processed proteins. So let me ask you this – and thanks to whoever it was I stole this analogy from, I can’t remember – just because going for a jog with a broken ankle is a terrible idea does it also stand to reason that jogging will cause your ankle to break? Do you see what I’m saying? And if you don’t then there are a myriad of resources just chock full of peer-reviewed studies proving conclusively that at least 75% of us can’t tolerate carbohydrate in any significant amount. Same just can’t be said about proteins and fats.

Essential carbohydrates? There ain’t no such thang.

Chew on that for a while.


21 responses to “Have You Had Your Essential Carbs Today?”

  1. Hugh says:

    I’ve tried very low-carb before, namely the CKG Diet, and I hated it. I had no energy, mentally or physically. So I went back and adjusted to only “healthy” complex carbs in moderation, and mostly in the first half of the day. I have found this is what works for me, especially since I workout or run for at least an hour a day. So my question would be – have you had success with very low-carb diets while training hard consistently?

  2. Karen Davey says:

    Im with you Kat, Day 2 of Detox for me and with a few false starts I am feeling more relaxed about it this time. To those that are skeptic I few days eating this way and then returning to a sugar filled world will show you the detrimental effects it has on your body and mind. It is a hard adjustment but one that is worth the effort and my best tip is get a great coach (ie: Kat) and if you fall off the wagon be honest get back on and try again.
    “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising everytime we fall.” Confucius.

  3. Due to insulin resistance and estrogen domance, my body doesn’t like “essential” carbs. I definitely do best when I get my carbs from vegetables. It is harder since I cant eat eggs and dairy, (and don’t like red meats) but its still doable.

  4. Oh, and I would love to do the boot camp with you too!

  5. peta says:

    Sign me up for bootcamp Kat, I’m ready and willing!

  6. Kathy says:

    Another follower for bootcamp Kat, im ready and set….

  7. Kat says:

    HI Hugh. Yes, I definitely have and I’d say absolutely that they can not only work for ideal energy but even enhance it in the long run. The key, however, is not just to eat low carb, but to include adequate protein and fat. I’ve found that’s where most people unwittingly go wrong. I forgot to link to that article in my post, and have just updated it. Check it out here – how to ‘do’ low-carb properly –

    Kathy, Peta, Carla, Karen (and Nic, you too!) – awesome to have you on board! I’m on day 4 today and have broken through the first few always tough days and feelin’ great. Today so far: first thing 100g chicken breast plus 6 almonds, postworkout: 3 scrambled eggs w. 100g salmon, some steamed spinach and 40g feta, early afternoon: 100g salmon and half avocado plus 6 almonds, late afternoon: half a roast duck with raw cabbage, spinach, fresh basil, plus oil and balsamic, 1/3 avocado, 3 teaspoons almond butter plus 2 tsp raw cacao/coconut oil spread (YUMMMMMM!) … now my final meal is cooking: chicken breast, which I’ll have with about 15 olives plus lightly steamed broccoli, celery, cauli and fresh coriander. How good does all that sound???? Make sure you set yourselves a protein goal of at least 4 (ideally 5) times per day, and just load up on green veg. Keep nuts to 40-50 max, and be careful with coffee. It’s fine, just that milk has 11g carbs for each 250ml, and your 14-day bootcamp should be based on less than 50g carbs p/day. Keep me posted!

  8. Frances says:

    At the beginning when I cut out ALL carbs & sugars my body went into shock as I don’t do things in halves! The problem was, as i discovered, is that there were certain well established pathways in my digestive system which dictated what my body did with food intake. Mostly it was turning a small amount of food into nrg & the rest was heading to fat storage & waste; hence the feelings of low nrg & extreme tiredness!!

    Now, almost 8mths on I’m really happy on a full protein eating plan & believe its one of the best changes I’ve ever made. I eat carbs & sugar once a wk if I feel like it & 70% organic dark chocolate helps me thru certain months… i find i crave nuts & yoghurt now!! So bizarre to the old me!!
    My next challenge is portion control & re-educating myself on foods that help regulate my endocrine system; that is once I settle back into a “normal” routine & stop traveling!!

    Bottom line, this blog has made me LOL as I used to use many of these excuses! Now I hear them from friends when we discuss my “radical” changes & hav to stop myself from sounding “hollier than thou” (i’m also a reformed smoker, so an interesting topic to start with me lol!)

    A big thx Kat as u helped kick start a really big personoal goal about a yr ago, I’m on an amazing journey & still loving it, with many more little goals to b achieved in 2010 😀

  9. Kat Eden says:

    My pleasure Frances, great to hear it is all going so well for you! I definitely get massive nut cravings as well now rather than sugar …. but I think that’s just cause I’m a PB addict!

  10. Kathy says:

    Don’t know how you guys are travelling, but fitting in 5 meals is the greatest challenge here! I know the metabolism loves it! Tonight’s dinner organic roast lamb seasoned w garlic, rosemary served cold with fresh chopped mint, rocket w avocado oil, organic fetta and olives!

  11. Hugh says:

    Thanks for the link, Kat. That’s a big help. I’ve been reading up on this lately b/c I’ve sort of plateaued with the way my body looks, so I need to change it up a bit. Also, I just read Laird Hamilton’s book and, although basic and simple, he really limits his carbs, even when he trains for 3+ hrs per day. So if it works for him, I know I can adapt.

  12. Thanks for the info and your menu plan! There is so much conflicting information out there, its hard to know what’s right: “too much protein is a bad thing, Americans eat too much of it, etc.”

  13. Kat says:

    Too much protein is only a bad thing (IMO) when it’s processed and/or combined with sugars … that’s when it can be heart disease on a plate. Pure natural proteins and fats are essential to health and metabolism.

    Hugh – you’re right in mentioning the word adapt. One thing I forgot to say in the post is that most people will feel absolutely shocking within the first week or two of reducing carbs. this is often when they want to pull out, but what is happening is that your body is switching energy sources and being forced to use existing fat stores. So it’s actually a really good thing, and you WILL get through it.

  14. Kat says:

    Kathy – YUM!! Nice work.

  15. Karen says:

    Day 6 almost over and feeling great this time around. How is everyone else doing? Five meals is difficult Kathy but little and often is the way to go. I usually just have leftovers or make sure I have a little meat cooked ready to go in the fridge add some avocado maybe some leftover green vege and the meal is done. Kat with my few false starts I dont seem to be getting severe adaptation signs this time. The little practice attempts have made it easier :).

  16. Kat says:

    I’m so proud of you guys 🙂
    Karen, isn’t it awesome how it just gets easier each time around?? Sounds like you are well and truly on track now!
    Today’s update for me …. started the day at 5.45am with half a fillet of baked coral trout, 6 raw macadamias, a little bit of shredded spinach. 9.30am 3 scrambled eggs, a little bacon, spinach, coffee (minimal milk). 2pm was more eggs, with feta and spinach. This was annoying – I was at my Mother’s group and we met at a local organic cafe (awesome place) but they’d run out of my planned salmon (how dare they!) and so I was forced to double up on eggs. I prefer keeping eggs to a minimum as they’re a high insulin protein and thus not ideal for fat loss bootcamps. Oh well 🙁 I came home at 5, and quickly scarfed down some leftover chicken with a few spoonfuls peanut butter and some crunchy celery and then was off to the local pool with my beautiful baby and my man. Where, I might add, I was severely admonished by a 4-year old for using my camera in the pool!
    Have just had a yummy dinner of cos salad, olives, celery and mushrooms, served with some fresh prawns and some grass-fed lamb. Feel great and didn’t even feel tempted by the crunchy bread in front of me on the table (Enzo won’t eat a meal without carbs and – lucky man – is one of the few people that actually manage carbs well).