For years, bodybuilders have been using the low carbohydrate diet in order to get their bodies in the shape and style that they need it for competition. Low carbohydrate diets, like all other diets, have positives and negatives. These positives and negatives can be attributed directly to the amount and spectrum of carbohydrates removed from the diet. Though not all low-carb diets are the same, they tend to follow the same general principles. Each removes items like confectionery items, breads, beans, and in general sugars. By removing the carbohydrates, the body will tend to lose weight by way of fat and water weight being shed.
Pro: Water Weight
People who put on weight through heavy carbohydrate intake also generally add water weight. Carbohydrates help the body retain hydration. Thus, when one begins to remove carbohydrates they will naturally begin to shed some extra pounds. Losing water weight should not be done too rapidly as it can cause negative side effects. However, losing water weight gradually is a healthy way to remove some of those unwanted extra pounds.
Pro: Higher Thermic Rate
Carbohydrates tend to burn at a lower thermic rate. Protein, which is often substituted for carbohydrates in a diet, is of a much higher thermic rate. Protein will generally sit at a 30% thermic rate. This means that 30% of the protein calories taken in are used up for absorption. The reason protein takes such a high percentage is because it generally takes longer to absorb. Carbohydrates are easily absorbed into the body and often turn to fat cells if not utilized quickly through exercise or activity. Therefore, by switching to high-protein and low-carbohydrate diet, you generally are burning more calories.
Pro: Insulin Effect
Carbohydrates increase your blood sugar level rapidly. Even complex carbohydrates will increase the blood sugar levels when a large quantity is consumed over a short period of time. When the blood sugar level spikes, the pancreas must produce insulin. When insulin is released, the body begins to slow its metabolism and carbohydrate calories are stored more readily as fat cells. When one switches to a low-carb diet, they often up their protein intake. The increase in protein means an increase in fats, which help regulate the insulin release. This insulin control, when coupled with the higher thermic rate of a high-protein diet, means the body continually burns fat at a higher rate than with a high-carb diet.
Pro: Glycogen Effect
When carbohydrates are reduced in a healthy manner, you can also positively affect the way your body burns fat. By reducing the amount of carbohydrates consumed, you allow your glycogen levels to stay low. In doing so, your body will focus on burning the fat in your body rather than focusing on carbohydrates. You see, carbohydrates are like the fuel your body uses for high-intensity workouts or heavy cardio workouts. When you deplete this source of fuel for the body, you also force it to use an alternative fuel. You can think of your body as a car and carbohydrates as petrol fuel. If you ran out of petrol, you would need to find an alternative source. Luckily, for those looking to lose weight, the body naturally has a fuel that is fat. It should be noted that lowering your glycogen levels also means your muscle are likely to fatigue. This means workouts become more difficult to maintain. With proper cycling and systems for lowering the glycogen through carb reduction, you can see positive weight loss effects.
Con: Low-Carb Is Difficult
While most bodybuilders have the perseverance to stay on difficult diets, reduced carbohydrates are difficult to maintain. The body is not naturally capable of staying off carbohydrates at high levels. Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient. If you remove them too drastically or in too short of a period of time, there can be negative effects. General side effects include dizziness, fatigue, and short-temperedness. Fatigue is the most problematic as it can cause negative effects on the workout regimen and general activity levels.
Con: Regaining Weight
Since carbohydrate cannot be fully removed, and are usually cycled out, the rate of re-gain is very high. The body does lose the weight for on low carbohydrate diets during weight-cuts or competition shredding. Yet, when carbohydrates are reintroduced, the weight tends to be added directly back. This is because the body will become more sensitive to the carbohydrates. It also occurs because the body is craving the carbohydrates. Since carbs are a fuel and you deplete its supply via the diet, it is no wonder it wants to hold onto as much as it can. Some of the weight lost is also due to water weight being shed. When carbohydrates are reintroduced, the body beings to hold onto the hydration once again.
Con: Nutrient Depletion and High Fats
The combination of lowered carbohydrates and increased fat intake can be an unhealthy one. While it can have short-term positive effects, over time saturated fat build will inevitably have a negative effect on the body. Those who have heart disease as a prevalent ailment in their family line must be very careful when engaging in a low-carb diet. Carbohydrates have also been linked to helping prevent cardiovascular disease.
Con: Muscle Loss
Along with water weight and fat, those on a low carbohydrate diet may also experience muscle loss. Because the body does not have carbohydrates to burn, the body may begin to eat away at protein for energy. If protein is being consumed as energy and not used for muscle sustenance, you run the risk of losing muscle. If nothing else, muscle growth can be much more difficult with low-carb diets unless closely monitored. Consider that most body builders do not cut out carbohydrates at a high level unless they are gearing up for a showcase. To keep the muscle growing strong, keep in moderate carbohydrates so your body and burn the proper fuel. You can always cut down and look shredded during your cycle.