Going low carb is very healthy as you remove all the bad carbs and sugar from your diet. That’s why low carb diets are so effective for weight loss.
Bad Carbs, also known as refined carbs include: white rice, white pasta, white bread and French fries. They use a lot of energy to digest, making you feel tired, bloated and foggy headed.
High Sugar Foods: soda, candy and commercial cereals, just to name a few, are the leading cause of obesity and type 2 diabetes. After eating, these foods are quickly and easily turned into fat and stored in your body. That’s why you put on weight.
Recent studies have found that low carb diets are effective for reducing CVD (Cardiovascular Disease) risk among individuals with diabetes. A different study also concluded that low carb diets are an effective way to lower triglycerides (the particles that store fat on your body) while boosting weight loss. More about studies, click here to scroll.
But, you don’t have to take my word for it, or blindly trust scientific journals and independent studies; you can experience the benefits yourself!
I invite you to join me on the 7 Days Low Carb Week Challenge.
2 Simple Rules
- Low carb meals: I’ve selected 3 low carb meals per day for the 7-day challenge for you to make and enjoy
- Avoid bad carbs: High sugar foods and beverages, alcoholic drinks, and refined carbs like white bread, white pasta, white rice and French fries.
I will guide you through everything you need to do. You only need to accept the challenge!
What foods to avoid?
It’s only a 7 days challenge, so in order to experience the benefits of a low carb diet, we will cut all high sugar foods and beverages. Avoid bad carbs and, instead, focus on vegetables, fruit and protein.
High sugar foods and beverages: candies, breakfast cereals, snack bars, granola, coke, sodas etc.
Alcoholic beverages: beer, whiskey, rum, vodka, mixed drinks etc.
Refined carbs: white bread, white pasta, white rice, bagels, crackers, French fries, Processed TV dinners, potato chips, donuts, pastries, pudding, commercial ice cream (prepare your own ice cream, recipe here), processed fruit juice (instead prepare homemade fruit juices or smoothies, recipe here).
If you are ever in doubt, always check the food labels for sugars and carbs. How to identify high food carbs? With 3 practical examples
What to eat?
Vegetables: cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, zucchini, onions, Brussels sprouts, carrots
Healthy proteins: fish, chicken, lean beef, dairy, eggs, and turkey.
Fruit: as much as you want. I always prefer to buy seasoned fruit.
Unrefined grains: quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, buckwheat.
Read more about good vs bad carbs and healthy alternatives to bad carbs in my article Good carbs vs. Bad carbs for Weight Loss
This challenge only lasts 7 days, but even though it’s only a week, you’ll still be impressed with the results. You just need to commit and follow the simple guidelines.
What can I expect once I finish this challenge?
Flatter belly: High carb diets are high in sugar; sugar makes you feel bloated.
Weight loss: Avoid sugar and bad carbs and you are guaranteed to lose weight in 7 days.
More energy: High carb meals are very energy consuming to digest. Fewer carbs results in easy digestion, so you’ll have more energy for concentration, exercise, and any other tasks.
Better cognitive performance: Less sugar to process results in more stable blood glucose levels and more energy, so that your brain works more efficiently. No more sugar-induced brain fog!
Lower risk for Type-2 diabetes: Less sugar in your blood results in less insulin, and studies have proven that this can help lower the risk of diabetes.
Less anxiety: Due to sugar addiction, your body is constantly looking for more sugar. This leads to anxiety. Once the cravings stop, your mind will become more peaceful.
What you need to do?
I highly recommend that you prepare your low carb meals in advance. That way you reduce the chances of excuses like “I didn’t have lunch so I have to go for a burger instead”.
With just a couple of hours of prep time, you can prepare all your meals for the week. Pick a day and start. It’s easier and quicker than you think. More about the benefits of planning meal in advance in my article Why You Should Be Planning Your Meals.
Put away the sugar: If, like me, you have a hard time avoiding candies, chocolate, and other high sugar foods, remove them from your kitchen, or put them in a box so you don’t have easy access to them. Cravings will come and go, and this way you reduce the temptation of grabbing something high in sugar to eat. Out of sight means out of mind! More ideas on my article How to Deal with Cravings When Eating Low Carbs.
Believe you can finish the challenge. Don’t give up. Always remember that cravings are only temporary. Some days may be tougher than others, but it will get easier, and you will get great results if you stick to the challenge.
Get ready for cravings!
By cutting out soda, candies, processed food, and alcohol, you are reducing your sugar intake. You’ll feel the benefits, but before that happens, you will get some crazy cravings.
Although many people don’t know it, we are living in a high sugar world. Sugar is present in many foods – even where you least expect it. Most people have too much sugar in their diet and don’t even know it. And don’t worry; the same thing happened to me.
The American Heart Association recommends 34 grams of sugar per day for an adult. One can of Coke contains 33 grams. Breakfast cereals can contain 10 grams of sugar for just one serving.
By reducing carbs, you reduce your sugar intake, and that’s why you lose weight. In simple terms, sugar is converted into fat in your body. By reducing your sugar intake, your body is much more likely to burn fat because you have essentially eliminated the main source of stored fat.
But, and we have to be prepared for this, your brain will crave sugar. Cutting out sugar can cause crazy cravings. You might not realize it, but you are addicted to sugar; most people are. You will probably find that you are more irritable and desperately looking for some sugar.
Don’t worry; cravings are powerful, but we don’t have to give in to them. If you have cravings, try not to think about it, and do something else instead. Occupy your mind with another task. As we are all very different, there isn’t one single behavior that works for all of us, but there will be something you can do that helps derail those cravings.
So, what can we do when cravings arrive?
“This is how willpower becomes a habit: by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time, and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives.” by Charles Duhigg, from The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.
I would like you to take a couple of minutes to think about what you will do when your cravings start demanding sweet or salty foods? What will you do when you feel like having a coke? A candy bar? A donut? Chips?
I can tell you what works for me, and maybe this will give you some ideas to get you started:
- I drink water
- I put on my headphones and listen to a specific piece of music I like
- I remind myself it’s only 7 days; I CAN DO IT!
- If I am at home, I do push-ups
- I brush my teeth and wash my face
- I write about what I’m feeling. It helps me let my cravings go
Anticipate what to do when the cravings arrive, so they don’t catch you off guard.
How to plan a low carb week?
7 days, 3 meals per day, all of which are low-carb. Reduce carbs, lower your sugar intake, burn fat, and lose weight. It’s as simple as that.
I’ve selected low carb recipes, published here in Days to Fitness, and elaborated on a calendar. All you have to do is get the ingredients and pick one day to prepare most of the recipes. Prepping your meals in advance is a good way to avoid eating junk/processed food for a week.
Low Carb Meals Week Planner
I’ve selected some of my favorite low carb meals from my Low Carb Recipes page, to create the meal week planner. You can find more there. Or you can upgrade your kitchen with one of my favorite low carb recipe books, click here to scroll.
Breakfast – Fruit with Greek yogurt
Lunch – Salmon with braised broccoli
Dinner – Mozzarella and tomato salad
Breakfast – Berry-flaxseed smoothie
Dinner – Guacamole
List all the ingredients you’ll need
I’ve created a simple document, organized by day-by-day, listing the meals and detailing the ingredients needed. This way you can send and save the document to your phone or print it, and then go to the supermarket and buy exactly what you need.
For each meal, I’ve also added a link to the recipe so you can easily find the instructions, pictures, and nutrition information.
You can download the list in the following formats
Word – click here to download
PDF – click here to download
My Favorite Low Carb Recipe Cookbooks
Books are always a very good source of useful knowledge and are an indispensable tool for learning.
I’ve read lots of different low carb books, but these three are my favorites:
- The Ketogenic Cookbook
- The Primal Low-Carb Kitchen
- The Complete Low-Carb Cookbook
The Ketogenic Cookbook
If you want a really comprehensive low carb book that explains a lot about low carb dieting as well as providing lots of awesome recipes, The Ketogenic Cookbook is hard to beat. Yes, it IS a little more expensive, but you get a lot for your money, including healthy eating plans to follow.
Learn more about this book on my detailed review here.
Or you can find it at Amazon.com
The Complete Low-Carb Cookbook
Combining decent value for money with plenty of tasty recipes, The Complete Low-Carb Cookbook is a good purchase choice, but is let down a little by the lack of an easy to navigate index. This is my least favorite book of the three, but it’s still very good and well worth the money.
Learn more about this book on my detailed review here.
Or you can find it at Amazon.com
The Primal Low-Carb Kitchen:
If cost is an issue, but you still want a lot of recipes in a great-looking book, I have no problem recommending The Primal Low-Carb Kitchen. The recipes aren’t the lowest in carbs, but they are low enough for all but the strictest dieters, and the reduced carb alternatives to favorite foods are great.
Learn more about this book on my detailed review here.
Or you can find it at Amazon.com
If you would like to check my detail review for each book, you can check my article Best Low Carb Books.
Which meals we will prepare in advance
I’ve selected easy breakfasts that are ready in five minutes or less, so you don’t need to prepare them in advance.
We have to prepare all the lunchtime meals in advance to make sure you always have the right food to eat, even when you are at work. After making, just put the food into a container and freeze it.
I usually have some time after work to prepare my dinner. If you don’t have that time, also prepare your low carb dinners in advance too.
Kitchen Time: Let’s cook some delicious homemade food!
Pick Saturday or Sunday to prepare your meals in advance.
Gather all the ingredients together, as well as the containers you are going to use too.
Start following the recipes. It’s perfectly okay to prepare several meals at once if you like.
As you finish each recipe, place the food inside the containers, and let it cool. Then place it in the freezer.
It will take you a little time, but then you don’t have to think about cooking and groceries for the next 7 days. This makes life easier and when it comes to eating healthier, easier is always best!
How to start This Challenge?
- Pick a day and mark it on your calendar.
- Buy the ingredients for all your low carb meals for the week
- Record your weight and measure your waist for comparison when you finish the challenge
- Start your Low Carb Week Challenge
After the challenge
I would like you to take some notes on how you feel, and the sensations and emotions you experienced during your week of low carb eating.
- Do you feel any different?
- How do you feel after the cravings are gone?
- Do you have more energy?
- Do you feel lighter?
- Is your mind clearer?
- What about your productivity and creativity?
- Do you have less anxiety?
However you feel, make sure you right it down – the good and the bad. I honestly expect the good to far outweighs the bad by a long, LONG way!
What recent studies say about low carb diets?
“Widely varying levels of carbohydrate intake have been effective for the target outcomes of improved glycemic control and reduced CVD risk among individuals with diabetes.” From Health Effects of Low-Carbohydrate Diets: Where Should New Research Go?
“Three low-carb meals within 24 hours lowers post-meal insulin resistance by more than 30 percent, but high-carb meals sustain insulin resistance, a condition that leads to high blood pressure, pre-diabetes and diabetes.” According to a University of Michigan study.
“The low-carb diet was most beneficial for lowering triglycerides, the main fat-carrying particle in the bloodstream, and also delivered the biggest boost in protective HDL cholesterol.” by Harvard – School of Public Health.
Questions and Answers
- Are Low Carb Diets just for weight loss?
Answer: While low carb diets ARE good for weight loss, they are good for your health too. Too much sugar and refined carbs are not good for your body, and even if you are the right weight, that doesn’t mean that high amounts of carbs and sugar aren’t hurting your health.
Lower carb diets have been shown to be very good for reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, high triglyceride levels, high cholesterol, and some cancers. In short, low carb diets will help you lose weight, but they are good for you in other ways too.
Still unsure if the low carb diet is for you? Read Why you should try a low carb diet and decide for yourself.
- Can I have bread?
Answer: White bread is definitely off limits for the next seven days; it’s highly refined and is virtually sugar in a solid form! Wholemeal bread is a little better, but it too is high in carbs. Personally, I try not to eat bread in any form during a low carb diet but, if you must eat it, have just a couple of thin slices during the seven days. Instead of bread, eat more vegetables.
In my article Low carb replacements for high carb foods, you’ll find some great low carb alternatives to high carb staples, including bread.
- What are refined carbs? Could you give some examples?
Answer: refined carbs are usually grains that have been through a lot of processing. They are often white i.e. white bread, white rice, and white pasta. Cookies, cake, candy, soda, crackers, chips, and pastries are all also refined carbs. If it doesn’t grow in nature, it is probably a refined carb. You can read more about this in my article the difference between simple versus complex carbs.
- What low carb recipe book do you recommend?
Answer: I have read lots of low carb recipe books, and have also produced a whole series of low carb recipes right here on Days to Fitness. But, because I know readers like it when I review and recommend products to them, I reviewed My favorite low carb recipe books here.
- What is the low carb flu?
Answer: The low carb flu happens when you eliminate carbs completely in what is called a ketogenic diet. Your body likes to use sugar for energy, and when you have no sugar, which we get from carbs, your body has a make an alternative source of energy called ketones. It takes a few days for your body to make the switch from using sugar to making ketones and, during this time, some people may feel unwell – the low carb flu.
After a few days to a week, most people stop feeling unwell as they get used to using ketones for energy. For some people, it can take up to two weeks. The low carb flu can cause:
- Poor concentration
- Low energy levels
In this article, I reveal five ways to beat the low carb flu.
- During the challenge will I get the “low carb flu”?
Answer: The 7 Day Low Carb Challenge is not no carb diet; you’ll be getting some carbs from fruits, vegetables, and a few whole grains. It is, however, a very low sugar diet. Because of this, you will experience cravings and a few mild side effects, but you will not experience real low carb flu. If you do feel like you are suffering any of these side effects, just eat some fruit, vegetables, or a few whole grains such as quinoa, wild rice, or wholemeal pasta.
In the unlikely event you DO suffer from the low carb flu, here are five ways to beat it.
- But fruit contains sugar, why I can I have fruit?
Answer: Fruit DOES contain sugar, but it’s natural rather than processed, and mostly in the healthy form of fructose. Your body has no problem using fructose for energy, and it’s very hard for your body to store. Fruit is so healthy that it makes no sense to cut it out of your diet. I like to snack on fruit and find it the perfect way to overcome sweet cravings. Read more about natural vs. added sugar in this article.
- I do intense workouts every day. Is it still okay to do this challenge?
Answer: I exercise too and have no problems keeping up with my workouts during a low carb week. It is only seven days after all. Your muscles are loaded with a type of energy called glycogen, and so is your liver. This stored energy should be enough to power you through your workouts. If you do feel a bit tired, eat some fruit before and after exercise.
You’ll also find more information in this subject in my article How to combine the Low carb Diet with Exercise. (to be published soon)
- I am vegetarian, is this challenge recommended for me?
Answer: Of course! There is no reason that a vegetarian or even a vegan won’t be able to do this challenge. You will need to modify some of the meals and recipes so just add your favorite vegetarian-approved source of protein to replace the animal protein in the recipe.
For some delicious, vegetarian, slow-cooker recipes, many of which are low in carbs, please check out this article.
- How do I identify high-carb foods?
Answer: Most high carb foods are either made from grains like wheat flour, contain a lot of sugar, are made from potatoes, are highly processed, or all of the above. If you still aren’t sure if a food is high in carbs, use an online food tracker or read the nutrition label to find out for sure.
Here is an article about reading food labels to reveal added sugar but you can use the same information for identifying carbs too: How to Identify Sugar on Nutrition Labels.
You can also find more information in my article How to identify high food carbs
- What do I do if I slip up?
Answer: The best way to avoid slip ups is to put action plans into place for dealing with sugar cravings, and prepare as many meals possible in advance. That way, you have virtually no reason to slip up. Learn this ideas and get prepared when cravings arrive 7 Ways To Fight Sugar Cravings.
But, if you DO slip up, just accept that what’s done is done, don’t look back but, instead, look forward and continue with the challenge. If you slip up on one meal, just make sure your next meal gets you back on track. Continue with the challenge; tomorrow is a new day.
Need more help with your motivation? Check out this list of the best fitness motivational books.
- What about sugar in coffee or tea?
Answer: Even adding a teaspoon or two of sugar to tea and coffee could reduce the effectiveness of your low carb challenge. Try to stop putting sugar in your tea and coffee, or use a natural, low calorie sweetener like Stevia instead. But, it’s only 7 days, so I suggest you try not to put sugar in your coffee and tea. In my experience, this can make the drink taste so much better!
For more info on stevia, please read What is stevia and is it good for you.
- Where can I find more information about low carb diet?
Answer: Days to Fitness contains lots of great, easy to read information about low carb dieting. Just check out these resources and, don’t forget, we welcome questions to just ask anything that’s on your mind in the comments section below each article.
- Can I work out on a low carb diet?
Answer: You not only can, but you should! Exercise is a great way to overcome cravings, speed up weight loss, and make you feel healthier. I enjoy running and home workouts, and do these all the way through my week of low carb eating. Other people like to go the gym and lift weights. I also recommend that you try and walk for at least 20-30 minutes per day. If you feel you are a little lower in energy than normal, try eating some fruit before and after your workout.
Not sure what workout to do? Here are some home workout plans to try.
- Should professional athletes follow a low carb diet?
Answer: If you are a professional athlete, you should already be following a good diet, one that was set by a nutritionist who knows what and why you are training. As you make your living from sports, it’s a very bad idea to change your diet without professional guidance, as it might affect your performance – in training or in a competition. If you are having a break from training, maybe it’s the end of the season, then there is no reason not to do the challenge, but otherwise, it’s probably not the plan for you right now.
- Why go low carb?
Answer: Low carb diets are great for fast and easy fat loss, and are also very good for your health. Replacing high carb, high sugar, and processed foods with vegetables, fruits, and unrefined grains help to keep your blood glucose levels low, stops fat storage and promotes fat burning, and can help lower your risk of various diseases including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. To answer your question with another question: Why NOT go low carb?!
In Why should I try a low carb diet, I answer to this question in more depth.
Find out about the different types of low carb diet in this article.
- Food Labels! How to find low carb foods?
Answer: Most supermarkets carry a huge range of low carb foods – they are called fruit and vegetables! Also, meat, fish, eggs, and poultry are low in carbs too. Many supermarkets also have a low carb section, and a lot of foods are even labeled as low carb. If you are unsure, read the food label – the amount of carbs is always listed – or use an online or food tracking app to help you identify high carb foods.
I’ve written a more in-depth answer to this question in my article How to identify high food carbs.
- How can I eat Low Carb at restaurants?
Answer: This is easier than you might realize; just avoid bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes, and skip dessert. Instead, have a salad, have vegetables for your side dish, have a protein source for your main meal e.g. chicken or fish, and don’t drink beer or spirits, only a small glass or two of wine.
You might need to ask for your meal to be changed, many come with high carb side dishes, but most restaurants will be happy to accommodate you.
Read my article How to eat healthily at restaurants for more ways to eat out without ruining your diet.
- How many grams of carbohydrates should I eat?
Answer: Ideally, you should keep your carb intake to between 50-100 grams per day. This is low but achievable for most people. This will allow you to eat lots of vegetables, a little fruit, and even a small portion of whole grains per day. Going below 50 grams is a good way to trigger low carb flu, so I don’t recommend this unless you are an experienced low carb dieter.
- Can I still drink alcohol and coffee?
Answer: Coffee (and tea) are fine on a low carb diet as they contain no carbs or calories at all – unless you add sugar which is something you should not do. However, alcoholic drinks do contain carbs and so you should avoid most of them. Beer and spirits are the worst for carbs, but also look out for high sugar mixers like soda and juice. If you must drink alcohol, limit yourself to a glass or two of white or red wine which only contain a couple of grams of sugar and carbs.
You’ll find more information on alcohol and weight loss in my article How to lose weight and still drink alcohol. (will be published soon)
- Why should I prepare my meals in advance?
Answer: Imagine this: you get home from work feeling tired and hungry. You don’t have the time or the energy to cook a low carb meal and so, instead, you dial up a pizza and blow your diet. Or, you get home from work, grab a pre-prepared low carb meal, heat it up, and sit down to eat just a few minutes after getting home – your diet is intact!
Preparing your meals in advance eliminates one of the excuses we all use for breaking our diets. That’s why I recommend you spend a few hours at the weekend making your meals for the week.
For the ultimate in meal pre-preparation, consider buying a slow cooker. Check out Why slow cooking to discover the magic of this great food preparation method.
Not sure which model is right for you? In this article, I review some of my favorite slow cookers.
- What are carbs?
Answer: Carbs are chains of sugar molecules that your body uses for energy. They are most commonly used by your muscles during physical activity. Carbs can be simple or complex, refined or unrefined, but unless you are active all the time, you don’t need a lot of carbs. Carbs that are not used almost immediately for energy are converted to fat, and that prevents fat burning and can lead to weight gain.
Carbs aren’t inherently bad unless they are highly refined – i.e. sugar, and things like white bread, white rice, and pasta. It’s more that most people don’t need a lot of carbs because they are mostly sedentary. Learn more in my article What are carbs – a beginner’s guide.
- Why are bread, pasta, rice or potatoes are bad carbs?
Answer: These foods are processed, and that means they contain lots of carbs and calories, but very few nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, or fiber. They are also very carb dense which means they contain a lot of carbs per serving. It’s very easy to eat a lot of bread, rice, pasta, potatoes etc. and therefore a lot of carbs.
Vegetables and fruits also contain carbs, but in much lower quantities, and also contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. That makes them much healthier, and also much more filling. If you swap bread, rice, pasta, potatoes etc. for vegetables, you can eat more food but still consume fewer calories and fewer carbs making weight loss very easy.
Read this article to discover low carb replacements for common high carb foods.
- How do I know if a food is high in sugar?
Answer: The best way is to read the food label and see for yourself how much sugar is in your food. Check out this article to discover How to identify sugar on nutrition labels.
But, a lot of food companies are very sneaky and list sugar by alternative names making it harder to identify. But, we won’t let them beat you so here is a list of the 61 different names for sugar that are used on food labels for sugar.
The easiest way to avoid sugar is to stop eating all processed foods, all junk food, quit soda, and make all your own meals without adding sugar. I know that might not be easy but, trust me, your effort will produce great results.
- Should I replace sugar with artificial sweeteners?
Answer: NO! Artificial sweeteners are mostly toxic chemicals. Yes, they are free from calories, but that doesn’t mean they are good for you. Diet soda, for example, is loaded with harmful toxins and is not really any better for you than “real” soda. The best thing to do is gradually wean yourself off sweet-tasting food so you lose the taste for sugar; don’t replace one bad thing with another!
Read more about the dangers of these chemicals in my article What is wrong with artificial sweeteners.