Low Carb and Ketogenic Meal Dieting: Sample Daily Menus

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Low carb and ketogenic diets are growing in popularity, due to both their incredible effectiveness and increasing support from the nutrition and scientific communities. Approaches to low carb and ketogenic dieting vary a great deal, depending on the goals and carbohydrate sensitivity of the individual dieter. All low carb and ketogenic diets, however, focus on manipulating body composition through the restriction of dietary carbohydrate.

The reason these diets work is fairly straightforward: for any activity lasting longer than 6-10 seconds, the body can run either on carbohydrate (stored by the body as glycogen and burned for fuel as glucose) or on fat. When we both deplete our body’s stored supply of carbohydrate and restrict the supply of carbohydrate reaching the body through our diet, the body’s next best option is to turn to fat in order to fuel both voluntary and involuntary energy demands – everything from breathing and digestion to play activities and exercise. The only other option, in fact, is for the body to turn on skeletal muscle for use as fuel, but as long as we are eating enough calories and not creating a state of starvation with our diet we can generally avoid this nightmare scenario.

Structuring a low carb or ketogenic diet, however, can be confusing. Non-athletes looking primarily to lose body fat can often see fantastic results on a consistently low carbohydrate plan. Depending on how quickly someone in this category wanted to lose stored body fat, limiting daily carbohydrate intake to between 20 and 100 grams works very well. Along this spectrum, 20 grams is fairly extreme and can’t usually be sustained for long. Side effects at this end of the continuum often include brain fog, constipation, moodiness, and bad breath. A 20 gram per day intake, however, is often used to quickly deplete the body’s stored supply of glycogen. The Atkins diets, for example, keeps dieters under 20 grams for the first two weeks only. Many body builders stay below 20 grams for 3 to 7 seven days as the first phase of a pre-competition diet. An intake of 100 grams, on the other hand, is high enough that some people won’t experience weight loss at this level of consumption. As with anything, people pursuing this approach to fat loss will need to experiment with different carbohydrate intake levels to find the magic number that allows them to both think clearly and efficiently shed stored fat.

Athletes on a ketogenic plan, however, are probably not served by a consistently low carbohydrate diet. The reason why is two-fold. First, while nearly everyone will lose fat on a ketogenic diet, it is the rare person who can gain muscle on this kind of plan. For bodybuilders such as our trainer Kindra, therefore, breaking the ketogenic diet every few days for a carbohydrate “refuel day” keeps just enough carbohydrate in the diet to facilitate muscle growth. This approach is referred to as, “Cyclical Ketogenic Dieting,” and once again, anyone pursuing this approach will have some experimenting to do in order to determine how often they can “refuel,” and how much carbohydrate can be consumed during a “refuel” without regaining body fat. Some people are able to sustain fat loss while consuming up to 600 grams of carbohydrate every third day. More carb-sensitive people (including Kindra), limit refuel days to under 200 grams twice each week. The other reason athletic individuals might do better with a cyclical ketogenic plan is that the enhanced demands they place on their body simply require a little more carbohydrate in order to sustain performance. For these individuals, the benefit of a cyclical approach to ketogenic dieting might also include the mental acuity that comes with a few additional carbs. (Brain fog associated with low carb dieting typically abates after ten days to two weeks, however, there is no arguing that we don’t feel a little brighter after a high-carb day. Glycogen, after all, is the preferred fuel of the brain.)

Recently, a few of our followers on the AIM Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/alpineintegratedmedicine) have asked what a sample low carb/ketogenic day might look like in terms of “what to eat.” Toward that end, we have come up with two sample days, one “low carb” (under 100 grams of carbohydrate), and one more likely to be truly ketogenic , in this case, under 30 grams.

The Low Carb Sample Day:

Breakfast: 2 Veggie Quiche Cups (recipe found here: https://alpineintegratedmedicineblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/veggie-quiche-cups-to-go-a-make-ahead-protein-packed-way-to-begin-your-day/ ) and 3 slices of bacon. 3 grams total carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber.

Morning Snack: 1 ounce of roasted almonds. 5 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fiber.

Lunch: Large Greek salad made with 3 cups of mixed greens, 4 ounces of grilled chicken, ½ cup cucumber slices, 1 c cherry tomatoes, 1/3 c feta cheese, 2 T olives, 2T olive oil, and 2 T balsamic vinegar. 15 grams total carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber.

Afternoon Snack: 1 sliced bell pepper, 3 ounces Italian Meatballs (recipe found here:https://alpineintegratedmedicineblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/whats-kindra-cooking-italian-meatballs-yum/ ). 8 grams total carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber.

Post-Workout Shake: 8 ounces of water, handful of ice cubes, 2 scoops of GNC Pro Performance Wheybolic Extreme 60 vanilla protein powder, and ½ c frozen blueberries. 15 grams total carbohydrate, 3 grams of fiber.

Dinner: 6 ounces grilled salmon, 2 c steamed broccolini, 4 ounces of baked sweet potato, and 1 T butter. 32 grams of total carbohydrate, 16 grams of fiber.

Pre Bed Meal: ½ avocado and 1 c cottage cheese, topped with 1 t olive oil and 2t balsamic vinegar. 15 grams of carbohydrate, 5 grams of fiber.

Daily totals: 93 grams of carbohydrate, 36 grams of fiber. RDA for fiber is 25 grams/day for women and 35 g/day for men. This plan satisfies both.

The Ketogenic Day:

Breakfast: 2 Veggie Quiche Cups (recipe found here: https://alpineintegratedmedicineblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/veggie-quiche-cups-to-go-a-make-ahead-protein-packed-way-to-begin-your-day/) and 3 slices of bacon. 3 grams total carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber.
Morning Snack: 1 ounce of roasted almonds. 5 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fiber.

Lunch: Large Greek salad made with 3 cups of mixed greens, 4 ounces of grilled chicken, ½ c cucumber slices, 1/3 c feta cheese, 2 T olives, 2T olive oil, and 1 T balsamic vinegar. 7 grams total carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber.

Afternoon Snack: 3 ounces Italian Meatballs (recipe found here: https://alpineintegratedmedicineblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/whats-kindra-cooking-italian-meatballs-yum/). 1 gram total carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber.

Post Workout Shake: 8 ounces of water, handful of ice cubes, 2 scoops of GNC Pro Performance Wheybolic Extreme 60 vanilla protein powder, and 1 t of powered instant espresso granules. 6 grams of total carbohydrate. 0 grams fiber.

Dinner: 6 ounces grilled salmon, 2 c steamed broccolini, and 1 T butter. 4 grams of total carbohydrate, 3 grams of fiber.

Pre Bed Meal: ¼ avocado, 4 ounces of grilled chicken with lemon pepper seasoning. 3 grams total carbohydrate, 3 grams of fiber.

Daily totals: 29 grams of carbohydrate, 15 grams of fiber. Because this sample day supplies only 15 grams of fiber, it does not meet the RDA for fiber. For this reason, a fiber supplement might be a good idea at this level of carbohydrate intake.

In order to reduce the total carbohydrate from 93 grams in the low carb day to 29 grams in the ketogenic day, we eliminated the cherry tomatoes at lunch and halved the balsamic vinegar, omitted the bell pepper at the afternoon snack, swapped the post workout blueberries for post workout espresso powder in the protein shake, eliminated the sweet potato at dinner, and changed the pre bed meal to include less avocado and chicken instead of cottage cheese. We hope this provides some insight into what a day in the low carb life would look like. For additional nutrition help, including carbohydrate sensitivity testing, give us a call: 425-949-5961.

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About alpine integrated medicine

AIM is based on the idea that when we martial our collective expertise, we can achieve great health outcomes for our patients. A truly integrated clinic, AIM's practitioners work together to provide an experience tailored to each individual. We believe in the power of natural healing, combined with the most current medical science available.
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