Low Carb Diets – What’s the difference between HFLC (High-Fat Low-Carb) vs. the Ketogenic Diet?

I’m addressing this blog post to anyone who is “keto curious” because I know there are a lot of you out there. I’ve been asked many times what I think of the keto diet so I thought I’d offer my thoughts and some background on what the keto diet is exactly.

If you’re considering the keto or HCLF diet, you need to know one thing at the outset—it’s a diet. As in, an eating plan with an end date. Not to be confused with a lifestyle. I know there are many keto practitioners out there who will tell you different, but in my opinion, based on the clients I work with (so you, since you’re reading this blog) I haven’t seen the keto diet to be sustainable long-term.

Many executives and professionals come to me looking for an edge in their energy and focus. Eating less carbohydrates and more protein and healthy fats can certainly get you there. Especially when you eliminate excess sugars and maintain a proper sleep schedule (in bed no later than 10:30 pm every night). Achieving a state of ketosis is not necessary for these benefits, as I explain below.

It may seem like everywhere you turn the ketogenic diet, or keto for short, is being hailed as a miracle diet for weight loss and increased energy levels.

Keto is the “it” diet of the moment, but before you decide to jump on the bandwagon yourself, let’s take a look at what this diet is all about.

Keto is an extremely low-carbohydrate diet that replaces carbohydrates with moderate amounts of protein and large quantities of healthy fats. The keto diet was originally developed to help manage seizures in children – really!

Anyone can eat fewer carbs and more fat, but doing so doesn’t necessarily mean you’re following a true ketogenic diet. Keto is one example of a low-carb diet, but not all low-carb diets are ketogenic.

The truth is, there’s a lot of confusion around what constitutes an actual ketogenic diet vs. a high-fat low-carb (HFLC) diet.

Both diets begin with reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing fat intake. So, what’s the difference?

It all boils down to ketosis - a metabolic state where your body uses fat instead of glucose as its main source of energy.

Ketosis is the main goal of a ketogenic diet. Your body prefers glucose as fuel, so the slightest change in daily carbohydrates or protein (yep, the body can make glucose out of protein when there’s enough of it) can shift the body out of ketosis and back to running on glucose.

The exact breakdown of macronutrients needed to keep your body in ketosis varies from person to person because we each have unique metabolisms.

The only way to know whether you’re in ketosis is to monitor your body’s ketone levels (via urine or blood testing strips). If you’re trying keto but not tracking your macronutrient intake and ketone levels, you’re probably following more of a HFLC diet.

A HFLC diet is less strict and focuses more on eliminating unhealthy carbohydrate sources, like refined grains and sugary foods, and including more whole foods, including healthy fats, moderate amounts of protein, some whole grains and fruit, and vegetables.

Here’s a break-down of the main differences between ketogenic and HFLC diets:

  • Ketogenic
    • Main goal - induce ketosis
    • Primary fuel source is fatty acids and ketone bodies from fat
    • Requires strict breakdown of macronutrients to maintain ketosis
    • Very little carbohydrate – usually 5-10% of total calorie needs
    • Moderate amounts of protein – about 20% of total calorie needs and NOT a free for all!
    • Lots of healthy fats (think avocado, nuts, olives, coconut, oils, and grass-fed butter and meats) – about 70% of total calorie needs
  • HFLC - high-fat low-carb
    • Main goal - reduce carbohydrate intake, but not necessarily induce ketosis
    • Primary fuel source is usually glucose from carbs and/or protein
    • No precise breakdown of macronutrients – less strict and many variations
    • Typically includes moderate amounts of carbohydrates and protein
    • Carbohydrate sources shift from refined and starchy, like pasta and sweets, to complex, like sweet potatoes

Whether you choose to follow a HFLC diet or the more rigid ketogenic diet, decreasing carbohydrate intake and increasing fat intake are linked to the following health benefits:

  • Weight loss
  • Improved blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Improved HDL/LDL cholesterol ratio

Decreasing your carbohydrate intake, especially refined grains, sweets and excess sugar is beneficial for your health. You don’t necessarily need to take on a full HCLF or Keto plan to do this. As with any diet change, it’s important to know what you’re looking to get out of it and develop a plan that’s realistic for your lifestyle.

If you’re looking for more energy, a leaner body composition and healthy guidelines to get you there, I can help. Book a breakthrough call with me so we can talk more about your goals and the best way for you to reach them.

It’s important to note that the LCHF and keto diet plans can be beneficial for people with certain health conditions including diabetes, obesity and some types of cancer. Talk with a holistic nutritionist for guidelines specific to your situation.

RECIPE – A twist on a classic

Avocado Egg Salad

Ingredients

4 large eggs, free range
1 medium avocado
2 Tbsp. classic hummus
1 Tbsp. each fresh dill and chives, finely chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash smoked paprika
Romaine lettuce leaves, for serving

Preparation

  1. Hard boil eggs with your preferred cooking method, then cool, peel and chop cooked eggs.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, mash pitted avocado with the hummus, herbs, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.
  3. Add chopped eggs to avocado mixture and toss to combine. Serve egg salad immediately wrapped in lettuce leaves or chill and then serve. Best eaten same day.

REFERENCES

Healthline: The Ketogenic Diet: A Detailed Beginner's Guide to Keto

Healthline: The LCHF Diet Plan: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide

The Truth About Daily Weight Fluctuations

In my opinion, we’re a little too obsessed with the scale. We all want our weight to trend in the direction that’s congruent with our goals (some people that’s up, by gaining muscle, and for other’s it’s down, with fat loss). But when you weigh yourself on a daily basis, you’re watching the trend too closely for it to be beneficial.

When it come to your weight, and your health in general, there’s a certain level of interference from you that’s going to disrupt your body’s natural process. This is also the case for watching the scale daily because your emotional reaction to (let’s face it, a lot of us allow ourselves to be bolstered or cut down by) the number on the scale can create a stress response that causes you to move in the opposite direction of your goal.

We need to realize that weight fluctuations are normal, and to focus instead on the general trend we’re seeing on the scale. Better yet – remove the scale from the equation altogether and focus on your healthy habits and the way your clothes feel on your body.

For those who want to know why your weight fluctuates daily, see more in this post.

We all know the frustration of working hard to maintain a healthy body weight, only to step on the bathroom scale and see the numbers going in the wrong direction - or not quickly enough in the right direction!

Here are 7 truths about those normal daily weight fluctuations:

1| Scale weight is not a true measurement of your health. It is simply one of many variables you should be taking into account to determine if you are approaching or maintaining your optimal body weight.

2| When you wake up after fasting - usually for around 12 hours, you're completely dehydrated and at your lowest weight of the day. This is why it’s recommended to weigh yourself first thing in the morning after you’ve voided, and before you eat or drink anything.

3| Speaking of voiding… you can experience daily weight fluctuations of 1-3+ lbs due to waste that could be lingering in your large colon. Who knew poop could be so heavy?

Be sure to keep the bowels moving with plenty of fluids, plant-based fibre and targeted supplementation, if necessary.

4| Your scale doesn't just weigh fat. It weighs muscle, bone, organs, water, and as you just learned - poop!

When you lose weight, it doesn't necessarily mean that you've lost body fat as the average bathroom scale has no way of telling you what bodily tissues you've lost. Weighing “skinny” on the scale does not always translate into healthy off the scale.

FACT: The more muscle you have the more energy your body burns, even when you're just sitting around - due to the fact that it’s a metabolically active tissue. That's one reason why a fit, active person is generally able to eat more than say the chronic dieter who is unknowingly breaking down and losing muscle.

5| Likewise, the scale can't tell if you've gained muscle.

Building muscle makes it possible to drop clothing sizes (and lose inches) without a significant change, if any, in scale weight.

THINK OF IT LIKE THIS: a pound of muscle is like a small, compact brick, whereas a pound of fat is like a bulky, lumpy pillow. So that's why when you gain muscle and lose fat, your figure appears slimmer and more firm - but your scale weight may not change much.

6| For all the ladies out there...it's not you, it's your HORMONES!

Some women can gain up to 10 lbs right before or during their period. No joke. This is because of the natural drop in Progesterone just before your period often causes digestive issues like water retention and constipation. And, let’s not forget how heavy poop can be!

Our bodies also tend to lose Magnesium in the days before menstruation, which drives our Insulin levels up leading to an increase in food cravings - especially for sugar.

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that keeps blood sugar levels in check but is also considered a fat storage hormone.

7| Speaking of hormones… whether you're a female or not, we’re all influenced by stress hormones. Your cortisol level will influence the way your body handles blood sugar which in turn affects your insulin level.

When you’re under stress, your body is primed and ready for weight gain. Aside from gaining weight, you’re likely to notice bloating as well which might lead you to step on the scale and check things out.

This type of fluctuation is something to watch because staying in your stress response over time will have negative effects on your health and your weight.

If you live a busy life with a lot of responsibility, you’re likely under stress on a regular basis. Learn more about how to manage stress and avoid weight gain, by joining the Simple Stress Reduction Facebook Group.

The Bottom Line

These yo-yoing numbers have nothing to do with your long-term progress and they are just part of the overall health optimization journey.

Simply do your best to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle and understand that daily weight fluctuations are completely normal!

“The scale can only give you a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. That’s it.

It cannot measure beauty, talent, purpose, life force, possibility, strength or love.”

— Steve Maraboli

RECIPE

Here’s a fresh, high-fibre, plant-powered recipe to keep that digestive system happy and moving along as it should (no heavy poop or bloated bellies weighing you down here!)

Papaya Avocado Berry Salad - serves 2

Combine the following in a medium bowl:

- 1 medium papaya, diced
- 1 medium avocado, diced
- ¾ cup cucumber, diced
- ⅓ cup fresh berries, sliced or whole
- 1 handful frisée (or greens of your choice)
- 2 Tbsp. or 4 halves walnuts, chopped & toasted

Then make the dressing:

Berry Balsamic Salad Dressing

- 2 cups mixed fresh berries, frozen thawed ok (like blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries)
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tb fresh citrus juice (like lemon, lime or orange juice)
- 2 tsp honey, unpasteurized
- 1 tsp Dijon or spicy mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon Himalayan Pink or Grey/Celtic Sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste

Optional additions: to kick your dressing up a notch, add 1 small clove garlic, chopped &/or 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves.

In a blender or mini food processor, puree berries. Place a small strainer over a bowl. Pour pureed berries into strainer, pressing with the back of a spoon to remove the seeds. Return pureed berries to blender or food processor.

Add all remaining ingredients except oil; process until smooth. Add the oil slowly (by teaspoons), again until smooth. Taste, then add more honey, salt and pepper if desired.

Gently toss the salad with 2-3 Tbsp. of the dressing. Enjoy!

REFERENCES: New Health Guide: Weight Gain During Period

What to Eat Before, During & After Your Workout

I see this all too often… You’re starting to fit workouts into your routine and you feel good for the first week or two, but then you notice your energy dropping. You’re feeling tired, depleted and lacking motivation. What could be the problem?

Often times when people add workouts to their routine, they forget to add proper fuel in the form of pre and post-workout meals. If you’re making time for the gym (or exercise of your choice), take an extra 15 minutes to prep something to eat before and after. When you fuel your body properly around your workouts, you’ll feel better, see results quicker and stay motivated to keep going.

This post will help you figure out what’s best to eat pre- and post-workout depending on the type of activity you’re doing.

You’ve just finished your workout and you know you need to eat something. But what?

Workout nutrition may seem rather complicated but it doesn’t have to be.

Here’s the latest on how to fuel your body before, during and after your workout so you can improve your performance, maximize recovery - and feel better!

Fuel before for your workout

You’d never head out on a long road trip without filling your tank with gas, right?!

Skipping your pre- workout fuel is the equivalent of hitting the road with an empty gas tank. You may get off to a good start, but you’ll likely be running on fumes in no time.

When you feed your body with the right nutrients before your workout, you’ll be able to lift more, run longer & faster, and speed up your gains. Plus you’ll feel so much better while doing it!

So, what should you eat before your workout?

Since our body’s preferred energy source is carbohydrates, your pre-workout fuel should be higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein and fat.

Protein and fat are harder for our body to digest, and this uses up extra energy that you could put toward your workout.

Aim to eat about one to two hours before your workout (depending on the size of your meal) to give your body time to digest and absorb the nutrients.

Here are a few Pre-Workout options that work well for pre-strength or pre-cardio workouts:

  • Wholegrain rice cake with 1 Tbsp. of natural nut butter
  • Small apple and a handful of raw nuts (or nut butter)
  • ½ cup of plain oatmeal (whole oats) topped with hemp hearts and berries

Sports Drinks or Water?

Plain water will do the trick during your workout. Experts recommend drinking between 3-8 oz of water every 15 minutes during your sweat session.

Also, you can hold off on the sports drinks unless you’re exercising for 90 minutes or longer, or are exercising in extreme heat.

Sports drinks help to replace carbohydrates and electrolytes but are not necessary for the average gym goer.

Why not skip the sugary, neon-blue commercial sports drink all together and just whip up your own for longer, sweatier workouts?

Here’s how: Take ½ cup pure orange juice, top with filtered water and add a pinch of sea salt or pink salt. You’ve got a DIY electrolyte replacement drink for a fraction of the cost and infinitely healthier ;-).

What to Eat after a Cardio Session

It is still recommended that you eat your post-cardio snack 30-60 minutes after finishing up.

However, you’ll be using more carbohydrate stores during a sweaty cardio workout (think running or spinning) than you would during your lifting session.

This is why you’ll need to eat a snack or meal that is 3:1 or 4:1 carb to protein ratio - similar to your pre-workout ratio.

Try one of these snacks after your next cardio workout to replenish your carbohydrate stores (glycogen) used and to help you recover faster:

  • Sprouted grain toast and natural nut butter
  • 5-10 whole grain crackers & 2 Tbsp. hummus or bean dip
  • Small banana and a small handful of raw nuts or seeds

What to Eat After Strength Training or Lifting Weights

Once you finish that last rep, pat yourself on the back and then fuel up on the protein!

Aim to eat within 30-60 minutes post workout to help your body recovery and to build those muscles you’ve been working so hard for. This meal should be approximately a 2:1 ratio of protein to carbohydrates.

Here are a few examples of a balanced “post-lifting” meal:

  • Grilled chicken breast with roasted vegetables
  • 2 hard boiled eggs and whole grain crackers

You’ll also love this smoothie - packed with protein, fibre and the anti-inflammatory benefits of tart cherries!

RECIPE

Very Cherry Recovery Smoothie

1 cup of non-dairy milk of choice (I like coconut milk)
1 scoop vanilla protein powder of choice (unsweetened, less processed)
1 handful of fresh or frozen tart cherries (frozen will have a thicker consistency)
1-2 Tbsp. of chia seeds or hemp hearts
1 handful of greens (spinach or baby kale work well here)
2-3 ice cubes (more if you’ve used fresh cherries)

Blend, enjoy and watch those muscles grow!

REFERENCES

LiveStrong: Post Workout Carb-Protein Ratio

The Washington Post: The Best Way To Eat Before & After Exercise

CBC.ca: Sports Drinks Unnecessary, Counterproductive For Most People

Regular vs Diet Soda - is one really healthier than the other?

Attention soda lovers! Further to the Pepsi vs Coke debate (which, if I had to weigh in, I was raised on team Pepsi) is the debate of regular vs. diet.

Now, let’s get one thing clear, I’m not advocating that you drink soda – whether it’s regular or diet. There are healthier drink options all around us (I list some at the bottom of this post).

However, I know that for some of you reading this, you’re used to your soft drink and aren’t quite ready to give it up. So let’s look at the facts when it comes to choosing regular vs diet so that when you do choose a soft drink, you can make the best choice for you.

Disclaimer: you might not love the answer, but you need to recognize where soda stands in terms of nutritional output (there’s not much).

You don’t have to be a health nut to know that soda isn’t good for you. But is it really all that bad?

Is it ok to just have it once in a while? And if you’re going to have it, is it better to have the regular ol’ sugar-filled version or the zero calorie “diet” kind?

Well, let’s weigh-in on the facts:

Regular soda - as bad as they say?

PROS:

  • It doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin) that have been the subject of a lot of studies lately to see how these chemicals affect our bodies

CONS:

  • The sugar! A 12-ounce can of cola has about 8 teaspoons; almost the daily limit as recommended by the American Heart Association. Remember, you’d be drinking that in addition to any other sugar you’re getting in the rest of your diet.
  • Drinking 1-2 cans a day can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 26%
  • Regular sodas are filled with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) which is linked to obesity, heart disease and fatty liver disease

Diet soda - is it actually better for you?

PROS:

  • It feeds the craving for something sweet without adding extra calories or carbs, if you’re concerned about this
  • Since it’s sugar-free, diabetics can sip without worrying about the direct hit to their insulin and blood sugar levels

CONS:

  • While diet soda may be considered ‘safe’ for diabetics, they are far from nutritious as the artificial sweeteners in diet soda actually cause you to crave more sugar. When we drink it, our body is expecting sugar. Then when it doesn’t get it, it responds with even more cravings - for sugar!
  • Diet soda drinkers tend to gain more weight particularly around their belly. One study said that frequent drinkers of diet soda gained up to three times more belly fat than their non-diet soda drinking counterparts.
  • Diet soda is now being linked with cancer, heart attacks, strokes and neurological disorders.

The verdict on soda

Neither regular or diet soda are going to improve your health. They are literally devoid of any health benefits. In fact, both are linked to significant health issues.

So what should you choose?

The best bet would be to steer clear of both, if you can. However, if you do decide to have a soda from time to time, the choice is ultimately up to you.

If you’re sensitive to sugar, then perhaps the diet soda may be your best bet. But, if artificial sweeteners wreak havoc on your digestive system, you may want to go with the regular soda instead.

What to drink instead

The healthiest drink you can give your body is plain old water. And while water may not seem as exciting as soda, you can shake it up by adding lemon, lime or berries - or even cucumber and mint for a bit of flavour.

Sparkling waters (sugar free and artificial sweetener free) can also be a great alternative for a soda replacement since they still contain some bubbles and fizz. Many soda lovers have converted to these fizzy healthier alternative drinks:

If you’re someone who only drinks soda when it’s paired in a cocktail, try switching up your drink of choice so it contains less sugar. Go for sparkling water, add a splash of lime, or even take your drink on the rocks and sip it. It might take longer to drink, but you’re way ahead in terms of avoid additional sugar or taking in potentially harmful chemicals. It’s something to think about.

Recipe:

For another delicious way to stay hydrated, try this refreshing coconut water based hydrator:

Lemon-Lime Refresher Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of water (filtered, sparkling or even better - coconut water!)
  • ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup of fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. of maple syrup or honey (or stevia to taste for a sugar-free alternative)
  • ¼ tsp Himalayan pink salt
  • Ice cubes

How to prepare

Combine all ingredients well. Then sip throughout the day and enjoy.

References

Wiley Online Library - Diet study & waist circumference study

CNN - Diet Soda May Do More Harm Than Good

Harvard School of Public Health - Soft Drinks & Disease

American Heart Association - Sugar 101

Healthline - Is Diet Soda Safe for Diabetes?

6 Simple Ways To Eat More Mindfully

Of all the nutrition recommendations I give my clients, changing what they eat isn’t usually as hard for them as changing the way they eat.

Eating mindfully is something we think of as a luxury, meant for “when we have time.” We think of it as not being realistic for our busy lives. There are so many different things pulling our attention - work, busy families, physical routines, and all the other daily distractions - it can be difficult to sit down and eat mindfully.

Yet, when we’re constantly distracted we live in our fight/flight response, our bodies are not ready to properly digest our food. This leads to indigestion, bloating, gas, and can cause changes in our microbiome.

We need to be calm, relaxed and breathe deeply for our bodies to be ready to take in our nutrients properly. Bringing mindfulness to the table is a great way to ensure your body is calm and ready to eat. When you eat mindfully, you’re more in touch with your body so you’ll know when you’re hungry and be able to stop when you’re full.

To help you put this into practice, here are seven simple ideas to help you establish more mindful eating habits and reconnect to your body.

1. Tune in to your body’s signals

Rather than just eating on emotional cues (different for each of us, like sadness, anger, frustration, loneliness, stress or even just boredom) we can learn to tune into and be better listeners of our body’s actual hunger signals.

For example, is your stomach growling, is your energy low, are you feeling a little lightheaded, or even ‘hangry’?

2. Put food on a...plate

Too obvious? Think about this: eating out of a bag is not a very mindful practice. So, get in the habit of placing even snacks on a plate before eating them. This helps you to take notice of exactly what and how much you’re actually eating.

Also, acknowledge the time, effort and passion you put into creating your meal - consider all the ingredients, and the preparation and intention involved in getting the food from stove to plate.

3. Sit....at a table

Now that you’re eating from a plate, continue “formalizing” your eating experience by always sitting at a table.

This helps to pull your attention back to your food and to your eating habits. It has also been shown to dramatically reduce overeating - especially for those who tend to eat in front of the TV. When you have no distractions, you’ll be better able to listen to your body’s cues and notice how you feel when eating different foods.

4. Make the table a NO device zone

Whether you eat on your own or with others, make the table a no device zone so that you can be fully present in your body and with your food. This includes putting away the devices and turning off the TV.

You can designate the first few minutes of a meal for a mindfulness practice by each sharing something that you’re grateful for. When you’re feeling gratitude, your body is relaxed and at ease – the state you need to be in to digest properly.

5. Slo-o-o-o-w down (and chew!)

Slowing down is one of the easiest, and most effective ways we can get our body and mind to coordinate in their signals of what we really need for nutritional purposes.

It can take up to 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal from your body that you’re feeling full - a little glitch in human physiology, which is why it can be easy to overeat. But, if we slow down, we can give our body a chance to catch up to our brain, hear the signals properly, and eat the right amount.

Chewing more, and more slowly, is probably THE simplest and most effective way to begin developing the habit of eating mindfully.

6. Pause between bites

Putting your fork down between bites of food ensures that you chew your food properly. Did you know that it’s ideal for you to chew every bite 25 times, in order to properly break down your food enough to be well digested by your body.

So chew thoroughly, and put your fork down between bites, rather than mindlessly picking at your plate or preparing to shovel in your next bite. Oh, and you’ll actually get to taste your food!

So, there you have it - six easy and actionable ways you can start practicing mindfulness, especially when you’re eating. Your whole body will benefit from slowing down, and being more intentional and present while eating.

ACTIVITY

Tapping into ALL of your senses is a great way to be fully present while eating - because it isn’t just about taste. There are so many things to experience when we eat food — colours, textures, smells and even sounds. Let’s put this concept to the test!

The Mindful Raisin Experiment

Ingredients:

  • 3 plump, juicy raisins

How to eat raisins...mindfully:

  1. With raisins in hand, begin to explore them with all of your senses. Imagine that you’ve never seen a raisin before. Discover everything you can about them!
  2. Turn them around with your fingers and take note of the colours.
  3. Observe the texture - any softness, hardness, coarseness, or smoothness.
  4. Put the raisins up to your nose and take note of any aroma.
  5. Place the your raisins close to one ear, squeeze them or roll them around, listening to any sounds.
  6. Now...the really fun part! Slowly put the 3 raisins in your mouth, noticing the sensation of your mouth beginning to water as you start to chew them.
  7. Chew the raisins slowly and with intention until they are virtually disintegrated.
  8. When you feel ready to swallow, note the sensations of swallowing the raisin - for example, sensing it moving down your throat and into your esophagus on its way to your stomach.
  9. Visualize this happening, and the energy and nourishment that this intentional eating is going to provide your body.
  10. Take a moment to congratulate yourself for taking this time to experience truly mindful eating!