You’re in the gym doing your cardio and eating in a calorie deficit trying to burn body fat. Great work.
Then you hear that you should cut carbs to lose weight faster. You start looking into ketogenic diets and decide it’s a good idea to cut carbs so you can lose weight faster.
But you are concerned about muscle loss and how carbs pay a role, and rightfully so.
Will You Lose Muscle If You Cuts Carbs?
The short answer is no. However, there are a few factors to consider. Carbohydrates do play several functions in assisting with muscle building such as less fatigue and muscle breakdown in the gym. You will also find that you don’t have as much energy in the gym without carbs. Low carb diets have been proven to have many benefits including weight loss. It just may not be the best diet for those who have intense workout sessions.
Carbohydrates Role In Muscle Building
Carbs are what keep you energized and going through tough workouts. They provide energy, prevent fatigue, and even enhance athletic performance.
Simple VS Complex Carbs
Simple carbs provide a quick burst of energy, while complex provide a longer lasting good source of energy.
Candy and chocolate are examples of simple carbs, leaving you energized for a short period usually followed by a crash. Bread, rice, fruits and veggies are examples of complex carbs. They provide a lot more nutrients and are digested slower. Meaning you will have the energy from them for longer periods of time than simple carbs.
Carbs will regulate muscle glycogen stores. Glycogen is your body’s main source of energy used in the gym and is made up of carbs. It is important to consume carbs after a workout to replenish the glycogen stores that have been used up during exercise.
Carbs will help your muscles recover from exercise. If glycogen isn’t restored after exercise, you risk entering gluconeogenesis. This is when the body starts using fat and protein to make up for the missing carbs.
Replenishing glycogen stores with complex carbs is very important to prevent muscle breakdown and muscle wasting.
With much of glycogen being stored in our muscles, many people will carb load for the most effective workout. This involves eating a high amount of carbs before lifting to delay fatigue and improve muscle performance.
This results in a better workout, breaking and then building down more muscle.
Carbohydrates are the only macro nutrient that can be broken down quickly enough to provide sustained energy during a workout.
Glycogen is also required to repair and rebuild broken down muscle tissue after a tough workout.
What Happens When You Cut Carbs
The first thing that will usually happen when you cut out carbs is you will lose some weight. Awesome, right?
That first bit of weight you use is mostly water weight. This is because carbs allow your body to store glycogen in the muscles.
When you are in the middle of an intense workout, this glycogen gives you energy. Water is required for glycogen to be stored.
So, if your body doesn’t have carbs it can’t store this glycogen in your muscles. This results in dehydrated muscles which isn’t a good thing. Dehydrated muscles will not perform or recover the same.
Next, your body will enter the state of ketosis. This is what ketogenic diets focus on. Ketosis is when your body has used up most of its carbs or glycogen and is then forced to convert fat stores into ketone bodies.
Ketones are what your body uses for fuel instead of glycogen.
Eating less than 50 carbs per day is considered to be ketosis. It has benefits including increased fat loss and less hunger.
Low carb diets also have the bonus of making you lose a lot of weight at the beginning. Even if it is mostly water weight. If your goal is to lose weight, it will be achieved.
It also provides health benefits such as lowering risk of heart disease and helping those with metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes
As insulin drops, fatty acids are released from the bodies fat stores. Many of them are converted into ketones by the liver. Then they can provide energy for the body.
Ketones can also provide energy for the brain.
Ketosis makes your body lose more fat from your abdominal cavity area. What does this mean and why is it important?
Well, where body fat is stored on our bodies actually determines how it affects your health. There are even two types of fat, subcutaneous and visceral.
Visceral fat tends to stay around your organs and is associated with inflammation and insulin resistance.
Low carb diets tend to be effective at reducing this harmful fat, as proven by studies.
Your triglycerides will also drop when you lower your carb intake. These are the fat molecules in your bloodstream. They are a strong proponent of heart disease.
Low carbs mean lower amount of triglycerides in your body.
Low Carb Diet Effects On Muscle Gain
Your exercise performance will be limited if your body doesn’t have enough carbs. Intense workouts such as high intensity interval training require a high amount of carbs as fuel. Athletes training for marathons are also in danger.
People who aren’t athletes or in the gym regularly can be on a low carb diet. This is because they don’t require the added energy from the carbs.
Your body can only go so hard without carbs to keep it fueled.
You may also risk suffering from exercise flu. This happens when your body and head hurt after a tough workout, a lot more than what is normal. It can become very dangerous.
Your body will start to break down muscle without enough carbs. The process of gluconeogenisis will happen where your body breaks down protein in muscles since it cannot use carbs.
Breakdown of muscle will result in loss of strength and gains.
A low carb diet can also lead to an increase in risk of low T3 syndrome. T3 is a thyroid hormone that controls metabolic rate, energy, and weight control. So, this can lead to increased fat gain and fatigue due to low energy levels.
Furthermore, lowered testosterone levels and an increase in cortisol are also results of eating fewer carbs. Cortisol is the stress hormone associated with weight gain.
Your metabolism will also be slowed which leads to low energy in the gym and your body not being able to break down food as quickly.
Another obvious problem with low carb diets is that they’re very difficult to stick to. People are much more likely to cheat on a low carb diet, as almost all foods contain at least some carbs.
Carbohydrates in the body reduce muscle breakdown, meaning that you risk losing muscle when eating low carbs.
In conclusion, a low carb diet is probably not the best if you have high intensity workouts. They can provide a lot of benefits though. If you really want to try one, see how it affects your body and your fitness goals.
Leave any questions or comments below and I will get back to you!