Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Low-Carb Lifestyle

I don't eat like most people. Yet I consume more calories while maintaining a low bodyfat percentage and low cholesterol levels. I consume very few carbs (compared to most people), but I don't suffer from lack of energy.

This is how I do it.

Nearly all of my carbs come from four sources:
1. Organic berries, especially blueberries (this is really a minimal source of carbs)
2. Organic canned pumpkin (very high in fiber)
3. Whole grain, high fiber cereals (Bran Buds, Fiber One)
4. Organic oats (old-fashioned oatmeal or steel cut oats)

All of these are very low in sugars and most of them are very high in fiber. I consume fewer than 100 grams of carbs most days, but I generally get 30-50 grams of fiber a day. I also supplement with ground psyllium in protein shakes for extra fiber.

These are my primary protein sources:
1. Low-fat (2%) cottage cheese (organic a lot of the time)
2. Whey protein powder (mostly pre- and post-workout)
4. Chicken (free-range, drug/antibiotic free)
5. Eggs (free-range, organic)

These are all "complete" proteins, meaning that they contain all of the essential amino acids that the body can't preduce on its own. Even though the eggs are high in fat, it's good fat that the body needs. I consume 200-300 grams a day.

Finally, the key to a low-carb lifestyle is healthy fat sources. These are my favorites:
1. Organic peanut butter
2. Organic, raw cashew butter (most brands also contain some safflower oil for texture)
3. Organic, raw walnut butter
4. Organic, raw pumpkin seed butter
5. Organic, raw macadamia nut butter
6 Organic, raw almond butter

Of these fat sources, cashews, almonds, and macadamia nuts are high in monounsaturated fats, the same fat found in olive oil. The peanuts and walnuts are rich in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. And the walnuts and pumpkin seeds contain a full-spectrum of fats -- monounsaturated, omega-6, and omega-3 fats. Making sure I get a good balance is important. I aim for 20% saturated fats, 40 % monounsaturated fats, and 40% polyunsaturated fats (omega-3, omega-6, and some omega-9).

I consume about 20-25 grams of fish oil each day, which is high in DHA and EPA, the essential omega-3 fats the body can't make on its own. I generally also get some ground flax seed each day, which is loaded with omega-3 fats and is a great source of additional fiber.

When I am adjusting calories to get more lean or build more muscle, I reduce carbs first and then tweak the fat intake. Protein always stays the same.

Because of the way I eat (and working out 4 days a week), I can take in about 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day while losing fat, and from 2,500 to 3,500 calories a day while building muscle -- and I am generally never hungry (aside from the occasional long day at the gym when it's hard to get whole foods).

This isn't for everyone. But it is a great lifestyle for general health and fitness -- and I never need to diet in the traditional sense. I refer to this approach to eating as my "no-diet diet."


Unknown said...

Does the flax seed actually have to be ground? I eat whole flax seeds in a bunch of things; I figured that it gets "ground" by my teeth and digested just the same as flax seed meal in the end.

william harryman said...

Hi Jennifer,

Flax seeds are small, so if they are not fully masticated, they will pass through whole and unprocessed. For this reason alone, ground flax seed is better.

Really, though, however you like them is best. No need to worry about it.


(0v0) said...

Nice post.

Interesting that you make pumpkin so central to you diet. I know it's SAID that the canned is about as nutritious as just baking one up... do you feel that's the case? And could I ask how you prepare it?

Best wishes.

william harryman said...

Hey (OvO),

I think that canned pumpkin is fine, especially organic -- and it's a hell of a lot easier for people with a busy life.

I heat the pumpkin in the microwave for a couple of minutes, add cinnamon and about 40 grams of whey protein powder, mix and eat. If I need extra calories, I add a couple of tablespoons of macadamia nut butter before I heat it. Gives it a little extra flavor -- the only downside is that some of the healthy fat in the nut butter will be bound up by the fiber and not digested. But since I eat a lot of fat anyway, it's not a problem.

As far as I am concerned, pumpkin is a great source of complex carbs, fiber, and vitamins. And the seeds are a great source of healthy fats.


(0v0) said...


I need a new place to hide whey protein (Jay Robb's plain, in my case, after much experimentation), and this with copious cinnamon sounds delicious... especially as an alternative to steelcut oats (which at present is the only usual grain/big-carb in my diet).

Thanks, Bill. You are quite the storehouse of ideas.

Anonymous said...

do you eat any vegetables? i couldn't live without my vegetables!

Kai in NYC

william harryman said...

Hey Kai,

D'Oh! I should have mentioned that. I do eat spinach, broccoli, and asparagus, but I don't consider them carb sources since they are essentially calorie neutral. But yeah, great source of vitamins and fiber, and filling without adding extra calories.