What’s it really like to follow a no-carb diet?
Our health editor, Elizabeth Atmore, ditches carbs for a high protein and fats diet.
In our April issue we featured an article on Professor Tim Noakes, the world-renowned South African scientist who suggests that we ditch carbs for protein and fats. We put this to the test, to see how we felt following a protein-heavy diet. Here are the results:
Elizabeth Atmore, FAIRLADY health editor
From one pasta-loving girl to another, let me tell you this: a protein-heavy it is doable. It really is. Yes, I know, right now the thought of giving up that lovely piece of toast for breakfast, or lunchtime baked potato, or pasta for dinner sounds like pure torture. And for a day or two it is. But then this feeling kicks in – a feeling of energy and lightness and clarity (no more foggy head), and suddenly passing up that piece of pizza for a piece of steak isn’t as difficult.
I decided to throw myself straight in at the deep-end, in a similar way to Penny: pure protein for five days, after which I started introducing the leafy green veg. One thing I felt was my saviour was fat (whereas Dukan suggests you choose lean cuts of meat, Prof Noakes prefers you stick to full-fat products and meats). While I was fine cutting out all sugar, I just felt more satisfied when I had some fatty biltong, or full-fat yoghurt.
In our article, Prof Noakes points out that the diet isn’t for everyone, and I can attest to that: I started doing it with my sister, and while I had virtually no cravings and plenty of energy to carry on as normal, she felt horrid. Headaches, grumpiness, and by day five an all-round feeling of hatred toward anything to do with protein. I was the opposite: I normally wake up feeling headachey and nauseous, but on no carbs that disappeared. That more than anything was my reason to carry on (and the weight-loss didn’t harm things: I lost about 4kgs in the two weeks I followed the plan strictly).
Yes, life has since kicked in and I have had carbs since, but if I am going to eat them I try make it earlier in the day, and I always combine them with a protein. Prof Noakes: you’re onto something here!
Penny Lankester, FAIRLADY subscriber
Yes, I wanted quick results, but I also wanted to follow a diet that made sense – and the Dukan Diet made a lot of sense. [The Dukan Diet, brainchild of French doctor Pierre Dukan, also suggests a high-protein, low-carb plan.] I feel a bit evangelistic about the whole thing, to be honest, because I can’t stop telling people about the diet and how fantastic it is. So far, without going hungry, and without much more than the odd sugar craving, I’ve lost 12kgs in about 7 weeks. That’s with five days of pure protein, followed by the second phase of the Dukan Diet, which is one day pure protein, one day protein and veg. My appetite has really diminished as well.
Eating out can be a little tricky at first, but it’s not as difficult as you expect it to be – it just requires a little imagination and forethought. It’s not at all difficult to ask your waitress to leave out the carbs, or swap them out for veg – they’ll do it if you ask. The booze is another story , and I have had a glass or two, but again, I feel so good on the diet that I don’t want to cheat.