I was going to wait to share this data until my 1 month assessment, but now seems as good as any.
A quick recap for readers new and old.
Last year, May 2011, after struggling with weight loss/gain/maintenance for over 10 years, I switched to a low carb diet. I did a lot of self study reading books and web pages.
"New Atkins for a New You" - Dr. Westman, Dr, Phinney, and Dr. Volek
"Paleo Diet" - Dr. Loren Cordain
"Protein Power" - Dr. Michael Eades and Dr. Mary Eades
"The 30 Day Low-Carb Diet" (simplified version of "Protein Power") - Dr. Michael Eades and Dr. Mary Eades
"Primal Blueprint" - Mark Sisson
Dr. Mike Eades blog: www.proteinpower.
Dr. Mary Eades blog: www.proteinpower.
Mark's Daily Apple (Primal Blueprint author): www.marksdailyapple.com
FatHead Movie (Tom Naughton's blog): www.fathead-movie.com
If you're a long time LCer, no doubt these are familiar to you.
But the most important resource was myself. I used myself as an experimental study. I created a spreadsheet to track my progress.
Here's an example of what my spreadsheet looks like:
It doesn't really take that much time to collect. Adding food into my food tracker is the most time expensive activity. Translating it to the spreadsheet takes just a few seconds.
Many aren't interested in going into the fine grain detail. Few people want to track daily data to the obsessive compulsive level that I do. Most people just want the bottom line. I am going to attempt to do that after explaining my data.
"What can I do so I can lose weight and maintain it?"
SYNOPSIS: Maintain glucose control.
Glucose control is something very familiar to people with pre-diabetes and diabetes. When I started my LC journey, I could not have imagined that this was important to me, too, as a non diabetic.
April 2011, I collected data in a spreadsheet. I thought something was wrong with my calorie in-calorie out math. So I went into fine level detail. I was determined to figure this out. I went to great pains to maintain calorie range perfection.
(I started my diet in February. April is just when I started collecting a much higher frequency of data. That is why it is the starting point here.)
Turned out there was nothing wrong with my calorie in-calorie out math. It's biochemistry, not thermodynamics, that controls weight gain/loss.
Here is a graph of my weight from April 2011 to July 2011. I've marked a red line where I switched to carbohydrate restriction in addition to calorie restriction. I ate the same number of calories and maintained same exercise level. The only variable I adjusted was macronutrients. Less carbs, more fat/protein.
(I'll avoid discussion of the macronutrient details for now because I want to focus on the high level picture.)
From April-May, restricting calories alone made marginal influence on my weight. I lost very little, but mostly maintained.
From May-July, restricting carbohydrates and calories significantly influenced weight loss.
SYNOPSIS: Carb restriction worked.
You can see it took a little while for my metabolic shift to gain momentum in the early stages. This was because I had an issue with candida overgrowth that I needed to eliminate first.
The standard rebuttal is that calorie restriction is what makes low-carb work, just like any diet. Many clinical studies have consistently shown all calorie restricted diets will work for weight loss.
That's great in a controlled laboratory. However, let's look at my real world data.
On a low-fat, calorie restricted diet from April - May, I maintained a very good average calorie differential (calories in minus calories out). As I said, I was determined to stay in my ranges through great pains. It was very difficult as there were many days where I felt starved. The dips with more than -500 calorie difference were due to more activity or partial food tracking for the day, but I did not eat less than 1200 calories.
Average calorie intake: 1420
Average calorie differential: -387
The red line shows calorie in-calorie out=0. The line graph shows I maintained a very good daily deficit over the month.
On a low-carb, calorie restricted diet from May-July, I also maintained a very good average calorie differential. I stayed within ranges very easily. Again, no calories less than 1200, large dips due to activity increase, or partial food tracking. It was easier to manage my hunger levels. There wasn't a single day where I felt starved or had to work hard to stay within my calories. I am not exaggerating.
Average calorie intake: 1293
Average calorie differential: -512
I had very good calorie differential on both the low-fat and low-carb diet. I had better, more consistent results with low-carb. I ate fewer calories on average with LC than LF. That was because I had better satiety control. Hunger and cravings were non existent. It was not a contest of willpower.
It was not just better calorie control that lead to my weight loss, though. My average differential was only an -125 advantage.
SYNOPSIS: Calorie differential where calorie source favored carbohydrates resulted in negligible results. LC resulted in better satiety and lower average calorie consumption.
A standard rebuttal to low-carb is that the better weight loss is due to initial water loss, but then it works no better than a low fat diet.
Fortunately, I tracked my bodyfat percentage, which not a lot of people do. Without that information, it's just a lot of speculation.
My bodyfat declined. Again, I've marked where I started my low-carb diet.
Conventional dietary advice says that I can't lose that much weight without muscle wasting. Was I losing precious muscle along with fat?
My lean body mass INCREASED.
Again, I did not change my exercise routines. 3-5x per week, 30 minutes on the elliptical. I did not pick up any significant weight lifting program during this time. I simply started feeding my body more protein and fat, and it responded.
SYNOPSIS: Low-carb weight loss was not due to water loss, and did not result in muscle wasting. Weight change was due to losing bodyfat and gaining lean body mass.
I stopped tracking my data at this granular level in August. In October, I stopped tracking info at all going into the holidays. At the beginning of the year, I started college work and preparations for my wedding in May, which left me little time to focus on my diet. This is typically when people regain the weight they lost. Typical rebuttal about low-carb diets is people will gain it all back and then some.
So what happened in my case? Stay tuned for tomorrow's episode...
Edit: Fixed error with Avg calories calculation.