Low Carb Myths

Do low-carb diets cause muscle loss?


Although orally ingested carbohydrates have classically been touted as the major fuel source of human energy, this could not be further from the truth as to how our body should be working when we are treating it properly. Bodybuilders know that, yet some of the vast misperceptions of the rest of humanity still seem to seep their way into the minds of my brethren in iron. These imbeciles make us doubt ourselves and start cracking open the pre-workout carbohydrate drinks as we convince ourselves that without this poison we’ll lose muscle. To them I say we must remind ourselves that the only reason dietary carbohydrates have become so important is because society, not the latest science and our own prerequisite knowledge, has made it so. Remember that orally ingested carbohydrates are not “essential,” because your body can make all the cellular sugar it needs from the fat and protein you ingest. Protein, on the other hand, is absolutely essential. Without eating certain essential amino acids you can’t efficiently build muscle. While some fats are harmful, certain fats—
like essential fatty acids—are critical and must not be neglected in the diet. It is only carbohydrates that have no essential character. Good bodybuilders have known that dietary carbohydrates were the problem all along. It’s just the rest of the world that still needs to catch up.

Of course, for those bodybuilders that are still stuck in the dark ages or have been sucked back into the misguided perceptions that they need a big carbohydrate bolus otherwise muscle disappears, finally the published medical research has caught up and proven that low-carbohydrate intake does not reduce the amount of muscle you have in response to training. Specifically a study performed by the School of Medical Sciences, RMIT University, in Melbourne, Australia, determined the effect of muscle glycogen concentration on muscle growth after weight training. Muscle biopsies confirmed glycogen concentration was higher in the control group verses the low-glycogen group at all times, yet they showed that commencing high-intensity exercise with low muscle glycogen did not compromise the anabolic signal and/or performance results.

Perhaps even more shocking, and most certainly not what the rest of the world is ready to comprehend, these facts also hold true for endurance athletes as well. But even more surprisingly, their performance may even benefit from reducing dietary carbohydrates and relying on structured amino acid solutions and healthy fats instead! In fact, it’s now been shown that endurance athletes increase the maximal activities of several oxidative enzymes that promote endurance to a greater extent when they have lower glycogen levels. So much for carbohydrate-loading with that big pasta dinner before 
the race or squeezing that sugar goop at the halfway point of your road race. Furthermore it has also been credibly demonstrated through muscle biopsy study that skeletal muscle responses to high-intensity endurance training result in molecular muscular signaling that remains unchanged despite lower muscle glycogen. These results may amaze some, confuse others, and down-right piss of many athletes, trainers, coaches, and nutrition gurus that thought they had it right all along and stuck to these older dogmas with religious fervor.

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