So, you have cut out all those pesky carbs, upped your fats and are following The LCHF Approach, but are not seeing the results you were expecting. Perhaps you have a health condition such as Insulin Resistance or PCOS which may require some extra vigilance to heal, or you may want to try and speed up your weight loss results. Part 3 of our Keto Approaches series delves further into some of the experimenting you can do to find the keto that works for you.
Net carbs vs Total carbs
The first step in refining your LCHF lifestyle can be to start counting your carbs. There are two different ways of counting your carbs: total carbs and net carbs.
Total carbs is when you are measuring all the carbs you consume in a day. Many in the Keto world use less than 20g total carbs as their goal each day. This can be pretty difficult as any vegetables will make this add up very quickly. It can be a little challenging in Australia to properly work out total carbs as the nutritional labels show net carbs .
Net carbs is the carbohydrate amount minus the fibre. Some people like to work on 20g net carbs per day as this allows you to increase your green leafy vegetable intake. Vegetables contain some carbs but they also contain fiber. To find out the net carbs of things like vegetables it is useful to use a tracking app as there is no label to refer to. For example, 1 cup of almonds has 28g total carbs and 16.2g fibre making the net carbs 11.8g.
See the example above, on the left (US version) the dietary fibre is nestled under the carbohydrate, this means the carbohydrate amount includes the fibre, so this is total carbs. The nutrition label on the right (Australian version) has the dietary fibre as its own entry (not nestled under carbohydrate). So the amount in carbohydrates is the net carbs.
It is your choice if you choose to count total or net carbs. When we first started we monitored our total carbs and found this was good for becoming fat adapted and learning carb amounts in foods. Net carbs can allow you more flexibility, variety and vegetables. Our advice is to experiment and find what works best for your body and health issues.
There are several different tools available to help count carbs. Here are a few of them.
- Very popular
- Has lot of different ingredients listed
- There is a free version
- Can be used on all devices
- Can share your diary with friends. This is great for a couple as one person can enter the meal and the other can just copy it
- Food can be added by anyone and you can often see the same thing added several times with different macros
- Not designed for keto and counting macros
- Paid version is $12.99AUD a month. This includes a nutrient dashboard, food analysis, calorie goals by meals, different goals each day, meal levels for macros, quick add for macros, goals for macros can be by grams or % and exclusive content. We have never used the paid version, but feel the cost is not worth the extra features, as we don’t feel we need them
- The free version does not calculate net carbs for you. It also can get confusing when using Australian products to know if the carbs are total or net
- Designed specifically for keto
- Has built in keto and low carb recipes
- The premium version allows you to set your daily carb limit and goals using the built in keto calculator. As the cost for the premium version is a once off we can see value in this versus the premium version for MFP
- Can be used on all devices
- There is a cost involved. For the basic version, the app is $2.99AUD and the premium version is $10.99AUD. Personally, I feel this cost would be worth it for the keto friendly aspect
- Can only be used on phone or tablet and not a desktop
Note: we have not used this app.
- Has a free version
- Desktop design is much easier to use than MFP. We have used both MFP and Cronometer to work out macros of our recipes and cronometer wins hands down for the design and ease of use to create meals.
- Premium version is $5.99 a month and this includes find what nutrients need a boost for the day, sort diary into custom groups, share food and recipes with friends and advanced analysis.
- Not having a share with friends option in the free version is a disadvantage over MFP. We have used this option when tracking as a couple with MFP and find it very handy.
- Not designed for keto and counting macros
Other tracking apps that you may want to investigate are Live Strong My Plate, CarbMaster, Fat Secret, Senza and My Net Diary. We don’t have any experience with these and would love to hear your experience about them in the comments.
Our advice would be to try one for a while and see how it works for you. If the one you are using isn’t working for you, try one of the others.
Experiment with Intermittent Fasting (IF)
After you have been following The Basic Approach for 1-2 months you will become fat adapted, meaning you are using ketones and fat for your main fuel source rather than carbohydrates and glucose. In this state, most people experience a dramatic drop in hunger compared to when they were using carbohydrates as their main fuel source. It can become natural to skip meals here and there as you are just not hungry.
Intermittent fasting it defined by having a set period of eating and a set period of fasting each day. For example, out of a 24-hour period we generally have our eating window between 10am and 6pm, and then fast between 6pm and 10am the next day. This is known as 16:8, which refers to 16 hours of fasting and an 8-hour eating window. There are many variations on this, 18:6, which is 18 hours of fasting and a 6-hour eating window, 20:4, 23:1 or OMAD and so on. Dr Jason Fung is the fasting guru and if you would like a more detailed explanation about fasting and the benefits check it out here.
The great thing about IF is it can be completely tailored to your schedule, social life and lifestyle. If, for example, you are not a morning person, you might feel like you can easily skip breakfast, just have your lunch after 12pm, finish your dinner before 8pm and you can comfortably fast from 8pm until 12pm the next day. Perhaps, like us, you are an early morning person, so eating dinner earlier suits you better as you are in bed early.
It can also vary day to day. Some days you may only fast for say 12 hours (overnight between dinner and breakfast) and other days you may follow 16:8 or 20:4. Switching it up keeps your metabolism guessing too, so try to avoid getting stuck in the same pattern. We would like to add that this may not work for everyone depending on any specific health conditions you may have. If you are feeling good and seeing progress, great – if not then fasting may not be for you.
This approach is about experimenting with tracking carbohydrates and intermitting fasting. You may find that one or both of these work for you and help you achieve your goals. If you feel you need to further fine tune your approach check out part 4 in the series, fine-tune.
- Keto Approaches Part 4 – Fine-tune
- Keto Approaches Part 3 – Experiment
- Keto Approaches Part 2 – LCHF
- Keto Approaches Part 1 – Overview
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