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You’re about to hear an embarrassing confession. It's a horror story that you may have once experienced yourself. If you’ve never felt this pain, then a sadistic laugh is heading your way. T minus thirty seconds…

A tall, Dutch-Canadian fellow—and also a client I was working with at the time—was sitting on the toilet. He’d been sitting there for thirty minutes already, perhaps a little bit too long. His pants were around his ankles long enough for his leg hair to stand on end to protect him from the Canadian cold.

Sure, he’d finished his business well over twenty-five minutes ago, and as you know, sitting too long isn’t good for you. The problem with James was that he was seven days into a low carb diet, and his legs felt weak and had more pins and needles than your grandmother’s sewing kit. He just couldn’t stand up. This, my friends, is a low carb diet gone wild. Not the good kind of “wild” either.

Since then, I’ve learned from my mistake. You need to ease yourself into a low carb diet. They suck, but some of the suffering can be eliminated. Here are four methods you can implement to ace a low carb diet.

1. Back-load carbohydrates...

No, this doesn’t mean that you’ll need a maltodextrin enema. That’s a whole other ball game. I prefer John Kiefer’s method of saving carbs for the evening (or about 10–12 hours after waking if you like to sleep in until noon). By doing so, you're keeping insulin low for only part of the day as opposed to the entire day. This means fewer headaches, less light headedness, and fewer other symptoms of the Low Carb FeverTM.

On top of this, by loading carbohydrates at night, you're refilling glycogen stores so that you don’t feel weak the next day. This one thing could make or break your training. Nothing is more pathetic than missing an easy rep because you cut out carbohydrates cold turkey. Performance matters, my friends.

Once you’ve started back-loading carbohydrates, don’t change anything. Keep doing it until you feel fantastic during the low carb portion of the day. The key here is to force your body to adapt to using fat as energy instead of carbohydrates (becoming fat adapted). Once this happens, your body will be more adept to using carbs to refill glycogen and use fat for fuel while at rest.

2. Then taper...

The fun begins after adapting to carb back-loading. This is where the magic happens. Each week, cut daily starchy carbohydrates by 25–50 grams. That’s it. By doing so, you're also effectively cutting 700–1,400 calories per week. That’s a quarter to a half of a pound per week. Not too shabby for such a little change.

The key here is to slowly allow your body to adapt to lower carbohydrates and calories with as little suffering as possible. Dr. Mike Roussell often states that the amount of suffering is directly proportional to how effective your diet is. Precise and consistent tapering breaks this rule.

The most important aspects of tapering are knowing three things:

  1. How many carbohydrates you're currently eating daily (point A)
  2. How many carbohydrates you want to ultimately be eating for optimal fat loss (point B)
  3. How many weeks it will take you to reach your goal

For example, let’s say that you want to lose 15 pounds of fat in the next eight weeks and you know that you burn the most fat when you're following a ketogenic diet (0–50 grams of carbohydrates per day), but you're currently eating 600 grams of carbohydrates per day. This is a problem. You won’t be able to taper down to 50 grams in eight weeks. Your best bet would be to plan ahead and know when you want to hit your goal well in advance (e.g., losing fat for a weigh in or getting shredded for the summer). This means starting to taper well in advance, and it could be as drastic as tapering down so that you're able to eat 50 grams of carbs for eight weeks straight (with strategic refeeds of course). Oftentimes, you will reach your goal well before you had hoped. This is usually a bonus.

Keep calories high in the start

In addition to the theme of tapering carbs and calories, it's a fantastic idea to keep calories high at the start. Usually, the symptoms of the Low Carb FeverTM can be amplified by a magnitude of ten when you're in a caloric deficit. This will decrease motivation, decrease performance, and make you feel like a 12-year-old girl.

By keeping your initial calories at or slightly above maintenance while tapering down your carbohydrates, you will allow your body to become fat adapted without feeling hunger pangs 24/7. This usually increases compliance and will decrease cravings to overeat. You’ll know that you're fully fat adapted when you start to crave nuts, nut butters, and other delicious healthy fats.

Start with lower volume training

The volume in your program is directly proportional to the amount of carbohydrates you need to consume. This is because muscle glycogen becomes depleted during weightlifting. More reps and sets will deplete glycogen stores faster than lower volume training. Glycogen in your muscles is like gas in your car. Refill it when it’s empty or you aren't going to get anywhere.

Starting a low carb diet with lower volume in the weight room removes the variable of feeling weak, which inevitably has a negative impact on motivation. If your motivation is high during dieting, you’re more likely to succeed.

From there, you may choose to increase training volume. This is fine, yet you should be aware that your glycogen stores will deplete faster, and you will temporarily lose strength in the weight room. The good news is that having depleted glycogen stores accelerates fat loss. If strength is a concern, you should consider a carb load the night before competition at the very least. Either way, a biweekly carb and calorie refeed has accelerated fat loss in every single one of my clients.

Wrap up

Fat loss is a battle and a low carb diet is your weapon of choice, albeit a very powerful weapon. With great power comes great responsibility. Ignoring this responsibility and diving in head first can leave you with symptoms of the Low Carb FeverTM. Remember, a handful of strategies can be used to reduce these symptoms:

  1. Initially keep calories high (at or slightly above maintenance).
  2.  Back-load your carbohydrates so that only part of your day is spent low carb.
  3. After adapting to back-loading carbohydrates, start to taper them by 25–50 grams each week.
  4. At the start of your lifting program, keep the volume low.

If for some reason you forget these strategies, you’ll instantly remember them the next time you have trouble getting up off the toilet. Either way, let me know in the comments below.