From a bodybuilding perspective, the low carbohydrate diet option is often only used by people trying to cut weight for a show. Why not do it at other times for a lean look? There have been some stigmas about pursuing a low carbohydrate plan because there is an assumption that you either won’t be able to gain more muscle or you might even lose muscle on that type of plan.
Is that true?
Let’s look at the two sides of the issue and try and make an informed decision.
Possible Negative Aspects
The biggest issue for many people on a low carbohydrate diet is there depleted levels of glycogen in the body. This in turn means a lowered level of available energy compared to a more glycogen rich diet. Those lowered levels will affect the energy level you have at the gym for both weights and cardio.
Specifically for cardio there will be a slight change in the normal metabolic process due to lowered glycogen which will make fat burning less efficient of a process. It will still happen but the method is different and reduced. That means less fat burned in a session.
For weight training if you are unable to train with the same level of weight for the same duration then less fibers will be used by your muscles. This could affect your possible gains. Also the reduced levels of micronutrients could restrict development after and during muscle breakdown. However this could be offset with an increased supplement program.
In regards to the issues for weight training, a push could be made to switch to a more high intensity style workout modeled after programs such as Mike Mentzer incorporated which does not require the same level of duration as a standard program.
Fat is more easily burned over time. As the body shifts gears from burning carbohydrates for energy to learning how to burn fat for energy it will become easier to remove those more difficult layers of fat within the body. In essence the body is less likely to store new fats from excess carbohydrates and sugars and will instead burn existing fat stores during regular activities in additional to exercise.
Regardless of benefits or negative aspects from the diet style itself, one of the biggest adjustments is a reduction in available foods to consume. The diet itself will be very basic and regimented due to the lowered amount of carbohydrates. Let’s face it; most of the good stuff in a tight diet are carb related.
Ideally if you were to try this route it would start as a bit more trial and error to see what works best for your own body as well as your specific goals. Reducing carbohydrates to a medium level to start allows you to gauge your energy levels to see if you feel comfortable at that state. From there it is only a step down to go low carb.
For years bodybuilders and fitness contestants have used low carbohydrates to diet down in the last 4 to 8 weeks before a show for the maximum ripped effect. It does work. So why not do it all the time? Mainly it is not because it can be very difficult to maintain for a long time when combined with a very high energy workout program.
You can be successful with a low carb diet as a bodybuilder but it has to be done a bit differently. Carbohydrates should be consumed prior to a workout for an added boost such as a pre-workout energy fuel pack. Also ideally you will switch to a higher carb intake day every 3 to 4 days. This will help replace the lost stores of glycogen burned on those low carb days.