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Fitness & Health

05th Jun 2019

Serious about gaining strength and muscle size? Ditch the low-carb diet

You've probably heard 'no carbs before Marbs' stem from reality TV, but in terms of weight training, a low-carb diet is not the way to go

Alex Roberts

You’ve probably heard of the whole ‘no carbs before Marbs’ mantra, stemming from reality TV

But in terms of boosting your training performance and gaining muscle mass, a low-carb diet is not the way to go.

Carbs are essential for energy production and are crucial for muscle repair and growth. Think twice about completely cutting out carbs if you’re regularly venturing into the weights room. Here are a few further reasons why going low-carb is a bad idea.

Why carbs work

When you’re weight training regularly, you need sufficient energy to fuel your body. This will help you fend off fatigue and also supply enough force to smash through a new PB in the squat rack. If you’re focusing your training on a particular muscle group, such as biceps, shoulders or quads, your nutrition needs to help you repair and build these muscles.

Carbs are simply essential for this. They are the main food source of energy for your brain and body. When you eat a carb-based food, it breaks down into glucose. This glucose is then stored in your liver and muscles and used to fuel your workouts.

The Rock eats sushi around his workouts – are you going to tell him that he needs to cut back on carbs?

Therefore, it’s highly likely you wouldn’t perform as well in the gym on a low-carb diet.

With carbohydrates as the main energy source behind your workout, your body won’t have to tap into its own protein stores (muscle mass) for fuel. Why would you want to sacrifice all those hard-earned gym efforts?

What the research says about low-carb diets

Research regarding different diets is continually being released and updated, meaning it can be quite confusing when you’re deciding what to eat and not. However, there’s a wealth of recent research which demonstrates the negatives of a low-carb diet.

Results published in the Lancet Public Health reveal that eating a low-carb diet can shorten your lifespan. Scientists concluded that a 50-year-old person who consumes less than 30% carbs has a life expectancy of 79.1 years, but this rises to 82 years for someone who eats more than 65% carbs.

One study published in November 2018 showed that carbohydrates can play a big part in brain activity too. They found that a low-protein, high-carbohydrate diet could go as far as warding off dementia.

Instead, scientists are recommending maximising fibre intake, suggesting that people should be eating a minimum of 25g each day. This can be difficult to get used to, considering that two Weetabix only has 3g of fibre in and a thick slice of brown bread only has 2g.

What else should you remember when training?

Now you know the importance of carbs for fuelling training, it’s worth remembering that your diet isn’t the only factor to bear in mind when you want to get the most out of gym workouts.

In terms of preventing an injury, there are other steps to take to prevent injury:

  • Warm up: It’s always a good idea to warm up properly before training. This increases your core temperature, while improving blood flow to muscles.
  • Stay hydrated: Water will also fuel your muscles, so it’s essential to remain hydrated both before and after you train.
  • Rest days: Your impulse may be to hit the gym every single day, but rest days are equally as important. They allow your muscles to rebuild and prepare for the next workout.
  • Treating injuries: Sprains can be common when exercising, as can injured muscles. Often, it’s inflammation that causes muscle pain, so treat these with pain relief gels to reduce the pain.

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