We share your enthusiasm for LCHF nutrition and fasting. We want to help where we can. However, our responses can only be generalised. If you want more personalised advice, please see your preferred health professional.

FAQs: Health

Weakness in my muscles and a tingly sensation predominantly in my arms and legs

Q: Hi, I am a 56 year old who is active doing gym 4 x week, golf and lots of walking. I am on week four of this fabulous lifestyle. I have lost 3kg in three weeks and am happy with this progress. Over the past few days I have developed weakness in my muscles and a tingly sensation predominantly in my arms and legs. Not all the time however. I am taking a multi vitamin and probiotic in the morning and sometimes at night a Berrocca or B vitamin.

Why am I feeling like this all of a sudden please? Prior to this I have had great energy. Thanks for your time and I love the book.

A: The most likely reason for muscle weakness is a lack of salt, and/or a symptom of adjustment to the diet if yours is a very low carbohydrate (ketogenic) version.

Thanks for your query. Without seeing exactly what you’re eating, what other medications you are on, if any, and other history, it is really difficult to comment. As a dietitian I don’t generally like advising over email without having taken a good look into your diet and history etc… However, to get you thinking, I will ask a question about the amount of Pyridoxine (B6) that is in the multivitamin you take? The 10mg in the Berrocca is already greater than the daily requirement (about 1-2mg) and most multivitamins have about 30mg.

Pyridoxine can cause the symptoms you describe, albeit usually at higher doses, if taken long term, and it is possible that the diet has increased your absorption of this vitamin – it should certainly supply enough of it. You could try removing this supplement for starters and see if symptoms resolve (if you are doing LCHF properly – as per guidelines in our book you should be getting enough B vitamins from food). If the symptoms do not resolve, and you wish to look into this further in more detail, I am happy to help.

Update: the tingling and fatigue was due to a viral infection that also caused an irregular heartbeat. The virus was treated and this correspondent is doing well months later on LCHF.

Impact of additional fat on someone who no longer has a gall bladder

Q: I have had a look at some of your interesting book and its recommendations regarding fat. While considering those with tendency towards diabetes, did any of you consider the impact of the additional fat on someone who no longer has a gall bladder?

I for one, do not have the luxury of a bile store, and an increase in fat to the stomach can make one feel quite sick. Your thoughts?

A: We actually discussed adding in a question (FAQ) about this exact topic but then decided against it because we didn’t want to get into situations where specialised clinical dietetic advice was required. As a dietitian I have had some experience in my practice with people using LCHF without a gallbladder.

To summarise, it can definitely still be done, however to minimise any potential reactions, it is wise to increase the fat slowly and assess as you go. Most people that I have seen have done this and found that there is no problem with gradual increases in fat. Also using fats with shorter chain fatty acids like butter, MCT oil and coconut tend to be less problematic than longer chain fats as they are absorbed directly by the liver rather than undergoing the fat digestion process which requires bile from the gallbladder for fat emulsification.

I have only one client on record that struggled, and in saying that we managed with specific strategies to ensure satiety levels were met while still using low carb. Trial and error is the way in specific cases like yours, all the best with your journey.

Is it safe to be on LCHF when trying to get pregnant and during pregnancy?

Q: Hi there, I have ordered your book and have started eating low carb high fat this week, keto sticks show I’m already producing high levels of ketones. However I’m currently trying to get pregnant (at 42) and have had a few miscarriages over the past year,

My question is whether you think it’s safe to be on LCHF when trying to get pregnant and during pregnancy? Info on the Internet is unclear, I’d hate to think I’m doing something that will make getting pregnant even harder!

Any advice appreciated 🙂

A: Though we can’t give you specific dietary advice related to pregnancy, which you would need to discuss with a dietitian who knew your personal history, your reasons for eating LCHF and your goals, and who could advise you with regard to specific foods, adequate nutrients, and total amount of energy, there are some general points that can be made.

There is no evidence of harm from well-formulated low carb diets during pregnancy, but there have been no scientific studies following pregnant women on LCHF diets that I am aware of.

There is one small study of a very low carbohydrate diet for PCOS in which 2 of the 5 women who stayed on the diet became pregnant during the 24 weeks of the study. “Two women became pregnant during the 24 week study despite previous infertility problems.”

Although these numbers are much too small to draw hard conclusions from, and more details about the pregnancies are not recorded, the study, which I have attached in case you are curious, is encouraging, and its authors include a current advisor to the American Diabetes Association.

Do bear in mind that some foods that are often included in an LCHF diet present a listeria risk, such as cured meats, shellfish, and some cheeses. Food Standards NZ lists these foods here.

Brisbane Contacts, Low Carb Down Under Day and book availability in Australia

Q: Hello Professor Grant – emailing from Brisbane, Australia, just had two quick questions:

1 – Do you know any doctors/sports doctors in Brisbane who test things like fasting insulin, leptin, %fat/carb burned at different exercise intensities, and actually know what to look for and how to interpret results? Most doctors I speak to try to talk me out of doing preventative testing, I’m having trouble tracking down a more forward thinking one.

2 – Where is your book available in Australia?

A: Brisbane and testing – don’t have any contacts there but come to the Low Carb Down Under day in October and meet the whole local community and ask for contacts there. What The Fat? is available from the Low Carb Down Under website in Australia, or from our website by mail order. Low Carb Down Under Facebook page.

Pain reduction for daughter with Type 1 Diabetes on the LCHF diet

Q: Have emailed before just after my 16 year old daughter [who has type 1 diabetes] started on the LCHF diet. Thank you for recommending Dr Bernstein’s book. He is a very inspiring man. Pretty much she is sticking with your diet as it is working so well. It would take a very special teenager to adhere to Dr. Bernstein’s method.

My daughter always required Ponstan for period and ovulation pain. Since starting LCHF she has not used any. Could this be, less insulin therefore less inflammation therefore reduced pain?

A: It’s great to hear that your daughter has less pain. It’s certainly been my experience that I have little pain on the LCHF diet. Joint pain, headaches, aching eyes, restless legs, back pain were usual parts of my life that I don’t experience any more. In fact, because I was never overweight and I’m not an athlete, this freedom from pain has been my main motivation for sticking with the diet.

Some of this relates to insulin but some to high blood glucose itself; and there’s also an interplay between insulin and sex hormone regulation that means low carb diets are beneficial for PCOS, which is a fertility problem related to hyperinsulinaemia.

Thanks for writing in with these results.

Low carb and joint pain

Q: FYI I was on a VLCHF approach for 7 months last year after a year of eating Paleo and not making the headway I wanted. VLCHF was life-changing in the impact on the inflammation I experience. I didn’t expect it, but my hips stopped being sore.

If you ever write another book, it’d be great to make some comments about soreness in the body because I think most humans feel ‘it’s just’ part of ageing when it’s likely not to be. I wonder if it’s the most COMMON early symptom we have of metabolic dysregulation and the one we dismiss the most?

A: There is some discussion of the LCHF effect on pain in the new book on sports performance, which is only available currently as a kindle ebook here.

It is also possible that you were sensitive to proteins in wheat and/or corn, or to gut bacteria fed by starches – all these are possible causes of joint pain.

Ketosis, restless legs and sleep quality

Q: As I move into ketosis, I get restless legs and poorer sleep quality. I’ve understood these two symptoms as related and to probably be due a salts and in particular magnesium deficiency. To avoid headaches and lethargy, I’ve been drinking an extra ½tsp of Mrs Rogers Low Sodium salt (it’s a sodium, potassium, and very low magnesium mix) at night and again in the morning if I don’t have any bone broth soup.

At this stage of moving into fat-adaption however, my regime doesn’t help with the restless legs that started one night ago (I’m in day 6). Last year when I was in ketosis for months, I took a magnesium citrate pill, which eventually (took a couple of weeks to impact) helped with the restless legs. I started taking them again yesterday.

In the past, this improved the restless legs and to some extent, the sleep. However, I was still more restless at night on VLC. There may be a dosage effect here or other factors. Have any of you come across any resources that might expand the picture for me?

A: Salt – real salt with sodium in it – is very much needed to prevent night cramps during a VLCHF diet. Low insulin levels stimulate the kidneys to get rid of sodium, and if sodium isn’t replaced potassium can also be wasted. Drinking water with a little salt in it (or some kind of salty broth, like a salted bone broth or dissolved bouillon cube) from time to time prevents this – I know from experience that magnesium alone isn’t enough! The body won’t hold on to sodium unless you’re eating carbs, so there is no unwanted effect on blood pressure.

Cholesterol and Health

Q: Congratulations on a great book!  My family are all enjoying our new eating plan LCHF. We have been eating LCHF for three months now and I have lost 3 kilos. I like it that I am losing weight slowly as I have lost weight very quickly in the past but gained it all back on plus more. While on LCHF I felt very tired and lethargic, at times felt dizzy. I visited my doctor and my blood pressure was low so after being on HB pressure medication for 20 odd year he took me off them.

I am so happy about going off them but my cholesterol has gone up for the first time.  I think it’s 6.3. I cook with butter and have lots of cream in coffee. Is high cholesterol a result of eating saturated fat? Is it dangerous to have high cholesterol on LCHF?

A: I’m very happy to hear that you don’t need your blood pressure medication any more. Cholesterol can go up on the LCHF diet, part of this due to increased saturated fat but it can also be due to limiting carbohydrate. However the rise in cholesterol can be temporary; in some trials it goes back down in most people after a year. This is likely because weight loss means that the liver is processing extra fat, and some of this goes back out into the blood stream; as weight loss stabilises or you adapt to the diet, it tends to decrease again.

In understanding cholesterol, it helps to know 4 things – total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides (TG), and LDL cholesterol. These will be on the standard cholesterol test. Your HDL will likely have increased because of both saturated fat and lower carbohydrate, this is the “good cholesterol”, and fasting triglycerides (if you did a fasting test) will likely have come down (this pattern would be consistent with your blood pressure normalising). The rest is LDL cholesterol. It’s good to know these numbers if you want to know exactly what has changed.

A total cholesterol of 6.3 mml/l (or 240 mg/dl) is just on the borderline of “high” but in an older woman with no history of heart disease this is not associated with risk and may have some benefit. I don’t know your exact age, but the older you are the better it seems to be to have cholesterol a bit on the high side.

FAQs: Nutrition

Pseudograins and WTF, Carbs for Children, Almond and Dairy Recipe Alternatives

Q: Hi all – can you tell me where Buckwheat, tapioca, quinoa, amaranth sit on your WTF plan please? Also I am allergic to almonds but really want to try the low carb bread – can you suggest an alternative to ground almonds/almond flour please? Also as dairy intolerant i will struggle with too much dairy & wondered if you have any suggestions?

Last question, what guidelines do you have for children – I have a 2 1/2 year old and a 6 year old. The suggestions in WTF? are not entirely alien to me, we have been eaters of ‘proper’ fat for years and proper whole foods, low gluten and low dairy (due to intolerances) . No one in our family is overweight but I do struggle with low energy at times so my motives are to improve my energy and help prevent glucose intolerance in my children.

They have never had much sugar, my eldest has some at parties once in a while but generally speaking they are very low on refined/added sugar & most of the stuff on your no list. I am not sure about cutting their carbs too low and would be interested in your thoughts?

Many thanks

A: Grant: Carbohydrate is not “essential’ for healthy kids, but nor is there any reason to restrict it severely either. That is, carbohydrate from the diet isn’t essential for health, but it can be part of a healthy diet for already healthy kids.

My take on “ancient grains” is, that the whole-food pseudograins you mention are very carbohydrate dense. Dried quinoa is 64% carbohydrate, i.e. 100g of dried quinoa, once cooked, will contribute 64g of carbohydrate to a meal. However these foods are well-tolerated and reasonable sources of micronutrients, Using these, for healthy people like you, is mainly a matter of a) knowing how much carbohydrate they contribute to meals and using them accordingly, b) if you like, seeing what happens if you go without them for a while.

Craig and Caryn: There is a variation for dairy free in the recipe in the book, basically upping the olive oil in place of the sour cream.

For a flour, ground hazelnuts are worth trying, they have the skins in them so aren’t as absorbent as almonds but should work.

Coconut flour, the only thing is it is so absorbent I would like to try it out before suggesting it as I know some people despair with it. But it’s definitely worth mentioning as something to try and experiment with. The coconut naan recipe in the book could be a good alternative for you. Coconut flour is 2 & 1/2 times higher in carbohydrate than almond (still low) and 3x higher in fibre.

If hazelnuts are less absorbent than almonds and coconut flour much more so, you could experiment with mixing the two – my suggestion. Unless your almond allergy also applies to hazelnuts.

Micronutrient sufficiency in whole foods and Reliability of advice in the industry

Q: Q1 – I’ve heard from well qualified Nutritionists and Dietitian’s that RDI is not the best guide for the level of nutrients we should consume, and that there is a higher level required for “optimal” nutrition. Part of this is down to the fact that whole foods no longer contain sufficient micronutrients any more. Would you agree?

Q2 – Follows on from Q1. There are many highly qualified people in this field, and depending on who you listen to the answer to many questions seem to vary greatly. So how does the average person decide which view to listen and to follow ?

Personally I really like the concepts from Grant and Caryn, and will follow as best I can.

A: That’s quite a question, Q1!

Our understanding is, that while some individual vegetable foods may be lower in some nutrients than their ancestors, we have access to such a wide range of vegetable foods today and our access to fresh foods is not restricted by the seasons, so if we eat a variety of foods and avoid eating empty calories from flour and sugar, and restrict alcohol, we’ll probably still be getting more nutrients than people did in the past.

With animals the question doesn’t apply, because an animal won’t make it to your plate unless it gets what it needs to be healthy, which includes all the same trace elements you need. Farm animals in New Zealand are supplemented today with selenium and boron; this wasn’t the case in the past, and as New Zealand soil is poor in these trace elements, this means the meat supplies more micronutrients than the meat our ancestors ate (the deficiency was because of New Zealand’s volcanic soil, not our modern farming methods).

Generally the vitamins needed to produce a nutrient (carbs, fat, or protein) in a plant or animal are the same ones we need to break it down for energy, and the whole food tends to supply them. Many of the vitamins present in food are also made by gut bacteria, and a diet with adequate fibre, some fermented food, and some raw food will help to ensure healthy gut microbes. Even better if eating the right food means you are healthy enough that you don’t need antibiotics.

Vitamin requirements are also relative to the food you need to break down. A high-carbohydrate diet increases the requirement for vitamin B1, which is mainly needed to metabolise glucose. Vitamin C is need in part to synthesise carnitine and creatine, but as these chemicals are present in meat, eating fresh meat reduces the requirement for vitamin C (something Captain Cook recognised in his 100% successful campaign to prevent scurvy among his crew).

Today we can eat food from around the world – we can make sure we get enough selenium by eating a brazil nut or two (kidneys are also a good source of selenium), we can get enough iodine from iodised salt or seaweed (selenium and iodine are the most important deficiencies in New Zealand, because of local soil conditions), and if we eat wholefood from a variety of sources – e.g. meat, a little organ meat (once or twice a week), nuts & seeds, seafood, vegetables, and dairy (or bone broth if you don’t tolerate dairy, two or three times a week) – this will supply enough nutrition for optimum health.

There are medical reasons such as malabsorption syndromes, alcoholism, or genetic variations that affect the requirement for micronutrients in some people, and usually require supplementation, but a healthy person can only be healthier on a wholefood diet.

Supplementing some micronutrients (e.g. vitamin B6, iron) has slight risks, whereas getting enough from food can never be a problem.

As for your Q2 – you can try anything for a while and see how you feel. I wouldn’t use any other guide to who’s right than my own health, mood, and energy. Well, it helps to have confidence if the people you listen to make sense and clearly say what they mean too! And if they’re connected to a lot of other brainy people researching, testing, and improving the same ideas.

Really it’s good to listen to a wide variety of opinion, because no one person can have all the answers, but that said, I do think Grant and Caryn have the inside track on both the changes that will currently do the most good for the greatest number of New Zealanders, and the body of science behind them.

Honey and the LCHF Lifestyle

Q: Hi – love your book. But nowhere do you mention honey. I realise it is pure sugar but surely it’s a “whole” sugar. Can you tell me your thoughts – giving up honey is nearly as hard as giving up bacon when you become vegetarian!

A: Thanks for your message. I’m really glad you’re enjoying the book. We do mention honey several times in the book, and as you can see it sits in the red (Yea…Nah) column in the What’s in What’s out table.

While honey might be considered a “whole” sugar (as in the Paleo philosophy), it still is sugar and operates in the same way in the body. My personal opinion with the LCHF lifestyle is that it is often unreasonable to expect total elimination, and I would rather look at it as cutting down (which is quite different to the bacon / vegetarian philosophy, which is actually cutting out due to humanitarian or other more black and white beliefs).

Of course everyone will have their own definition of what “cutting down” actually means in practice, but hopefully you will work this out for yourself. I hope this clarifies things for you.

LCHF for Vegetarians, Stevia and Artificial Sweeteners

Q: Hope your book hits the American market… haven’t found it so far, but early days…  I’m vegetarian and would never stop doing that, am a bit discouraged at the lack of good advice for those of us who don’t eat meat and seafood. Can you help?  The only book I’ve found is an old one by Rose Elliott, a British longtime veggie cookbook author.

What do you think of stevia?  Lots of recent research on how artificial sweeteners spike blood sugar just like real sugar. Of course, stevia is not artificial and is never included in these recent studies.

A: There are several vegetarian recipes (especially using eggs and dairy) in What The Fat? although most main dinner dishes are meat or fish based. Apart from the recipe section, there are also sections on general diet and lifestyle, and on the science of LCHF, which are fully applicable to vegetarians.

Though it is not covered in the book, I note that there has been a vegan low-carb diet trial, the Eco-Atkins diet, and that this produced the same results that other low-carb diets produce in trials.

Regarding your question about sweeteners, this is covered in the book; it is better to lose one’s sweet tooth, but artificial sweeteners and stevia can help people wean off. Non-sugar sweeteners may have effects on blood sugar and insulin, especially some of those ending in “-ol” – but in the context of a low carb diet, as a temporary aid to quitting sugar, they are not usually a problem. Most people find that, when they restrict carbohydrate, foods that are naturally a bit sweet become a lot sweeter.

The effect of eliminating grains and suitable replacements

Q: Hi there, I have bought your book (love the photos by the way), and am making a good start in changing my eating. I have a question though in regard to eliminating grains.

I have avoided some grains for a while because I seem to be sensitive to them and have increasing issues with them actually. However, I understand that grains are a great source of B vitamins in particular, and I am wondering about the impact of eliminating this food group completely as at the moment. I feel a little apprehensive about this and would really appreciate any advice or information you can offer about this.

A: Wholegrain’s are a source of some B vitamins, and some vitamins and minerals are also added to white flour and many processed cereals, so that’s a good question.

Meat, organ meats, nuts, seeds, eggs and green leafy vegetables are all rich sources of B vitamins –  B12 found in animal foods is not found in grains, and whole grains are very low in folate, which liver and leafy greens are especially rich in. Pork is an especially good source of the B vitamins found in grains, and one serving supplies over two times the recommended daily intake of vitamin B1.

If you are apprehensive, I suggest you use the almond recipes, because almonds are a good match for grains as a source of the same vitamins, as shown on this comparison between almonds and couscous. You would need significantly less almonds to meet most vitamin requirements, but of course many other foods in the diet contribute.

A further factor is that if you have been intolerant of grains and you stop eating them, your digestion and absorption of vitamins and minerals should improve.

Kombucha and Kefir: Consumption Advice

Q: I have recently purchased your book and am loving the new lifestyle plan. I have already begun to drop weight which I suspect is from all the extra fluid I have been carrying and my stomach bloating has reduced considerably.

My question is what are your views on drinking Kombucha and water kefir? Do these drinks fit into a daily regime or are they sometime drinks?

A: If Kombucha is made properly it should be 1% sugar, or 1 gram per 100 ml, which is not enough to have any effect – there is more sugar in cream or coconut cream. Most fermented foods such as unsweetened yoghurt are similar as the sugars originally present are converted into lactic acid by fermentation. If you are making your own kefir the same should apply, but store bought kefir can be very sweet.

There is a discussion of it here, with instructions on how to keep the sugar content low – if Sarah Wilson, who had a best seller with “I Quit Sugar”, can still enjoy Kombucha then I think you can.

That is, if you are already a fan of Kombucha. We’re not saying that people need to add it to their diets, because not everyone tolerates Kombucha, but if you already find it useful or pleasant there doesn’t seem to be any reason to avoid it.

There is more on keffir here.

I hope that answers your question.

White Rice Recommendations

Q: My husband is Chinese and I am of Scottish descent. Your way of life as does others, suggests not to eat white rice. Now that just isn’t going to happen with my husband or family 🙂 Would you suggest that all Chinese not eat white rice? Or is it fine for them as over the thousands of years they process it better than those that don’t have it in their diet? Moving to brown rice isn’t an option either. Do I just have to watch my intake and my husband is fine? We have a daughter together who is 2, what would she need to do with rice?

We would eat rice half the week the other half we have kumara. So I change it up some Chinese, other nights NZ.

We eat a lot of leafy greens, beans, broccoli, raw and cooked. Bit of pasta. Not a lot of potatoes, mainly kumara. Half veggies from my garden. Not a lot of sugar, mainly honey from our own hive and this half year using more coconut oil. Back on butter for a little while too.

Just main thing is white rice because of family and heritage connection.

A: We see no reason for a healthy 2 year child to avoid rice; my understanding of traditional Chinese meals is that they contain lots of green vegetables, some meat or egg, and a cup of rice on the side, and are more balanced than the Chinese takeaway meals which are often mostly rice.

White rice is not as fattening as wheat, nor is it as dangerous as sugar as a source of energy, but it is an “empty calorie” (pure energy) carb, so needs to be eaten in moderate amounts with plenty of nutritious, whole foods to supply essential nutrition.

The amount of white rice and other carbohydrate you can tolerate depends on your own health circumstances and the What The Fat? book describes how to assess these.

I hope that answers your question.

Is What The Fat? suitable for vegans?

Q: Hi, I was wondering if your book is suitable for vegans?

A: Thanks for you query about adapting What The Fat? to a vegan way of life. There are probably only a few recipes in What The Fat? that don’t use animal products of some kind; mainly salads, deserts, and the nut- based bread-substitutes; however, the principle of low-carb eating (which take up 2/3 of the book) can definitely be adapted to a vegan way of life. The “Eco-Atkins” diet is a low-carb version of a vegan diet that has been tested and showed the same benefits, e.g. here.

We would suggest a more whole-food focused version of the diet than the eco-Atkins as the LCHF diet needn’t be high-protein. This would mean that nuts and seeds, avocado, cocoa, sprirulina, sprouts, soy and other legumes with low carb counts (frozen broad beans are a good one) would supply protein and fat, coconut (frozen grated coconut or coconut oil) and olives or olive oil to boost fat and cook with, and of course lots of non-starchy veggies and low-sugar fruits (berries, tomatoes) are included.

Cheese and keto-adaptation

Q: Hi. I purchased and read hard copy of WTF and on kindle read sport performance. Great info! Regarding cheeses in NZ somewhere you referred to cheese as plastic cheese and I would like to find out if you would say if you think the 1 kg block of cheese from Mainland and other are the ones you call plastic cheese and if they are in your opinion sub optimal for nutrition? They should be of grass fed milk and are sooo affordable.

I am still falling in and out of the advice in the two books but am far from consistent and I make it difficult for myself. I try since 7 weeks but each Monday and Tuesday are hard with “weaning off” carbs I had following lots of training Thursday through to Sunday as well as the delayed post exercise soreness after long events, those 2 days are tough.

A: Adjustment can be hard and we recommend sticking with it, but adapting your training to allow for the effects of keto-adaptation in the first few weeks. As for cheese – processed cheese that is individually wrapped we’d call “plastic cheese” in that it is only partly cheese and contains other refined milk products and additives, whereas real cheese – including Mainland’s cheddar, edam, and colby – is made from the same whole milk as other dairy products like yoghurt or butter. You’re right, it’s affordable (I make it about the same value as ordinary beef mince) and rich in protein and good fats.

When it comes to dairy it’s really a case of what agrees with you; some people are better off avoiding it, while it’s a nutritious food for others, but I think most people know where they are on this spectrum – for example, I enjoy a little cheese in my food but get stuffy if I try to eat a lot at one time. I hope this helps,

Carbs or ketones? LCHF is stil LCHF

Q: I bought the book, it’s great, thanks so much! Followed instructions and cut carbs to quite low.  3 weeks in tho I started to feel hypoglycaemic and developed bit of a belly plus disturbed sleep and brain fog…and felt really shyte.  I had to reintroduce carb to get my energy levels and sanity back to normal.  I feel like I couldn’t make the switch to burning fat which is very disappointing!  Paleo seems to favour moderate carbs, like 50 – 100g per day.

Don’t want to give up on LCHF…entirely…but where did I go wrong? Tim Noakes says LCHF may not be suitable for lean people who can burn carb.  Would greatly appreciate your advice!!

A: Great to hear that you’ve enjoyed the book. There are several ways to go about LCHF eating and several reasons that you have experienced what you have. Firstly, some people can go low carb and still consume too much food (too many calories) overall, which could explain the belly. This happens more so in lean people.

Regarding energy levels, it might be that you’re not in ketosis itself to get the improved energy levels – there are several important aspects you need to know to get into ketosis, it’s not just about low carb, your protein needs to be kept under control too – you might need some individual advice on this as this book is not designed to be an individual consultation and as you can appreciate, everyone has their own unique circumstances.

What you could do is increase your carbs a little so that you get the energy levels that make you feel good, or get some individual help to get into ketosis (very low carb) if this is what you want to do. Consuming between 50 and 100g of carbs is still low carb in our book, you don’t necessarily need to be in ketosis and yes while lean people can still metabolise carbs well, eating this way (whole unprocessed food) is just a lot better for you. So don’t give up but rather try and find a way that it will work for you. Without knowing a lot more about you, this is what we would suggest, I hope it helps.

Is tofo suitable for LCHF?

Q: I bought the LCHF book yesterday, inspired by a friend’s success and am really enjoying it. Thanks. I’m vegetarian by choice and dairy free by intolerance and as such, I use a few soy products, ie tofu and soy milk as one of my protein sources now and then. I see in the book and on the website it’s hardly mentioned. I didn’t think it had high carbs. Would you recommend including it in my plan or is it a yeah…nah? And why?

A: Thanks for your query about tofu. Tofu is very low in carbohydrate – we’d consider it a lean protein food. It’s probably overlooked in the recipes because it’s a poor source of natural fat and doesn’t bring much flavour to a recipe, but for vegetarians and vegans it can be an important source of protein.

I am a bit intolerant of dairy (milk more than cheese) and at one time ate a lot of tofu and soy milk, but developed an intolerance to that, whereby my skin would swell, harden, and split in patches. Eventually I decided that occasional dairy in the form of cheese and cream (but never milk) was by far the lesser evil! However soy allergies, fortunately, seem to be much rarer than milk allergies. (I still do not react to miso, soy sauce, or other fermented forms of soy). I hope this is helpful,

Are the carb charts accurate?

Q: I’m really enjoying reading this book and have used it to inspire my start of a VLCHF lifestyle to remove body-wide inflammation & drop weight. So firstly, it’s wonderful to have a book with a NZ cultural perspective – very Paleo too.

I think there may be errors on page 79 with the very useful carb chart for nuts. The statement down the side of the chart is ‘ 1 serving = ½ cup, unless otherwise stated. However, the first item for example is ‘Almonds, raw (5.0g)’. That seems too low when I look up online databases (eg. USDA). It’s more like 10-15g). There’s a few others like that.

Is the chart right and some of the overseas databases wrong? It’s important to me as I’m being very careful on the quality and quantity of CHO I’m eating.

A: Thanks for your message, I’m really glad you’re enjoying the book. Re. your query, there are many different food composition databases around the globe and each one varies a little – sometimes even substantially – in the nutrients provided by the local foods.

However, some databases allow people to enter their own foods and nutrients, and this sometimes brings along incorrect inputting, which you need to be aware of when using some of these. We have used a local New Zealand/Australian database for the book, so the values we have listed in the book are accurate for our local situation.

Brown rice syrup and honey as sweeteners

Q: In your book you include brown rice syrup in with things like honey, agave etc. I understand BRS is a sugar, however thought it was better for you as a sweetener as it is dextrose and doesn’t contain any fructose unlike honey or agave for instance which is very high in fructose. It gets so confusing! Can you clarify this for me?

Also, your lemon ball recipe states 3 of something and 1 or something else but doesn’t say whether it’s a teaspoon or a tablespoon.

A: Thank you for your question about the use of honey in the lemon balls. This recipe was given to us by an athlete who has kindly contributed to our upcoming book on sports performance and as such uses honey (an ingredient we tend to regard as a treat sweetener) in her recipe.

You are spot on regarding the increased fructose load provided by honey so you can swap in the brown rice syrup if you want. Interesting to note that for athletes fructose does have an especially positive effect on replenishing glycogen stores in the liver as the body becomes energy depleted, instead of the fructose becoming fat as is the case for energy replete people.

The context of the recipe wasn’t made clear enough in our Fat Friday post, so apologies about that but I hope you find that fructose element interesting from a sports performance fueling aspect, more of which is in the new book.  The 3 and 1 refers to the juice of 3 lemons and the zest from 1.

FAQs: Recipes

Freezing Recipes

Q: Hi, I have just ordered your book and can’t wait to receive it. I am wondering if the recipes state whether they are freezable or not, or would I be better to halve the recipes.

A: Where freezing is appropriate, mention is made. For example, the soup recipes have advice about freezing and all the recipes in general talk about “good practice” around lengths of time you might keep something in the fridge or freezer. If you have a query about something specific when your book arrives, feel free to sing out and we’ll be happy to help.

Substituting gelatin sheets for powder

Q: I purchased your book last week-  learning lots. A great book and beautifully illustrated. Some of the dessert recipes list sheets of gelatine. Can I use powdered gelatine and if so how much powdered gelatine for a sheet of gelatine.

A: 1 tsp of gelatin is approximately 1 sheet.

Does coconut cream work for a replacement for dairy cream?

Q: Thanks I received the book this week it is great 🙂 Just wondering if Coconut Cream works for a replacement when it asks for cream – if one is not wanting to have too much dairy?

A: In general, coconut cream can replace dairy cream especially in recipes or preparations that utilise cream in a flavour/condiment sense. Where a recipe needs whipped cream, coconut cream will not be as versatile or effective. This is one where the brand of coconut cream will vary the result. Personally I prefer the Kara brand UHT coconut cream – this costs a bit more than tinned coconut cream, but always has a consistent texture and taste – but a bit of trial and error is the only real way to go.

Low carb bread colouration

Q: Hi. I’ve made the low carb bread for the first time. It didn’t look anything like the picture.  It was more brown in colour from the psyllium husk powder.  What colour is the bread supposed to be?

A: The colour of psyllium husk depends on its purity and it should be possible to get light or dark psyllium.

Low carb bread baking complications

Q: Hi there. Wondered if you could give me some advice. I tried the low carb bread but it didn’t really rise, so very heavy. I couldn’t get pure almond flour so used LSA, did this affect it? Also didn’t seem to bake at 160 so after 25 mins ended up putting it in for another 20 at 180 ?? Any ideas what I did wrong?

A: You probably need to start over with the almond meal (LSA is not fine-ground and has a different composition), Countdown do 150g packs which is the exact required amount. Temperature should work okay, you need to check that the oven is preheated.

Sorry I can’t be more helpful, sometimes baking recipes are like that.

Bread Recipe: Psyllium quantity differences

Q: Just received my book.. it’s fantastic. I have a query re quantities of psyllium and baking powder in the bread recipe.. I’ve been using the quantities as per the north and south article which differ from the book.

Article has 4T psyllium.. book has 8, article has 2t baking powder.. book has 3. Could you please clarify correct recipe?

A: The recipe in the book has a bit more psyllium than the recipe in North and South because we are noticing that it is possible to reduce the psyllium and make a lighter bread. Psyllium is quite expensive and it is effective in small quantities, if the mix appears wet simply give it a little time to rest and absorb the liquid into itself.

See what quantity of psyllium works for you, the book has the most and therefore safest amount but some people prefer to reduce the amount as too much can make the bread heavy. Regarding the baking powder, 10g is the correct amount which equates to 2 tsp.

Bread Recipe: Oil quantity and adjustments

Q: Firstly.. really loving WTF and the concept of a far more natural way of eating. Have put on a bit of weight (yikes, that wasn’t the plan) ..who knew almonds could be so addictive!!

However, I have struggled with the bread recipe and know I am not alone (have recommended the book and a couple of friends have a copy as a result) ..although it tasted good, it just did not rise at all and was horribly heavy and dense, and looked nothing like the picture! We had a little confusion over the oil quantities as the same measurement was given twice, even though the second option said to up the oil if not using sour cream. Could the given quantities be wrong?

I have resorted to a different recipe and found it far more successful (could be the baking soda and vinegar mix is more effective) and have ended up sharing that with my friends.

It was rather embarrassing when one lady divulged her disappointment to me as the book was purchased entirely on my recommendation.

A: Sorry to hear you are having difficulty with the bread.

The oil mentioned twice refers to a dairy free version; if you want to omit the sour cream then you replace with more (or a second amount practically) oil.

I have to confess, the amount of psyllium is perhaps a bit high as I wanted to ensure the recipe worked easily for a lot of people. If you reduce the amount of psyllium to 45 grams and ensure you allow it to rest for 5 to 10 minutes it will become less sticky.

Last point is to make sure you cook it at a high enough temperature. The 160C quoted is based on my oven at the restaurant which is pretty powerful, try upping the temp to 170C and keep the time the same. If the heat doesn’t get in quickly enough the baking powder won’t have a good raising effect.

I hope you have better luck, I do apologise that you have had some bad results.

Cracker Recipe: Ground almond quantity correction

Q: I love your book and have followed a few of your recipes. I was making the crackers on pg 218, it asked for ground almonds – 175g or 2/3 cup. My 2/3 cup only weighs 80g. I did add more and they sort of worked – I actually grilled them at the time of eating to get them more crispy.

Can you please clarify the amount needed?

A: Craig says he thinks it ought to be 1 and 2/3 cups, because 175g is the correct weight. Thanks for your question which will help us to fix this in future editions.

Meatball Recipe: Wet mix and how to fix

Q: Hi Craig, I have just received my copy of WTF and today I tried to make the meatball recipe. Unfortunately the mixture turned out to be MUCH too wet so instead I added some chopped up vegetables and put it into a greased loaf tin, topped it with some strips of bacon and cooked it as a meat loaf.

My question is, what should I use to make the mixture less sloppy so I can do the meat balls? Traditionally I would have added some breadcrumbs or rolled oats, but of course that is off the menu now!!

A: The fat content in the cheaper mince can make the mixture wet if it is hot as the fat melts out. Prime or premium beef mince will therefore cook drier than plain beef mince; I tend to cook the tomato component of the meatballs until it is dry (as long as it takes relatively slowly).

You can add ground almonds to the mix to make it drier. This also makes the meat balls a little more tender and I am using some of the almonds in them more and more as I quite like the texture it produces.

Naan Recipe: Coconut Flour

Q: I’ve just ordered online and am very excited and looking forward to receiving the cookbook and trying out the recipes. I’m actually making the butter chicken tonight, however on attempting to whiz up the naan bread, unsuccessfully it hasn’t turned out, quite disappointing, the texture was thick and doughy.

A: Thank you for your feedback. I’m sorry to hear the recipe resulted in a disappointing product for you I hope I can give a few ideas in case you try it again. Firstly, coconut flour is quite temperamental. It is very absorbent and continues to absorb liquid for some time. Perhaps there was too much coconut flour for the amount of liquid used, this can happen with eggs weighing slightly different amounts which can throw the liquid off a little or if there was a little less liquid added/extra flour added. If you leave the mix to stand for 3 -5 minutes and then stir it and it feels too thick then add a little more water until it has loosened somewhat.

I have a bit of experience working with coconut flour and I only use it because it is so nutritious but it’s certainly not the easiest ingredient to work with (I have had a couple of argh! moments using it) but once you begin to have some experience with it you should be able to troubleshoot the fine tuning better.

Bread Recipe: Sour Cream Substitute

Q: Hi.  Am just about to try the bread recipe and was thinking I would leave out the sour cream.  The list of ingredients says 60mls of oil but the instructions for omitting the cream say to “up the oil to 60mls and add 35mls of water.” Does this mean to use an extra 60mls of oil?  120mls seems like too much to me!

A: Yes, that’s correct regarding the oil as it replaces the fat from the sour cream.

FAQs: Performance

Sports energy supplementation on the LHCF diet

Q: Hi, I have been on the LCHF diet for 13 days and dropped from 89.5 kg’s to 85.5 kg’s (I am a 6 foot 54 yo male). I feel great but I went for a regular mountain bike ride today involving quite a bit of climbing and after less than 90 minutes I literally ran out of juice.

I would normally take supplements about every 30 minutes while riding like GU or Clif Shots (high in sugar, carbs and contain caffeine) and would normally have a high carb breakfast like Weetbix before heading off. So today I had eggs for breakfast and took no supplements on the ride because I didn’t think I could have them.

I am not sure what to do. I need supplements of some sort when I’m riding don’t I?  I ride for 2 – 5 hours depending on what I might be training for and do races that can last anywhere from 4 to 9 hours.

A: Caryn: Thanks for your email. Just so you know the body can take some time to fully fat adapt and this can be accompanied by some loss of energy during the process – as you have described. It is hard to advise in detail as I am unsure what level of carbohydrate restriction you have selected. i.e. whether it is moderate (around 100g per day) or whether you have selected the ketogenic diet.

An extra ½ tsp of salt daily is required to accompany any kind of carb restriction early on to help mitigate symptoms, and unless you have been fat adapted for an extended period of time, it may be likely that you lose that top end performance and might need added carbs while you’re exercising. (Caryn)

Grant: Sounds like you are right in the adaptation phase which can take a few weeks and perhaps some longer term adaptations over a few months.

Look my view is you will have to reduce training intensity during this part and try not to save yourself with carbs.  It’s important to give the body the low carb stimulus to adapt.

FAQs: Fasting

Is fasting safe?

Yes, if you do it properly. For shorter fasts, like Super-Fasting, you’re just missing a few meals, so no danger there. Just make sure that you’re well hydrated and that you feel good. 

Longer fasts should not be undertaken lightly – you definitely need to know what you’re doing before you tackle these. While you want to get the long-term benefits, you also want to make sure that you’re doing these longer fasts safely. This includes making sure that you are well hydrated, that you take a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement and that you keep your electrolyte levels maintained. Sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium are all essential for optimal heart function. A good-quality bone broth will help you here, just like the one we have in What the Fast!.

Isn't Super Fasting the same as the 5:2 diet?

No, it’s quite different in two major ways. 

  • Firstly, the 5:2 restricts your calories to 500 kcal (females) or 600 kcal (males) on 2 days of the week. This means that on your low-calorie days you can spread the calories across the day as you like. You can even just eat smaller meals, which means you might not be fasting at all. With Super-Fasting, we want you to get the physical benefits of going for periods of time without any food at all. Plus, Super-Fasting is not about calorie-counting so we don’t place any restrictions on the size of your Super-Meals, other than just being sensible about it. 
  • Secondly, on the other 5 days of the week, the 5:2 allows you to eat whatever you want. This means that there is no lasting effect of any fasting you did on the 2 days. Super-Fasting brings in LCHF on the other days, which provides a fasting-mimicking effect (and some of the major benefits) throughout the rest of the week. 

Super-Fasting is about more than just fasting. It’s the bigger-picture impact of the synergies of fasting and of eating simple, filling and nutritious food.

What if I can't complete the fast? It's too hard for me...

Most people who haven’t fasted before have trouble getting their head around the idea. The idea of going for 24 hours with no food is totally daunting. But why not just start and see? You can always eat if you think you’re going to pass out or something. (Don’t worry, though – that won’t happen.)

Or, how about this? Have dinner at 6 p.m., then eat again at 10 a.m. the next day. There’s 16 hours right there. More do-able?  Sure. So, start there for Monday and Tuesday of week 1. Next week, try going to midday without eating – there’s 18 hours. Before you know it, you’ll have bridged the physical and mental chasm and will be there burning fat like the rest of us.