From Atkins to the maple syrup diet and from South Beach to cabbage soup, there are thousands of eating plans designed to help you lose weight and get lean. One of the most popular though, is a low carb diet. Diet alone isn't enough to get you into the best shape possible, which is where exercise comes into the equation. Swimming is a high-calorie burning activity, torching up to 488 calories in half an hour, according to Harvard Medical School. By joining these two, you could be on a winning combination, but there are several items to consider when embarking on a low carb diet and swimming regime.
Low Carb Diets
The definition of a low carb diet is in the name: It is a diet that restricts carbohydrates. More specifically, it involves eating between 50 and 150 grams of carbs per day by limiting or restricting starchy foods like bread, rice, potatoes and pasta, as well as sugars from fruit and dairy products. Low carb diets reduce your levels of blood sugar and insulin, which can accelerate fat loss. Reducing your carb intake also cuts out a main source of calories from your diet, which again gives your weight loss a boost.
There's no doubt that swimming is a great way to burn calories -- if you've ever swam at high speed non-stop for 15 or 20 minutes, you'll know that it can be exhausting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least 75 minutes of vigorous or 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio each week to maintain health and body composition. To achieve this, you could either do 150 minutes of steady swimming, such as breast-stroke, or 75 minutes of a tougher stroke like crawl or butterfly or try swimming intervals, where you swim one length at full speed, then another at a slower pace. Break your time up over three to five sessions each week.
In theory, a low carb diet combined with a swimming program can be highly effective, help you crank up your calorie burn and drop body-fat like there's no tomorrow. However, you do need to be cautious. Low carb diets can be tough, especially for the first few weeks, so you should ease into them gradually by cutting your intake a little week by week until you get to the magic 50 to 150 grams per day range. You should also save the majority of your carbs for just before and just after your training sessions, advises nutritionist Ryan Andrews, co-founder of Precision Nutrition. Have one third of your daily carb allowance an hour before training to give you energy, a third straight after to aid recovery and the final third spread throughout the day.
You'll notice a big drop in weight in the first week or two. This is normal, as your body is used to carrying a lot of stored carbohydrates, so when you restrict your intake, your carb stores are depleted and you lose water weight too. If you find your swimming performance is suffering, consider raising your carb intake slightly, while still staying within the low carb diet guidelines. Make sure your calories are in check too. To lose weight you need to consume fewer calories than you burn, so if weight loss is your goal, make sure you're tracking calories and not cramming in lots of extra protein and fat to make up for your lower carb intake.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.