^
Muscle for life

The Definitive Guide to Why Low-Carb Dieting Sucks

By
The Definitive Guide to Why Low-Carb Dieting Sucks

The low-carb diet is the latest fad to take America by storm. And like most fad diets, it has a pretty sales pitch but can’t deliver the goods. Here’s why.

 

A decade ago dietary fat was the vilest of macronutrients but these days it’s the carbohydrate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If we’re to believe the doomsayers, eating carbohydrates produces lots of nasty insulin, which in turn triggers rapid fat storage of damn near anything we eat. The key to health, vitality, and leanness, they say, is to eat as few carbohydrates as possible.

Well, they’re wrong. Unless you’ve overweight and completely sedentary, low-carb dieting sucks, and I’m going to explain why.

You Don’t Lose Fat Faster on a Low-Carb Diet

That statement is basically blasphemous these days, but the general advice of going on a low-carb diet to maximize fat loss is scientifically bankrupt.

There are about 20 studies that low-carb proponents bandy about as definitive proof of the superiority of low-carb dieting for weight loss. This, this, and this are common examples. If you simply read the abstracts of these studies, low-carb dieting definitely seems more effective, and this type of glib “research” is what most low-carbers base their beliefs on.

But there’s a big problem with many of these studies, and it has to do with protein intake.

The problem is the low-carb diets in these studies invariably contained more protein than the low-fat diets.  Yes, one for one…without fail.

What we’re actually looking at in these studies is a high-protein, low-carb diet vs. low-protein, higher-carb diet, and the former wins every time. But we can’t ignore the high-protein part and say it’s more effective because of the low-carb element.

In fact, better designed and executed studies prove the opposite: that when protein intake is high, low-carb dieting offers no especial weight loss benefits. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Why is protein intake so important, exactly? Because adequate protein intake while dieting for fat loss is vital for preserving lean mass, both with sedentary people and especially with athletes.

If you don’t eat enough protein when dieting to lose weight, you can lose quite a bit of muscle, and this in turn hampers your weight loss in several ways:

1. It causes your basal metabolic rate to drop.

2. It reduces the amount of calories you burn in your workouts.

3. It impairs the metabolism of glucose and lipids.

As you can see, when you want to lose fat, your number one goal to preserve lean mass.

Now, let’s turn our attention back to the “low-carb dieting is better” studies mentioned earlier.

In many cases, the high-carb groups were given less protein than even the RDI of 0.8 grams per kg of body weight, which is just woefully inadequate for weight loss purposes. Research has shown that even double and triple those (RDI) levels of protein intake isn’t enough to fully prevent the loss of lean mass while restricting calories for fat loss.

So, what happens in terms of weight loss when you keep protein intake high and compare high and low levels of carbohydrate intake? Is there even any research available to show us?

Yup.

There are four studies I know of that meet these criteria and gee whiz look at that…when protein intake is high and matched among low-carb and high-carb dieters, there is no significant difference in weight loss.

The bottom line is so long as you maintain a proper calorie deficit and keep your protein intake high, you’re going to maximize fat loss while preserving as much lean mass as possible. Going low-carb as well won’t help you lose more weight.

It’s Easier to Overeat on a Low-Carb Diet

For many people, the absolute worst part of dieting to lose weight is the hunger pangs, which also often leads to (or amplifies) cravings. There’s truth in the old saying that the best diet is the one you can stick to–compliance is at least half the battle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, a low-carb diet basically guarantees that you’re going to struggle with hunger. 

You see, carbohydrates (and especially the fiber-rich types) have a significant impact on satiety (fullness), whereas dietary fats don’t. That is, eat a bunch of fibrous carbohydrates and you’ll feel very full for quite some time. Eat a bunch of dietary fat and you won’t. (Protein is also very satiating, which is yet another reason why we should eat a lot of it.)

This is especially troubling because dietary fat is so damn tasty and energy dense. It contains about 9 calories per gram compared to the carbohydrate’s 4 calories. This is why research has shown that it’s easier to overeat on a high-fat diet and that obesity is greater among high-fat dieters than low-fat.

My experience working with thousands of people of all ages and circumstances is right in line with the above research: low-carb dieters almost always have more hunger issues than high-carb dieters and struggle more with controlling calorie intake. They also usually have problems with low energy levels as well (which is also not surprising as research has shown very low-carb diets increase fatigue and perceived effort during exercise).

You Build Less Muscle on a Low-Carb Diet

Most people on a low-carb diet are doing so for weight loss purposes, but some try to make it a general lifestyle.

While there’s really nothing wrong with this if you’re sedentary (in fact I would probably argue that it’s a good idea, but that’s another article), if you engage in regular resistance training, a low-carb diet is actually counterproductive because you’ll build less muscle.

Here’s how this works:

When you reduce your carbohydrate intake, you reduce the amount of glycogen stored in the muscles. This, in turn, compromises your performance in the gym–you can expect a dramatic reduction in both muscle endurance and strength, which then limits the amount of progressive overload you can subject your muscles to in those workouts. (And less progressive overload in workouts = less muscle growth over time.)

There are other downsides to low muscle glycogen levels.

Research conducted by scientists at Ball State University found that when muscle glycogen levels are low, post-workout signaling related to muscle growth is impaired. This, by the way, is especially unwanted when you’re dieting for weight loss because a calorie restriction alone already impairs your body’s ability to synthesize proteins.

In athletes, a low-carb diet has been shown to increase cortisol and reduce testosterone levels. This too is particularly problematic when you’re restricting calories, which also reduces anabolic hormone levels.

So, we already know that a low-carb diet won’t help us lose fat faster, but as you now see, it’s looking pretty damn ugly for us weightlifters looking to get lean. It looks like all a low-carb diet does is make our workouts suck and speed up muscle loss.

This isn’t just theory, either.

study conducted by researchers at the University of Rhode Island looked at how low- and high-carbohydrate intakes affected exercise-induced muscle damage, strength recovery, and whole body protein metabolism after a strenuous workout.

The result was the subjects on the low-carbohydrate diet (which wasn’t all that low, actually—about 226 grams per day, versus 353 grams per day for the high-carbohydrate group) lost more strength, recovered slower, and showed lower levels of protein synthesis.

In this study, researchers at McMaster University compared high- and low-carbohydrate dieting with subjects performing daily leg workouts. They found that those on the low-carbohydrate diet experienced higher rates of protein breakdown and lower rates of protein synthesis, resulting in less overall muscle growth than their higher-carbohydrate counterparts.

All this is why I never drop my carbohydrate intake lower than about .8 grams per pound of body weight when cutting (and yes I get to 6% body fat eating this many carbs per day), and I’ll go as high as 2 to 2.5 grams per pound when bulking.

A Low-Carb Diet Impairs Athletic Performance, Too

As intense physical activity pulls heavily on glycogen stores and maintaining optimal performance requires the replenishment of that glycogen, this section shouldn’t really come as a big surprise.

Nevertheless, low-carb “gurus” will often claim that a low-carb diet actually improves athletic performance, usually with a nice little cherry-picked list of studies, so let’s take a closer look at this.

First, it’s worth noting that low-carb dieting has failed to gain any real foothold in the world of professional sports. This industry pays some of the best sports scientists in the world exorbitant amounts of money to figure out how to push the human body to its absolute performance limits, and the low-carb diet hasn’t failed because nobody has thought of trying it–it has failed because it absolutely sucks for athletic performance.

But that’s just an observation. Let’s look at some science.

This study, which is cited almost without fail when trying to sell you the low-carb performance myth, found that when cyclists switched to a ketogenic diet, they first experienced the “keto crash” as the body adjusted to the lack of carbohydrates. This lasted about ten days, at which point the body come “fat adapted” and energy levels improve. Then, for the next four weeks, researchers claimed, there was no decrease in endurance when the cyclists were test at 62-64% VO2max.

What low-carb fanatics don’t tell you (or don’t know themselves), however, is that the head researcher of the study later admitted the cyclists’ ability to perform higher intensity activity (sprinting) deteriorated on the low-carb diet. Not only that, while researchers claimed endurance at 62-64% VO2max wasn’t impaired by the low-carb diet, it was in two of the cyclists, who experienced dramatic decreases in their time to exhaustion (48 and 51 minutes).

Oh and these reductions in performance were not because the cyclists just weren’t “fat adapted” enough. By the end of the study, the cyclists’ respiratory quotient was .72, which is about as fat adapted as you’re going to ever get.

So what this precious low-carb study actually shows us is that a very low-carb (ketogenic) diet is useless for competitive cyclists…and in fact useless for any sport that involves periods of low-intensity and high-intensity activity…or just about every popular sport in the world.

As I noted earlier in this section, this would come as no surprise to professional sports nutritionists. There’s over 50 years of scientific research on the relationship between intramuscular glycogen stores and performance, and the following quote from this extensive review conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen summarizes the matter nicely:

“Evidence is presented that short term adaptation, < 6 days, to a fat-rich diet is detrimental to exercise performance.

“When adaptation to a fat-rich diet was performed over longer periods, studies where performance was tested at moderate intensity, 60 to 80% of maximal oxygen uptake, demonstrate either no difference or an attenuated performance after consumption of a fat-rich compared with a carbohydrate-rich diet.

“When performance was measured at high intensity after a longer period of adaptation, it was at best maintained, but in most cases attenuated, compared with consuming a carbohydrate-rich diet.

“Furthermore, evidence is presented that adaptation to a fat-rich diet leads to an increased capacity of the fat oxidative system and an enhancement of the fat supply and subsequently the amount of fat oxidised during exercise.

“However, in most cases muscle glycogen storage is compromised, and although muscle glycogen breakdown is diminished to a certain extent, this is probably part of the explanation for the lack of performance enhancement after adaptation to a fat-rich diet.”

The bottom line is if you want to perform your best in just about any sport you’d actually want to play, you want to eat as many carbs as possible.

Is a Low-Carb Diet Good for Anything, Then?

While I think I make a pretty convincing argument as to why a low-carb diet is terrible for us fitness folk, I do believe there are three valid uses for low-carb dieting:

If you’re prepping for a show or photo shoot or some such thing and want to look as lean as possible.

Following a low-carb diet for 7 to 10 days will reduce the amount of subcutaneous water in your body, which makes you look leaner. Part of getting that “shrink wrap” look is holding as little subcutaneous water as possible (which is why fitness models and bodybuilders often abuse diuretic drugs, which I don’t recommend).

You would then follow this low-carb period with 1 to 2 days of high levels of carbohydrate intake to fill up your muscles with glycogen as you’ll be looking pretty flat without it.

If you’re completely sedentary.

Carbohydrates are primarily energetic–their purpose is to give our cells energy. If you don’t do anything with your body, it doesn’t need very much energy.

Thus, a relatively low-carb diet would make sense for a sedentary person (somewhere around 100 grams per day would probably be plenty).

If you have problems with your insulin response or sensitivity.

Insulin sensitivity refers to how responsive your cells are to insulin’s signals, and insulin response–or insulin secretion–refers to how much insulin is secreted into your blood in response to food eaten.

Research has shown that weight loss efforts aren’t improved or impaired by insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance per se, but there’s evidence that people with poor insulin sensitivity and response may lose more weight on a low-carb diet.

For instance, a study conducted by the Tufts-New England Medical Center found that a low-glycemic load diet helped overweight adults with high insulin secretion lose more weight, but not overweight adults with low insulin secretion.

study conducted by the University of Colorado demonstrated that obese women that were insulin sensitive lost significantly more weight on a high-carb, low-fat diet than a low-carb, high-fat diet (average weight loss of 13.5% vs. 6.8% of body weight, respectively); and those that were insulin resistant lost significantly more weight on a low-carb, high-fat diet than a high-carb, low-fat diet (average weight loss of 13.4% vs. 8.5% of body weight, respectively).

Two studies is hardly definitive, but it’s interesting and worth noting.

Practically speaking, this wouldn’t apply to you unless you’re obese, sedentary, and near diabetic, and don’t want to exercise to lose weight. 

If you’re only slightly overweight and exercise regularly, however, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to have big enough problems with insulin response or sensitivity for the above research to apply to you. You’ll be much better served by a moderately high intake of carbohydrate.

 

What do you think of low-carb dieting? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

admin admin

I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

If you like what I have to say, sign up for my free newsletter and every week I'll send you awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious "diet-friendly" recipes, motivational musings, and more.

THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE HAVE USED MY BOOKS TO BUILD THEIR BEST BODIES EVER. WILL YOU BE NEXT?

If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my bestselling books.

Here's a little sneak peek of what you'll learn inside...

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
  • A no-BS guide to supplements that will save you hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars each year that you would’ve wasted on products that are nothing more than bunk science and marketing hype.
  • And a whole lot more!

The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Want more awesome stuff like this? Enter your email address to get the weekly newsletter.
LIKE MUSCLE FOR LIFE? Let Google know!
Leave a Comment!
Comment!
  • Anonymous Atom

    Do you have a view on the ‘energetic’ and ‘psychological’ aspects to carb consumption? Many people claim to feel more stable, balanced energy levels on low-carb diets. Others say eating carbs can cause cravings (for more carbs).

    Or is this a matter of amounts and qualities of carbs? (ie, sweet potatoes or rice or legumes… vs a heaping bowl of cereal)

    • I used to suffer from some anxiety issues (I noticed the other day that I hadn’t experienced them for ages!!!), but I definitely felt less anxious on a lower carb protocol when I was suffering a little.

      I eat more carbs now, and the anxiety is just not there. But perhaps when other things go well in ones life, that just improves anyway.

      • Michael Matthews

        Getting over the “fear” of carbs is definitely part of it, haha.

    • Michael Matthews

      I haven’t heard that from people that exercise regularly. To the contrary, I regularly hear how much better people that exercise regularly feel on high-carb diets.

      The types of carbs eaten do matter, yes. Most high-GI carbs are just junk food.

      • Anonymous Atom

        Well, what I mean is, people that feel groggy or tired an hour or so after eating carbs.

        • Michael Matthews

          Some people do. Many don’t. Especially if it’s a lower-GI carb.

  • Evin

    Hi Mike,

    Good article, although I must ask, what would you say to someone with type 1 diabetes? I’ve been utilizing a ketogenic diet over the past few months to help me lose weight. I’m not sure what body fat % I started at but when I started tracking it in February I was around 22% now I’m at 13%. Insulin use is at an all time low for me (which means insulin sensitive) which is incredible but as I reach my goal of 9% body fat I’m beginning to feel as if I’m reaching a plateau in muscle development. I understand that there is only so much muscle that an individual can put on in “newbie” gains while cutting fat initially so I’m fine with reaching the plateau. However, what worries me is that, after reading your article (and a few similar references made by you), I’m going to sacrifice muscle gains once I start adding in more calories for bulking due to the fact that I’m not eating carbs. It’s almost as if I feel like I’m having to choose between the body I want and excellent (as in A1C of around 5.5-5.8 which is where I have been on my keto diet) blood sugar control. I realize you probably don’t have a lot of experience with this type of thing and ultimately I’m going to choose whatever route is best for my health, but are my fears warranted in terms of muscle gains?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Evin!

      Good question. In your case, it definitely makes sense to limit carbohydrate intake.

      IMO keep your health optimal and if that means sacrificing some muscle gains, so be it.

  • Ian

    Another great article and very informative as always. I had one question though. Is carb intake on workout days more important right afterwards or as long as i have sufficient carb intake by the end of the day then ill be fine? I hope that question made sense haha

    Thanks for your time Mike.

    Ian.

    • Not answering for Mike, but after heavy muscle contractions (lifting weights etc), there is a process of replenishment of muscle glycogen which takes place without the presence of insulin. Non-insulin mediated glucose update is the tech term I think. At these times, the body will prioritise replenishment of muscle glycogen, so eating starchy carbs AFTER a workout makes sense. They don’t have to ALL be after a workout, I tend to have 30% of the daily carb intake in my lunchtime meal, then train at 5pm, and scoff the rest after training.

      Hope this is useful to you?

      • Michael Matthews

        Great reply. Thanks Stephen.

      • Ian

        Thanks…yea that is very useful and makes sense. Thanks for the info!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! So long as your hit your daily numbers, you’ll be fine. That said, the post-workout “window” is just a good time to replenish glycogen stores.

      • Ian

        Thanks for responding Mike…the knowledge I’ve gained from your books and articles is enormous. I’m constantly learning so much. Thanks!

        Ian.

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure! I’m glad to hear it!

    • Michael Matthews

      Sorry I missed this somehow. Hitting your daily number is what matters in terms of overall weight loss or gain, but the post-workout “window” does allow for rapid glycogen replenishment.

  • Great article Mike. I’ve been down the low carb road before, and actually taught quite a few kettlebell classes a week on a sub 50g of carbs per day diet. I felt pretty good on it.

    That said, I like carbs, I enjoy eating them, I’m not sedentary, so eating carbs is good for me. And gee, did my sleep suffer on low carb. I woke most nights and struggled to sleep.

    I’ve currently got carbs at 180g per day, almost exclusively from white potatoes, white rice, sweet potato, and eat most of that in the post workout window.

    I actually like to eat big meals (you don’t I believe?), so I combine some 16:8 style fasting into the day. Protein, fat, small amount of carbs for lunch, apple or banana mid afternoon, train at 5pm, then a stonkingly huge evening meal or two with around 130g CHO within that. Stuffed, happy, and sleeping like a baby.

    As an aside, I’ve just started your BLS program again. Did it for a while before, then went RPT, but I’m back to it. I have time to train 5 days pw, and the variety is nice.

    Will keep you informed of progress. I really should bulk, but I have this cutting mentality for the sumer 🙂 Perhaps a bulk over winter is a better bet anyway??

    Cheers for the post, cool stuff.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Stephen! I’ve gone low-carb too of course and hated it to be honest, haha.

      Like you, I do great with carbs. I’m all about heavy lifting and HIIT cardio, so glycogen does my body good. 🙂

      Generally speaking I prefer smaller meals. Not that it matters, of course. Just a preference.

      Great on the program! Definitely keep me posted. Haha yeah save being fat for the winter. 😉

      • Well, I got sub 10% BF in January, then screwed it up. I’m going to cut for 2 months on the BLS, then see how I’m looking, then I’m going to go down the bulking line for a while, yep, autumn when I don’t want to get the body out anyway!!! Saying that, it’s summer all yesr round in Florida isn’t it? Hence the need to be ‘beach ready’ all the time 🙂

        • Michael Matthews

          Ah okay well that sounds good. LMK how it goes.

          Haha yeah basically on the weather. We have the inferno summer and then the mild summer. Two seasons. 😛

  • Shamir Alvis

    Hey Mike,

    Why in BLS is the protein intake higher on the cut than on the bulk? (1.2g per lb).

    I actually prefer to eat less protein and more carbs (1g per lb minimum) on the cut, I find it more satisfying.

    • I’m thinking that on the cut, muscle retention is the prime concern, but I know that some folks like to go higher on a cut for the satiety benefits, but I’d like to hear from Mike on this one.

      I tend to keep protein around 1g /lb bodyweight across the board, even read that .8 is enough, but 1g is a nice round figure, easy to work out 🙂

      • Michael Matthews

        Yup satiety and muscle retention.

    • Michael Matthews
      • Shamir Alvis

        Not being a bro, but I’ve always been curious, what are your current lifting stats? DL, squat, bench, seated military press

        • Michael Matthews

          Haha well currently I’m cutting so my numbers are a little down but before I started my cut:

          Dead 425 x 3
          Squat 345 x 3
          Bench 295 x 2
          Military 205 x 3

          • Why seated mp over standing…

          • Michael Matthews

            Standing puts a ton of stress on the lower back and core. I squat and deadlift heavy–I get enough of that. I wanna focus on the shoulders…

  • Renier

    To be honest Low carb makes me feel like crap, I love the ”definitive guides” articles mike, I just hope to see another top 10 of exercises that sucks and what to do instead 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man, I appreciate it. Yeah I have that on the list. 🙂

  • HYNK

    Solid. I’ve been eating 60% + carbs even at a calorie deficiet and it’s been working great for me. I do a lot of endurance training, long weight sessions and I’m intermittent fasting.. A lot of my bedtime meals consist of over 400g carbs. A little temporary bloat here and there but getting more shredded and preserving muscle.

    • Michael Matthews

      Wow that’s a LOT. You’re probably not getting enough protein and/or fat then?

      • HYNK

        For the last few months it’s been 200g protein & 50 to 60g fat. I fill the rest in with carbs; I do
        some type of training every day so carbs are high. Usually in the
        600-700g range. I’m @ around 182lbs.Here’s a somewhat recent pic. I cut 45lbs last summer and I’ve only been really training for about 15 months. http://scontent-b.cdninstagram.com/hphotos-xpf1/t51.2885-15/10175333_1408160359456460_1331275676_n.jpg

        I’ve done the high fat thing, even averaging 130g per day and I feel like my body likes carbs more.

        • Michael Matthews

          Ah nice on the macros and dude your’e killing it! Great genetics. Keep up the good work.

          • HYNK

            Thanks, dude. I got a late start to the whole working out thing so I’m pretty happy with my progress so far.

          • Michael Matthews

            You should be. You’re kicking ass.

          • john max

            JOIN THE ILLUMINATI CALL +2347059014517 OR info. [email protected] JOIN THE ILLUMINATI FROM NIGERIA, USA, OR ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD TODAY BE RICH, FAME, AND POSSES POWER.email us on info [email protected] OR call us on +2347059014517 for immediate initiation New members registration is now open online now !!!!! BENEFITS GIVEN TO NEW MEMBERS WHO JOIN ILLUMINATI. A Cash Reward of USD $300,000 USD A New Sleek Dream CAR valued at USD $120,000 USD A Dream House bought in the country of your own choice One Month holiday (fully paid) to your dream tourist destination. One year Golf Membership package A V.I.P treatment in all Airports in the World A total Lifestyle change Access to Bohemian Grove Monthly payment of $1,000,000 USD into your bank account every month as a member One Month booked Appointment with Top 5 world Leaders and Top 5 Celebrities in the World. If you are interested call the agent now +2347059014517 or send your e- mail to [email protected] for immediately initiation.New members registration is now open online..

        • T-bone

          Congrats on the hard work! You inspire me. thanks for that.

          • HYNK

            thanks

  • Megan

    I went low carb for digestive issues, not intentionally but thats what happened as food triggers were eliminated. A year on and I’m ill, seriously underweight and need to gain… plus my digestive issues aren’t resolved (go figure). I’ve looked into higher carb diets and people who are fit, lean and thriving when fat is slightly lower but carb intake is higher as its the bodies main fuel source. Hard to get your head around switching from low carb to higher carb but it makes a lot more sense to me. I guess I’ll see what happens. Any carbs you’d recommend?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm shot in the dark here but have you looked into reducing FODMAPs in your diet?

  • Chris

    Well, technically carbs are not very filling. It’s the fiber that do the job. So, if you eat a lot of simple sugars you will have high chances of overeating as well.

    Other than that, I agree with the other points.

    • Michael Matthews

      Don’t forget leptin, which is stimulated primarily by carb intake.

  • Mon

    I have your books and I’m a cyclist, I’d do 3 x hard 1-2 hour spin a week + my long 3 hour + Sunday Hard spin (so on average on a good week 4 sessions). I am so confused as to what is right and what is wrong. I tried all sorts of combination and nothing seems to work for me. I seem to starve whatever diet I try, only when I do a diet that is high in protein am I able to stick to it more. I can’t seem to lose weight, I’m one of those people that bulk up easily. Everytime I have found myself active in some sport my weight stalls and I find it really hard to lose anything. I was doing 50% Carbs, 30% Protein and 20% Fat, but I think my daily cals was too low 1,200. I am just short of 5 feet and currently weigh about 59kg. I would just love to lose some body fat as I know there is plenty of muscle underneath my fat layer!

  • JT86

    I’ve started on a low-card diet 2 weeks ago. And guess what? I haven’t lost any weight. Back in Feb I was 81KG eating most things except bread, now I weigh 87KG. I also read an article that pasta and wheat in general is very bad for you and gives you ‘wheat belly’. So I want to get lean, big musscles but weigh less. But what should I deffo avoid and what is OK?? Too many diets out there, which I don’t want to effect me as I enter Phase 3 of my workouts.

    • Michael Matthews

      You’re going to need to make sure your overall daily intake is correct, regardless of how many carbs you’re eating:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      • JT86

        I must admit. I find that part hard/soul destroying lol. I make sure I eat more than 170g of protein a day (chicken). I eat healthy salads everyday, snack on fruit/nuts etc. I’ve just cut out bread, pasta and bad deserts. I thought you had to worry about the grams of fat you consumed??

        • Michael Matthews

          Haha that’s good. You need to make sure your total daily calorie intake is correct.

          • JT86

            Yeah I make sure I consume round 2500, I used that equation on your website. it states I only need to consume 2,699.04 cals. That can’t be right for me? I’m 6’1 and weigh in 13stone and a bit. I still eat the odd sugary treat because I know I’ll burn it off at the gym.

          • Michael Matthews

            Are you trying to lose fat or?

          • JT86

            I want to lose fat but put muscle on. I’m getting bigger by following your program but I’m also gaining fat. Been shopping today and bought a load of products that are all low in sugar. My mate is a PT and he said just eat lots of protein / veg.

          • Michael Matthews

            Ah okay. You should just go into a calorie deficit:

            https://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

  • Mon

    Hmm, my previous post seems to have been deleted. I want to lose fat but I don’t want to bulk up. I do cycling as my main sport, i.e endurance. What percentage would you recommend in terms of Protein, Fat and Carbs? Anyone in this situation? (i.e do endurance sports and are losing fat without starving themselves?)

  • Vicki

    You need a minimum of 130 grams of carbs per day for your brain to function properly. Your body will use protein for energy if you consume too much thus creating an alternative fuel source. Your body is made to run off carbs. Carbohydrates should make up 45%-65% of your food intake. Didn’t Dr. Atkins die from heart disease?

    • Mon

      Thanks Vicki, so I wasn’t far off in terms of percentages. The 130grms per day of carbs made me think because I think atkins is something like 20grms net carbs to start with. I’m wondering is that below the 130 grms that you mention above (I’m assuming that the 130grms is not net). It’s so confusing as there is so much info and I read Mike’s articles and they all makes sense. I just sometimes don’t know which way is up with regards to my diet…

    • Ed

      Vicky, Atkins did NOT die from heart disease. He fell and suffered sever head trauma and after 9 days in intensive care he perished. I like my carbs, proteins and fats but the whole Atkins dying from heart disease lie usually comes from Vegans trying to prove a point.

    • Michael Matthews

      You brain continues working in a state of ketosis so this isn’t exactly accurate. But yes it’s true that carbohydrate is the most easily utilized energy source.

  • Paul Fisher

    Hey Mike, is it possible to look dry and not hold water by not doing low carb?

    • Michael Matthews

      If you’re talking competition dry, probably not, but that involves diuretics so that’s another game.

      If you’re talking “look awesome at the beach” dry around 6-7%, yes definitely.

      • Aankhen

        Is that something you’ve written about? I’m still far from 6–7% body fat, but I can’t help asking. 😛

        • Michael Matthews

          Not yet but it’s just one of those little things I’ve learned along the way. 95% of looking really good is just getting really lean without burning up too much muscle.

          • Aankhen

            Alright. I’ll keep an eye out for future articles. 😉

          • Michael Matthews

            Thx 🙂

  • keep_calm_keto_on

    wow, your an idiot.

  • Tim

    10 years ago I lost 32kg (100kg to 68kg) on the Atkins low carb diet, and I kept it off for ten years once I went off it. While I was on the diet I went to the gym and ended up doing a 120kg bench press. The big advantage of low carb is appetite supression – I rarely got huntry.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job brother.

    • john max

      JOIN THE ILLUMINATI CALL +2347059014517 OR info. [email protected] JOIN THE ILLUMINATI FROM NIGERIA, USA, OR ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD TODAY BE RICH, FAME, AND POSSES POWER.email us on info [email protected] OR call us on +2347059014517 for immediate initiation New members registration is now open online now !!!!! BENEFITS GIVEN TO NEW MEMBERS WHO JOIN ILLUMINATI. A Cash Reward of USD $300,000 USD A New Sleek Dream CAR valued at USD $120,000 USD A Dream House bought in the country of your own choice One Month holiday (fully paid) to your dream tourist destination. One year Golf Membership package A V.I.P treatment in all Airports in the World A total Lifestyle change Access to Bohemian Grove Monthly payment of $1,000,000 USD into your bank account every month as a member One Month booked Appointment with Top 5 world Leaders and Top 5 Celebrities in the World. If you are interested call the agent now +2347059014517 or send your e- mail to [email protected] for immediately initiation.New members registration is now open online…..

  • Rob

    Love your stuff Mike. Great article. I am not a “lifter” I cross train in the gym twice a week and am a formerly obese distance runner. Lost over 100. All the carbs I wanted. I keep my protein up as well at about 1g per lb of body weight. I have found running 40 ish miles a week and regularly touching 20 and beyond on weekend long runs that not having adequate carbohydrate intake sucks to put it mildly. Loved your bigger leaner stronger book as well.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Great job! Keep up the good work! 🙂

  • Scott

    I recently followed your cutting strategy. not only did I eat plenty of carbs, 200 grams to 275 on most days. In 6 weeks I lost about four and a half pounds of body fat bringing me down to about 7 or 8% bf. I was on a slight calorie deficit 400 to 500 calorie deficit a day.I did weight training 6 days a week and 2 HIIT sessions per week mixed in. my strength stayed the same and sometimes I
    felt stronger. I also took 10 grams BCAA, 325mg caffeine, 15 mg Yohimbine, 800 mg Green Tea before all work out sessions. Did IF on HIIT days only. Otherwise lifted and did Cardio fasted. I started at 184 lbs and I am 5’11” and now at 179lbs. Thanks Mike!

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome man, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. Great job.

  • Sarah

    I really think everyone is different as to how they tolerate carbs. I used to be against low carb because I love my bread! Recently though I’ve been experimenting with low carb moderate protein and higher fat. I have found this to be the most satisfying for me. I have actually felt better than I have in years and got rid of the bloat and digestive issues I used to have. I still slip up occasionally and notice that when I eat more whole grains I start having stomach aches and get really constipated again. For me, I fell better and have less hunger on a lower carb diet. I still get a moderate amount from vegetables and fruit but I feel best when staying under 100 grams of carbs per day. I am female, 41, 5’4” 123lbs and about 19% body fat. I would like to get down to about 16 %.

  • r porterfield

    Thank you for this article. I find all of the studies on low-carb interesting and I even tried it myself. But I know there is more to the story. I think humans are highly adaptive..that’s why there are so many of us and we can survive on just about any mix of macros. For me, diet with meat but lots of fresh foods and some good “comfort carbs” now and again is most satisfying.

    • Michael Matthews

      Sure, we can survive on all kinds of weird diets but that doesn’t mean they’re all equally good. 🙂

      • Rob

        Agree! There’s a difference between surviving and thriving.

        • Michael Matthews

          Exactly

  • Pingback: MFL Podcast 16: Why carb cycling isn’t necessary and the importance of finishing what you begin… | Muscle For Life()

  • Suss Leander

    Still loosing fat and building muscles after 19 months on 16/8 diet and lots of carbs. Fat triggers the sugar-addiction:-)

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job!

  • Pingback: How to Lose Body Fat and Not Muscle (Without Following a Ridiculous Diet or Grueling Exercise Routine) | Muscle For Life()

  • Science

    HAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
    Yeah, right bro. A bodybuilder reading PubMed, jumping to conclusions, taking on the scientific community. Bro, do you even read? Back to curling in the squat rack. Quite an amusing read though. Hahaha

  • Rob

    I used to run to stay fit. I would run 10K every other day. When I tried an LC diet similar to the Atkins diet I felt like total crap and had to quit running. I couldn’t even get through a 5K. Even upping the carb content of my diet didn’t help. I dumped the diet and reverted back to my high carb diet.

    • Michael Matthews

      I’m not surprised. High-carb is just the way to go for athletes.

  • Pingback: Why Rapid Weight Loss Is Superior to “Slow Cutting” (And How to Do It Right) | Muscle For Life()

  • Khalid

    Mike, would you say that changing our body essentially comes down to manipulating protein, fat, and carbs we get per pound of bodyweight?

    I’m seeing all these “revolutionary” nutrition programs lately- which I guess are useful for recipes- and it seems that the big secret is carb cycling with a bunch of protein every day, and it might just be the high protein that’s giving all the great results.

    Based on what you know- which honestly seems like a lot 🙂 – is it worth it to invest in these “Eat this at time x” plans other than for simplicity’s sake?

  • Stephen

    Mike, thanks for everything you do! I’m cutting right now but am having trouble keeping (1) my carbs high enough and (2) my fats low enough. Per BLS, I’m doing:

    .2 grams fat per lb of bodyweight
    1.4 grams carbs (had to increase carbs due to high metabolism)
    1.2 grams protein

    In this article, you said you go as low as .8 grams of carbs when cutting (but not below). Do you stay at .8 grams of carbs while cutting or is that more of a temporary thing? I want to increase my fats a little and decrease carbs some but don’t want to screw up glycogen levels, etc…

    • Stephen

      Mike – I just saw another article of yours which hits on this.. https://www.muscleforlife.com/carbohydrates-and-weight-loss-should-you-go-low-carb/.

      Sounds like I’m okay to increase fats and decrease carbs, so long as it works for me and I stay in a caloric deficit.
      Thanks!
      Stephen

      • Michael Matthews

        That’s right. Keep your protein high and play with carbs and fats as needed.

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question. 0.8 is really at the end of my cut. I don’t go lower than that would stay higher if I could.

  • TJ

    Hi Mike, Thanks for a great article. I’m a 63 male, extremely obese, with hypothyroidism for which I’ve been on Synthroid now for over 2 years with test results back in “normal range”. For the past 8 months I’ve been going to the gym 3 days a week where I spend about 10 mins. on the elliptical or treadmill mostly to warm up, then I do a half hour of strength training. The other 4 days I take a 30 minute walk.
    Otherwise, I am mostly sedentary the rest of day, as I am retired. I haven’t lost an ounce in eight months, and I still have “water balloon arms” and a lot of jiggle all over. My frustration is overwhelming. I can’t handle extreme low carb diets, especially with my workouts. When I tried Atkins last year, I would have killed for an apple a week into the program. If a diet not sustainable and doable, it’s worthless to me. So when I started strength training, I increased my protein and also added about 2 or 3 fruits a day and 1 or 2 whole grain unprocessed carbs– (all while maintaining a calorie deficit of about 700-1000 calories a day under what I would need to maintain) and I feel much better, but I’m still not losing.
    I have no other health issues like HB pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc. for which I’m grateful. But I need to lose about 80 pounds! What the *%$# do I do next??? HELP!!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for writing!

      Hmm what are your daily macros like and how often are you cheating (eating more)?

    • Carl Gilbert

      I don’t think your going to loose _weight_ without cardio TJ. I bet your loosing size though while building muscle through strength training.

      • Michael Matthews

        You can lose weight without cardio. Just need a calorie deficit.

      • john max

        JOIN THE ILLUMINATI CALL +2347059014517 OR info. [email protected] JOIN THE ILLUMINATI FROM NIGERIA, USA, OR ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD TODAY BE RICH, FAME, AND POSSES POWER.email us on info [email protected] OR call us on +2347059014517 for immediate initiation New members registration is now open online now !!!!! BENEFITS GIVEN TO NEW MEMBERS WHO JOIN ILLUMINATI. A Cash Reward of USD $300,000 USD A New Sleek Dream CAR valued at USD $120,000 USD A Dream House bought in the country of your own choice One Month holiday (fully paid) to your dream tourist destination. One year Golf Membership package A V.I.P treatment in all Airports in the World A total Lifestyle change Access to Bohemian Grove Monthly payment of $1,000,000 USD into your bank account every month as a member One Month booked Appointment with Top 5 world Leaders and Top 5 Celebrities in the World. If you are interested call the agent now +2347059014517 or send your e- mail to [email protected] for immediately initiation.New members registration is now open online….

  • Pingback: 5 Paleo Diet Recipes That You’ll Love Whether You’re Paleo or Not | Muscle For Life()

  • Carl Gilbert

    Hi Michael. Can you express exactly what qualifies a diet as “low carb” with respect to your article.

    Also, I’m wondering what it takes to ensure my glycogen stores are full before a workout. Glycogen will be replenished from carbs, fat, and protein right?

    • Michael Matthews

      Really anything under 0.5 grams carb per pound of body weight is low-carb IMO. Personally I never go below 0.8 g per pound of body weight.

      Only carbs replenish glycogen stores adequately.

  • Adel-Alexander

    What is considerd ”low carb” exactly? I mean sure eating 20 grams of carbs per day is pretty low carb but where goes the line between low carb and a normal diet?

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question. Once you start getting below 0.5 grams per pound of body weight per day, you’re entering “low-carb” territory.

  • Sandy_S

    As an endurance runner, I typically rely on carbs for fuel. I consume very few processed carbs–most of my carbs come from starchy tubers, legumes, whole grains and fruits/veggies. (I do love me some peanut butter and bacon on toast after a long run, though).
    I experimented with a HFLC diet in the interest of science and practice, and I gained weight, felt ridiculous eating blobs of coconut oil and avoiding oranges, and pined for a bowl of oatmeal and a beer. It was a fail for me.
    I find that that best way of eating for me is basically a balanced diet of 40-30-30 (carbs, protein, fat, respectively). I eat lean protein with every meal, dessert occasionally, and lots of vegetables and fruit. And I have a beer or a waffle when the mood strikes–with no regrets.
    I think the most valid point you make here is the emphasis on increasing protein…lean protein especially. Great article.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      That’s smart. HFLC is terrible for athletes.

  • Jenny B

    I followed a low carb diet for nearly two years and the entire time I felt so tired that I saw a variety of specialists to figure out what was going on. After all tests said I was normal, I gave up on knowing why I felt so crappy. Later (I don’t even remember why), I started eating carbs again and found that I wasn’t nearly as sleepy as I was before. It’s disappointing that NONE of the doctors I went to bothered to ask what I was eating. I’m convinced the low-carb nature of my food was causing me to feel so fatigued. I completely embrace whole grains and fruits now (though still stay away from bread). I would never recommend low carb to anyone for the long term. Our bodies need that energy!

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah, low-carbing sucks if you’re physically active.

  • Manish Arya

    Is it possible to get cut by eating only plant protein i.e. legumes and grains? By cut i mean single body fat

  • Manish Arya

    Which is the best plant protein? buckwheat or chickpeas? or any other?

  • Adel-Alexander

    The 226 vs 354 study, I looked at the graphs but.. the difference between the results, they weren’t horribly significant or would you disagree on that?

    • Michael Matthews

      It’s enough to matter over time.

      Remember that a big part of getting the most out of your training as a natural lifter is accumulating as many little “edges” as you can through proper nutrition and lifting strategies.

  • Mike,

    I noticed that you’re mostly talking about this option in relation to low protein intake… but what happens when a person eats the same amount of protein (1 lbs per pound of body weight) but keeps their carbohydrate intake low (20% or less)? After a few days, does not the body start to learn to use fat as it’s preferred method of energy as opposed to sugar?

    I love my bread and pasta, but I also can barely hang on without my olive oil, grass fed butter and whole milk. It seems that I have a choice to make, and lately I’ve been leaning towards cutting out the bread in favor of oil.

    My main concern has to do with muscle building. I want my body fat percentage to decrease, but I also want to make sure that I look chiselled and dense. I’ve read that a high fat diet gives you a softer look, whereas a high card diet leaves you looking far more dense. Perhaps this is nonsense and all up to genetics in the end.

    • Michael Matthews

      I address this in the article–when protein intake is high, low-carb doesn’t help with fat loss whatsoever.

      Yup you just have to choose. More carbs = better workouts and more muscle growth though.

      I wouldn’t say high-fat makes you look softer, it just isn’t ideal for building muscle.

  • This is a separate question / statement:

    I am truly trying to understand what the term “sedentary” means. When you say that a low card diet would work if one was “completely sedentary,” what does that actually mean?

    I work on my computer, and for the most part, my only real activity is the 45 minutes to an hour of weightlifting that I perform 5 days a week. Other than that, I’d say that most of the rest of the time I’m either reading or visiting with family, watching a movie… not much activity. Am I “sedentary”? I mean, even with the hour long weight lifting sessions at moderate to high intensity, is that enough daily activity to bump me out of a sedentary activity level?

    There should be an article on exactly this issue, for all of us Web Designers, Developers, Programmer types …

    • Michael Matthews

      What I mean is someone that doesn’t exercise at all. They just lay in bed, sit in car, sit at desk, sit in car, sit on couch, lay in bed.

      I’m like you–I’m in the gym 45-60 min in the morning, I sit all day (I do get up every 30 min or so to stretch), and I do 25 min or so of cardio 3-4 x per week at night but otherwise am sitting again.

      This will help you with activity multipliers:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

  • john max

    JOIN THE ILLUMINATI CALL +2347059014517 OR info. [email protected] JOIN THE ILLUMINATI FROM NIGERIA, USA, OR ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD TODAY BE RICH, FAME, AND POSSES POWER.email us on info [email protected] OR call us on +2347059014517 for immediate initiation New members registration is now open online now !!!!! BENEFITS GIVEN TO NEW MEMBERS WHO JOIN ILLUMINATI. A Cash Reward of USD $300,000 USD A New Sleek Dream CAR valued at USD $120,000 USD A Dream House bought in the country of your own choice One Month holiday (fully paid) to your dream tourist destination. One year Golf Membership package A V.I.P treatment in all Airports in the World A total Lifestyle change Access to Bohemian Grove Monthly payment of $1,000,000 USD into your bank account every month as a member One Month booked Appointment with Top 5 world Leaders and Top 5 Celebrities in the World. If you are interested call the agent now +2347059014517 or send your e- mail to [email protected] for immediately initiation.New members registration is now open online….

  • Pingback: MFL Podcast 16: Why carb cycling isn't necessary and the importance of finishing what you begin... | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: 7 Healthy Pizza Recipes That You Can Eat Guilt-Free | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: 7 Diet Mistakes That Make It Damn Hard to Lose Weight, Build Muscle, and Feel Good | Muscle For Life()

  • New To Weightlifting

    Holy cow! I can actually read your articles and understand them! My head is not spinning and I feel like I understand what you are saying!!!! Keep up the great writing! You even include reputable studies!

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha thanks! I’m glad! 🙂

  • Vinay

    Hi , what are your thoughts on this study?:
    http://www.jissn.com/content/11/S1/P40

    • Michael Matthews

      Will have to look into it when it becomes fully available.

      • Vinay

        Yes should be interesting! Maybe makes sense that higher fat and therefore lower carb would make for a better anabolic state, less inflammation, better insulin sensitity? Plus aren’t fats more important than carbs for testosterone and other hormonal production? I’m not convinced that low carbs BUT higher good fats suck or are less conducive to muscle building or fat loss. I think I’ll experiment with the ratios a bit more with my own diet, probably swap out some carbs for fats and keep calories the same and see how it goes.

        • Michael Matthews

          Doubtful. There’s a LOT of good research out there on low-carb for athletes and, IMO, it’s pretty clear that high-carb is just better.

          • Vinay

            Better for what? Performance? I’m talking about lean mass gain and fat loss.

          • Michael Matthews

            Did you read this article?

          • Vinay

            Indeed I did, but as usual there are conflicting studies. Will wait for details of the one I quoted earlier.

          • Michael Matthews

            I’m curious as well. In the meantime you can just try low-carb dieting and if you’re like most people, you’re going to find that your workouts simply suck in comparison to regular dieting.

          • Hawk

            Are you familiar with Targeted Keto Diet? Low carb, but feed about 15-30g of carbs 30-60min before working out. Its supposed to help refill glycogen. Supposedly some people getting very good results on it. One such individual is Luis Villasenor http://instagram.com/darthluiggi

          • Hawk

            His results on a Targeted Ketogenic Diet. Pretty impressive if you ask me!

          • Michael Matthews

            He looks decent but what you have to understand is if you eat enough protein and keep yourself in a moderate calorie deficit, you’re going to lose fat and preserve muscle, period. The fanciness of the diet isn’t doing it though. It’s simply a matter of energy balance.

          • Michael Matthews

            I’ve heard of this, yes, but as I discuss in this article, the low-carb component just doesn’t do anything particularly special. There’s no reason to suffer through it.

  • Pingback: 7 Graphs That Explain Why People Are Fatter Than Ever | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: The Top 4 Scientifically Proven Benefits of a High-Protein Diet | Muscle For Life()

  • T-bone

    I have read Adkins and Wheat Belly. I have been on a Paleo low carb diet and have lost 70lbs on a low fat high carb diet. In other words I have been around the block with the various methods.

    I began a Wheat belly type diet (high protein with high fats and low carbs particulary process carbs). I have to be honest and say yes, I was tired for the first 7-10 days. After that period of time my energy returned to normal. I..felt…great! In the past I was having problems with stiff back pain getting out of bed. I was lucky to get a full 7hrs rest before I would awake with this pain. After dropping most of the carbs AND wheat, I no longer experienced the morning back pain. I lost weight fairly quickly. I counted my calories. In my reading I come across articles indicating that wheat and some types of sugars can induce an inflammatory process. At this time I had relatively sedentary lifestyle.

    About 8 years ago I had gone on an ultra low fat diet, with some protein, and relatively high carb diet. I counted my calories. I kept my diet to a strict 2000 calorie a day. I excised like a mad man. Mainly cycling an average of 30 to 40 miles per day, with an average speed of 17 mile per hour. What I didn’t like about this diet is that I would feel overall weakness about every day at various different times of the day. After my 70 lbs weight loss was I felt great, sleep like a baby. BUT I quickly realized one day, when moving a heavy printer, I that I had LOST a tremendous amount of upper body strength. That same printer that I had moved many times around the house felt like someone had added a 20 lb weight to it.

    I think this diet and weight was my downfall. Because now I had much less muscle and in essence lost a lot of my fat burning furnace (muscle) and over a 3 year period I put the weight back on and then some.

    Anyway, that was my experience. After reading the above article, it has given me great incentive to pause and really think about what I am doing now. I think maybe that I have swung to another extreme (low carb) that is harmful to my overall well being. More research for me.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for sharing! It’s definitely true that some people do better with low-carb than others. Most people do just fine on a balanced diet though, that’s all.

      • T-Bone

        I most certainly agree with you. In consulting with my Dr about the present diet, he basically said what you just posted above. Our mouths and dental structure prove this out as well. Thanks for the comment.

        • Michael Matthews

          Glad to hear you have a doc in the know.

  • Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/signup

    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Nicola

    Why in the Thinner Leaner Stronger book is it recommended to eat a low carb diet during the fat loss process? If low carbs diets are really that bad?

    • I don’t recommend low-carb in TLS. It’s moderate/high carb.

  • Pingback: How to Change Your Body Weight Set Point | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: The Top 40 Muscle for Life Articles of 2014 | Muscle For Life()

  • Carlos Arteaga

    Is there any low-carb diet (percentages) you could recommend for a photo shoot preparation?

    • Personally I cut my carbs to about 100 grams per day for 4-5 days and then start carbing up the night before the shoot and morning of.

  • Phil

    Hi Mike, thanks for the article. It may need an update though. After the 2015 Wilson study it’s highly doubtful that one builds less muscle on a low carb diet. Also the claim that low carb dieting “sucks” in the context of bodybuilding is hard to uphold. I think both high and low carb approaches can work, it’s more about personal preference and adherence.

    • That study is in question. It hasn’t been released yet so we can’t see the data and it contradicts a LOT of other research…

    • charl.asia

      Hi Phil, I find it close to impossible to gain muscle on even 100grams of carbs per day, I have tried many, many times. Also my athletic performance and recovery time suffers noticeably. I am 1.79m tall and weight is about 180lb. Also even though my protein intake stays the same, soon as I am very active (soccer and strength training), even on 100grams of carbs per day I lose fat and muscle mass. I norm aim for at least 1 gram of carbs per pound. I always aim for at least 1 gram of protein per pound as well. I could eat more protein when im active but its so much protein and so little variety. Its not easy for me to do. I use carb cycling and HIIT to lose weight and I can lose weight at will. I try to stick to good unprocessed food sources.

  • Pingback: The Great "Best Diet Plan" Hoax | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: 7 Lean Steak Recipes That Really Sizzle | Muscle For Life()

  • tricia

    well… I am a sedentary woman who was 134 pounds and I did a ‘low carb’ diet that allowed myself to break the rules from time to time (bread and charcuterie at restaurants, occasional fries) but i eat yogurt with granola, salads with proteins for lunch, and a protein main with a side of greens for dinner most days. i lost 26 pounds over the course of two years and it’s stayed off, without exercise! I still drink alcohol and eat occasional sweets. i have low blood sugar issues so the NO WHITE STUFF rule helps me keep that in check. so for me, it really worked. however. i’m trying to start working out so it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

    • Great job on the weight loss! That’s a good way to eat if you’re not exercising.

    • charl.asia

      Hi that’s not really a low carb diet is it? It leans more to a balanced diet? Also it sounds like something one can stick to without wanting to kill yourself lol. That is key, you ate sensibly but you allowed yourself some freedom to eat what you enjoy and the results are impressive. Also I think there might have been some unintended carb cycling? Which is great for fat loss in my experience.

  • Abi

    This is a wonderful article, and I can’t wait to up my carbs! I’ve cut carbs dramatically {ZERO bread!!!} for many months! I’ve been dreaming of sinking my teeth into a sandwich for such a long time… Part of the reason why I haven’t had much bread and carbs is because I am gluten intolerant, so if I eat anything with gluten {especially wheat}, my body starts semi-attacking itself. Not fun. So I just kinda cut bread altogether {even though there are PLENTY of gluten free bread options…} It has been SO hard to stay on my low carb, low calorie diet!! I’m not horribly overweight, about 20% body fat. But I haven’t been able to lose anything for, like I said, months! I tend to feel kinda draggy, which isn’t very nice because I am a very energetic and joyful person..but some days, I feel so tired, grumpy, and just groggy! I have AWFUL binge eating days..like, awful. Imagine a terrible binge eating day and multiply it by 5. It’s bad. After reading this article, I’m wondering if my body is trying to tell me that it’s unbalanced, and NEEDS carbs…..? Muscle growth has been slow, and fat loss even slower..so I cannot even express how excited I am to up my carbs!!! {I run 3-6 days a week, and do resistance training 3-6 days as well. So I’ve been perplexed as to why I was seeing little to no change whatsoever. Meh. Frustrating.} THANK YOU SO MUCH, and if it’s alright, I’ll check back in a while from now and share my update on a high carb, high protein diet!!! 🙂 Fingers crossed!

    • Thanks!

      Are you sure you on the gluten issue? Check this out:

      https://legionathletics.com/why-gluten-free/

      But yup, low-carb dieting is pretty miserable for most people. Especially people that work out regularly.

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Toni

    I used to be afraid of carbs for fear that they’d make me gain unwanted body fat. But low-carbing it left me with almost no energy, and I didn’t really build any muscle considering how hard I was working out. Increasing my carbs definitely helped with my overall energy levels, and I actually began to see the fruits of my labor in terms of muscle-building. Carbs aren’t the enemy I thought they were.

  • Ian Rambo

    Hi Mike, there’s more than one way to build muscle and be lean, a well formulated Ketogenic diet is one of them. It’s doable and healthy if done correctly. My Blood panel markers are all excellent for my age 62.

    * 62yo, 5’8″, BF 12%, on Keto Diet for Gains 12 mths.
    * WO – 4 Day split, Juggernaught 2.0 with Acc.
    * Nutrition – All Whole Foods, 3200cals per day, no Protein powders.
    * Only Sups – creatine 5g, VitD3 (10,000iu), Kelp, Mag.
    * Before – After Album http://imgur.com/a/Kpzq8
    I trained under the Fore mentioned Darth Luiggi and built this body in 12months of Strict Keto and Lifting. My macros are Carbs 5%, Protein 25%, Fat 70%.

    • GREAT job man. You’re killing it. If you like low-carb, stick with it. You’d have better workouts with some carbs tho. 😉

    • Maxwell Jaxwell

      Protein produces an insulin spike as great or greater than pure glucose does. If you eat protein without carbs then you will have massive blood sugar drops and your body will go into a state of stress, increasing stress hormones to convert protein into glucose.

      • To be fair…someone at his age that looks like that usually has some help in the hormone department. 😉

      • Rob

        Bull. From a nurse

  • Mary

    I don’t think I have ever been so frustrated with an article before. My experience with carbs is opposite of what you say it is. Carbs make me ravenous, tired and fat. They do NOT satiate me. Dietary FAT satiates me. Amazingly, I have lost 94 pounds eating very restricted carbs (20 net a day or less all from veggies), moderate protein and high fat. I have visible muscle, perfect cholesterol (my doctor used that word), no more Type 2 Diabetes symptoms, no more sleep apnea, soft and smooth skin, and so many other positive changes. There is no question that the weight loss is due to eliminating carbs and sugar that supposedly my body “needs” – wrong, No body needs carbs. Name one ailment or disease that is caused by carb deficiency! Not one exists. Too many carbs and the wrong kind of carbs gave me brain fog, depression, fatigue, diabetes, and an overall crap feeling. I often work out in a fasted state and I have no low energy issues. I in fact have more energy than I have ever had. When I ate carbs I didn’t have any energy to do anything. I feel awesome before and after working out and I get results from working out that I never got as an obese carb/sugar addict.

    If 100 plus carbs a day work for you, that is awesome, but it would be nice if you would remember we are not all equal. Obese and insulin resistant people are more than likely addicted to carbs and sugar and your advice could kill them, keep them addicted and keep them suffering/struggling. I feel like this 94 pounds I have lost has been mostly effortless and by no means is it fast nor was I told it would be fast – almost 17 months. I am happier and healthier than I have ever been in my life. I am down two more pounds since this picture. I still have body fat, but one day at a time it is becoming less – because I feed my body what I know it needs and I lift weights and have all the energy I need to lift them. Using a broad brush to talk down about low carb is doing a huge disservice to people who would do much better with a very restricted carb lifestyle. I am able to recognize that low carb isn’t for everyone, why can’t the carb loader zealots do the same??

  • Eric Juan Diaz

    The problem with this is WHAT you are considering “LOW CARB” sir….
    less than 150g?100g? 50g? 20g? carbs daily…hmmm which is it?

    When carbs are under the 50b per day range and especially the 20g per day range….Ketosis kicks in and there is no hunger sir….24hr or multiple day long fasting is a simple feat in Ketosis…

    How about links to research on the cancer fighting ability of a Ketogenic diet?
    How about links to insulin and cancer cells? How cancer cells thrive on glucose?
    Maybe why obese people are so high on % of getting cancer?

    Do more research or be more specific in what you are trying to present.
    Thank you one your one sided article with cherry picked vague low carb facts…please present us with journals with carbs restricted to 50g per day or less.

  • Daniel

    Mike, with all due respect… how long have you been training low carb? How long have you been keto adapted? Are you talking from experience or just puffing broscience?

  • Josh

    The way I did it is the best so buy my books and believe everything I say because I want money – Mike

  • Matthew Hale

    Utter bullshit. I have never felt less hungry than I do whilst ULC/ CBL. I have lost huge amounts of fat. I have lost almost no strength, now adapted.Carb cycling/ backloading / carb night, or whichever other variation on macro partitioning / timing you are using DOES make a difference. It is based on fairly simple and well understood principles. Just because some people do it wrong doesn’t mean the method/s don’t work, it’s just some people don’t implement them properly.

  • ClayMish

    I’m sorry but this is moronic. People just use your common sense and do some research. We share alot of DNA with apes and other primates. The biggest difference is that our brains are 3x’s larger requiring significantly more energy. The most energy dense food is fat (9 calories per gram vs. 4 calories per gram of protein or carbs). If fat wasn’t our primary source of energy we would never have evolved, little alone survived. We need protein and fat, carbs are not needed for survival.

    • Maxwell Jaxwell

      Faulty reasoning

  • Maxwell Jaxwell

    I have done the Atkins diet and find it impossible to stick to and the weight always comes right back. I have recently discovered Ray Peat and his diet is very easy to stick to. I feel much better on his diet whereas on the atkins diet I was always lethargic, unmotivated and depressed. On the Ray Peat diet I feel 20 years younger.

    • Yeah Atkins is miserable for most people and especially those that lift weights regularly.

      I haven’t hear of Ray’s diet. I’ll check it out.

  • Joeri Pelgrims

    “The problem is the low-carb diets in these studies invariably contained more protein than the low-fat diets. Yes, one for one…without fail.

    What we’re actually looking at in these studies is a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet vs. low-protein, high-fat diet, and the former wins every time.”

    Hey. Decent article. I’m a bit late to the party, but this still shows up in the top 5 on google. In the above quote, maybe you made a mistake. It may have been addressed in the comments already–there’s a lot of em.

    At first you seem to say we’re comparing low carb diets with low fat diets.
    But then you seem to be saying we’re comparing (high protein) low carb with (low protein) high fat diets.

    I can only guess that I’m reading something wrong, or that you meant (in the second bit) low carb high fat versus high carb low fat and you made an error.

    Can you clarify?

    • Hey hey. Glad you liked the article.

      The low-fat diets are higher in carb.

      For example, assuming the same calorie deficit, a diet that’s 40% pro, 20% carb, and 40% fat is going to outperform one that’s 20% pro, 50% carb, and 30% fat. It won’t help you lose fat any faster than a diet that’s 40% pro, 40% carb, and 20% fat, though.

  • Allen Doan

    Hey, am I considered almost completely sedentary if I do calisthenic training for 1 hr – 1 hr 1/2 a day. HIIT every other day/running 2 miles days not doing HIIT. And resting sundays? The workouts all together are 1 hr – 1hr 1/2. And I am somewhat sedentary for the day moving around just to get things. Should I low carb it? My goal is to maintain muscle mass and lose fat.

  • cheryl

    Hi Mike!

    I would love to know your thoughts on white kidney bean extract (carb blockers). Some studies states that it does promote weight loss by inhibiting the absorption of starchy carbohydrates when taking it prior to a high carb meal. Thanks!

    one of the studies I found: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3071778/

    • I’m not excited about any natural carb blockers. Practically speaking they just don’t make much of a difference.

  • Jon

    Hi Mike,

    You mentioned ‘fat-adaptation’ and ‘respiratory quotient’ in your article. I have always wondered about this because I had my RQ measured and it came out to .97, which means I am mostly using sugar/carbs as fuel rather than fat. What’s the validity of that? Is this indication that low-carb is better (maybe just initially) for someone like me to lose fat? Having a hard time losing despite proper meal planning/calorie counting/playing with fat/carbs/energy balance. Thanks

  • Thanks for sending me over here Mike. It’s obvious that carbs are very important so I don’t think I will lower my carbs any more while I’m cutting. It’s already below 0.8. In fact, I may even bring it up to 0.8 where my protein is now. I’m struggling to lose more body fat, though. I guess the only solution is to work out longer and at higher intensities.

  • First of all, let me just thank you for all this awesome and free info before I ask another question, Mike. My question is about this quote from your article:

    ‘The bottom line is so long as you maintain a proper calorie deficit and keep your protein intake high, you’re going to maximize fat loss while preserving as much lean mass as possible. Going low-carb as well won’t help you lose more weight.’

    I don’t understand why you say going low carb as well won’t help you lose more weight. Carbs = calories, right? So if you eat fewer carbs your calorie deficit will be more and you will lose more weight. Isn’t that how it works? Or are you saying if you eat more carbs you will have more energy and, therefore, burn more calories while at the same time building more muscle? Thanks.

    • Glad you liked it!

      I’m saying if your calories are the same, going low-carb isn’t going to help you lose fat faster.

    • Man

      If you lower the carbs even more, you will need to up the proteins. Carbs are somewhat protein sparing. You need glucose you know. And if you won’t eat it, you will have to make it from amino acids (proteins). Don’t stress you liver and eat enough carbs 🙂

      • I do now thanks to Mike’s advice. I upped proteins from 0.8/lb to 1/lb and I’m upping my carbs through reverse dieting as well. Getting there 🙂

    • Mark Prendergast

      Low carb will help weight loss, as you’re not losing out on protein and the healthy fats that is needed for testosterone production despite restricting calories. Your blood sugar will be low so you will find it easier to stick to the diet, as you’ll be less hungry. Read up on no carb, high fat and high protein diets and you will find scientific studies proving it is better for fat loss.

      • Well thanks to Mike I learned that carbs is not the enemy. All of it backed by science. For fat gain fat is the enemy. I’m not trying to lose weight anymore anyway and really enjoying eating more carbs for a change.

        • I wouldn’t say fat is the enemy. OVEREATING is the enemy.

          • Right. Always comes down to energy balance. Just meant that fat turns into body fat the easiest. At least that’s what you said.

          • Yup, that’s right. That’s most relevant to individual bouts of overating (i.e. “cheat meals”).

  • Jenny Hudson

    Visit this site to lose weight very fast with good health. http://www.amazingaus.com/best-foods-to-eat-when-losing-weight/

  • Rob

    Well, the reason low carb works for me is because it’s very simple. No counting of anything once you learn which foods to avoid. And yes, it absolutely does work super fast. As long as you are strict. And your appetite decreases by a whole bunch too. I’ve experienced all of these phenomenon every time I get on the wagon. And so have some friends and relatives.
    The reason low carb does not work for me is because it’s simple. And extremely boring. Boring to almost something akin to depression. Limited variety of acceptable foods is the low carb diets waterloo. All meat and vegs and no carbs makes jack a dull boy.
    Sometime back I started and finished a program designed to rapidly increase your bench press, as published in Beverly International’s “No nonsense” magazine. I was deep into low carb at the time. My bench went from 275 to 315 in 6 weeks thanks to the program. So you can get stronger. I had no probs with fatigue with the hour plus routine either. But visually, stayed flat as a fritter. Could not get a pump no matter what.

    • Thanks for the comment Rob.

      If you like low carb, stick with it.

  • Rob

    Do some googling and read how the bodybuilding champs of the 50s, 60,s and early 70’s dieted and got huge muscular lean bodies without all of the designer steroids now available. Arnold and many, many others in the know ate strict low carb for 6 days usually and then picked a weekend day to pig out on carbs. Worked for those guys. Research for yourself.

  • Nick

    kkk

  • Jeremy

    Hey Mike,
    If someone has a higher carb/low fat, hypocaloric diet and is insulin sensitivity, why will they do better than someone on the same diet who is more insulin resistant? I get that they can’t handle the glucose well if they’re more insulin resistant so it goes to the liver for fat storage, but considering it all comes down to energy balance, wouldn’t this fat then be oxidised and used and not indefinitely stored as fat, as everyone makes out? Or does the metabolism somehow get impaired by this, resulting in less weight loss?

    Interested to know your thoughts!

    Jeremy,

    • Yeah you can’t increase fat mass without a calorie surplus but someone who has poor insulin sensitivity is going to not feel good eating a bunch of carbs.

      They’ll generally find themselves tired and bloated.

      And if they’re in a calorie surplus, they will gain fat faster.

  • Man

    Great article! Yeah, many new low-carb dieters just remove the carbs and add more proteins without really being aware of it. As they reach a weight loss plateau, they are usually told to add more fat and lower protein intake, while removing carbs almost entirely, to trigger ketogenesis. It is a fake starvation condition because you eat calories (from fat). This special metabolic state is abused and all sorts of weird symptoms occur in the long run.

    When someone drops a lot of weight from the initial diet change, he/she should come back to a more balanced diet (dropping weight usually makes one more insulin sensitive) and adopt an active lifestyle to maintain the weight loss. You can’t diet forever by adopting an artificial way of eating 100% of the time, it is highly unhealthy eventually.

  • Monica

    I just feel lost.. I am overweight and I’ve been low carb for maybe about 3 months . I have lost 30 lbs. I feel good/lighter and I see it’s working since I am losing. I work out 5 days a week(lifting, sprints) teaching myself what to do via google – sites like yours and other social media platforms. But I feel like I’m not building much muscle . I wonder if I need to incorporate healthy carbs into my life.. and really eat more- protein. . Can anyone help shed some light.. please

  • Margot

    Hey Mike. I’ve been reading your articles & listening to your podcasts for months now & I really love your work.I think you’re one of the people with non bullshit approach on nutrition & fitness. I know the basics & all that. But I kind of let myself go for months now. Lately I kept on binge eating & slacking off because of some minor overthinking on what to do or what not to do,idk. I weigh 129 lbs with 28% bodyfat. My TDEE is 1730 & around 1300+ for the calorie deficit. Will I lose more bodyfat quickly if I do intermittent fasting & train fasted with just coffee before working out? Or will it do more damage. I’m about to start a 3-4 weigtlifting with 1-2 cardio days program. Also,is white rice good for post workout & how much should I eat? & should I even worry about eating white rice. I hate overthinking but my brain just won’t stop.haha also,does non-organic food or meat that isn’t grass-fed hinders fat loss, or nutrition from those food still outweighs the toxins & all that. I keep on restarting over & over again because I obsess with these things. I need a brain break.haha

  • Juan Carlos Martinez

    does working out without carbs before just a meal consisting of protein like egg whites make it more effective for fat loss ? This workout would consist of weight training and 25 minutes of HIIT after

    • Nah. Unless you’re completely fasted, it won’t accelerate fat loss.

      • Juan Carlos Martinez

        Today I tried lifting in the fasted state it was a lot better than I had imagined.
        I used to carb up intensely before lifting and today I went on just Bcaas and pre workout and i took FORGE! It went well I got deadlifts 315 for 6! Anyways I was wondering if BCAAS break the fast

        • Nice! Happy to hear it!

          BCAA do not break the fast. However, no need to take them if you’re taking Forge. 🙂

  • Dan Şerban

    I think that you are a bit too categorical. Even if low-fat diets work well for a lot of guys, low-carb diets might work better. I’m not a personal trainer, I can only talk about what works for me.

    Even though ‘classical’ low-fat, clean-food diets give good results, my go-to diet is the Dan Douchaine/Lyle McDonald carb-cycling diet: 4 days low-carb, high protein, med/low fat (no keto), 2 days refill (high carbs, med protein, low fat), one day regular (med protein, med carbs, low fat). I find this diet the easiest, because I can hold off my cravings for 4 days without any problems, looking forward to the refill days.

    It took me like a month to get used to working out on low glycogen but I managed to get maybe 95% of my strength back (the first time). Now my body got adapted and I have no problems switching to low-carb. I am usually training each group twice a week (except legs) with emphasis on the Big 3 (powerlifting routines). I also play basketball 3 time per week, no performance issues in terms of endurance when I’m on low carbs. I’m usually on this diet for around 8 weeks at a time. I see some strength increases every time, nothing spectacular, so I do not now if I’m actually building muscle or is it just a neuro thing. And as for fat burning, it it very efficient.

    • Thanks for the comment Dan, and I agree that if you LIKE a low-carb or carb cycling approach, then you should do it.

      That said, I’ve worked with thousands of people and I can say that the vast majority of people that exercise regularly don’t. They would much prefer a steady daily intake weighted toward high protein and high carb…and they do great on it.

      Keep up the good work brother.

  • Sean Haber

    I normally do very well on a high carb high protein low fat diet even on a cut i because i am very active and on my feet all day .in army I have noticed when ever i have courses which require sitting in classes all day i instantly get tired and can not keep my eyes open , i have noticed a direct relationship between this drowsiness and how many carbs i eat at meals. Last course i went paleo for around a month and did not have the issue anymore.
    I am in another course now am on a cut eating 228 carbs 228 protein 51 fat , will low carb affect my cut in a bad way as well as decrease my performance and why do i feel more awake?

    • Some people are definitely more sensitive to carbs than others, so this is just part of learning your body.

      200+ carbs per day should be fine. You’ll do great.

  • Miroslav Kovar

    Mike, I just wanted to say thank you for steering me away from all the nutritional propaganda and opening my eyes to the (actually quite obvious) truth. For years, I was listening to people saying how this or that restrictive diet helped them achieve those goals, whereas with me, it always led psychological obsession with food, which eventually turned into an ED. Finally hearing someone talk sense was a huge part of recovery – thanks again.

    • My pleasure! Happy to do it. 🙂

      Glad you’re on the right track now.

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Becky Ramsay

    If you’ve been on a low carb diet for a while are there any steps to change to high carb?
    Currently eating 40% protein, 20% carb, 30% fat at 1400 kcal per day.

  • Jeff C

    I’ve done research beyond belief on all aspects of training and diet. I must say that you are one of the few people out there writing articles that are backed by data and common sense. It’s sad to see all the people on these extreme diets and wasting many hours of their life in the gym.

    I must comment though that regarding low-carb diets, I once had the exact same opinion but additional research in recent months has changed my opinion *somewhat*. What most people don’t realize is that you can train the body to run on fat and this means use fat to replace glycogen so your muscle glycogen levels are not that depleated. As a side note, it is a myth for 90% of the people out there that they need to eat fast digesting carbs after working out as for most, they won’t even deplete 50% of their muscle glycogen in a typical workout and the body is quick to replace it shoving a bunch of carbs down your throw post workout in a panic to replace the glycogen.

    Back to my main point… what most fail to realize is that it will take minimum 2 weeks but more like 4+ weeks to completely train your body to run on fat and that means staying under 50g carbs. Once your body adapts, you have a much larger pool of stored energy you can tap in your fat stores. I would not two things though; a) a ketogenic diet (under 50g carbs) frankly SUCKS, especially when eating out, special ocassions, being a dinner guest, etc. And b) the insulin response you get from eating carbs does help with muscle hypertrophy although it isn’t necessary. But if you want the most efficient hypertrophic response to resistance training, ketogenic diets aren’t the way to go although you can get by with a targeted ketogenic diet by only ingesting 50g or so of carbs immediately before and after workouts and then go back to keto (which sucks)

    My point is, though further research in recent years, many are realizing the body’s ability to adapt to using different energy sources is quite remarkable, so extremely low-carb diets aren’t as detrimental as we might have thought. Personally I prefer a diet with a moderate amount of carbs and try to stay away from too much high-glycemic carbs (sugar) but I don’t avoid it like the plague. But the ketogenic diet is still fascinating as getting full adaptation takes time and a lot of discipline. If you pull it off though you can do stuff like this:

    http://www.examiner.com/article/husband-and-wife-row-across-pacific-ocean-fueled-by-high-fat-ketogenic-diet

    • Thanks for the comment Jeff!

      Sure you can. You can also make it adapt to a diet that is 90% carbohydrate too if you’re so inclined.

      The point here is the difference between “surviving” and “thriving.” Most physically active people are going to find they feel and perform MUCH better eating carbs than not.

      A high-carb diet is going to be much more effective for muscle and strength building than a diet with 25 to 50 grams of post-workout carbs and nothing more. Glycogen and insulin levels alone account for this.

      I agree that the keto diet is INTERESTING, but just not suitable to the vast majority of people’s needs and lifestyles.

      I talk more about it here:

      https://legionathletics.com/ketogenic-diet/

  • AnnaD

    Another great article, thanks Mike. Although I have to say, I find it much easier to lower my carbs than my fat macros. A couple of eggs, some oats, milk and my whey protein powder and I’m already over my fat allowance for the day and that’s before lunch even 🙁 I’d love to eat more carbs but it’s just so difficult to reduce fat!

    • Thanks! My pleasure.

      I know what you mean. It can be tough. To help keep the fat low I recommend lean cuts of meat, fat-free dairy options, egg whites and 0 cal cooking sprays.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon.

      • AnnaD

        Appreciate your suggestions, but they just don’t compare nutritionally to their whole food originals. I feel like I have to make a choice between obtaining a lower body fat percentage and optimum nutrition – it’s tricky! Not trying to be difficult, just venting. Thanks Mike 🙂

        • I understand. You can always eat more fat but you just need to lower carbs a bit. For every 2 grams of carbs you remove, you can add 1 gram of fat.

          • AnnaD

            Good to know – thanks for always taking the time to answer, much appreciated 🙂

          • My pleasure. 🙂

  • NoahD

    Mike,
    I’ve been eating a ketogenic diet for the past 21 days and even while eating at a caloric deficit, I have increased strength in all of my lifts, and have dropped from 14%bf at 205- 10%bf at 195. Is there any reason for me to switch to high carb if this is working for me?

    • Awesome job on the results in the last 21 days!

      You’ll get better results increasing your carb intake, but if you’re really enjoying the keto diet and are getting results on it, you’re welcome to stick with it. Up to you.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Brendon Richards

    Hey Mike,
    I must admit that with all the information going around, I’m still not convinced as to whether low-carb dieting works or not. I must admit though, it wouldn’t work for me. I enjoy potatoes and brown rice way too much for that and I’m still making progress with my body.

    Thank you for the article though. It has actually convinced me to stay with carbs in my diet for quite a number of reasons.

    Keep up the awesome work.

    • Hey Brendon! Haha, I don’t blame you. Glad you’re still making progress!

      My pleasure. Happy to hear it.

      Will do!

  • Kevin

    This is quite possibly the dumbest article I’ve ever read? Are you just making this up to sell your books?

    I literally cannot find one accurate point in your article. Have you ever even heard of blood sugar?

    • You gonna refute anything specifically or just say random shit?

      • Matty Monticello

        Kevin is right though, you also claim that carbohydrates are more satiating than fats which is wrong. You apparently don’t know how blood sugar levels affect hormones like leptin and ghrelin and ignore that dietaryvfat is actually necessary for us to survive and carbohydrates are not and they are all converted to sugar or body fat. Fat turns into useful shit in the body like cholesterol and transports hormones through our systems

  • Kevin

    Definitive study: a low carb diet best for both weight loss and health markers :

    http://www.dietdoctor.com/new-major-study-a-low-carb-diet-yet-again-best-for-both-weight-and-health-markers

  • TD

    Best line: it’s easier to overeat on a low-carb diet. So. Very. True.

    • Yep. 🙂

    • Kevin

      Just the opposite, in fact. We crave carbohydrates, which is why people overeat. On a low-carbohydrate diet, you’re satisfied all day. You don’t even think about food. I forget to eat from time to time, and this is standard and to be expected on a low-carb diet.

      Why not learn about it, and try it, rather than post what you’ve heard on an internet website ?

      • TD

        I was agreeing with Mike’s line in his article. Did you even read the article or just skim it??

        Honestly, I don’t normally answer trolls, and I’ve seen you around trolling Mike here. But this is pure bullshit. You ARE satisfied on a low-carb diet?? Really? You don’t even THINK about food?? Hmmm. I’m flabbergasted.

        Again, I DON’T need to defend myself but I will. I’m 5’6″ tall, 130 lbs, and 20% body fat. Sooooo, I’m thinking that me not eating low-carb MUST be working for me.

        Please go away…internet troll. Thank you.

        ETA: apologies to Mike for losing my cool here but this was warranted I think.

        • Kevin

          Mike passes irresponsible misinformation as if it’s fact, and I’m a troll?

          You promulgate a myth about low-carb diets, and I respond to it with my own experience, and a scientifically proven experience, and I’m a troll?

          I’m glad your diet’s working for you. Sincerley. That doesn’t give you the right to pass misinformation about someone else’s.

          Kevin

        • Robbie Rob

          Disagree I’m on a low carb diet I eat 30 carbs a day right after a workout I never feel hungry I eat 5 times a day and only eat 1525 calories I’ve been doing this for 3 weeks I don’t listen to 90% of bs I read on the internet I experiment for myself. I workout 6 days a week and haven’t seen a drop in strength yet.

          • Glad to hear you’re doing well brother. What type of exercise are you doing?

          • Robbie Rob

            Heavy workouts 6 days a week I’ve noticed muscle growth I’m down 21 lbs now and I don’t gey tired as well might be the creatine

          • That’s great. Some people’s bodies do well with high-fat.

        • TD
    • Van Litespeed

      Hardly true for me. I overeat on carbs cause I can’t get satisfied. Then I get the carb high and after it wears off a few hours later I crash and need more. I can have a medium portion if protein from eggs or fish and say a raw red bell pepper and feel great for hours, more energy than carbs and no bloated stomach. Carbs are my enemy.

      • Do you find that to be the case with unprocessed carbs like fruit, veg, and whole grains?

        • Van Litespeed

          Yep, fruit is what is the worst for me. I get great energy at first then it wears off, almost like when I used to drink a energy drinks (long time ago)

          I also noticed I used the get so damn sweaty at the gym and smell to high heck.

          Then the hypoglycemia attacks hit so bad I almost would faint when standing up after sitting for a little bit.

          Since going reducing my carb intake, keeping protein high as usual and simply upping my fats from nuts, avocados, unrefined oils ect I don’t sweat like that anymore, I don’t swing wildly to crazy energy to crash and best of all is I don’t have the hypoglycemia onsets anymore. Also I have noticed less clogged pores as well from all that sugary sweat.

          • That’s interesting.

            Well at least you know how your body works!

      • TD

        Eat some fat along with it. Carbs should be your friend.

        • Van Litespeed

          19% body fat is too much. No offense but I would not call you fit based on your picture. I’m darn sure if you reduced your carb intake, took in more fat, protein and vegetables you would be plenty satisfied with hunger and lose weight effortlessly. Seen it with myself and plenty of my friends. The science is in and they are realizing carbs of glucose and especially fructose are fat storing triggers. So what can I saw, all of my friends that eat low carb and higher fat/protein are leaner than those that eat carbs as a large source of calories.

          • TD

            Fuck you troll.

          • TD
          • TD

            Stop body shaming someone you don’t know, Mr.-I-refuse-to-post-a-real-avatar-picture.

            Do it again, and I WILL report you. And learn some respect buddy, I’m WAY older than you too.

          • All right guys, all right. Both of you are correct. You can get lean on either one as long as you’re running a negative energy balance. Furthermore, how well one responds to either depends on their insulin sensitivity.

            Discussion and debate is fine, but let’s keep it civil and be respectful to each other, yeah? Everyone here is working hard to be the best they can be. We’d like to keep the boards positive and share experience and knowledge.

            For the record, I suck with fats, so I’m in the high carb camp. 😛

  • Kevin
  • LL

    I just want to thank you for your thorough review and for weighing both sides of this question. So many times I’ve come across articles with very little evidence to backup their claims and when they do, it is only to support their own instead of presenting opposing claims as well. I appreciate all the time and effort put into this article – both for the research and the clarity. The main point I’ve taken is definitely in support of a “normal” amount of carb intake vs low-carb, but also to keep in mind that all our bodies work differently and each person should try things out and determine your own individual limitations. Personally, I struggled with low-carb intake and not having the energy to be able to get full workout in and reaching exhaustion sooner so I’m esp glad you made the point re the study re the cyclists that the researchers admitted that the athletes reached exhaustion sooner. I try to keep my carb intake to complex carbs and def maintaining high-protein intake. Thank you for this article!

    • YW! Thanks for all the kind words and support. 🙂

      In the end, I recommend the diet that fits your lifestyle and gets results.

      Cool on sticking to complex carbs and definitely a good call keeping your protein intake high.

      My pleasure! Talk soon.

  • Mike Palumbo Jr.

    Mike I’m not so sure you are not conflating issue here. While low carb diets might not be the best for muscle building purposes, they are quite effective for fat loss . You’ve listed studies to substantiate your assertions, but I’m sure that you realize that there are other studies that demonstrate findings to the contrary. I do commend you for your analytic approach to this topic, but maybe you would have been better served to address these two topics separately, just a suggestion. Dr. Mike Palumbo Jr.

    • Thanks for the comment Mike.

      I address the key component to the whole puzzle, which is protein intake.

      This paper lends a lot of insight:

      http://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/abstract/S1550-4131(15)00350-2

      • Mike Palumbo Jr.

        Interesting study, as are the results of its findings. The caloric restriction in the study seems to be based on a 30% decrease in fat and carbohydrates iso calorically.. If the restriction of carbohydrate consumption was increase to a greater percentage (thus increasing the fat consumption in proportion iso calorically) I wonder if these results would change?

          • Mike Palumbo Jr.

            You only attached one study to your previous e-mail. Sorry for the confusion.
            Subject: Re: Comment on The Definitive Guide to Why Low-Carb Dieting Sucks

          • Soner Anilir

            Hi Mike,

            How’s it going? I have a question about ‘refeeding’. I’m cutting right now and my caloric intake is about 2.650 calories per day. My weight is around 94 kg at a body fat level of 9%.
            I was planning to slowly start adding a refeeding day in my plan. According to your suggestion, I should eat 3.445 calories on those days. My question is about the macronutrient profile. Did I do the calculation correctly when I end up with:

            206 gramms of protein

            20 gramms fat

            610 gramms of Carbohydrates?

            As I do the refeeding for the first time I just want to be sure to do it right.

            Thanks for your help bro.

            Take care

            Soner

          • Yup, that’s right!

          • Soner Anilir

            How the hell do I get 610 gramms of Carbohydrates with only 20 gramms of fat? 😉 even if I eat only wholemeal noodles I would overshoot the fat limit.
            Any idea is welcome. Thx a lot for the response Mike.

            Regards

            Soner

          • Hey Soner,

            You can try adding whole fruit juices, potatoes, sorbets, fruits, rice, to name a few.

          • Soner Anilir

            Hey Roger,

            Sorry my message was ment as a joke but completely mistakable. Thanks anyway for the ideas. Would you do the refeeding on a training or off day?

            Regards bro

            Soner

          • lol NP. Either works. I like it on a training day, though–especially on deadlift or squat days.

          • Soner Anilir

            In that case I’ll try both ways and see which one works out better for me. Today is my day off and first refeeding day. Tomorrow deadlifts are waiting for me. Next time I’ll do the refeeding on a heavy training day. Thanks for the advice.

            See U

          • Sounds good, Soner. Let us know how it goes.

  • dc84

    first of all sorry for this long message, but i really want to share my story. want to say thank you for the articles as i have researching around for fitness issues. i have just read a few articles on muscle for life on issues of low carbs/calorie intakes, skinny fat, etc..and will be trying out some new routines.

    i want to share my fitness history hopefully it can help anybody with the same issue. a year & half ago, i decided to get fitter and stronger. i wasn’t really fat or anything, 6′ tall 175lbs, but i always wanted to be more athletic and leaner. so i quit smoking (still the most effective/best decision), started lifting and doing cardio, gradually increasing sets/intensity/distance but never really paid attention to my diet. a year later after irregular workout routines, irregular clean diet programs and injury setbacks, i could understandably see minor success; 170lbs, no clean cut or major gain in muscle mass. just felt healthy increase in strength and endurance. that of course was a half empty bottle..or half full bottle…i wanted better.
    at the beginning of this year i started my resolution, but i had the understanding that high reps workout/low calorie diet is the only way. in the beginning i did 5 days a week workout with 3 days on weights and 2 days running. my diet was hard to get on with but i was cutting out overly greasy food like fried ones. having cheat days every now and then. like any resolution it’s hard to follow through but i finally did it.
    for the last 2 months, i workout 6 times a week. here’s my routine;
    1st, 3rd & 5th day, 46 sets weight workout (deadlifts, curls, push ups, military press, etc) plus 5 sets sit ups
    2nd day, 2000 steps up stair climbing plus 2 miles run
    4th day, 20 miles cycling plus 2.5 miles run
    6th day, 6.2 miles run
    eat clean, chicken breast, broccoli, carrots, protein shakes, etc..minor carbs, less sugar no greasy stuff. rest days i eat anything i want without restriction
    i clock in about 5 hours weight training 5 hours cardio a week
    how do i feel today? like crap and still look pretty much like that bottle…i’m tired, sore, always freaking HUNGRY. i realized that although my strength and endurance grew ever more, i’m nowhere close to mike mattews physique. i stress out more, not satisfied, muscle mass growth is minor (except my chess), freaking slim fat and the worse is that i only take in about 1500 calories a day. that’s when i decided to do better research today and stumbled on the articles here where causes seem to make sense..calories restriction, lots of cardio, too much reps of too much sets on weights, stress hormones, water retention. it is also weirdly true (in one of the articles) that on my rest days i take in any calories i want as a treat, usually high carb and keep my protein intake and the next day i feel like a champ. body look sharper and felt like it grew.
    so i will start a new routine with a new mentality, feed the muscle.
    first increase calorie gradually to 3000.
    1st, 3rd & 5th day; 30 sets high intensity low rep weight training plus 5 sets sit ups.
    2nd day, 2000 steps up stair climbing plus 2 miles run
    4th day, 20 miles cycling plus 2.5 miles run
    6th day, 6.2 miles run
    i do enjoy my cardio, that is why i will keep going at it probably increase my run too.
    what do you think of my new routine? i’ll be glad for opinions.
    ultimately, besides the aesthetic side of it, i want to be happy and enjoy the result of my hard work. all this strength and stamina i gained that i cant even fully utilize on a regular basis due to fatigue, soreness and freaking hunger. i will get back here in a month and post my results. i will start tomorrow so helllo mcdonaldsss…

    • Wow that’s serious dedication! Kudos for keeping up that training. I like your new plan a helluva lot better than the previous one. Have you tried a three-day split like the one here?

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/muscle-building-workout/

      I’d also reconsider increasing your cardio. How does HIIT sound on day 2 and 4?

      • dc84

        thanks for the link and yea i’ll be dropping more sets to emphasize on heavier lifting. also decided to do HIIT on two days and keep one long run day. i actually started the stair climb and finished with HIIT yesterday and does feel good. only thing i’m worried about if it was too much workout or too long.
        i spent about 2 hours yesterday n will probably do the same when i ride and do HIIT. will it be ok as long as im fueled up? or will i be failing my muscles? riding and stair climb is not really cardio right? i’ll just have to do more research

  • TMS

    Hi,

    I am trying to bulk up at nearly 3000 kcals with about 1.1g / pound of carbs – that’s about 200g carbs per day. I’m doing in a “TKD like approac” meaning… I am currently pretty much eating carbs pre and post-workout.

    Now I have tottally been strungling in know if I would clearly benefit and maximize gains if switching it to near 2g / pound (or any mimumum amount you would recommend)?

    I’ve been trying to find an answer to this but I find many discussion where people says the amount-combo of carbs / fat does not really matter as long as you have enough protein (doing 1.5g / pound) and are in calorie surplus. True… not?

    Thanks!

  • Sean

    “If you’re completely sedentary.” that headline describes 90% of the developed world population. Good job attempting to make it a foot note!

    Hopefully this article wasn’t intended to actually debunk low carb dieting for everyone – just for those who are very athletic on a daily basis. It’s not surprising that bursts of sugar based energy would be beneficial for them.

    • Aside from the reasons listed at the end of the article, it’s generally better to stick to a high carb moderate fat diet vs low-carb when dieting. In a way, it is debunking the myth that in order to lose weight you have to go low-carb.

      • Sean

        You’re sounding like the USDA. Most of the population is on a HCLF diet… Look at the diabetics, heart attacks, childhood obesity, the list goes on.

        Who exactly does HCLF work for?

        I’m down to 176 from 183 over 8 days. Very low carbs, very high fat, no added/refined sugars, 60 min of HIIT and very little lifting.

        I’m never hungry, always have energy, and looking forward to my goal weight of 165 later this month.

        I’m good with whatever works for anyone, I just don’t think the food pyramid is even close to correct. People need to experiment if they find what they’ve been told isn’t working. The LCHF success stories aren’t hard to find.

        • I generall recommend sticking to a higher carb diet for people that are physically active for improved performance and recovery unless they don’t do well with carbs. That being said, as long as you’re getting enough protein and staying within your cals, you do have room to play around with your carbs and fat and still reach your fitness goals.

          Awesome job on the weight you’ve lost in the last 8 days! I completely agree. As long as you’re getting results and able to stick to it, go ahead! 🙂

          • ScBenoit

            “…for people that are physically active…” represents 6% of the population (yes, I made that stat up).

            Most people are no where near “physically active” enough (lifting a few weights and jogging on the treadmill don’t meet that criteria) to justify a high carb load. We’re not talking about elite athletes – well, maybe some that browse this site are – the average Joe most def doesn’t need to carb load at all. As in, at all.

            Just an opinion from someone who sees people carb load at every restaurant, fair, drive through window, family meals, etc., that I go to or drive by. People are WAY too fat. That’s a safe generalization because it’s becoming the normal.

            Suggesting carb loading as something main stream is dangerous and optimistic. It’s exactly what the FDA has been doing for 40+ years. Look at the amazing results?!

          • Yup, the average person doesn’t need to eat a lot of carbs and definitely doesn’t need to eat the types of carbs he/she generally eats.

          • Mohammed H.

            I like your comment because it is unbiased, unlike the whole article which needs an update due to numerous of new evidence from recent research on Keto. I do look athletic now, thanks to Keto, why? because I cannot handle carbs anymore, all I have to do is to adapt to fat as a primary fuel source, trust me I do feel like I’m athletic, I do labor work in my career, I carry stuff, I do shopping and even prepare my own food. I used to think low-carb diets are BS and fad, I know, I’ve been around the block, but please understand the whole picture, we can’t put 90% of people on high-carb diets to get in shape, it is unethical, they need to be healthy first, and high-carb diets ain’t helping no matter how much fitness gurus preach it.

          • Hey Mohammed, I agree that going low-carb is a good idea if you’re overweight and sedentary, but most people looking to gain muscle and lose fat are going to do better with more carbs.

            There are lots of factors that cause people to overeat: ease of access to calorie-dense, cheap, tasty food, and large portions at restaurants are just two easily-identifiable factors.

            I discuss the ketogenic diet here:

            https://legionathletics.com/ketogenic-diet/

            If it works for you, that’s great. However, it’s not the best diet for people who are healthy and active.

          • Mohammed H.

            By the way, I’m a fan of yours, really enjoy reading your articles, keep up the good work, much love Mike!

          • Thanks for the support!

        • Kristoffer

          Not to rain on your parade, but the fluctuation of 183 to 176 over the course of a week can be down to water retention. If you had emptied yourself or not. Or if you had eaten for that matter. What you ate. It can be down to when you weighed yourself during the day. It can be down to the clothes you are wearing, if they are the same or not. If you had your keys on you, if you held a bottle of water, a book you write down your workout entries in, and so on forth. Any combination of the above.

          On Saturday I weighed 162 pounds, the day before I weighed 157. I wore a hoodie to sweat more on Saturday, I had my keys in my pocket, I had eaten a little meal before I went to the gym, and the only thing that was the same; was the same time of day. I had been drinking more water during the day on Saturday as well.

          Why am I writing this? Because I want you to get a realistic view of weight loss. It takes time. If all you do is high intensity cardio, and your diet isn’t balanced; chances are your body will freak out and go into lock down, it’ll basically go into a conservative survival mode. Now if you’ve balanced it out, then by all means do what you feel works for you.

          Anyways, when someone’s saying “High Carb” (HC of HCLF), that would obviously mean you pursue the complex carbohydrates, e.g., Cellulose (greens, etc.—fiber) to give your intestines a workout, helping prevent constipation and diseases, e.g., cancer, and Starch-rich food (potatoes, rice, wheat, etc.) for energy and helping your immune system, cell repair, brain activity, even your mood, among other things. Obviously you’ll want proteins and unsaturated fats too, besides micronutrients and -minerals.

          Diabetes, heart attacks and childhood obesity is not specifically tied to (all) carbohydrates, but more so the type of carbohydrates consumed. Anyways, I agree that people should experiment and find what works for their body; our bodies are different and react differently.

          PS: Unrelated to the post; a “diet” is something I associate with someone being on one for a period of time, before falling off and gaining all weight loss back again, and usually then some. They tend to be unsustainable. If people truly wish to lose weight, a lifestyle change is required more than a diet.

          • ScBenoit

            I appreciate the lecture and the assumption that I’m ignorant of all things weight loss… However, I weight myself nude. I don’t weigh myself with keys or bricks on my person. I’m fully aware of how water and recent meals can effect the scale.

            FYI – Water weight… IS WEIGHT. It’s a weird concept, eh? So sure, some of that was most def water. Being bloated sucks. Some was fat.

            I’d rather you spend your time lecturing anorexics.

  • Kyle

    I enjoyed this article. I’d like to share a story. I tried the low carb diet for the last three years (on/off).

    A few interesting things happened. At the time, I didn’t keep track of calories – and ate mostly protein with moderate fat. Daily carbs were usually limited to 40-60g (or even below, as low as 0g).

    I’m trying to understand something. When I swam at the YMCA, I worked my way up to where I’d do 1,500 yds Fly out of a 4,000-5,000 yds total workout. Plenty of HIIT. I never did any weightlifting. Did calisthenics (pushups, situps, etc). Did some HIIT running. That’s pretty much all.

    I reduced fat on my stomach so fast it felt like hair (in the abs region) was being slowly pulled out of the skin — it hurt a bit. I’d never felt that sensation before. But after my swims, I’d go home and sit down to get ready to eat. The center of my vision would show gray dots forming and getting whiter, and at one time I nearly passed out.

    This happened nearly every time I’d have intensive swim days. Is the gray dots / dizziness a typical symptom of not eating enough calories, not enough carbs, or what?

    Interestingly, I reduced fat (what seemed like much faster – could hardly pinch anything in the abs section) via that dangerous (possibly too low calorie) method than I am currently reducing at 25% deficit of TDEE eating the high protein / high carb route you recommend. I’m pretty sure it’s not just due to losing water weight too. (I prefer your healthier, safer way however)

    Thoughts on this? Thanks.

  • Mark Wilson

    High carb satiating! Look at more recent studies showing adaptation to low carb or ketogenic diets and they are more effective for fat loss. Still very little good research on muscle building but some researchers are in the process. Have a look at Peter Attia and Steve Phinney and Jeff Volek’s work. Keep an open mind rather than just state unsubstantiated opinions.

    • I’ve written quite a bit about keto dieting:

      https://legionathletics.com/ketogenic-diet/

    • Neil

      From personal experience, as a gym rat going 6 days a week (and actually putting in an effort of course), I had some trouble with.. let’s say the sex drive (—the flag was flown at half-mast a whole lot..), when I cut my carbs too low over a longer period of time (roughly 6 months). My fats, proteins and micro nutrients stayed the same in my meal plan mind you. During that time I hit my muscle fatigue thresholds way quicker than earlier when I had been on a more balanced meal plan, with more complex carbohydrates included in it. I attribute that somewhat to my stagnating muscle growth during that dietary test period as well, not being able to properly “overload”. So at least for myself and my body, carbs are definitely a necessity in my meal planning.

      • Mark Wilson

        That’s the whole thing with carbs, we all have our own effective, healthy threshold. The article cherry picks research and misses some important points. There is little evidence, anecdotal or otherwise on the effects of a week constructed ketogenic diet on strength and power. My focus as a Banting coach is health, which for many is better on a low carb diet due to lower insulin, less inflammation and better recovery from exercise. Professor Noakes does state at this stage that speed and power athletes may need a higher carbohydrate diet but hopefully research will prove or disprove this. If you are lifting six days a week this may be the issue, not the diet. I’m 55, lift heavy twice a week as an olympic lifter and technique work 2-3 days a week but these are light and easy. At 75KG I can snatch over bodyweight and C&J 105KG at present although I have only been Olympic lifting since May (seriously). I can also deadlift over 2x bodyweight but my goal is not muscle growth. I also train as a sprinter as an adjunct to the strength work. I presently consume 25-50g of carbs daily but up to 200g of fat and my body fat is measured at 13%. I may increase the carbs over the winter and see what the reaction is. In Banting we encourage our members to discover their personal healthy thresholds and for most older or overweight people it’s less than 50g a day. More research is needed and coming but early stages appear to suggest that a LCHF diet is healthier for the majority with regard to insulin resistance, body weight and general health.

        • Amr Abdallah

          you are absolutely correct

  • Mark Wilson

    Still looks like unsubstantiated opinion. Read Professor Tim Noakes on the validity of much research. Studies are still being formulated on the efficacy of low carb ketogenic diets for athletic performance because so few athletes will go against conventional wisdom. Early studies for endurance athletes look promising but good studies for power athletes are scant. I still have an open mind but am experimenting on myself with a ketogenic diet. It’s early days yet but after four weeks of adaptation recovery is better and power is improving and I’m 55 years old. Only time will tell if LCHF diets will challenge the status quo of big business and governments that support high carb foods and farmers. You may well be correct that substantial muscle gain requires a higher carb intake but for many this would come at the cost of poorer health markers in many areas, it’s up to the individual to make the choice if they have to. A good read is ‘Tim Noakes Chews the Fat’, have a look.

    • I’ve read a lot of Noakes’ stuff and have written about keto dieting as well:

      https://legionathletics.com/ketogenic-diet

      In the end it comes down to what you look, feel, and perform best with and enjoy the most, I think.

      I’ve worked with thousands of people and I can probably count on my fingers and toes the number of people that have willingly given up all carbs.

      • Kevin Holmes

        Did keto and HIIT / Lifting for eight months. It was “easy” to loose about 35 lbs in the first four months. Once I was very lean, I attempted to bulk on keto by adding more fats, protein stayed at 1g per lb of lean mass. What a disaster. My lifts went nowhere and my PRs were kinda embarrassing. I was devoid of energy, sore, and weak. Recovery was awful, and I would have to skip gym days entirely after a heavy day.

        I have since switched back to carbs with moderate good fats and the results are real. Same training regimen and daily calorie targets, but much different results. I smashed my old LCHF PRs and continue to get stronger every month.

  • Eileen Calder

    Thanks for your article I found it very interesting and reasonably objective (well what I could understand of it. lol) I am on Atkins 20 and I think it works for me because I have little patience and losing almost a pound a day for the first week was a great encouragement. As a sedentary 56 year old female my priority is weight loss. Calorie control did not work for me and Atkins appealed to me because he was a rebel who was treated like a lunatic and a leper by the powers that be – by governments, nutrition and fitness experts and of course by his own profession.

    My sister a year younger than me also tried it and although it did not suit her, the initial weeks weight loss encouraged her to go to Weight Watchers. I think the personality and psychology of each individual as to why certain diets work for them and not others needs to be taken into consideration. I am looking for a fight – not an easy time I prefer to make bigger short tern sacrifices for quicker results. I have not seen the inside of a gym for 30 years we are both joining, my plan is to gradually increase the carbs in conjunction
    with taking more exercise.

    I think a lot of people on the internet treat health and fitness like religious fundamentalists but they ought to remember “In my Father’s house there are many mansions” The extreme low-fatters and the extreme low-carbers both need to recognise that their theories are not the “Gospel Truth” and that the actual science on the issue is far from settled.

    • Hey Eileen! At the end of the day, it’s all calorie math and energy balance. Glad to hear you’re seeing good results so far.

  • natalie

    Hey Mike,

    So Im kind of conflicted about the whole carb thing. I have yo-yo dieted a lot of my life and finally found some consistency. However, I think over the years things got screwy. For some reason, I feel really amazing and energetic on lower carbs. I find that carbs tend to mess with my mood. I’m just nervous because I’m really low muscle genetically and I see that the women who look the best and strongest, eat TONS of carbs. What has been your experience from your clients? How do your female clients do on Keto, for example, or Low-ish carbs (100g)? Do you see a major difference in terms of results? What about only eating carbs around a workout? I think I might try that. But I still thrive with less of them. I just don’t want my results to suffer. I currently have a skinny fat situation going on.

  • Dr RT

    Thanks for adding some scientific articles to a conversation usually dominated by anecdotes and zealotry. Of course, different strokes etc, and as you mention compliance is most of the battle.
    In terms of general dietary advice, most of us (pros excepted) aren’t living and dying by the kitchen scale and calculating macronutrients to the gram. People don’t eat a plate of carbs or fat, they eat food. Once they understand generally which foods contain which macronutrients (and that carbs and fats come in healthier and less healthy forms) they can hopefully choose their food wisely and leave the crap on the store shelves.

    • No problem! Glad you enjoyed the article.

      Yup, that’s true! Knowledge is everything.

  • Sanita

    I have been on keto for several moths and at the beginning it was great. I lost weight, the bloating has gone, started to see muscle definition. Hurrah! I have found the holy grail…Then I discovered my new love of my life; HIIT and kettle bells. I will push myself to finish the session, but it’s getting harder and harder, I am feeling tired and now starting to acquire lurgies that just dont go away. I increased carbs from 25g to 50g without realising that it still counts as keto.
    Then I came across your article, great read, thank you. I will up the carbs to suggested 0.8g per pound, which comes to around 110g per day to see if this boost back the energy that is missing.
    Keto has been a brilliant way to teach myself to drink more water and to appreciate when I am actually hungry, but I feel my physical performance is reducing and I am desperate not to fall back into my old, cake eating days. 😀

    • That’s great you made solid progress on a keto diet! Looks like you’re pushing its limit and are looking for more workout fuel since you stepped up the intensity. As long as you stay below your calorie target, you’ll be fine increasing carbs and dropping fat/protein. (And stay away from the cakes!) Be sure you’re still getting enough protein, though!

  • TS

    As someone that was very obese / sedentary couple years ago and back then diagnosed as “pre-diabetes” (and as such I assume some sort of insulin resistance) but that eventually reverted as started working out and eat better, would that means a better predisposition for a “low carb diet” or would it not be necessary?

    • If you’ve been active now for awhile, you can start shifting your macros to more carbs, less fat and see how you feel and how your workouts go!

  • Jay

    Hey Mike whats your take on Ketogenic diets? It’s 75% fat and 20% protein and 5% carbs.

  • Nitraj Ghoorahoo

    What about the backloading diet, where athletes ingest carbs dense food just after working out?
    Does this method also cause loss in stength and endurance?

  • Neill

    I did Atkins for 2 years and dropped 138 pounds. I had to stop because I started feeling my heart more and more anytime I worked out (could have been from that DMAA in OxyElite near the end) which made me want to focus on vegetables and heart health for a while. Went from 342 to 204. Held it around 212-220, but my fat % has been slowly climbing from 17% to 26% in the last 5 years, so looking to do another diet and then hold those gains better.

    Interesting observations on the insulin resistance, maybe that was why it was so effective for me at the time. I know my body reacts differently with many things, lentils will always
    make me extremely tired. The body is really interesting, I cannot wait
    until we see an epigenetic approach to the perfect diet

    Thanks for the info. I agree with the idea that many diets will work, you just need to find something you can stick with.

  • Tina

    If I want to cut my carb intake before a photo shoot, and I have a week to do it, how many grams would you say I should be eating per day? And what would my other macros look like? Do I temporarily increase fat intake?

    Right now I eat approximately 115 grams of protein, 23 grams fat and 130 grams carbs.

    • Tina

      I am already on a 25% deficit, so I can’t just cut the carbs out, you know what I mean?..

      • Ever try a 45%P 20%C 35%F split?

        • Tina

          Trying it right now, I really enjoy it actually. I love getting to eat more healthy fats… Do you think I could periodically do this kind of split, even when not getting ready for photoshoot or anything?

  • Captain Mantastic

    A diet I used when losing body fat

    Meal 1
    100g oats cooked in skimmed milk
    6 egg whites
    1 banana

    Meal 2
    Protein shake mixed in skimmed milk
    1 banana

    Meal 3
    2 thin slices of whole grain rye bread
    150-200g turkey or chicken breast
    Green veg

    Meal 4
    Protein shake mixed in skimmed milk
    1 banana or small handful of almond nuts

    Meal 5
    Half of a large sweet potato
    150-200g turkey or chicken breast
    Green veg

    Meal 6
    Protein shake mixed in skimmed milk
    1 tbsp of all natural peanut butter

    I worked out 6 days a week alternating a weight workout day with a hiit cardio day. With the weight training I cut down my rest periods between sets to 45-60 seconds. So yeah I lost a lot of weight on a high carb diet and my six pack began to show. I tried the low carb approach but within a week my energy not to mention my mental focus were in a slump.

  • TS

    I followed your advice on BLS on how to setup macros (I’m doing the program, too). I’m cutting down and even broke some PR on things like bench press!

    Energy wise and all.. all good! However… been feeling bloated, stomach pain and such for days… Switched for a lower carb approach (not keto, but nearly below 100g) and I’m just tired, mental fog… even though stomach issues seems to be solved.

    What would you suggest? On a ideal world I’d like to simply have the same energy carbs given, but just not the issues they also given!…

    • Hey! That’s great you saw good progress on BLS. Reducing carbs that low will definitely cause the tiredness and mental fog when on a cut. You can introduce carbs back into your diet, with this in mind:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/low-fodmap-diet/

      • Taylor Kuzik

        I don’t understand why so many fitness “experts” jump on the bandwagon and say low-carb is the go-to diet if fat loss is the goal. If you’re prepping for a contest or photoshoot, then sure low-carb can work. If you aren’t, then low-carb is bad. Carbs are the body’s preferred source of fuel. Fat is a backup and protein is the last. I think carb cycling is a better alternative. For me my carb intake on workout days are higher than rest days where I don’t need as much. Leg days are when my intake at its highest. Your workout performance sucks on low-carb diet.

        • I agree, Taylor. However, I think carb cycling is more complex than most people need. If it works for you better than traditional dieting though, that’s great 🙂

          • Taylor Kuzik

            I’m experimenting at this point to see what works for me. To each his own, you know what I mean?

          • Yep. Sounds good to me!

          • Taylor Kuzik

            I believe an important factor in how well your cells respond to insulin is what kind of carbs you eat. Refined carbs that have been stripped of their nutritional components such as white rice, white pasta, white bread, etc, are fast-digesting and result in an insulin spike, which is something you don’t won’t save post-workout, since that’s when you want an insulin spike to drive the nutrients into your muscle for replenishment and initiate protein synthesis. Complex carbs retain their nutritional component and digest slowly, keeping insulin levels relatively stable.

          • I think sensible eating involves consuming plenty of low-GI foods, but eating high-GI carbs is not the cause of weight gain. Check out these articles:
            https://www.muscleforlife.com/how-insulin-works/
            https://www.muscleforlife.com/glycemic-index/

          • Taylor Kuzik

            Fat loss and weight loss are related but NOT the same or occur simultaneously. Weight loss is reduction of total body weight. Fat loss is reduction of fat mass. This is one thing most online articles get mixed up. You lose body fat while your weight probably remains the same. Losing fat/weight is only half the battle, keeping it off is the real challenge. But if you know what you’re doing then it’s a breeze. Just because a ketogenic diet works for one person doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. There’s no such thing as one diet fits all. If you’re overweight or have a high BF%, fat loss is priority. Building muscle is also important because it’s metabolically active, burns more calories, it takes up less place and is more compact.

  • Joel Munson

    “Low carb diet” is a rather ambiguous term. Which carbs are you avoiding, and how much fat and protein are you eating? There is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Some of the studies you bring up focus on people doing it the wrong way, and are small scale, one-time studies. If someone is eating the right carbs at the right time of day, enough complete protein, and enough of the right kinds of fats to make plenty of ketones, they should be able to build muscle and have plenty of energy to work out.

  • Roxanne Wanner

    This is just ridiculous. I eat keto (low carb, high fat) and my performance at the gym has significantly increased. I do only count NET carbs, though, and even though fat is higher calorie, it keeps you fuller longer so yoy aren’t eating as much, and fat also keeps things moving in the digestive tract, as an inproportionate protein-to-dietary fiber-to-fat ratio can clog you up. Also, you keep your protein anywhere from .8-1.2g per lb of lean body mass to truly be low carb, to avoid gluconeogenesis. My husband (who never had a sweet tooth to begin with, so soda and cakes were never an issue) has dropped 4 pant sizes and went from 310 to 242 eating this way. And i have gained 12.6 lbs of muscle eating this way (started at 102 lbs, am now at 124.6). We adjust our fat/protein/fiber intake to custom fit our needs. We recently started intermittent fasting as well, and i always work out fasted. High carb is not good. At all. And this is coming from someone who has trouble gaining weight on a standard american diet with heavy carbohydrates.

    • Hey Roxanne, that’s great you and your hubby are making great progress! Staying on a nice calorie deficit and good exercise programming have definitely made a difference. Nicely done. Keep doing what you’re doing 🙂

  • imran

    Carbcyclingscience The science behind it you are getting carbohydrates when you need them so you are having two high carb days a week, Going out with family and you are at a restaurant and you want to indulge and you want to be able have those carbs and be able to eat whatever you want another thing it does is it improves the function of leptin in your body….

  • Tester

    “Well, a low-carb diet basically guarantees that you’re going to struggle with hunger. ”

    How about some research regarding ketones and appetite suppression?
    You never really tried it, right?

  • Steve Niemeyer

    This article is complete and total bullshit. Ketogenic diet works 100%. 20-30 carbs a day. You’re being lied to. Everything you think you know if false. Period. Take it or leave it. Believe it or not. I lost about 50lbs in about 5 months on Keto. End of discussion.

Sign in to Muscle For Life
or use your MFL Account