I’m realizing from the questions I receive that there are some myths out there that need to be absolutely destroyed before people can get them out of their heads and get a solid plan to move forward in their fitness journeys. “Low-Carb Dieting” is one such topic. Hang on, let me climb in my wrecking ball tractor thing.
Here is the key takeaway: For most people, high-carb diets are the way to go.
Here, I’ll share with you why that is, then share some instances when it’s not the case.
Why I’m an Advocate of High-Carb Diets
It is advisable that those who are physically active, and especially those who are training with weights, eat a good bit of carbs. This is true for two reasons:
1. Carbs are energizers. The more you eat, the more energy you have in the gym and the stronger your lifts are. The stronger they are, the more you can overload and thereby grow your muscles and increase your strength.
2. Glycogen availability that results from high-carbs diets have been shown to directly affect protein synthesis and degradation rates. Whoa, don’t hit the “X” yet, let me explain what this means.
Every day, cells in your body are dying, and new ones are being generated to replace them. Both proteins and hormones are involved in this process. Protein synthesis is when new proteins are created to help replace these cells. If you are just wandering though an average day, the rate at which you lose and gain cells is pretty balanced. This is why you look more or less the same on Monday and Friday.
But if you engage in weight lifting or resistance training of any kind, you increase the amount of this damage. When you do that, your body doesn’t just want to replace, it wants to adapt to handle the new challenges. It wants to come back stronger. This requires higher rates of protein synthesis. If your repair rates are higher than your breakdown rates, then you see muscle gain. If not, then, well, not so much.
So, now you see why protein synthesis is so important for muscle growth. Glycogen (a substance deposited into bodily tissues as a store of carbohydrates for energy) that you get from carbs has been shown to directly improve the rates of protein synthesis, or regeneration, and this is a big deal for those engaging in resistance training. Lower carb diets do not produce the protein synthesis levels that high-carb ones do.
Also, if levels of a hormone called insulin are higher, muscle protein breaks down at a slower rate. People following high-carb diets have higher insulin levels than those following low-carb ones. Studies have shown this to be true, and the ones threat show otherwise provide the high-carb dieters with low protein levels, which is an entirely different discussion. There are other reasons involving testosterone, and more, but science class has already dragged on too long.
Who Would Benefit From Low Carb Dieting?
1. People who don’t exercise much could benefit. Carbs provide energy, and if you work in an office like me and don’t move much outside of that, you don’t need a lot of that. But if you’re trying to build muscle, it’s better to consume more carbs because this creates a better environment for the two reasons above. Some people want to start their fitness journey by changing eating habits and not incorporating workouts yet, and that’s fine. What’s important is that you’re working to make the change. For these people, low-carb diets can be helpful, at least in the short term.
2. There are also some diseases that I am definitely not qualified to speak about that can be potentially treated with low-carb diets, such as epileptic seizures, and possibly even cancer.
I want to do one caveat here as well. If you just happen to hate most high-carb foods, have a condition that makes high-carb difficult, or something else, don’t be discouraged by what I’m saying. You can absolutely lose fat and build muscle on a low-carb diet. It isn’t ideal, but neither is paying taxes and we still make that work. Message me if this is you, and I’d be happy to help you come up with a solid plan!
So, that’s a quick explanation of why I believe high-carb diets are best for most. I’d love to hear your thoughts!