Are You Following a No-Carb Diet Plan?
Are You SURE?
Low-carb diets have been around for decades. Even before Dr. Atkins created his revolutionary low-carb diet plan, people have been experimenting with different levels of carbohydrate restriction and seeing positive results. One of the Atkins alternatives that became popular a few years ago is the Zero-Carb Diet. This weight-loss plan is similar to the Meat-and-Eggs or the Meat-Eggs-and-Cheese Fast that many low-carb dieters use to break a stall, but the principles of this particular dietary program are far more strict.
Many people who restrict their carbohydrate intake don’t understand the differences between a low-carb diet and a no-carb diet plan. This confusion often results because bloggers, newspaper reporters, and weight-loss articles consistently call low-carb diets a zero-carb diet, even though they are not. Since many also link the Atkins Diet to all low-carb diets, it’s important to know the differences between Atkins and zero carb.
A Zero-Carb Diet is Not the Atkins Diet
In 1972, Dr. Atkins did call his Induction Diet a zero-gram diet, but quickly clarified that the idea was to cut your carbohydrate level down to what he considered “biologically zero.” In Dr. Atkins’ professional opinion, when you eat a small salad with an oil-and-vinegar dressing, along with no-carb and almost no-carb foods, the body responds as if you hadn’t eaten any salad at all.
However, those who recently popularized the Zero-Carb Diet do not eat vegetables. In their personal experience, vegetables – and sometimes dairy products – trigger too much insulin for good health. For that reason, a diet with no carbs is not the same thing as the Atkins Diet. It is far more restrictive.
What is a No-Carb Diet Plan?
Where the Atkins Diet starts you off with a small salad and a few vegetables to accompany your protein foods and dairy, the Zero-Carb Diet takes a very different approach. Beginning with the principles taught by an Internet presence known as “The Bear,” the leader of the Zero-Carb movement, Charles Washington, took those basic teachings and molded them to fit his own experience and the experience of those who belonged to his forum: Zeroing in on Health.
While the official diet principles of this carb-free diet plan still come from the now-deceased Bear, the counsel offered at the forum when I belonged to it generally differed substantially from his rules. That caused some confusion at the time, but the carb-free movement was young back then, and today, they have a better idea of how the body typically reacts to zero-carb foods.
The Bear was looked up to in the same way that low-carb dieters idolize Dr. Atkins. He claimed to have successfully followed his personalized zero-carb rules for over 50 years, and many people who had permanently stalled on a low-carb diet plan wanted to imitate the same results. However, many members of the quickly growing group discovered they could not eat the same way that Bear could, and began altering some of his principles and ideas. The following concepts describe the basic principles of a Zero-Carb Diet.
Foods With Zero Carbs and Other Protein Foods
Since a carb-free diet is a high-protein diet plan, animal foods such as beef, poultry, fish, and wild animals are the mainstay of your diet. Quantities are unlimited, as it’s believed that the body will self-regulate itself once all sources of carbohydrates are removed from the diet. In addition to foods with zero carbs, other protein foods that can be eaten as desired are eggs and extremely low-carb forms of dairy such as cheese, unsalted butter, and non-thickened heavy cream.
Liver and brains can also be eaten, but very occasionally if at all, due to their higher carbohydrate intake. However, most people do not eat the dairy products that Bear did, and dairy was the first thing new members of the Zeroing in on Health forum were advised to stay away from if they were not experiencing acceptable weight loss.
Dairy products can ignite inflammation in some people. Dairy also has a tendency to raise insulin levels, even though it doesn't raise your blood sugar. Since a good portion of the zero-carb community consists of people who have stalled on the Atkins Diet, eliminating all potential sources of Insulin Resistance takes first priority. In addition, dairy provides a small amount of carbohydrate, which can trigger an excessive insulin response in people that are severely resistant to weight loss, so there was good reason for this suggestion.
Unlike the Atkins Diet, which doesn’t specify how you cook your meals, Bear advised people to barely cook their meat. The idea was to sear the meat on the outside for flavor, but eat the meat while it was still very rare. The purpose for this suggestion was because cooked meat loses its nutritional value. Even so, most people I know who eat only zero-carb foods cook their meat from medium to well done, and still do fine. That allows them to continue enjoying pork, uncured bacon, and poultry, which would be off-limits if meat was eaten very rare.
In addition to lightly cooking the meat and only eating dairy products if they don’t interfere with weight loss and health, another recommendation Bear made was to eat plenty of animal fat with each meal. While fatty meats were highly encouraged, when you eat almost no carbohydrates, you have to get your calories for energy from a higher fat intake than can be provided with fatty meats.
To compensate, forum members were advised to eat the fat off their meat first, and then eat just enough of the lean portion to satisfy their appetite. This was because fats are used for energy during a Zero-Carb Diet and because the number of calories you eat were believed to be unimportant. Unfortunately, many older members quickly discovered this was not true.
Today, people are cautioned not to go overboard with dietary fats, but you do need to eat enough fat to sustain your daily activities. If you eat more lean protein than your body can utilize, it will be converted into glucose, which will cause your basal blood sugar levels to rise.
Seasonings and Salt
Although today you can use salt-free seasonings such as garlic, chilies, herbs, and spices in very small amounts, during the time I was participating at the forum, members were counseled to avoid all forms of flavorings and to eat their meat plain, without salt. Keep in mind that even though the rules have changed, since the diet no longer considers salt-free seasonings to be food, herbs and spices do contain various amounts of carbohydrates and can therefore affect your basal insulin levels and increase Insulin Resistance.
Unlike Atkins, a Zero-Carb Diet doesn’t consist of any vegetables. NONE! That’s because vegetables contain carbohydrates and fiber, and a carb-free diet doesn’t allow any fiber. For those who do consume dairy, they eat fewer than five net carbs per day. Zero-carb foods are only meats and pure water. That’s it! This allows those who have intestinal issues and severe reactions to all forms of carbohydrates to begin to heal.
Diet Soda and Filtered Water
Eliminating diet soda and all other beverages, including unsweetened tea, was a large issue when I was a member of the forum. Although a few people did drink Club Soda, the only liquid recommended at that time was pure, filtered water. This was due to scientific research showing how some individuals release insulin from the sweet taste that sugar substitutes give you. Rising insulin levels adversely affect appetite, but they can also contribute to insulin resistance and make it more difficult to lose weight.
Since the mind interprets the sweet taste of sugar substitutes to be sugar itself, it instructs the body to prepare for the rise in glucose that never comes. Part of that preparation is to secrete insulin in anticipation of a rise in blood sugar. This is known as cephalic phase insulin response (CPIR) and can bring on episodes of hypoglycemia or mask other blood sugar issues. However, prior scientific studies showed exactly the opposite response, so how each person reacts to non-nutritive sweeteners appears to be an individual matter, rather than a strict absolute.
Does a Zero-Carb Diet Work?
The ultimate question is whether a Zero-Carb Diet lives up to its claim of healing, health, and slimness. That can be a tricky question, because metabolic issues fall within a broad range of problems. However, many of those who have tried and succeeded on a diet of no carbs, firmly testify to the diet’s benefits.
A diet with no carbs, or almost no carbs, might be the only alternative for someone who is super-resistant to carbohydrates, but if you’re insulin sensitive, rather than resistant, have problems with insulin secretion, or produce too much Cortisol, the outcome might not be what you expected.
The Downside of a Zero-Carb Diet
Whenever the body experiences physical or mental stress, it releases stress hormones such as Cortisol and Adrenaline. This stress response causes the body to prepare to fight the perceived danger or run away from it. Cortisol encourages the body to release extra glucose into the bloodstream in order to handle the emergency. That extra glucose triggers an insulin spike so that the insulin can usher the glucose into your body cells for quick energy. When the stress is dietary or mental, rather than a physical danger, most of that excess energy won’t be used. Instead, what isn’t dissipated in unusual ways will eventually find its way into your fat cells.
In addition, the brain needs a certain amount of glucose, which can be easily manufactured by the liver through a process known as gluconeogenesis. In some individuals, however, a carb-free diet results in the liver overproducing the amount of glucose the body needs. When that happens, your blood glucose level can stay run quite high. Although levels in the 90s are typical for those eating only zero-carb foods, some individuals have experienced blood glucose levels as high as 180, or even more.
Who Benefits From Zero-Carb Meals?
Despite the dangers for some, if you still have a strong insulin response that reacts appropriately to the increased glucose levels the diet provides, or if you have severe Insulin Resistance and have completely stalled on a low-carb diet plan, a Zero-Carb Diet can be a wonderful tool to reverse metabolic problems and restore health. It works nicely for those with intestinal issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or as a temporary dietary intervention for autoimmune issues such as celiac disease. If you’re having trouble pinning down your specific food allergies or sensitivities, a no-carb diet plan can make a wonderful elimination diet.
While a carb-free diet doesn’t work for everyone, those that enjoy eating meat and have bonded with the plan insist that it has been the best dietary choice they ever made.