Can you really lose weight with beef jerky?
Yes, I've done it.
I started the beef jerky diet weighing at 220 pounds, and have lost 70 pounds on it over an 18 month period. I had no surgery, no pills, no special diet food.
But as funny as it sounds, the beef jerky diet is less to do with beef jerky, and more to do about controlling your appetite and exercising.
What's interesting about beef jerky...
1. It's very low in fat. Beef jerky has to be very low in order to prevent it from spoiling. A typical package of jerky (about 4 ounces) has about 4gm of fat.
2. It's very low in carbs. Beef jerky would actually have about 0 carbs, if not for the small amounts of sugar that manufacturers put into the flavoring. A 4 ounce bag of jerky will typically have about 10-20gm of carbs.
3. It's high in protein. Protein is part of the magic that causes the body to boost its metabolism. Lean protein is better, which beef jerky is. It's takes more work for the body to burn this type of energy, therefore it raises the metabolism to make this happen.
The biggest negatives with beef jerky dieting...
1. Sodium. A typical 4 ounce bag of jerky will have about 1600-2000mg of sodium. That's pretty much the limit of what a healthy diet should have. If you were to eat 2 or 3 bags of jerky, then you're really pushing it. To counter this, drink plenty of water, and sweat through exercise.
2. Low nutrients. Jerky is low in potassium and magnesium, two minerals that are very vital to bodily functions, healthy cells, metabolism, and creating energy. It's low in many other vitamins and minerals.
3. Artificial preservatives. Namely Sodium Nitrite. Sodium Nitrite has been linked to colon cancer and lung disease. It's probably just fine if eating in small amounts. But if you're eating 2 or 3 bags of jerky each day, then you're subjecting yourself to danger. To counter this, look for preservative-free jerky. There's plenty of it out there, here's a link.
4. Fiber. That is, beef contains no fiber. You'll likely become constipated. Take fiber supplements, or a probiotic drink daily.
My Beef Jerky Diet Plan
1. I spend four days a week on the beef jerky diet. The other three days I eat normal meals. In those normal meals, I try to eat foods low in fat, but not necessarily low in carbs. I also try to eat in smaller portions.
2. On beef jerky diet days, I'll eat about 8-12 ounces of beef jerky each day. But I'll spread it around the clock. I'll start with about 2-4 ounces in the morning, just to kick start the metabolism. I'll eat 2-4 more ounces in the afternoon, and another 2-4 more ounces in the evening. That works out to about 750-1000 calories total in beef jerky.
3. Supplment your nutrients. I recommend drinking 2-4 cans of vegetable juice (low sodium V8 is what I drink), specifically for the potassium. If you don't like the taste of vegetable juice, find other foods to boost your potassium, like bananas, avocados, tomatoes, potatoes. Choose high potassium foods that are low in fat. Use the USDA Nutrient Database to learn which foods are high and low in potassium. You can't rely on dietary supplement pills to boost your potassium, because no one makes a potassium supplement with more than 2% of the RDA. But do take a supplement pill for all the other vitamins and minerals.
4. Fiber supplements. Jerky is very low in fiber, and you'll soon discover constipation. Take some kind of fiber supplement. I rely on drinking kefir, a type of drinkable yogurt that's very high in probiotics, to help regulate the digestive process. You can also take Dannon Activia which is comparable. Or, whatever you can do to add bulk, and maintain regularity.
4. Drink lots of water. Beef jerky contains a lot of sodium. Do drink plenty of fluids to help flush that sodium out. I'll drink a couple of small bottles of water in between the V8 each day, or diet soda.
5. Exercise. You didn't think you could lose weight without exercising did you? I started by walking about 1 mile per day, about 3 to 4 days per week. I've sinced increased that to 2 miles, and now I jog for about 1 mile and walk 1 mile, every day. I also do sit-ups and push-ups, and some light weight lifting using hand-weights, all of it at home. This keeps the metabolism high, and of course burns calories.
6. Eat lots of vegetables on non-beef jerky days. I try to eat salads for the vitamins and fiber, and try to go easy on the salad dressing. I like to put salsa on my salad, because it offers the salt that salad dressings have, but doesn't have the fat.
7. Don't get bored! That's my biggest culprit in weight gain. When I get bored, I tend to eat. So I look for ways to keep myself busy. Either take a walk outside, mow the lawn, pull some weeds, ride my motorcycle around, even take a nap.
8. Keep a calendar above your weight scale, and use it log your weight. Get a calendar big enough to write your weight on each day. If you don't see any weight loss, then this serves as a red-flag that you're not doing enough.
9. Write a blog, like this one. All it takes is a handful of loyal readers to cheer you on, and that will put pressure on you to keep going, and stay true to yourself.
The bottom line is that there's no magic about beef jerky. The beef jerky diet is actually no more different than any other diet. It's simply relies on you being disciplined enough to stick to it, and to exercise daily.
I can't stress enough the importance of exercise. I tend to believe that my weight loss had more to do with daily exercise, than it did about my dietary intake.
I was always a skinny kid growing up, at least until I got married at age 24. Then I started ballooning out. I went from about 130 pounds to as high as 240 pounds in my late 30s.
My goal now is to get to 150 pounds.
Money was a contributing factor to my weight gain, mostly because I did pretty well in my career which encouraged my wife and I to dine out. At one point we were dining out every day.
Boredom is a big problem. I now work for myself, and work from home. I'll work for several straight hours, and then take a couple hours off, and then work some more, then take another couple hours off, etc. In those off hours, I get bored, and my mind turns to food. So to counter this, I have to find ways to keep myself busy. Exercising, doing yard work, riding my motorcycle, playing a computer game, are all ways to keep my mind focused on other things.
It wasn't easy breaking the old habits. I probably spent a few years training myself to break these habits and control the urge to eat. It was tough to do, but over those few years, I was able to come down from 240 pounds to 220 pounds. At that point, I came up with the "Beef Jerky Diet", and a mission to get to 150.
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