Low Carb Dieting

Hey all, Ive got a bone to pick…I havent been on the forum lately b/c Ive been working on some things that you all will appreciate when done, but I gotta say something about this low carb dieting fad that’s running rampant. I keep getting emails about and keep reading posts on this and other forums about the anabolic diet, the cyclic ketogenic diet, Poliquin and Serrano’s diets. All of these diets share the same principles (essentially). And when I say this, Im not referring to the fact that they all make you hungry all the time, the fact that they all make you pissed off all the time, the fact that they make you feel like shit all the time, or the fact that they essentially ensure that you probably will lose muscle and the fact that you certainly dont gain muscle while on them. Oh wait a minute…yes I am referring to all that!

Now let me clarify before you take out your rocks and stone me for heresy. These diets are fine for a month or so. Maybe even two months after you've gotten fatter than you should have and then need to lean out. But guys are following them indefinately. And they are trying to make them a lifestyle. I have BIG issues with that.

First, although these diets are offered up by “experts”, I can assure you that there is little to no scientific data to support them for use in the long term. There is especially no data to support claims of anticatabolism and anabolism, etc. In addition, taking 50-100 g of glutamine per day is also completely theoretical and downright physiologically scary. Please dont make me out to be too conservative here b/c Im anything but that. There is nothing conservative about trying to help guys see that these diets are too extreme and might not help put on any muscle at all. My goal is to show people that muscle gain is contingent on adequate carbs, plenty of protein, and lots of good fats.

What I am contending is that these low carb diets may be counterproductive but at the very least, may not offer any advantage over a more sane approach like 40%p, 30%c, and 30%f. Now, in my book, if they offer no benefit over a diet that does have carbs in it, they are a huge failure because of the suffering that low carb dieting entails.

My point is that readers of t-mag and other pubs seem to be brainwashed that low carb dieting is the only way to get big, or is it ripped, or is it both? See what I mean? People think these diets can get them big or ripped or both. Which is it? I contend that they wont get you big. And I contend that although they may help you lose fat in the short run (1 month or so), they are counterproductive if followed long term. So basically why not trying an eating program that is effective over the long haul? This way you dont have to low carb diet away the fat…go nuts while doing this…rebound afterwards and pig out on carbs…get fat again…and repeat the cycle. Im talking about a lifestyle diet that is gradually shifted during mass phases and diet phases, but universally follows sound eating principles.

Or you could just keep feeling like shit, low carb dieting, feeling guilty cause you cant stick to it for months on end, etc.

God, I feel like the "Stop the Insanity" chick! But I do think people are being misled with the low carb diets and need a better approach.

I for one think that would be a great article to do. I am always struggling with diets, not knowing which one to use, when.I have been on the anabolic cut phase for some time now. I have lost about 8 pounds and that is going below 1500 calories a day. I seemed to have come to a screeching halt.(I actually started with 200 cals a day and kept subtracting weekly until I started to lose).I know I need to change diets but which one and How should it be cycled? Catch my drift? So I for one would look forward to something in that line in the way of an article

Back in the day, I couldn’t stay away from the carbs. I would eat potatoes, rice, pasta and bread like it was going out of style (while also eating protein and carbs).

But then I switched to a more moderate carb intake and noticed the difference (I got leaner!).

And I’ve tried the super low (almost none) carb thing for one day. Unfortunately, one day was all I could handle. But it was enough for me to get ultra shredded for some pics I took. But would I do it again? Maybe for a day.

I agree with you John. I think nutrition is really pretty easy. And I've always felt like I need to do moderate amounts of protein, carbs and fat. It makes you feel better and look better. The only thing that is clear to me is that high protein is a huge benefit when trying to gain muscle.

And yes, I also think this would make a good article!

I totally agree with John, I too followed high fat diets but it’s only when I went on regular 40/30/30 reduced calorie diet I easily went from 15% to 9%bf during a 5 week period with no muscle or strength loss and the good thing is that even though now I often eat what I want I’m still keeping my bf low.

I for one have never felt like crap on the anabolic diet. And if you knew ANYTHING about this diet you would know that you DO eat carbs, just at certain times of the week. Maybe you should wake up and look at the science of low carb diets, there has been a lot more studies confirming the weight loss benefits of this diet than a low fat or 40/30/30 diet. I think it was Mike Matarazzo who said “to be freaky, you have to do freaky things.”

I guess my last post has something to do with this one, and I really appreciate it. Finally someone gives me permission to eat carbs more than once a week. I have EVERY low-carb bodybuilding diet book, tried them all, attended Poliquins fat-loss seminar, they all say low carbs but i’m not making the progress I want so its time for a change. Thank You John for your feedback, and any suggestions for contest dieting would GREATLY be appreciated. I’m gonna try a 40%p, 30%c and 30%fat from flax and fish oil. 1.5g prot per lb bodyweight. Most carbs post-workout and earlier in the day, taper down through the day. Anyone w/ trouble losing fat get ripped with a similar plan?? By the way, one of the guys I was talking to was Vince Galanti, read an article of his at Universals site and he said in prep for a 99’ NPC contest he did a higher fat and protein/low carb diet, goes to show how much these Ghost-writers can BS about someone.

John, I would also like to read your upcoming article. My sentiments are similar to yours. What shits me is the people who are relatively high in bodyfat (say >15%) who go on these lowcarb diets as if thats the only thing they can do to lose fat. What I’ve found is that the fatter you are, the easier it is to lose fat. When I started bodybuilding, I was already a decent athlete and at about 13% bf. After taking care of protein needs and eating cleaner I got down to 9% while increasing muscle mass. But then I stagnated. Getting down below 7% was actually very hard. This is where the higher-carb diet failed (many times) and the lowcarb worked (first time). But I only ever diet for 2 weeks before going back to my beloved carbs. Looking forward to your article!

John, I completely agree. I tried the anabolic low/no carb approach and I could only last about one month. I felt awful and my lifts suffered a great deal. I tried to continue the program I was on and had to adjust my weights downward quite a bit. Since I re-introduced a moderate amount of complex carbs and some fruit back into my diet, not only do I feel worlds better, but I’m back to lifting the kind of weight I’m used to lifting. I have one question about something you just mentioned in passing: You said taking 50-100 grams of glutamine is “scary”, what did you mean? I do take 40 grams on a daily basis and have had a burning, traveling cramp in my lower abdomen (hard for me to describe) and I was wondering if this may be caused by glutamine supplementation since they seem to have coincided. A reply would be most appreciated.

I don’t agree. As C.P. said in his November 2000 Iron Man interview, 50 to 75 percent of bodybuilders should stay low carb.

I think it is mostly the natural ectomorphs and some mesomorphs that need more carbs. Most people that gain size easy have some endomorphic tendencies.This type only needs to add a lot of carbs during bulking phases. Remember most of Poloquin’s clients are elite athletes and they pay him a lot of money for the results he gets. C.P. has many of these guys on low carb diets.

Since Poloquin left T-mag seems to lean more towards ectomorphic " hard gainer" training and diet philosphies (Dave Tate excepted). These philosphies exhibit an exagerated fear of overtraining, high carbs et cetera. In my book Charles is still numero uno!

I used to think this low-carb craze was kind of a joke. I have used carb cycling(3 days low, 2 days high) and got to 3 percent bodyfat. However, I have been experimenting with different cyclical ketogenic diets and without a doubt when I’m eating less than 10 carbs with about 300 grams of fat and 200 grams of protein I feel much , MUCH better. When I have to eat ,I don’t even want to and my energy and strength in the gym is fine. I think the problem a lot of people are encountering is that they aren’t getting all of their fat in. When that happens of course you’re going to feel like shit. Anyone who can’t make it one day without carbs should pursue another hobby. I prefer Duchaine’s BodyOpus and with it I have managed to GAIN 6 pounds while actually getting a little leaner in 12 days in combination with the Androsol/Nandrosol Stack.

I think you may have opened a can of worms (great for low carb diets! ). I’ve followed the
ketogenic, or low-carb diets since Mauro D.
brought it back into the limelight early in the 90’s. The late great Dan Duchaine and Michael Zumpano formulated the first version
for bodybuilders back in the early 80’s, but
it didn’t seem to take. In the late 90’s and
recently it has received popularity,
justifiably so. Many people have got great results, especially older ( over 30 ) trainers.
In the end some respond best to low carb and some to higher amounts. Most low-carb advocates
have mentioned that this is a diet to decrease
bodyfat, not to increase size. Regardless, the
so-called “zone” type of eating is, if you have followed other diet “experts” , low-carb
in itself. Remember, there’s a big difference
between just low, or lower carb, and ketogenic.
Truly the key is,through various types of tests, find the tolerances to different carb
amounts, carb types, and combinations with other macronutrient levels. But first decide
on a weight/size gain, or weight/fat loss program. An old saying applies here. No matter
what side of the argument you stand on, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.
Personally, for my bodybuilding contests I get
great results on ketogenic regimes, and off-season, a more moderate carb intake. There’s no law that says that a person can’t periodize
their diet along with their training program.

Thanks for the feedback, guys…couple more comments:

  1. Michael…Please do not insult my intelligence. I am a PhD in exercise and nutritional biochemistry, have won national level bodybuilding shows, and have been training as seriously as anyone for about 10 years, and train both local, national, and olympic athletes. I know what the anabolic diet entails as well as all the others I spoke of (in terms of cyclic eating). As far as waking up and looking at the science, show me the data. Sure there is some data on low carb diets out there. But in bodybuilders, I think not. It’s all in fat chicks. And finally as far as your Mike Matarazzo quote, I see what you’re getting at but come on now…you’re using the textbook bodybuilder argument for doing stupid and unnecessary things in the name of being hardcore. As Ive gotten older Ive realized that you dont have to do stupid unconventional things to get results. Sometimes rational things will get you there just as fast without all the pain. But then again, if you like pain, why dont you just tie a tournaquet around your balls when you train. That will hurt real bad and make training that much more difficult. Then you can pat yourself on the back for being a hardcore freak. Oh yeah, and dont forget to pick up your balls before you leave the gym.

2) Jackson, great points about periodized eating. That's what I meant. Ketogenic and hyperlow carbs should only be followed for a month at a time or so and followed by another approach. That's how I see my best results and how my clients get the best results too. Also great points about defining terms of low carb dieting. In addition, I also think that once you define your specific goals, only then can you decide on a diet. The old "I want to get big and ripped" is a joke.

3)For the other guys who have had success on such approaches, good for you! Im glad you've had success. But I dont think you are the majority but are the minority. Actually my brother (he's like 5'8, 200, 8% fat) gets pretty good results on a lower carb diet (less than 100g per day) if he undereats. If he eats a little more total calories, he can get away with more carbs. But he's got a weird metabolism the likes of which Ive never worked with before. But he still gets in the carbs either way.

4) I think CP's suggestions that 50-75% of bodybuilders should be on low carb diets is a bit high. I guess it depends on what he means by low carb diets. If he means moderate carb (30% or so), Im in full agreement. If he means low carb (like less than 50 grams), I flat out think he's wrong. I think CP is a great trainer and a wealth of info and I hate to challenge an icon but guess what, I dont think he has the market cornered on knowledge. Some of us know some stuff too. You guys think that bodybuilding writers (CP, Serrano, DiPasquale) and trainers have so much info but you would be amazed at what some of the guys in academia know and how much they could offer us if they wanted to. It humbles me daily. But you see, they're busy doing the research. And dont have time to disseminate it. So dont put these guys so high up on a pedestle. They're good but by making them out to be immortal givers of truth will only let you down. As in science, we only know today's truth. And todays fact is tomorrows fiction.

Well I’m going to plug the warrior diet again, because I believe in it. It’s good for cutting (although maybe not the best) and really great for gaining a lot of muscle without really picking up fat (or minimal fat). Right now, I’ll eat a chicken breast at 10am (just for insurance) and then eat tons of protein and carbs and fat after I work out (the fat comes with my protein choice… I don’t purposefully add it). I’ve seen the best mass gains on this compared to ANY other diet I’ve tried. Unfortunately not many other people want to try it. I’ve put on a lot muscle recently because of this diet. People ask me what I’m doing now that makes the difference (before I didn’t go full out on the warrior diet, I was trying it out to cut a bit… then I tried fully fledged bulking which just added fat). When I tell them about the warrior diet (for gaiing max muscle), they just ignore it and ask which supplements or steroids I’m using (just creatine). I don’t suffer on it because I don’t get hungry during the day! One caveat is that cheating will make you pick up fat faster than usual (eating only at night slows the metabolism), but it’s not a problem for me (I eat a chicken breast if I really am hungry… or just a few carbs if my reserves are depleted before night time, it’s no biggy since I’m not trying to cut right now).

God I agree and Identify with all of you who have sufferred on the low carb approach. Now I’m not saying that I’m going to go hog wild with pasta, bagels etc but It sure feels good to have a sex drive, fun workouts, eat oatmeal/yams/fruit etc and feel so energetic.
Berardi for President!

John, I agree with you on the fact that low carb diets shouldn’t be done for more than a month. However, I think you’ve come down on them a little too hard. I use them fairly often(never for longer than a month though) with good success. The pain I experience on them seems to be minimal when I compare my experiences to others and I kinda like eating nothing but steaks and other great meats for a few weeks. Also, Poliquin recommends these diets to last for no more than 25 days and then to carefully start adding carbs back into your diet. So I guess you agree with him after all. Oh yeah, an article about this stuff would be cool.

Poliquin does not recommend the diets just for short term. I did a consultation with him and he kept me on the low carb diet for 6months. In that time my androgens, Gh, Tlevels took a nose dive.

Hey Scott, what type of fat loss results have you recieved on that diet. I followed it for a while after going to Poliquins seminar. Been doing some form low carbs for almost 2yrs with unsatisfactory results. Why type of diet are you on now any how’s your progress? I’m trying 50%p,25%c and 25%f. Feel and look better already, I’m shocked. Leave your e-mail if u don’t mind, I’d like to talk w/ someone else who struggled w/ progress low-carbing. [NOTE FROM MODERATOR: NO PRIVATE E-MAIL ADDRESSES CAN BE POSTED ON THIS FORUM.]

Pete, My results were good for the first couple of months I lost around 2.5% got down to around 12.5% percent at 210lbs, but from then nothing no matter how hard I did all of his supersetting recomendations, sprints, intervals training etc. I encorporated the high carb day every fith day and found that was the only day I actually felt good. Also my sex drive took a dive, my training sucked and the fat never came off!! So now I switched back to eating normal I am upping my calories 500above maintnance witabout 30% protein, 40% carbs mostly yams, oats, beans, fruits, vegies, Fats, Cla Fishoil, Flax, Olive oile mixed nuts. God I feel better, I plan on taking a break for a month or so to fix my metabolism and hormones which got messed up during the low carb [phase] I am also ditching the 40 g of glutamine postworkout per Charles recommendations.

You started all this and while I agree with you completely, you can continue this debate until you die and you’ll still be fighting a losing battle. Don’t let others control you by putting you on the defensive. Do what you know is right for yourself and to hell with whatever anyone else says.

By the way, I've personally dieted down to under 5% bodyfat using BOTH high-carb/low-fat and high-fat/low-carb. Low-carb (by my definition, low enough to put you into ketosis) turns me into an ornery sob who can't sleep and is not too pleasant to be around. I'll never use it again.

Scott, I’m curious why Poliquin didn’t change your program/diet if you experienced negative results over the course of 6 months. How often did you consult with him??