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             FITNESS TIPS FOR 8/5/2003  
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Low Carb Diets: Is This The Ultimate Way To Lose Body Fat?
by Tom Venuto

These days, the carbohydrate issue seems to be the burning question 
on the minds of nearly everyone who is interested in getting leaner. 
Not a single week goes by that I don't receive an e-mail with a 
question about the various low carb/high protein diets. Last week 
I got this one:

Dear Tom: Are you a proponent of the low-carb diet for bodybuilding? 
Although this is hotly debated, I don't know many "ripped"
bodybuilders that have not tried such a diet. Thanks.

It's no wonder why there's such a buzz about these diets: Everywhere 
you look there are low carb bars, low carb drinks, low carb meal 
replacements, low carb frozen dinners and so on. Heck, they even 
have low carb pasta now!  In the bookstores, The Atkins diet, Protein 
Power and Sugar-Busters have all been best sellers. More recently, 
we've got the no-grain diet and various types of "Paleolithic", "
Neantherthal", and "cave-man" type diets, which are also low in 
carbs.

Even though there has been a huge resurgence in the interest in low 
carb/high protein diets, the low carb vs. high carb issue is still the 
subject of much controversy. For every "low carb guru" who says that 
low carbs are the ultimate diet, there is a "high carb guru" with the 
opposite opinion. This has caused a lot of people a lot of confusion.

So what's the deal? Is the low carb/high protein diet the best way for 
bodybuilders to get ripped or just another fad? 

From a bodybuilding standpoint, the answer is an unequivocal yes; 
reducing carbohydrates really works! Most bodybuilders can't get that 
"ripped" look without some degree of carb restriction. Almost every 
bodybuilder or fitness competitor I've ever met uses some version 
of the low carb diet when getting ready for competition. 

The problem is, most people fail to take into account their individual 
goals and unique body type, so they follow the one-size-fits-all 
prescription of the latest "low-carb guru" and take the carb restriction 
too far. Zero carb or close to zero carb diets are in my opinion, 
completely unnecessary. 

The other extreme; the high carb, very low fat diet, isn't the best 
approach for bodybuilders either. These diets (60-70% carb, 20-30% 
protein and 10% or less fat) were trendy with bodybuilders for a 
while, especially back in the 80's and early 90's (Remember Nathan 
Pritkin, Dean Ornish and Robert Haas?), but their popularity quickly 
faded - at least in the bodybuilding community. Those who tried it 
discovered that it wasn't nearly as effective as the low to moderate 
carb, high protein diet (with a little bit of "good fats" added into the 
mix). 

Why does dropping your carbs help you lose more fat? There are 
several reasons, but to avoid getting into a complicated discussion 
of nutritional biochemistry, let's just say that eating less carbs
 forces your body to burn fat for fuel instead of sugar. Reducing 
carbs and increasing protein accelerates fat loss by controlling 
your insulin and blood sugar more effectively. The high protein in 
these diets also speeds up your metabolism because of the 
"thermic effect" of protein food. It also helps eliminate water 
retention, giving you the "hard" and "dry" look you need onstage 
to win contests. 

In my opinion, a moderate carb diet, with slight carb restriction 
(especially at night) is the most effective (and most "sane") way 
for bodybuilders to get ripped. For example, my competition 
diet is about 175 -200 grams of carbs with most of the carbs 
eaten early in the day. Every 4th day, I have a high carb day 
(350 grams+) to replenish my depleted glycogen stores. By 
contrast, my off-season diet is 350 - 450 grams of carbs. With 
175 - 200 grams of carbs, that is just enough fuel to provide the 
energy I needed to train hard and to prevent me from losing
muscle. 

Would dropping carbs even further to 30 or 50 grams a day (like
many fad diets recommend) get you more ripped or get you 
ripped faster? Maybe. But the problem is, without carbs, you'll 
have no energy to train hard. Sure, tuna fish and water will get 
you ripped, but if your workouts suffer because your diet is 
"killing you," you aren't going to look or feel your best. 

Another big problem caused by very low carb diets is loss of 
lean body mass. The lower you drop your carbs, the more 
likely you are to lose muscle along with the fat. Body fat 
becomes a the dominant fuel source in the absence of 
carbohydrates, but so does muscle protein!

A third problem with very low carb diets is the rebound effect. 
The lower you drop your carbs, the faster you will rebound 
and gain the fat back when you put the carbs back in. I swear 
I've seen guys blow up 30-40 lbs in a matter of DAYS after
 their contest because they went on a carbohydrate and fat 
binge after a four-month zero carb diet. It wasn't a pretty 
sight!

When I experimented with a very low carb diet, (about 40-70 
grams a day), I lost huge amounts of lean body mass and 
looked very "flat" and "stringy" (absolutely no muscle pump).
I was also one irritable, grouchy SOB. My friends nicknamed 
me "fog boy" because (sez them) I stumbled around in a 
fog-like daze. One friend who hadn't seen me since the previous
 year when I was a "bulked up" and carbed up 208 lbs, saw me 
48 lbs lighter after the low carb diet (yes, 160 scrawny pounds) 
and he said, "holy sh** Tom, what happened to you? You're 
HALF the man you were last year!" That comment encouraged me 
to make that the last time I ever tried an extremely low carb diet. 

Nutrition is a highly individual issue. Some people are very-carb 
sensitive, hypoglycemic and insulin resistant, and therefore they 
have difficulty losing weight without carb restriction. Other people 
can eat bagels, bread and pasta all day long and as long as 
they're in a calorie deficit, they get six pack abs with ease. 

Therefore, how many carbs you eat depends on your body type. 
Are you an endormorph or an ectomorph? Do you have a fast 
metabolism or a slow metabolism? Are you naturally lean or 
naturally heavy? Carb sensitive or carb efficient? Depending on 
your genetics and metabolic characteristics, you might thrive on 
high carbs or you might need a high protein, low carb diet to get 
results. But beware: even if you think you're the carb sensitive, 
slow-metabolism type, the middle path (moderate carb restiction) 
is the most sensible way to go when you take long term 
maintenance into consideration.

The only way to determine how many grams of carbs is right for 
YOU is to experiment until you find your "critical carb level." If 
you start dropping body fat rapidly at 200 grams a day, then 
why would you subject yourself to the torture of going even 
lower and doing one of those 30-40 grams a day "ketogenic" 
diets? Why kill yourself? 

There is no single diet that works for everyone. There are certain 
universal nutritional laws that apply to everyone, but be very 
careful of "gurus" who use the words "always" and "never" or 
who make sweeping generalities like "carbohydrates make you 
fat." 

If you want to get ripped, you should also pick the type of carbs 
you eat carefully - it's not just the quantity of carbs, it's the 
quality. In addition to moderating total carb intake, I also 
recommend getting off ALL processed carbs including bread, 
crackers, pretzels, pasta, bagels and switching only to natural,
unprocessed carbs like vegetables, oatmeal, yams, rice, 
potatoes, etc. That single change will go a long way in helping 
you get leaner (and healthier too!) 

If you're highly carb sensitive, then you also might want to take 
the glycemic index (GI) into consideration. The GI is a scale that 
measures the speed at which various carbohydrate foods are 
converted into blood glucose. Carb sensitive people may have 
a hard time with high glycemic foods such as white potatoes, 
carrots and rice cakes, while those with normal carbohydrate 
metabolisms do not. Low glycemic carbs like oatmeal, yams, 
beans, black eyed peas, etc., help control body fat by 
controlling blood sugar and insulin levels.

The bottom line is that it's not correct to say, "carbs are 
fattening," but there IS some truth to the assertion that a 
low carb diet will get you leaner compared to a high carb 
diet - you just have to approach it in a sensible and 
individualized way. Experiment with a reduced carb 
diet and see what happens. Monitor your results at 
various carb levels. If you're like most people, you'll 
probably find that a moderate reduction in carbs and 
the proper selection of carbs does the trick quite nicely. 
As with most areas of your life, going to the extreme 
with your diet will usually do more harm than good.

About the Author:
Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, personal trainer, gym 
owner, freelance writer and author of "Burn the Fat, Feed The 
Muscle" (BFFM): Fat Burning Secrets of the World's Best 
Bodybuilders and Fitness Models. To get the FACTS on exactly how, 
what & when to eat and how to train to achieve maximum fat loss, 
without losing muscle or slowing down your metabolism... AND
 to discover the shocking truth about the diet, weight loss and 
supplement industries, Check out Tom's e-book online here: 

Diet To Burn Fat Build Muscle
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Neither trulyhuge.com nor the authors of this publication assume any liability for the information contained herein. The Information contained herein reflects only the opinion of the author and is in no way to be considered medical advice. Specific medical advice should be obtained from a licensed health care practitioner. Consult your physician before you begin any nutrition, exercise, or dietary supplement program.

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