Please note, I am not an accredited medical or fitness professional. Always check with your qualified medical or fitness professional before embarking on a new diet or fitness routine.
What is LCPC? aka The Low Carb Protein-Centric Diet
So far on my FitViews Podcast Getting Started Series we’ve talked about several food plans that I think could be helpful for most people. Keto, Whole30, and Paleo. All of these are tools I have used in the past and on my journey in figuring out what works best for me. In Episode 7 I shared where I ended up in that journey aka, how I currently eat. How I’ve put things together in a way that I think is truly powerful for those seeking body composition changes. Especially fat loss.
I’m calling it Low Carb Protein-centric Eating. I have no idea if anyone else calls something that or if I just made that up, but it’s the best description I could come up with...and I needed a title.
This way of eating is really nothing new, and I don’t think I made it up. Ketogains has a similar approach. I’ve heard Robb Wolf and his wife Nikki talk a lot about upping your protein if you’re struggling with body composition goals on their podcast Healthy Rebellion. Atkins is more low carb, higher protein. There are books out there like Protein Power (which I haven’t read, but I’ve heard it’s a similar approach). And of course Dr. Garbrielle Lyons has similar views. All of those are great resources to check out. I've simply taken bits of this and pieces of that and structured a plan that I think can be truly powerful for reaching our fat loss goals.
A little back-story, I’ve struggled with my weight most of my adult life. Shortly after high school, I tried low fat and running a lot. I really didn’t have any grasp of calories back then. Everyone demonized fat and glorified aerobic workouts, so I did the heck out of those two things and ya, just kind of felt like crap. Tired, major afternoon energy slumps, and I mean I was young! It was ridiculous. I never lost much weight and was constantly craving junk.
The first successful attempt I made at getting to a healthy weight was Atkins. I was 24. After my previous failed attempts, it was so easy I was kind of stunned. I wasn’t starving and the weight came off pretty quickly. However, as soon as I got out of the 20 grams of carbs you get in the Induction phase, the weight loss ground to a halt. So I just stayed at 20 grams of carbs. Then, I hovered around my happy weight and started to think that I could “eat regular foods again”...cue downward spiral and weight gain. And repeat. Especially during my pregnancies. Around and around I went. But no matter what plan I tried or how far off course I got, I always went back to low carb. But I always thought it was just the carbs that mattered. I didn’t really think about the protein.
Then, post-baby number 4 I just couldn’t get traction. Paleo alone wasn’t helping, I was struggling with binge urges again, something that had been gone for several years since going Paleo. I was flirting with sugar and high carb foods again. I was a mess.
In 2017 I went keto because of other health issues and had some success with fat loss. Until I didn’t and got stalled. I was doing a 70 to 80% fat ratio on keto. Cognitively I feel amazing at those higher fat levels, but I just don’t see the success with body composition goals at those macros. I dug in and did more research and through that, and trial and error for several years since I have realized that yes, carbs matter, for several reasons, but when it comes to making body composition changes what likely matters most is the protein. Yes, high fat can be great for so many goals, but when it comes to body composition goals I really think this Low Carb Protein-centric approach is the best approach.
I’ll give you an example why I think that. I did 75 Hard at the beginning of 2020. I did strict keto, 20 grams TOTAL carbs, and 1650 calories for my diet parameters. Again, my macros were around 75% fat. My workouts were cardio and weight training with dumbbells. I saw tons of changes and loved the experience, but on the scale I only lost 6 pounds. That was super frustrating after 75 grueling days. Fast forward to this week. I’m doing 75 Hard again with my new Low Carb Protein-centric approach and barbell training with cardio and I lost 6 pounds in the first 7 days.
Now, I have lowered my calories to 1500, but I just don't think that 150 calories equates to that big of a difference. 6 pounds in 75 days compared to 6 pounds in 7 days? I truly think it’s the higher protein and barbell training that make all the difference.
OK, so what is Low Carb Protein-centric eating? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like: you keep your carbs low and your main focus is protein.
Getting Started with Low Carb Protein-centric Eating
This is how I break it down:
- First of all, eat clean, Paleo-style food choices. Ditch the grains, soy, sugar, and legumes. Focus on quality proteins, eggs, leafy greens and low carb veggies. Likely, you can sneak some berries in too, at least occasionally. Nuts and seeds are best left out until maintenance mode because they are so calorically dense and you don’t want them to take the place of some healthy greens or nutrient packed berries in your carb count. I’m not talking perfect, I also include things like Quest chips just to keep me sane. They DO have great protein counts. As far as dairy, do what works best for you, just watch those carbs. People really do vary on their response to dairy and especially how it affects their blood sugar and fat loss goals. Personally, I do fine with good grass-fed butter, whey protein, and half and half in my coffee. But if I try to add in things like heavy cream, sour cream, cheeses, yogurt, and kefir I have issues. Could be the total amount or something specific about those things, not sure, but after years of trial and error I have found what works and what doesn't.
- Second, focus on protein first. Aim for about 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight. There’s a couple of ways to figure this out. If you know your body fat percentage you can take your weight and figure out how much is fat and how much is likely lean body mass. Or you can just approximate what you think this is. Or you can do what I do and just use your goal weight. For example, my goal weight is somewhere around 150 pounds, so when I’m seeking fat loss I eat 150 grams of protein. This may be a tad high, my lean body mass may be something closer to 120 to 130 pounds. And when I’m in maintenance mode and not focusing on gaining strength, that is where I aim for my protein goals, about 120-130 grams. But 150 grams seems to be my sweet spot for fat loss. Play around with it and find your best protein target.
- Third, eat 30 to 50 grams of protein per meal. It’s important to hit that 30 gram threshold each time you have protein for best results. So, some may aim for closer to the 50 grams, 3 meals a day, and some people will aim for the 30 grams 4 times a day. However it best breaks down for you. Now, yes it’s best to aim for real food, but I do have a protein shake a day to hit my current target of 150 grams of protein. I struggle keeping my calories and macros where I want them otherwise. Protein shakes are easy and tasty and help me hit my goals spot on. As long as it’s a clean protein powder, I don’t think they’re a big deal. I just mix 2 scoops of protein powder with a blender bottle full of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze. Usually post workout. My favorite protein powder is this one.
- Fourth, find your carb sweet spot. Start at 100 grams of total daily carbohydrate and work your way down. I recommend testing your fasting blood sugar until it’s under 93 most days. That’s your carb sweet spot. You can get a cheap glucose meter at Walmart or anywhere. You don’t need a prescription. It’s really no big deal and I think fasting blood sugar is one of the most important metrics you can watch for good health. Now, I’m at 20-30 grams of TOTAL carbs a day, and because of other health reasons I keep my fasting blood sugar below 89. Wherever you wind up for your carb target, I really believe you want to make sure and get tons of leafy greens and veggies as your main carb sources to keep your body from getting too acidic. That’s been my experience anyway. I also sometimes add liquid chlorophyll to my water for this reason. Could be in my head, but I feel like it helps.
- Then last, just fill in with healthy fats to reach your daily caloric requirements. Just a note on calorie goals. I definitely recommend starting at what you think are your maintenance calories, the level at which you neither gain nor lose weight. Then move down slowly as needed. There's really no need to tank your calories on this plan. Work your way down to a sensible level that has you losing fat.
You may need to play around with it for a bit, but once I got all of those numbers right for me I was astounded how powerful this approach can be.
So, for an example, my day will look like this:
I workout first thing, after coffee or a preworkout of course (I use Keto Perform from: https://www.pntrac.com/t/3-274263-86806-249382 you can use code FITVIEWS for 20% OFF), then afterward my workout I have my protein shake with two scoops of whey protein (I should add a handful of berries, but often don't. just keeping it real). That’s often basically breakfast. Sometimes I’ll get fancy and do a protein smoothie with some frozen spinach or strawberries or some protein pancakes. If I'm not lifting I'll often have some chicken or turkey sausage and eggs with some berries or greens. I'm generally aiming for 40 to 50 grams of protein here.
For lunch I’ll aim for around 50 grams of protein. Maybe some egg salad and Quest chips or turkey burgers with lettuce wraps. Tuna salad. Things like that.
For dinner again I’ll aim for around 50 grams of protein. Maybe some steak and salad, or I’ve been loving elk burgers and zucchini on the grill lately. Some chicken and swiss chard. Meat and veggies, you get the idea.
I’m in no way perfect and I really focus mostly on hitting that protein target. Confession: I’ve been too lazy to make myself lunch and just had two bags of Quest chips and called it good. But I’m trying to get better at upping my greens. I think I’ve mentioned Quest chips a 100 times in this post. No, they’re not a sponsor, but I’ve added my Amazon affiliate links to my favorite flavors where I have mentioned them. I have them on my Amazon Subscribe and Save. I may or may not have a problem…anyway
As with any low carb approach there may be an adjustment period, around a week, depending on what your diet looked like before. Just drink plenty of water and make sure your electrolytes are in balance. I of course love LMNT, but however you take in your electrolytes just make sure it’s not full of sugar or junky artificial sweeteners. Read your labels and watch those carb counts. Also, you may want to take it easy on your workouts the first week or two as you adjust to this new way of eating.
Now, the other part of this is that you really need to be strength training. It’s like Dr Gabrielle Lyons has said, “we’re not overfat, we’re under-muscled” and that truly is what this approach is all about. It’s about optimal body composition. It’s about leveraging protein and strength building to reach our goals. To maximize this approach you’ll want to lift heavy 3 to 4 times a week focusing on progressive overload. Meaning you are progressively going up in weight for each lift. I would highly recommend barbell training for the best results here. Go back and check out Episode 3 of the podcast or the books Starting Strength or The Barbell Prescription (for over 40) for more info on strength training.
Just to recap:
- make clean paleo foods your main focus
- set your protein goal at 1 gram per pound of lean body weight
- eat 30 to 50 grams of protein at a time, find your carb sweet spot
- then fill in the rest of your caloric requirements with healthy fats
- and of course, lift some heavy stuff. Also, definitely get out and get some walks in the sunshine
Easy peasy, right?
Let me know how it goes if you try it!