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The Lowdown on Low Carbohydrate Dieting for Bodybuilders



Posted in: Articles by ProSource, Featured Content, Diet Articles
By Jeff Volek - Chat with Doug on the ProSource Fitness Forum | Nov 22, 2010



The Lowdown image The most effective dietary approach for shedding body fat is to restrict carbohydrates. Most bodybuilders figure this out intuitively or they have been given advice by fellow weight lifters. As a scientist who has studied the effects of low carbohydrate diets for over 10 years and is a former competitive power lifter, I can tell you that a low carbohydrate diet is indeed a powerful weapon for blasting fat. However, there are many ways to go about a low carbohydrate diet and the results can vary tremendously. In fact some forms of carbohydrate restriction may be counter-productive if you do not pay attention to some important details. Here are some of the common mistakes people make and how you can maximize the effectiveness of a low carbohydrate diet.

How Low to Go
The level of carbohydrate restriction required to maximize fat loss varies from person to person but most people need to consume below 50 grams per day to achieve a maximum level of fat burning and ketosis. Ketosis is a perfectly natural process that occurs when fat breakdown is accelerated and the fatty acids get converted to ketones in the liver. The ketones serve as a vital fuel source for the brain and muscles. When carbohydrates are restricted to less than 50 grams per day, over a period of about 2-3 weeks a process called keto-adaption occurs where your body becomes very efficient at breaking down and burning prodigious amounts of fat. And if calories are restricted, much of that fuel comes from stored body fat.

Protein
Protein is important and getting more than the recommended dietary allowance (0.8 gram per kilogram body weight) is definitely needed. But most bodybuilders already get plenty of protein, and when carbs are restricted there is a tendency to pile in even more because many of the common foods that are low in carbohydrate contain protein. It's important not to overdo protein on a low carbohydrate diet. First of all, consuming protein beyond 2 grams per kilogram body weight has no additional benefit on protein synthesis. Second, consuming excessive amounts of protein can interfere with keto-adaptation. That's because some of the amino acids can be converted to glucose in the body and this negatively impacts fat burning.

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Importance of Fat
It's no surprise that a majority of Americans are fat-a-phobic since the dietary guidelines have been promoting a low fat diet for the last four decades. Most bodybuilders probably don't pay attention to what others are doing, but in case you happen to have a fear of fat, it's important to get rid of it. Fat is your friend when you're consuming a low carbohydrate diet. It serves as fuel and adds flavor to the diet and it does not interfere with the keto-adaption. Based on the extensive work I have conducted, the extra fat does not cause health problems, in fact the diet results in broad spectrum improvements in risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.  

The Right Types of Fat
Since carbs are low and protein is capped, the majority of calories on a low carbohydrate diet come from fat. Thus, you want to choose types of fat that the body likes to burn as fuel. Those are the saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids (SFA and MUFA, respectively), as opposed to the polyunsaturated fats (PUFA). Most animal fats are primarily SFA and MUFA and thus are good sources of fat. Use olive oil, canola oil or high oleic safflower oil because they are rich in MUFA. Stay away from the typical oils rich in PUFA (corn, soybean, safflower) used in most commercial products. Meats, eggs, olives, avocados, heavy cream, nuts and seeds, cheese, oils (olive and canola), and butter are all good sources of fat. Won't all that saturated fat have adverse health effects? Not according to our research. We have shown on a low carbohydrate diet that saturated fat levels actually decrease in the body even though dietary intake is high. How can that be? When carbs are low, the body burns the dietary saturated fat.

Sodium
Salt is a critically important micronutrient, especially on a low carbohydrate diet. When carbohydrates are restricted the body starts to discard water and salt. It's not uncommon for people to lose 4-5 pounds of water weight during the first week of a low carbohydrate diet. If that salt is not replaced the body responds by trying to retain more salt. This primarily happens in the kidneys. As a result, the kidneys start to waste potassium leading to a negative potassium balance. What does all this mean? The loss of water and salt can reduce plasma volume and make you feel sluggish and compromise your ability to perform in the weight room. Some people get headaches and feel faint. The loss of potassium can have a negative impact on muscle mass since most of the potassium is found within skeletal muscle. The easy solution, take in an extra 1-2 grams of sodium per day. The easiest way to ensure you get enough is to consume 2 bouillon cubes per day. On days you exercise be sure to take one cube 30 minutes before your workout.

Supplements
There are some great low carbohydrate supplements that make low carb dieting easier and more effective. NytroWhey Ultra Elite is specifically designed to achieve maximal delivery of amino acids to muscle to ensure a positive protein balance.  The state of the art peptides particularly rich in branched chain amino acids with extra leucine make it a unique anabolic delivery system.  Taken before and after exercise NytroWhey Ultra Elite will ensure the muscle is primed to grow. Supreme Protein bars are also a superb option on a low carbohydrate diet. Besides being delicious, the bars also contain a high quality whey protein that can be used around your workout.





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Disclaimer: The articles featured herein are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Specific medical advice should only be obtained from a licensed health care professional. No liability is assumed by ProSource for any information herein.





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