As a low carb dieter, you have probably
been bombarded with all sorts of new
food terminology. One of the phrases
you've probably heard time and time again is
"net carbs." Net carbs is the new
term food producers are using
to describe the amount of carbohydrates
in food that have a significant impact
on blood sugar levels.
Food producers use a relatively
simple formula to determine
net carbs. They take the total
amount of carbohydrates and
then subtract the amount of
carbohydrates that have a "negligible"
effect on blood sugar.
For instance, let's say a food producer
makes a candy bar that contains 20 grams
of carbohydrates. Two grams of those
carbohydrates are in the form of
fiber. Fifteen grams are in the form
of various sugar alcohols. That makes
a total of 17 grams of carbohydrates
that have a "negligible" effect on
blood sugar. Subtract 17 from 20
and you have your total amount
of "net carbs"--three.
While the advent of "net carb"
labels may seem like a godsend
as a low carb dieter, it is important
to realize that these labels
are somewhat deceptive.
To begin with, different types of "negligible"
carbohydrates have different effects
on blood sugar levels.
Whereas fiber may have a truly negligible
effect on blood sugar levels,
sugar alcohols are an entirely different story.
According to experts, sugar alcohols
affect blood sugar levels at a slower and
less complete rate than normal sugars do--
and also in a different manner from person to
person. Some diabetics claim that they
feel an immediate sugar rush after consuming
small amounts of sugar alcohol while others
report no change whatsoever.
Whatever the case is for you, it is probably
better to ignore the "net carb" labels
on products--and instead go straight to
the nutritional information panel. Figure out
exactly why the product is "low carb."
If there are no sugar alcohols, you can
eat the product without thinking
twice; if the product has a significant
amount of sugar alcohol, you should either
skip it entirely or count each gram of the
sugar alcohol as 1/4 to 1/3 of a gram of
carbohydrates. If you follow this
approach to assessing "net carbs," you
will avoid unnecessary cravings and
seemingly inexplicable weight-loss
This has got to be the biggest controversy in modern bodybuilding. Bodybuilders will say you've got to consume loads of protein to pack on quality muscle mass and increase strength. Nutrition experts say that you must eat a high carbohydrate diet, particularly complex carbs, to improve strength and size, and say that a high protein is of no benefit.
Who is right? You could say both are right. Only a few studies have been carried out looking into high protein intake and improvements in strength and muscle size. The results are inconclusive. Study design was poor, often only having very few subjects, who may be over-training or under-training. Other aspects of diet were often overlooked and most were only carried out on novice weight trainers who may not know how to train correctly. Also, the topic of anabolic steroids is avoided which does increase demand for protein.
Muscle consists mainly of two proteins, actin and myosin. The turnover rate of amino acids in these proteins is high, and increases upon stimulation such as exercise. If the muscle is worked to maximum effort like during a correctly executed bodybuilding workout, turnover is extremely high. Hence, there is a large demand from the body's pool of amino acids. High carb fans say this demand can be met by only a moderately higher than normal protein intake. High protein fans argue very high levels of protein are needed to meet demand. Bodybuilders who have plateaued in their gains for long periods, have dramatically increased their protein intake and started making gains. Also anabolic steroids increase the rate of protein synthesis within muscle cells, further increasing demand for protein.
The argument for a high carb intake comes from the fact that we need energy to fuel our workouts and to recuperate and grow. This is certainly the case for athletes who may need as much as 60% of their energy intake from carbs. High carb advocates also say that a "normal" intake of high protein foods should be eaten, as starchy carbohydrate foods also contain some protein, which will increase protein intake sufficiently. The type of carbs that should be consumed is high fiber starchy ones like whole meal bread, brown rice, whole wheat breakfast cereals, etc.
Using Both Protein and Carbs
Dietitians and nutritionists too often look at the percentage of total energy intake for proteins and carbohydrates. It would be better to look at actual intake levels. Both protein and carbs are needed in high amounts in order to gain muscle for all the reasons discussed above.
The problem in giving general advice is keto net carbs or total carbs that we are individuals and therefore our requirements for different nutrients vary. If you are trying to gain muscle at the same time as trying to lose body fat, your carbohydrate intake will need to be reduced. If you are a beginner bodybuilder who is very skinny, your protein intake will need to be high and you will need to consume high carb foods regularly to gain weight.
Remember, you will not make good gains unless your protein intake is sufficient. Any successful bodybuilder will tell you this, no matter what so-called experts say and clinical trials show. A reasonably high intake of quality carbs is also required to train on and for recuperation. Eat complex carbs regularly throughout the day.
It is hard to give you figures of how much is required, as we are all so different. But as a general rule for any bodybuilder who is trying to gain muscle size and strength and does not wish to gain bodyfat, the following would be a good guide:
Protein: 1.0-1.5g of protein per pound bodyweight, depending on whether you use anabolic steroids. The intake must be staggered throughout the day at regular intervals.
Carbohydrate: Approximately 2g per pound bodyweight, and eat regularly through the day. As well as the above, remember to eat a balanced healthy diet, which is reasonably low in fat and high in fruit and vegetables.