Home | Supplements | eBooks | DVDs | Articles | Forum
Truly Huge Fitness Tips
Presented by TrulyHuge.com
DECLARE WAR ON YOUR BENCH PRESS
Learn the exact blueprint (workout schedule) for upping the
gain factor in bench pressing. From the beginner, intermediate
to most advanced powerlifter/bodybuilder.
Covers everything from training, overcoming injuries, genetics,
plateaus, adversity, cardio, nutrition, and muscle more!
Click here to receive INSTANT ACCESS to this program
Increase Bench Press
FITNESS TIPS FOR 8/5/2003
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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