When I first started lifting weights and cleaning up my diet, I did so because I wanted to gain healthy weight, feel strong and get my vitality back, but it was no easy road. I tried every diet going. I did the typical ‘healthy’ bodybuilder style diet of protein shakes and carbs with every meal, but I just felt horrid. I spent most of my life meal-prepping and cooking. I battled with bloat and water retention. I’d have to nap after every meal, but it was all in the name of gains, right? Apparently this is what it took to get in shape - or so I thought. And then, after years of feeling sub-par, I found a better way. The Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) lifestyle changed my life. It made everything easier. I finally got my freedom and vitality back and the best bit was that I didn’t have to give up my pizza and red wine either.
But before we go into detail as to why LCHF rocks, let me just make a point. ‘Low carb’ does not mean no carbs. Remember I said I didn’t have to give up my beloved pizza and red wine? That’s because it’s not about cutting food groups out altogether, it just comes down to smart timing and smarter choices. Not all carbs are created equal and we don’t actually need huge amounts of them to fuel our bodies and build muscle. In fact, it’s far less than you think. The body can only handle about 5g – that’s only one teaspoon – of sugar in the blood stream per meal sitting, before things start to go a little crazy.
Have a read of Dr. Ede's take on how much sugar you should actually be eating without sabotaging your health. Healthy fats are a far better option for fueling your body (and more delicious) did someone say bacon?! Sounds totally nuts, right? But, if you’re a woman who lifts weights and what you’re currently doing isn’t working for you, then read on. Here are 5 reasons why you need to start doing LCHF to get the body and the health that you deserve.
You want to build muscle and grow curves in all the right places (hello booty gains). But you also want to be lean enough to get some tummy definition (hello abs). Yet the general consensus in the health and fitness world is that you can’t have both at the same time. This is only true if you eat a typical low fat high carb Western diet bulking has entered the chat. The premise of the ‘bulking’ cycle is to ‘eat for gainzzz’ (normally carbs and a LOT of them) because, “you gotta eat to grow”. Fitness competitors call it the ‘off-season’. It goes on for months on end, usually during the dreary winter months when you can hide your unshaven legs under full length stretch pants. Sure, the extra kilos gained will equate to a little bit of muscle but also, a hefty bit of body fat. You feel chunky, fluffy, you’re holding water and feel bloated most of the time. "Good times", said no one ever.
Then comes the ‘cutting phase’. With summer fast approaching, you start eating clean, counting macros, decreasing calories, cutting carbs and upping the cardio. Sure, you lose the extra kilos, your abs make an appearance, but you’re exhausted and you find yourself wondering, “where the feck did my arse go?!”. So you maintain this starvation/over-exercising mode for 6 weeks (or as long as you can hold onto any thread of sanity you have left) and then you decide, “I’m over it. Who needs abs anyway? Oooh, look, nutella!” And so, the whole cycle begins again. What a friggin’ effort! Geez. Life does not have to be this way! The constant yo-yo effect of losing weight by torturing yourself, only to gain it all back is de-moralising, unsustainable and wreaks havoc on your metabolism in the long run. However, there is another way; without having to cut and bulk or track a single morsel, and it’s called LCHF.
One of the best benefits of LCHF is that you can build muscle and stay lean. AT. THE. SAME. TIME. Yes, you read that right. I’m not going to go into the science-y stuff here, on how LCHF or the Ketogenic Diet works. But if you do want to know more, Perfect Keto does a darn good job of explaining it all here. Basically, the major benefits of LCHF is that it stabilises your insulin levels and turns you into a fat burning machine, where you use your own body fat stores as fuel (hello abs). However, that doesn’t mean you can’t build muscle too (hello booty gains).
In fact, this way of eating gives you more sustained energy levels throughout the day so you can smash your workouts and it has been proven to actually preserve more muscle mass than your typical low fat carb heavy diets, as this study shows. My point is, if you become fat-adapted and lift weights, you can have your metaphorical cake and eat it too, because it eliminates the need to 'cut and bulk' to get in shape. Stay lean all year round and grow those strong curves too. Hoorah!
If you're constantly feeling a bit well, bleurgh on your current diet, LCHF might just be the answer. Hormones are responsible for your overall well-being, digestion and body composition. 'Eating less and moving more' is such an over-simplified and out-dated approach. Ask yourself if any of these things ring true:
- You wake up tired in the mornings but feel wired at night
- You struggle to lose weight
- You often feel bloated and sluggish after meals
- Your progress is slow in the gym
- You feel moody and exhausted most days
- You crave sugar and/or carbs
If you feel like your body is working against you, your hormones may be out of whack - even if you think you’ve been ‘eating healthy’ and staying active. The typical ‘healthy’ low fat diet of the Western world simply doesn’t work for most women. In fact, this type of diet has been shown to be detrimental to female hormone health. The truth is, women do better on higher fat. When we exercise we burn more fat and less carbs and protein than men do. We rely less on carbs for fuel, probably because we naturally store higher levels of fat in our muscles and have a lower capacity to store glycogen, compared to men. It makes sense that using fat for fuel is a much wiser choice.
Cholesterol is the building block of your sex hormones and your brain loves the stuff. Eating a diet high in healthy fats will keep your hormones happy. P.s. for those of you who still think eating fat will give you a heart attack or other such nonsense, this study, as well as this and this should put your mind at ease.
In fact, the body uses large quantities of cholesterol every day and it is so crucial that every cell in your body has the ability to make it independent of food! How cool is that?! If you want further clarity, please read this brilliant book by Jimmy Moore, dispelling many of the ridiculous myths surrounding cholesterol and high fat diets. To truly reap the benefits of LCHF you should eat an abundance of cholesterol-rich foods like:
- Pasture-raised eggs
- Liver and other organ meats
- Fatty meats like beef and lamb
- Sardines and shellfish
- Grass-fed butter, ghee and other oils
High in vitamins A, K and D, these super-foods are important for hormone health, especially thyroid function which regulates your metabolism and weight.
If you’re on a mission to sculpt Strong Curves in all the right places, then yep, you guessed it – LCHF wins again. Keeping carbs low has actually shown to be favourable to body composition (losing body fat and gaining muscle) and also improves your metabolism. The anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing benefits of LCHF, are due to the potent little powerhouses called ketones (fatty acids). They are responsible for turning you into a lean and mean fat-burning machine but even more so, ketones promote longevity and increased muscle mass too.The more fat women eat, the more estrogen and testosterone they produce. These are both anabolic hormones that play a crucial part in building muscle and burning fat.
In fact, this study shows that a LCHF diet helps women burn more fat and get stronger, compared to a typical low fat diet. Epic! The LCHF lifestyle healed my own health issues when nothing else worked. I suffered from metabolic damage, which then affected my digestion, my mood and my body composition. When I started eating higher fats and lower carbs, my body transformed in a matter of weeks.
Living by the golden rule of ‘calories in vs. calories out’, as if nothing else matters is short-sighted and narrow-minded. The reason I love LCHF so much is because it is so liberating. The old school way of thinking says that if you want to get in shape, the #1 rule is 'calories in vs. calories out' or CICO. Basically, the energy from the food you eat, has to be at a deficit to the energy you burn from exercise, in order for you to lose weight. Basically, eat less and exercise more. Wow… welcome to the Dark Age of Fitness. It might work (sometimes) in the short term, but that doesn’t mean it’s the most effective way, or the easiest. It’s not just about eating less, it’s about eating more of the right things and letting your hormones do their job. Watch this to find out why.
Studies like this and this have shown that dieters on fat-based diets consistently lose much more weight than dieters on carb-based diets, even though both diets had exactly the same number of calories. Who wants to count calories, obsess over labels and constantly feel guilt due to what you put in your mouth? If you focus on quality, you can forget all about counting calories. The LCHF diet allows you to eat until fullness, without compromising your fitness goals. You get a real sense of freedom from the bondage of ‘dieting’. Eating more fats keep you fuller for longer, eliminates cravings and allows you to eat delicious nutrient-dense foods in abundance.
The human body is a super intelligent organism. It’s way smarter than you and it's always trying to heal itself (no matter what you throw at it) because it knows exactly what it needs in order to thrive. You just need to get out of the way 😉LCHF is a far more efficient way for the body to use it’s fuel and something truly amazing happens when you embrace this lifestyle - your body starts working for you, (not against you), by self-regulating your appetite.
Low fat diets are impractical in today’s busy world. This one is a biggie for me and made a noticeable improvement to my everyday life. We try to be superwoman by doing it all: run the household, raise the kids, pursue a career, maintain a social life, smash gym goals and have enough ‘me time’ so we don’t go completely insane. Yet the outdated way of ‘healthy’ clean eating on a Standard American Diet means you have to eat regularly - usually every two hours - because low fat diets aren’t as satiating, which means you are more prone to snack and over-eat. That’s a lot of time prepping and cooking! I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend less time in the kitchen and more time truly living. If you’re time poor and busy, LCHF is a life saver:
- It’s a nutrient-dense way of eating so you don’t feel the need to eat every couple of hours
- It keeps you fuller for longer so you won’t feel like continuously snacking throughout the day
- It's satiating so you don't get constant hunger pangs or tummy rumbles
- It’s a far more efficient way to fuel the body so you can eat fewer but more satisfying meals (less volume but more satisfying)
In the real world this means less worrying about staying on track, less hassle of prepping and planning, less time spent in the kitchen and, most importantly, less chance of you falling off the bandwagon. Bottom line: that means more free time to spend with loved ones, have more fun and live your life. What’s not to like?
Let’s face it. Traditional cardio sucks. It’s often something we endure, rather than enjoy because we’re told it’s ‘good for us’, (you know: heart health, fat loss, yada yada), but it’s just so dang boring! Being a hamster on a wheel just doesn’t compare to lifting heavy weights like a boss. It’s also been ingrained in us that the best way to get in shape is to eat a low fat high carb diet, count calories and up the cardio. I’m going to say something a little crazy right now that is the complete opposite - and it works. Excessive cardio is not healthy and if you don’t enjoy doing it, then you really don’t have to do it. Here's a shocker: cardio isn’t necessary if you want to get in shape. If you want to build shapely toned muscles and lose body fat, lifting weights is king and has been shown to be better than cardio alone in the long run.
Cardio shouldn’t be the focus of your fitness routine. For the very best results, if you eat LCHF and then time your carb-heavier meals around your training, there is no need to rely on cardio to get in shape. Of course, elevating your heart rate on a regular basis is important for heart health – so I’m not saying you should avoid aerobic exercise completely. But running on a treadmill every day for 45 minutes, staring into gym wall is not the only way to do it! You can swim, do a dance class, try circuit training - anything that makes you get a sweat on and heart pumping - but most of all, just have fun with it.
- No more yo-yo diets! Build muscle and lose body fat at the same time.
- Higher fats will balance your hormones, making results effortless.
- No need to count calories or track macros! Let your hormones do the work for you.
- Less prepping and cooking means you can save time, enjoy your life and still get results.
- No need to rely on cardio to lose weight! Lift weights and time your carbs for optimal body composition.
If you found this article useful, let me know in the comments below. If you want to learn more about how LCHF and how carb-cycling can work for your body type, it will all be detailed in my upcoming eBook 'Strong Curves Ultimate Guide'. Click here to get on the mailing list so you can be notified as soon as it launches!