Ask Stew: Are Low-Carb Diets a Good Idea to Lose Weight?

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Fort Bliss holds a weight-loss challenge.
The William Beaumont Army Medical Center on Fort Bliss, Texas, held a weight-loss challenge in 2013 that included 30 competitors, both soldiers and Department of the Army civilians. (Sgt. Edward Garibay/U.S. Army photo)

Eliminating macronutrients?

"Hello Stew, thanks for your service and your continued support of the military, police and their families in fitness and health. I am trying to lose weight and thought I'd try something that would eliminate carbohydrates from my diet for a while? What do you think of that as a weight loss idea?"

As a rule, never eliminate macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) from your diet. There are many diets out there that play around with these critical components of our nutrition. However, you can limit them in order to see outstanding results. Of course, you would want to accompany your eating plan with an exercise routine that had cardiovascular and resistance training.

But, for a challenging test, try to eliminate sugar. This is anything with cane sugar in it. For a short list, that means soda, sweet tea/coffee, cake, cookies and even white bread. Only eat multigrain bread. You can consume your carbs from fruits and vegetables, either before or after a workout.

Once you have eliminated sugar, you will lose that extra 5-10 pounds of fat or water retention off your belly button area if you are a man and off your hips if you are a woman. (These are typical results.)

For instance, I like to work out first thing in the morning when I wake up. I eat a banana and do a variety of exercises that include running, swimming, weights and calisthenics.

Some days, if I do just a cardio workout, I will skip the banana and wait to eat after the workout. Then I eat a high-protein breakfast with fruits to replace lost carbs and drink water as well. For the rest of the morning, I snack on peanuts, almonds or a fiber-rich nutrition bar (no sugar). Only a few carbs and more water.

For lunch, I eat a big salad with a large protein source, like tuna or chicken. The salad is filled with high-fiber carbs like broccoli; green, leafy lettuce like romaine; onions; almonds; and maybe even some strawberries to top it off. Squirt some lemon juice or a balsamic vinegar-type dressing for added flavor and good fats.

After lunch, I do not eat any more carbs during the day, except those that come in peanuts, almonds and other nuts for snacks. At this point, my body still will have enough carbs to function properly for the rest of the day. However, if you work out in the evening, you may want to add a few pieces of fruit or vegetables before exercise longer than 30 minutes.

During dinner, I have a small salad with a large source of protein again. And if I get hungry during after-dinner hours, I drink more water and have some peanuts, almonds or leftover chicken to fill any late-evening hunger needs.

This has worked for me to get rid of those last few extra pounds being carried around the midsection; however, dropping sugar is difficult for 2-3 days. After that, it is really easy to skip the sweets and white breads. So good luck with the last few pounds and remember to mix in any weight-loss plan with a solid fitness routine.

Many people find that by just adding fitness into their world on a daily basis, they do not have to alter much of their diet. By dropping sugar, you will save money, lose extra weight and make your dentist happy.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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