July 27, 2015

Dear Dr. Bell,

I have an upcoming class reunion and have really been watching what I eat. But in the past week I have noticed I’m getting headaches pretty often. I do not think its dehydration. I’m 99% sure I’m not getting enough carbs. I cheated big last night and had chicken fettuccine alfredo, but I felt so much better. What are some healthy options for carbs I can incorporate in my meal plans? Thanks so much! Tiffany

Congratulations on your Class Reunion and I wish you all the best on your fat loss goals. If you suspect you are not consuming enough carbs, then I suspect you are right.

The average person needs to consume 130 grams/day to maintain normal brain and metabolic functions. There are some researchers who claim you can go lower than 130 grams/day since the body can make ketones from stored proteins. However, I disagree. When researchers use the term “stored proteins,” you should know they are referring to muscle and internal organs such as your heart, lungs, kidneys, etc…I don’t consider any of these tissues “storage.” I consider them essential to your functionality or critical in keeping you alive.

Symptoms of low carbs are headaches, fatigue, sleepiness, negative mood swings, brain fog, etc. The generally acceptable quantities for Fat Loss or more incorrectly labeled Weight Loss Programs are as follow:

Calories = 11 x Desired Body Weight plus activity expenditures. If you do not have accurate measures of Lean Body Weight, or you have more than 50 pounds of loosely-packed muscle (fat) to lose, use the following formula instead:

  • Calories = 12 x Body Weight
  • Carbohydrate: 0.9-1.25 grams/pound of Body Weight
  • Protein: 1 gram/pound of Body Weight
  • Fat = The balance of recommended calories

Using the average 140 pound women as an example, who wants to drop 10 pounds to weigh 130 pounds:

Calories = 11 x 130 = 1430 (Warning: Never go below 1500 calories without Doctor Supervision)


  • Calories = 12 x 140 = 1680
  • Carbohydrates: 126-175 (Warning: Never go below 130 grams/day)
  • Protein = 140
  • Fat = 62 grams (Remember Fat is 9 calories/gram. Carbs and Proteins are 4 calories/gram

You must incorporate the healthiest, most nutrient dense food into your meal plans when your calorie intake is this low. No processed sugar, sweets, simple carbs or poor quality fats or proteins.

Carbohydrates: fruits, vegetables, legumes, low processed grains such as: Irish Steel-Cut Oatmeal. The most nutrient dense fruits are berries and melons. The most nutrient dense vegetables are asparagus, collard greens, beans, spinach and other leafy greens, kale, broccoli, broccoli raab, sweet potatoes. The most nutrient dense proteins are whole eggs, lean beef, chicken breast, turkey breast, smaller-cold-water fish.

Preparation and cooking can keep these foods “lean” or fattening and denatured of nutrients. Seasoning, oils, condiments ALL count. This means…No Frying!

If you feel any low carb symptoms, consider raising you complex carbohydrate intake. Some people can do lower carb/ calorie diets without symptoms…Don’t you just hate them?!?!

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