Ever since The Low Carb High Protein Diet Fad became popular in the late 90′s by the Atkins diet, people have had a difficult time letting go of this unhealthy, unreasonable, and unsustainable lifestyle.
Dieters typically fall into 1 of 3 categories:
1)Fat/Obese seeking to lose weight (muscle, fat, and water)
2)Average seeking to lose 10 pounds of fat while maintaining and developing muscle tissue
3)Advanced seeking to gain lean muscle mass
Let’s get rid of the notion right now that gaining muscle (anabolic) and burning fat (catabolic) can happen at the same time without performance enhancing drugs. More articles to follow on this myth in the coming days.
The Low Carb High Protein Diet Fad
Your body requires a certain number of calories in order to maintain itself. Regardless of whether you train or not, you have a certain Basal Metabolic Rate, or the number of calories you burn at rest. Those calories must come from fat, protein and carbs. By eliminating carbohydrates from your diet, you are essentially adding in one more step in the breakdown of your protein to maintain a certain blood glucose level. That protein may come from food, but may also come from muscle tissue. The breakdown of muscle tissue to stabilize blood glucose levels is catabolic. Less muscle tissue means a lower basal metabolic rate, which means a slower metabolism. Your body doesn’t simply access fat stores because you aren’t eating carbs, rather it converts the protein into sugar to sustain you. This requires extra work from your liver and kidneys and can be quite unhealthy in the long run, hence the low carb high protein diet fad.
If you are looking to put on lean mass, and lean mass only, this is also nearly impossible (naturally). Your body is either growing or shrinking at any given time, there is no stand still, and you cannot push and pull at the same time. So if you are bulking, and would like the majority of the bulk to be muscle (versus fat), carbs actually play a bigger role than anything else. They shut down cortisol production, raise insulin level, raise glycogen stores needed for muscle growth and put your body in an anabolic state right away. You will gain fat and muscle, however the key is to gain more muscle than fat.
When it’s time to cut, you can reduce the carbs, and your body, still in it’s anabolic state, will burn calories at an accelerated rate for a limited amount of time. This is the window of opportunity to increase cardio, spend less time training heavy, and cut out the simple sugars. You will lose fat and muscle, however the key is to lose more fat and less muscle.