One question that often gets asked in the bodybuilding world is whether or not you can effectively build muscle while following a low carb diet approach.
Low carb diets have been all the rage lately for those who are wishing to lose weight as they generally help to control hunger levels better and some people find are a lot easier to follow.
But what about when it comes to building muscle? Is a low carb muscle building nutrition program a smart approach? Let’s look a little further.
One very important thing you must keep in mind is that if you bring carbohydrates low enough while on a low carb diet, you can enter a state called ketosis. This is when the body is going to switch from running off carbohydrates as fuel to running of fat instead.
The big problem with ketosis is that it is also generally associated with being in a catabolic state, hence, will almost always be detrimental to building muscle.
If you aren’t in ketosis, then this is fine since your body can still be anabolic (building muscle), assuming a calorie surplus is given.
In order to stay out of ketosis on a low carb diet, be sure you consume at least 100 grams of carbohydrates each day (this is what is necessary to fuel the brain while not in ketosis) and then any additional carbohydrates required to keep up your workouts).
Energy And Intense Exercise
The next issue that must be addressed when going on a low carb diet is how it will affect your energy levels. Some people feel fine on a lower carb approach while others do not. Since when you are trying to build muscle you want to be doing very intense workouts, you cannot have your energy levels lagging.
Additionally, the body requires carbohydrates in order to lift weight effectively (since fat cannot be used as fuel for this time of movement) therefore, you will be required to either eat carbohydrates in the pre and post workout periods (to fill up muscle glycogen), or do a weekly carb-load in order to give your muscles the carbohydrates they need to function off of during the week.
Decreased Rate Of Fat Gain
One of the pluses of a lower carb approach though can be your ability to control how much fat is added to the body slightly better.
Since fat and protein have minimal effect on insulin levels, and insulin is the driving hormone that causes fat storage, you may find you gain a greater proportion of muscle on a lower carb muscle building program than if you would have went higher in carbs.
Do note though that it still does boil down to total calories. You simply cannot consume thousands of excess calories per day from fat and expect not to gain fat weight. We still need to look at this realistically.
So, there is definitely a place in bodybuilding for low carb diets assuming that:
1. You are supplying at least 100 grams of carbs per day plus any additional needed to support training
2. You eat carbs in the pre/post workout period or choose to do a large weekly carb-up
3. You find that you do not feel completely drained on this type of diet and are still able to lift weight effectively.
If all of these factors are in line, then yes, you can build muscle while using a low carb diet.