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How "Low Carb, High Protein" Products Could Sabotage Your Effort.

We’ve all been thrown messages that we should be eating less carbs and more protein in the recent years. I won’t dive into if those statements are valid or not in this article, but it has produced a huge uptick in the number of high-protein, low-carb offerings in the market- especially in the form of bars, snacks, ‘protein chips’, and other similar quick-hitting ways to get more protein in.

These convenient foods definitely have their place, so choosing them isn’t the problem we’ve seen and I’m writing about- it’s how they’re calculated as a part of your intake and what that can mean for your progress.

The two common denominators many of these foods have is high doses of fiber and sugar alcohols whose names sound more like characters in X-men than edible ingredients.

Both can be legally counted as zero calories because of their ‘indigestible’ nature, but what’s incredibly important to recognize here is that ‘indigestible’ doesn’t mean zero calorie as the label indicates.

Fiber, Sugar Alcohols, Net Carb Intake and Total Calories

Companies will add a ton of fiber to a product, to reduce the total carbohydrate content of that product. You wouldn’t be alone if you’re saying “whoa, whoa, whoa…how can they get away with that?” But, let me explain-

Fiber and sugar alcohols are both considered indigestible by your digestion. By definition, that means they literally shouldn’t yield the traditional number of calories as digestible food; however, just because they don’t mirror the calorie count of other foods doesn’t mean they’re devoid of calories as the gut can use them as fuel (calories).

So, you get products that SAY 190kcal and are more like 320kcal based on the labeling below:

This ultimately leaves you feeling like you’re doing everything right, monitoring your nutrition, having intake at the level you need to be at to support your goals but seeing none of the progress you should be.

If you’re utilizing these enough times during the week, it could be the difference between progress and none. It could also be the difference between having good GI function during training and not.

What’s a better way?

You have a few options you can lean on here-

  1. Reduce the frequency in which you use them.

  2. Adjust your intake in your tracker to match the actual nutrition (remember there are 4kcal/g of protein and carbohydrate and 9 per gram of fat). I’d still probably reduce the frequency…

  3. Skip them all together and eat the real thing (i.e. a non-’low-carb’ version of said product).

It’s awesome to have so many options now for snacks that support your training goals when you’re busy and can’t fit a meal in. But, like any supplement, these are designed to fill gaps in your intake- not make up the majority of it. The dose always makes the poison, but if high enough, it definitely can poison your progress.


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