Do you follow a low carb or high carb lifestyle? Or neither? There is a lot of hype in the diabetic community on the advantages of eating low carb versus high carb. For this post, Abby has shared her low carb approach. As part of the series, read this post for Micha’s high carb approach.
But first, what IS low carb and what IS high carb?
The definition of low carb and also high carb, probably depend on who you ask. If you ask ME, I’d say low carb is less than 75g of carbs per day and high carb would be over 150g of carbohydrates per day. There’s a middle carb hanging around too!
Why am I interested in diabetics who eat high carb or low carb and are still maintaining A1Cs below 6%?
Why wouldn’t I be? Are you? I know from my own experience that I cannot live a high carb lifestyle. My body just does not respond nicely; however, this does not mean that it doesn’t work for others. So many people have their own agenda and beliefs, but we all need to realize that what works for us may not work for others.
Please share your name, a bit about yourself, your recent A1Cs, and your general approach to a low carb lifestyle.
My name is Abby David, I am a musician and health enthusiast from Toronto Canada. For the past year, my A1C’s have ranged between 5.5-5.7 and it’s currently at 5.6. I am not a super strict low-carber (even though I used to be), I eat about 50 grams a day. I am vegan as well as low carb so I get most of my carbs from fruits and vegetables. I like to have a good balance of healthy fats and protein in all of my meals and a small percentage of carbs. I’d say it’s about 35% fat 45% protein and 20% carbs for main meals and if I’m snacking I won’t really consume carbs at all.
Have you always eaten low carb? What other perspectives can you share that led you to eat low carb?
No, I have not. When I was first diagnosed I had the mindset of I can eat whatever I want and just put in the insulin to cover it. But as a lot of T1Ds figure out over time, that’s not really possible if you want to have stable blood sugars. So after 4ish years of following that diet, I got fed up and searched for a better way of living. I read some new material and was committed to a VERY strict low carb diet for a year – 20-30 carbs a day without being flexible. I ended up not being able to maintain this diet as it messed up other parts of my health and was not into the amount of high-fat dairy/meat I was eating. So then I became vegan and haven’t looked back. I thought by adding more carbs in and being more flexible my blood sugars would be crazy again but my insulin sensitivity skyrocketed and my body reacted much better to carbs. That being said, I did try doing a high carb vegan diet for a very short amount of time and my body could NOT handle it, so I stick to around 50 carbs or less per day.
On average, how many carbs/grams do you consume per day?
What is your approach? Do you eat only certain foods, exercise, etc?
I exercise almost every day, I am vegan and very conscious of where my food comes from. I’m also very aware of the glycemic index of foods; I don’t eat any high GI foods and only eat fruits under 35 GI (i.e. I don’t eat bananas unless I’m using them to correct for a low.) I prebolus and don’t eat carbs by themselves (I eat them along with fat usually). I fully believe in the law of small numbers so the fewer carbs I eat, the less the margin is for miscalculations and error leading to a high or low blood sugar.
What kind of after meal blood sugars do you typically see with low carb eating?
I usually spike to 7.0 (126mg/dl). When I cook my own food sometimes I won’t spike at all if I prebolus correctly. If I’m going out for a meal I might spike to 8 or 8.5 (145-153mg/dl) because I find it a lot harder to estimate. The whole reason I started my health journey was to get rid of spikes after I eat. I wanted to have the blood sugar of a normal human being (or as close as I could get). If a normal human being is going to spike their blood sugar will generally go to 7.0 (126mg/dl) or 8.0 (145mg/dl) after a meal (or 9.0 (162mg/dl) if its super high carb).
Do you need to bolus for protein or fat? If yes, how do you do it?
Generally no. I used to before I was vegan and my insulin resistance was a lot higher but now I don’t. If I eat a super super high fat or protein meal I might do a combo bolus of 60%/ 40% over 3 hours but I rarely find myself doing that.
How often do you have low blood sugars? Is this something you worry about with a low carb lifestyle?
Maybe once a week I’ll be under 3.5 (63mg/dl). It’s not something I worry about at all. Because I’m eating fewer carbs, I’m using less insulin so the chance of me having a really bad low is much smaller. I also always feel my lows and I use a FGM too, which helps a lot.
What do you think is the biggest key to eating low carb and maintaining an A1C less than 6%?
Not feeling like you’re restricting yourself. Finding substitutes for the really high carb foods you love. Being aware of how certain foods affect your blood sugar, AS WELL as your overall physical and mental health. Finding a balance that suits your needs. Not over stressing about one bad blood sugar day (it will always, always happen no matter how good your control is) and lastly, enjoying your food and the quality of life it gives you.
Thank you so much, Abby! Perspective is everything. Stay tuned to hear from a few other T1Ds and how they manage low carb vs high carb. And of course, see this post from Micha and his high carb lifestyle.
Also, post your questions here so that Abby can see and answer them! If you’re wondering about something, more than likely someone else is too.
P.S. Abby is not a medical professional, neither am I. This is her personal experience and is not meant to be taken as medical advice.