Muscle Sport Magazine

A Low-Carb Diet Is Standard in Bodybuilding, but It Also Brings Myths

In bodybuilding and fitness, novelties come and go, but a low-carb diet will always be the best for definition. However, this ultra-effective eating tactic is often overshadowed by several widespread myths, such as that low-carb diets allegedly cause a loss of muscle mass, strength, and energy.

Now we will see that it does not have to be like that at all – but only if you choose the right type of diet and implement it correctly.

Myth # 1: Reducing Carbohydrates Leads to Loss of Muscle Mass

Reducing carbohydrates only initially leads to a decrease in muscle glycogen. Along with glycogen, water is also lost from the muscles, and that is why the muscles temporarily lose their volume and fullness. But many do not know that it is only a transient phenomenon, and they quickly give up dieting. After a few days, the body adapts to fewer carbohydrates and begins to produce glycogen from other sources, and then the muscle cells are refilled with water.

A diet with fewer carbohydrates and a lot of protein (low-carb, high-protein) does not cause muscle loss. Moreover, it can help you gain muscle while removing fat. The first reason is that you eat more protein and, at the same time, an increased fat consumption for energy happens. When you reduce carbohydrates, then you have to increase protein, to 3-4 grams per kilogram of pure bodyweight (pure bodyweight is when body fat is subtracted from total weight: if you have 80 kg and 15 %, i.e. 12 kg of body fat, your net body weight is 80-12 = 68 kg).

Higher protein intake can stimulate anabolic processes, thus nullifying the effect of reduced calories. It is often thought that this is only possible when taking anabolic steroids, but we have seen exercisers (both male and female) who were not on chemistry and managed to take advantage of this effect – provided they were getting enough protein. However, building muscle on a diet is only possible up to one point, that is, until the body fat percentage drops too low.

When you reduce carbohydrates and increase proteins at the same time, ketone bodies begin to form, which are used for energy. This prevents or, at least, reduces muscle catabolism. When this is combined with the accumulation of muscle from increased protein in the diet, a favorable environment for muscle growth is obtained. In one study, people on this low-carb, high-protein diet gained muscle mass without even working out! Combine such a diet with a good training program and you will be surprised how much fat you can lose while maintaining muscle mass, perhaps even increase it.

What should you do?

When you reduce carbohydrates, increase protein to 3-4 grams per kilogram of pure bodyweight. Use quality sources of animal origin (red meat, chicken and turkey breast, eggs, and fish), and supplement a small portion with protein powder.

Myth # 2: Low-Carb Diets Lead to a Drop In Strength and Energy

If you have previously taken a lot of carbs and are now switching to a low-carb diet, you may experience a drop in energy at first. But, after 3-4 days, the body adapts and the energy returns to normal.

In some studies, low-carb diets have brought a decline in endurance – but it is important to say that these studies have been done on athletes who engage in endurance-type sports on which you can bet at online casinos offering no deposit bonuses, the best of which can be found by the link. The results of these studies do not apply to bodybuilders and other strength-type sports, as they intensively consume other energy sources in addition to glycogen (primarily ATP and creatine phosphate). If you do not do too many repetitions in a series and too many series per muscle part, a low-carb diet should not affect energy and strength in the gym. This has been proven many times in practice and, in one study, a low-carb diet did not affect maximum strength in a series of 15 repetitions in squats, leg presses, and kicking.

What should you do?

On a low-carb diet, you should not do more than 12-15 repetitions in a series, and the number of series for a muscle should not exceed 10-15 (possibly up to 20 for extremely trained exercisers). It is useful to take creatine, which will maximize creatine phosphate stores, and thus strength for training in low-carb conditions. Beta-alanine, which lowers muscle pH and delays fatigue, is also a valuable supplement for maintaining performance.

Myth # 3: A Low-Carb Diet Means Cutting Out All Carbs

While classic ketogenic diets often mean the complete elimination of carbohydrates, bodybuilders generally use a modified low-carb diet, where only a small amount of carbohydrates remains. That amount depends on the individual’s metabolism, the amount and intensity of training, and the diet’s goals (the degree of definition you want and the time frame you set for it). The amount of carbs also depends on whether or not you take anabolic steroids because they allow you to work out more and harder, and it is normal to use them to eat more than when there is no chemistry taken.

However, a few rules are universal: distribute hydrates in the early part of the day and immediately after the gym session, and do not take them in the evening (unless you train in the evening – in which case you can take fast hydrates after training). Eat mostly ‘slower’ carbs (oatmeal or whole grains). Immediately after training, you can take faster hydrates, such as dextrose, maltodextrin, or carbo-electrolyte drink. If you want to avoid high-glycemic drinks, eat white potatoes or rice.

What should you do?

Intake 1.5 to 2 grams of carbs per kg of pure bodyweight or 15-25 % of total calories. Once in two weeks, halve the carbs for three days to deplete the glycogen and thus further encourage fat consumption. On those days, get rid of carbs after the gym. In the later stages of the diet, i.e. when further fat removal becomes very difficult, you can start varying, i.e. ‘rotate’ carbohydrates (for instance, 150-100-50-0-50-100-150 grams or some other variant), to prevent the body from getting used to this and encourage further fat consumption.

Myth # 4: On a Low-Carb Diet We Will Be Hungrier Than We Normally Are

Carbohydrates are not foods that will satiate you or make you feel ‘full’. The truth is that a high-protein diet gives a feeling of satiety much better.

One study showed that a meal rich in protein (about 65 % protein) reduced hunger three times more than a meal rich in carbohydrates or fats. High-protein meals cause more secretion of YY peptide (a stomach hormone that sends a signal to the brain that you are ‘full’). Make every meal rich in protein, and hunger will not cause you problems.

What should you do?

Divide your daily protein intake into 6-8 meals throughout the day. Eating 30-50 grams of protein every 2-3 hours will ensure that you are never hungry, even though you have reduced your total calories.

Myth # 5: On a Low-Carb Diet We Can Eat as Much Fatty Food as We Want

Classic ketogenic diets allow for a higher intake of fatty foods (bacon, sausages, fatty meats, butter, etc.). This allows ordinary people to keep a diet without feeling like they are on a diet – since they have no discipline for any real diet. But bodybuilders and serious fitness enthusiasts have much greater motivation and discipline than ordinary people, so there is no need to ‘indulge’ them in this way.

Avoid these foods (if it can be called food at all), whether or not you are on a low-carb diet. If you have to, you can sometimes take a piece of bacon, some butter, mayonnaise, or similar, but stick to leaner foods and eat more healthy fats. Fat is important, for example, for testosterone production. But if you limit your low-carb diet to a moderate fat intake, you will be able to burn even more body fat.

What should you do?

Let 25-35 % of your calories come from fat, primarily from quality protein foods such as red meat, eggs, mackerel, herring, then walnuts, hazelnuts, avocados, peanut butter, etc.

Myth # 6: A Large Amount of Fat Ingested on a Low-Carb Diet Is Unhealthy and Will Lead to an Increase in Cholesterol

Doctors and nutritionists have been saying for decades that saturated fat is the enemy of health and a slim body, but one amount of this fat is necessary for both health and sports performance. Studies in athletes have shown that adequate intake of saturated fats increases natural testosterone. Slightly higher fat intake (including saturated fat) is not harmful to health, especially when you do not eat too many total calories.

Studies show that saturated fat in beef, poultry, and pork does not increase ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol (saturated fats increase ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, even more than unsaturated fats). Studies show that replacing carbohydrates with any fat leads to a decrease in triglycerides, i.e. fats in the blood, as well as to an increase in HDL cholesterol.

What should you do?

On a low-carb diet, combine ‘healthy’ unsaturated fats and saturated fats – such as those from beef, turkey, pork, and some dairy products (especially lean cheeses as a source of casein).

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