The huge media focus on low carb diets may have led you to believe that “the low carb lifestyle” is the proper way to get a lean, muscular physique. The truth is, carbohydrates are too important a nutrient for you to completely restrict from your diet. You will never make the gains in size and strength that you’re looking for on a low carb diet.
True, low carb diets can be effective in reducing body fat. If you have ever followed a low carb diet, odds are that you probably did lose some body fat, but you’ve probably also lost valuable muscle, or at the very least, hindered your ability to gain muscle by restricting carbohydrates. Your energy levels probably suffered as well. Here’s why:
The fundamental theory behind low carb diets is that by restricting carbohydrates, the body’s preferred source of energy, it resorts to stored body fat as an energy source. This is achieved through a process known as ketosis, in which the body breaks down triglycerides to be used as a source of energy. Ketosis is not nearly as efficient as carbohydrates are for energy or glycogen replenishment. It can also result in the body using protein (amino acids) from both food and muscle tissue (gluconeogenesis) for energy. This catabolic process is not desirable because it uses the same precious amino acids you need to build muscle and actually breaks them down instead.
Later, when protein is discussed, you will learn more about these amino acids and protein’s importance. For now, please realize that athletes need adequate protein to support training, muscle growth and recovery. So, having your body cannibalize protein for energy from the foods you eat, or even worse, your “hard earned muscle”, is a catastrophic disaster for anyone looking to improve their physique or muscular performance!
Another reason why low carb diets are not conducive to your goals of increasing lean muscle mass is because they virtually shut down insulin production. As you will soon discover, although you should avoid high insulin levels, you do want keep keep insulin stable, because it’s anabolic and helps promote muscle growth.