Is it possible to build muscle on a low-carb diet?
You know that protein is necessary for muscle growth, but carbohydrates play a significant role in this process. In this article we will tell you what else you should know.
Author: Mike Russell, Ph.D.
Not so long ago, I talked on the phone with a good friend and co-partner in power training Joe Doudell (certified specialist in power and functional training) from Peak Performance in New York. I told him that my personal record in the police station reached an impressive 190 kg, but I'm determined to conquer the grandmaster's height in 225 kg.
He noted that the mission is "feasible."
Excellent. Then I threw in his side a kervbol (a twisted ball), which even the Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers would envy.
I'm going to add 36 kg to the hospital . adhering to a ketogenic diet. Joe sighed. In a ketogenic diet, there are so few carbohydrates that after the depletion of glycogen reserves your body starts to draw energy from processes that are united by the term "ketosis". Carbohydrate waterline to maintain the state of ketosis depends on individual characteristics, but for most people it is below 50 grams of carbohydrates.
I was determined to eat less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. How little is it? One medium-sized banana – and you exceeded the daily limit!
But wait, do carbohydrates not stimulate muscle growth? Will this tactic work in the long term? And, most importantly, will I be able to add 35 kg in a hospital without consuming carbohydrates in impressive portions? These and other questions have awakened me as a scientist.
I decided to look for answers not only in a deep immersion in the scientific literature, but also through real field research in the gym of the gym.
And until you ran to the end of the article to find out if I was able to achieve my goal, I want to personally lead you to the grand finale by explaining the anabolic potential of carbohydrates. Let me become your guide to key areas of anabolism, in which carbohydrates and insulin play an important role.
Anabolic action of carbohydrates is realized mainly due to activation of hormone-controlled processes. (For completeness, I must note that the protein also stimulates the insulin response of the body.)
The main among these processes is the synthesis of the pancreatic hormone called insulin. Many people know that insulin regulates blood glucose levels, but insulin is not a circus pony trained in a single trick.
This is an incredibly multifunctional hormone! Many experts believe that insulin, among other things, is inextricably linked to the processes of muscle synthesis. For example, one of the many roles of insulin is the acceleration of the assimilation of amino acids; in other words, he takes amino acids from the bloodstream and transfers them to muscle tissue.
It turns out that carbohydrates and the subsequent insulin response have a significant impact on muscle growth.
Directly for the formation of protein molecules carbohydrates are not needed. The key driver for the synthesis of muscle protein is leucine – an essential amino acid, which is contained, for example, in egg yolks. This means that protein synthesis can occur in the absence of carbohydrates.
We return to the burning question: is insulin an anabolic? Does it help build muscle?
First of all, we will understand the terminology. Anabolism is often used as a synonym for the synthesis of muscle protein, which is wrong. I urge you to look at anabolism more widely, rather than as a simple combination of amino acids to create muscle tissue.
Anabolism encompasses all the physiological processes that promote the collection of muscle mass. And from this point of view, insulin is absolutely exactly an anabolic!
Carbohydrates, insulin and recovery
Restoration of muscles after microdamages is one of the most underrated gears of a muscle motor. In the end, the faster you recover from training, the more you can train, and the frequency of the training impact is the key player in the hypertrophy team.
The secretion of insulin caused by carbohydrates alone does not lead to the synthesis of muscle protein, but it slows down the destruction of muscle tissue. In fact, anti-catabolic characteristics of carbohydrates turn them into anabolics. What-about-oh? I remind you. You are working to break the wrong association of anabolism with protein synthesis.
In this light, carbohydrates really are anabolic and make an invaluable contribution to the construction of skeletal muscles, and the presence of insulin positively affects the eternal opposition to the synthesis and decomposition of protein, called the nitrogen balance.
In addition, carbohydrates increase the rate of recovery. Against the backdrop of high-intensity training, your immune system is temporarily weakened, and carbohydrates reduce the degree of this immunosuppressive effect and replenish depleted glycogen stores. Do I need to fill the stomach with carbohydrates immediately after training? It depends on the form of the training process, the frequency of training and your strategic goals.
If you train only three times a week, immediately after training, there is no pressing need to fatten muscle with carbohydrates; the standard consumption of carbohydrate food during the day is sufficient to replenish glycogen reserves. If you are trying to gain a ton of muscle mass, you will not be prevented from swallowing a couple of bananas immediately after the training, regardless of the time of taking other nutrients.
In my opinion, creatine is a must! I recommend that you take it every day, both because of the well-known increase in strength, and thanks to the lesser known ability of creatine to improve cognitive function and increase insulin sensitivity.
It is known that the intake of creatine together with carbohydrates raises the intramuscular content of the nutrient. This is explained by the fact that insulin promotes the transport of creatine and increases the ability of muscles to accumulate this metabolite.
In addition, insulin can increase the accumulation of electrolytes in muscle cells, which along with the overflow of intramuscular storage creatine increases the cell volume. A rise in cellular hydration and volume promotes a rapid start of anabolic processes.
After all these arguments and arguments it is already clear that carbohydrates are anabolic. It's time to return to conquering new peaks in the deadlift. Is it possible to increase muscle mass and strengths against the background of a ketogenic diet? Despite Doodell's skeptical sighs, I received an affirmative answer to this question!
For three and a half months I added 36 kg in deadlift and set a new personal record – 226kg in the first attempt. It turned out that even taking into account the anabolic effect of carbohydrates, I am able to achieve an anabolic response with almost complete absence of carbohydrates in the diet. The human body is an amazing mechanism that has the ability to make rational adjustments and adapt to different situations.
In a chronically low-carbohydrate environment, our body departs from the usual biochemical rules, because it is forced to change. The body begins to use muscle glycogen more efficiently and increases the expression of genes responsible for the synthesis of certain enzyme systems necessary for maximum performance. As a result, it adapts to existence in conditions of a low carbohydrate content and extremely low secretion of insulin.
Do not get me wrong, sticking to the ketogenic diet against the backdrop of exhausting training is not easy. To some extent, my journey into a country of low-carbohydrate anabolism was caused by the desire to prove that you can work at a high level with a minimum intake of carbohydrates – at least a short distance. And without carbohydrates you can click the switch to synthesize muscle protein, because there are alternative ways to increase the efficiency and productivity of the total anabolic process.
Does this mean that everyone should choose a ketogenic diet? I do not think that it will suit everyone (and certainly not for a long time), but it is still interesting to see what the organism is capable of, which has to go through fire, water and copper pipes.
And what do you think about the growth of power indicators and sports exploits against the background of a ketogenic diet? We will be glad to know your opinion, so leave comments on the article!
So I did not understand. Can I sit on a keto diet all my life or not?
I'm on a keto diet for one month. Weight dropped by seven kilograms, power does not fall, and even slightly increased. And most importantly, I like it and I'm 55 years old.
Tried, it did not turn out to grow on a keto diet. And in general it's hard all day long only on protein.
So all this is crap, that without carbohydrates you can not gain muscle mass. You will gain mass, but most likely fatty, as all these articles about carbohydrate windows, downloads, etc., mainly for chemists)) Those who do not need to close any windows, drink an unlimited amount of protein and eat not in themselves.
Yes, the body will get energy from anything! Remove the carbohydrates, and he will replenish the energy from the fats, remove the fats, and he will draw energy from the proteins! But how so, you ask? And everything is very simple. Carbohydrates are the simplest of which our body can receive energy. And since our body is by nature very lazy, it goes the easiest way. Believe in our body is such a quantity of subcutaneous fat that this is enough to ensure the vital activity of the body. You just need to get your body to use fat as a fuel. In general, our ancestors did what? Collecting and hunting. Accordingly, their diet was meat, fish, nuts and berries, various roots. In general, I believe that a person does not need much to maintain their biochemical processes. All that is produced outside nature – is not necessary in part to man.
keto diet is hell. I do not envy those who sit on it :-)) Well, the only thing is that the form of athletes on it is impressive.
Keto diet taxis !! For 2 months steeply dried .. and low-carbohydrate was times more difficult. Than on keto .. I advise everyone