It seems like there are [at least] three basic ideas of how to implement maintenance on Low Carb. I picked representatives of each of three and look at their methodology for maintenance. Each of these three has their merits and downsides.
Dr Atkins – Titrate Carbs
Sometimes the first idea is the right idea and Dr Atkins sure did suffer a lot of slings and arrows in his day. He was tormented even in death by his opponents. I did his diet back in the 1990s and did well for over a year on it. I tapped out due to heart rhythm issues which seem to be recurring now (PVCs in particular). I think they are likely electrolyte imbalances. (Later note: See this post for my current strategy which seems to be working].
The Atkins diet starts with a 2 week induction period at 20g of carbs a day and then increases. At maintenance, the person is supposed to work up to their personal carb limit and remain at that level with an occasional adjustment if they go too far off the rails.
This approach might work well for some. It worked OK for me and at least taught me to avoid really stupid amounts of carbs but I never went below about 228 lbs before I transitioned over to maintenance carbs.
Later on, my Insulin pump data showed my average was 200 grams of carbs a day before I got off Insulin which is less than SAD and proof that I did learn something about carbs back when I was on Atkins. But, clearly 200 g of carbs was above my personal threshold. And there’s good evidence that 100 g is probably too much, too.
Carbs have a way of sneaking back in and this method is a way to get back on the blood sugar roller coaster for some. Above some point the benefits of the keto diet get lost because carb cravings get stoked. Plus it is difficult to add carbs and keep them clean carbs. It’s really easy to add back in junk carbs.
Dr Berstein – Titrate Protein
Dr Bernstein is a Diabetic Type 1 medical doctor who is also a pioneer. Bernstein recognizes the problems with titrating down carbs in his patients. Here is Bernstein’s own words (from 2015):
Bernstein – “When we want to halt weight loss we increase protein“.
I think Bernstein nicely addresses the problems with bringing back in carbs but I don’t think his method works for me. I’ve essentially done it when I did carnivore and I kept losing weight in spite of eating a lot more protein. It might work for others. My normal diet gives me enough substrate for GNG (which is demand driven) plus substrate for Muscle Protein Synthesis. Beyond some point Protein just gets eliminated via urea.
The reason this is ineffective may be that increasing protein over my normal diet significantly has a very marginal effect on FQ. Holding carbs constant (22.8g) and fat constant (191g) and taking my Protein from 179 to 300 only takes my FQ from 0.740 to 0.749 at the expense of a whole lot more protein.
Dr Ted Naiman – Balance Energy (P:NPE)
Dr Ted takes a unique approach which seeks to take into account the strengths of both of the previous methods. His method is to balance the energy from protein with the non-protein energy (in terms of grams of each not in terms of calories). His formula is essentially 30% of calories from Protein and 70% from fat and carbs. His method keeps ketogenic levels of carbs (20 or 30 or less a day) from good sources and avoids carb cravings that come with higher carb levels (no blood sugar roller coaster).
I Picked Dr. Ted
I am currently trying Dr Ted’s method. His method sets the Protein grams to body weight in lbs. I am currently 169 lbs, so if I want to stay in the 165-175 lbs range (nominal 170 lbs) I need to eat 170g of protein a day. That would be matched with 20 grams of carbs and 150g of fat a day. That is a FQ of 0.744-0.745. That is slightly more than my current 0.740 from last week.
I am interested to see how this works out since that’s a lower total calorie count than I have been eating (and I was still losing weight). I was at an average of 2526 calories a day last week and my starting/ending weights were the same.
Dr. Ted’s method doesn’t adjust up or down for physical activity. I will do this for a month and see how it works out. If I drop below 165 lbs for any extended period I will evaluate whether I need to increase calories or not.