Why Low Carb Diets Don’t Work For Long Term Goals

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2017-07-10T02:14:03+00:00 By |

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Here’s What You Need To Know…

1. We’ve all heard it before, “carbs make you fat,” and some of us still believe this myth. You know what makes you fat? A surplus of calories, shitty food quality and a sedentary lifestyle.

2. Sure you can drop a few quick pounds fending off carbs for a while, but your performance, hormonal balance, and general mental and emotional abilities and health will suffer. Did I mention you’ll probably end up even fatter once you kick the “low carb” kick?

3. Here’s why prioritizing carbs, and training and eating like an athlete will create the foundation for fat-loss and general health benefits we are all shooting for. And yes, this is a sustainable long term option unlike your low carb crash diet.


You Think Carbs Will Make You Fat?

“Carbs will make you fat. Want to lose fat? Just cut back on your carbs, and increase your cardio.” – Muttered by numerous fitness “professionals” on a daily basis.

It is this irresponsible advice and approach that has wrecked peoples bodies internally and externally, left people feeling like shit zombies, and kept people looking flat and deflated.

Carbs have gotten such a bad rep over the years that it has become the second coming of the low fat craze. Everything is touted as low-carb, low-glycemic, etc. and all to stave off the dreaded belly fat.

The truth is, whether you are a competitive athlete, professional physique model, or just a weekend warrior looking to shed some pounds for your upcoming high school reunion – carbs can, and should be your friend.

Low carb diets may work in brief for quick “weight loss”, but what is this weight loss, and what are the real results when cutting out a high amount of carbs from the diet?

To break it down simply, low carb diets do work for general WEIGHT LOSS because you are entering a caloric deficit by cutting out an entire macronutrient group, and thus a huge chunk of your calories; creating a caloric deficit which is needed for weight loss.

Low Carb diets may also be good for more sedentary individuals or extremely obese individuals looking to control insulin and blood sugar levels. Because you ended up reading this article, I assume that you don’t fit this category.

Why Low Carb Diets DON’T Work for the Body You Want

More times than not, the weight loss from low carb diets ends up being water loss, and glycogen depletion, thus leaving the dieter looking flat, feeling weak, confused and tired. As soon as carbs are re-introduced, weight gain occurs and the “weight loss” visual results vanish as well.

Most people who have serious aesthetic goals in mind have a certain body type they are looking for. To get that body type you need to be training seriously, intensely, and continuously. You cannot perform optimally in the gym, and reach the gainz you seek long term without carbohydrates.

For men, being on low carb diets for extended periods of time can also lead to lowered testosterone levels and elevated cortisol. These are two of the most important hormones when it comes to getting shredded versus holding onto fat, and low carbs may push each of them in the wrong direction.

For women, eating low carb for extended periods of time leads to hypothalamic amenorrhea – i.e. irregular periods and some seriously messed up hormones.

4 Reasons You Need Carbs

low carb

Here are the four most important reasons you better be prioritizing carbohydrate intake in your diet. If you are struggling with your body composition or performance in and out of the gym, you may want to take notes.

#1 Carbs Fuel Intense Workouts

Because you read Dr. John Rusin, you must train seriously. Because you train seriously, you need carbohydrates in your life. Carbs fuel your intense workouts, allow you to avoid burnout, and push through those final reps of triple drop set split squats.

While pre-workout carbs don’t directly lead to muscle gain, as they have a limited role in muscle protein synthesis, they DO allow you to train harder, heavier and thus leading to the appropriate anabolic response and hormonal cascade that we are all seeking.

Loading up on the right kind of carbs pre-workout is just as important. You know what your body can handle, but most people would feel a high fiber carbs or large meals sitting in their guts during their squats.

A lighter, faster digesting carb 60-90 minutes before you workout is the best option. Some good options here would be white rice, white bagels, bananas or other lower fiber fruits or starchy carbs. If Whole food doesn’t sit well with you, try a liquid carb drink, as some carbs here may be better than none.

Bottom line is, I recommend a minimum of 30-60 grams of carbs 60-90 minutes before your workout.

#2 Carbs Promote Recovery After Intense Workouts

During intense training sessions, glycogen is pulled from muscle storage to help replace your ATP, fueling muscular contractions. Over the course of an intense training session, glycogen can be depleted by as much as 26%. However, this is a total body measurement and glycogen stores are actually used locally. What this means is that if you train legs, almost all of the glycogen in your legs could be used up – but only 26% of your total body glycogen was used.

Long story short, you need to replenish that glycogen, and carbs will do the trick.

Within a hour or two after your workout, make sure you consume 1/4th to ½ your body weight in grams of carbohydrates. For example, a 200-pound man should have 50-100 grams of carbs within an hour or two after an intense workout.

Good choices here are your faster digesting carbs again, as we don’t want them sitting in our gut, and sometimes it can be hard to eat high fiber carbs right after a workout. White rice, pasta, bread, or a sport drink will do the trick here.

#3 Carbs Optimized Hormones

Hormones play a huge role in gaining muscle mass, losing body fat, and just feeling good overall. So why would we want to go on a diet that messes with all of those elements so dramatically?

Low carb diets for people who are serious about their training can lead to the following hormonal changes:

  • Lowered testosterone
  • Increased cortisol
  • Lowered thyroid function
  • Lowered luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in women.

All of which lead to less energy, slowed metabolism, low sex drive, and impaired immune function. Sounds like fun doesn’t it?

One of the most important, and obvious hormones that is controlled by carbs is insulin. Insulin, being very anabolic, is important for building muscle and is crucial for replenishing glycogen as stated earlier.

The fear of insulin is what started the whole low-carb craze in the first place. Remember, you train hard, you need insulin to build your body, you don’t fit the mold of the low-carb dieters.

So how do we avoid messing up our hormones and reverting to the levels of a 10 year old boy? Make sure your daily carb intake never gets under 100 grams per day or under 30% of your total caloric intake just to be safe. You need to monitor your energy levels during workouts to truly know what your goal should be, as some people may need a much higher minimum dose than 100 grams.

#4 Carbs Enhance Mental Health

Live your life…responsibly. One of the most important, and under talked about aspects of our nutrition is how it affects our mental health. Low carb dieters tend to get to the point of jonezing so hard for carbs that its all they want to talk about.

We should be able to enjoy what we eat, while still reaching the goals and bodies that we desire.

Many of our favorite “guilty pleasure” foods are carb heavy. Pizza, pasta, desserts, etc. It is okay to enjoy these things on occasion with responsibility and being able to tell yourself that it won’t completely ruin your physique. If you know your caloric goals, your macro nutrient goals (especially carbs after reading this), make about 10-20% of your weekly calories come from the less “healthy” forms of carbs and foods.

Just make sure that the rest of your carbohydrates during the week come from whole, minimally processed foods such as: oats, rice, beans, fruits, potatoes and non-starchy vegetables.

It’s Finally Time To Embrace Carbs

Don’t be that guy pulling plain chicken breasts out of your pockets when you go out for a nice dinner with friends.

By avoiding a low carb diet, I guarantee you will feel better, be happier, and get the results you are looking for (or even better). Make sure you keep hitting the weights hard, keep your total nutrition on point, and the carbs will do the rest of the work for you.


About The Author

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Mike Gorski is a Registered Dietitian and personal trainer located just outside of Madison, Wisconsin.  Mike works with clients on a wide variety of goals including sports performance, post-rehab training, weight loss, and overall healthy behavior change.  His ideas and methods have been featured on some of the top publications in the fitness industry including the Personal Trainer Development Center.  Mike’s mission is to create positive behavior change with all his clients that will not only get them to their personal goal, but last them a lifetime.  Learn more about Mike on his:

Website: www.mgfitlife.com                  Facebook: mgfitlife                 Instagram: mgfitlife

18 Comments

  1. Carla July 15, 2016 at 6:32 am - Reply

    Great article…I have been trying to people this for years

    • Carla July 15, 2016 at 6:33 am - Reply

      *tell

  2. […] Why Low Carb Diets Don’t Work For Long Term Goals: Courtesy of Mike Gorski on […]

  3. […] Why Low Carb Diets Don’t Work for Long Term Goals — Mike Gorski, DrJohnRusin.com […]

  4. […] Low carb diets don’t work for Long term goals […]

  5. Craig October 20, 2016 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    Working on three years low carb. Never felt better. Intense Crossfit workouts 4-6 times a week. 48 years old.

    • Shawn Eagle March 20, 2017 at 10:46 am - Reply

      the fact that you do crossfit and low carb tells me you are not serious about training or health. Both are bad. get some real training and some real nutrition advice.

  6. Luke October 20, 2016 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    Lost 16kg on low carb. Never feel hungry and never count my calories. Blood work is great. Carbs are fine for some but for others not quite so. I lift heavy 3 times a week and don’t feel the need for carbs.

  7. Damian October 21, 2016 at 2:17 am - Reply

    No one diet fits all, but for me, low carb has given me so many health benefits this past year, and improved my physique beyond anything I could imagine. Cut out a whole macro nutrient group? that’s not low anything haha. My LOW (not NO) carbs, are fresh healthy veg, raw when possible, bursting with the vitamins and minerals that my body needs. That’s what nature provides, I love it. I have younger friends, performance athletes, who have been low carb for over a decade. So, for me the personal evidence, and what I can see around me tells me that you’re missing something here. Carbs have their place, but like nutrients, there’s a wide choice, and many healthy options available, choose wisely. If you do go low carb, consult professionals and nutritionists who have taken the time to learn, and understand it.

    • Shawn Eagle March 20, 2017 at 10:51 am - Reply

      Yes, some people may be different BUT how many humans do you know without a brain? heart? immune system? it was proven that ALL HUMANS NEED COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES. We just have to change the amount of overall caloric intake. all the macros count not just fat and protein. I have seen some major bad stuff happen to people who do low carb. Not an ideal way to eat what so ever. One the gym goers who did low carb back 20+ years ago is now having major problems with his kidneys, and he gets major stone build up too. Plus he was always sick. I think you better rethink your choice of fad diet. Carbs aren’t the enemy.

  8. Stephanie Holbrook December 20, 2016 at 6:37 am - Reply

    Low carb has been the only thing that has worked for me and many people I know.

    Many low carb athletes preform quite well. Ask Zack Bitter, ultrarunning world record holder, how low carb has hurt his performance or Chris Froome or Romain Bardet. First and second in the Tour de France this year. Or the New Zealand Olympic Team who won more medals this year than any other year. They are all low carb athletes.

    Your arguments don’t hold up.

    • Shawn Eagle March 20, 2017 at 10:57 am - Reply

      and I’m willing to bet that you never went to a specialist for help with your weight problem. Carbs don’t make us fat. I eat between 300-400 grams a day and lost over 100 pounds, easily.
      You probably were eating crap and not exercising and instead of looking at the real problem decided to blame it all on carbs. It’s typical. Prepare for major health problems when you get older like the guys from the club here in my area. all of them are having major intestinal problems and some are constantly sick because the immune system is fucked up.

  9. Mary Lou December 20, 2016 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Reiterating a prior comment, everyone’s different. Low carb for 4.5 years (AND literally working my butt off at the gym) has helped me lose 100 pounds. My bloodwork is stellar. My energy levels are very high. I can run 10Ks in a fasted state because I am burning fat for fuel. ANY diet will fail if one goes “on” it for weight loss alone and then goes back to what they were doing before. And most of us get ‘healthy’ carbs from fresh vegetables and berries. Don’t make out carbs to be the devil. We don’t call this a low carb diet, we call this a Way of Eating. For life. For LIFE!

    • Mary Lou Korbel-Burgett December 20, 2016 at 8:57 am - Reply

      Uh, that would be “don’t make out LOW carbs to be the devil” although carbs aren’t the devil, either, as long as they are from nutritious foods and not refined food.

  10. Shawn Eagle March 20, 2017 at 10:30 am - Reply

    This is 110% correct! People think carb cutting is working for them but in reality, it’s not. Cutting carbs isn’t the answer Never has been. Every person that ever said “Low carb was the only thing that helped me lose weight” never went to an RDN or a BCNS for help. They will blame carbs for everything but won’t look at the crap they’re eating, which is the main cause of their weight problem.
    I’ve had clients tell me that they’re eating too many carbs and it’s making them fat. Yet when looking at the eating plan and their activity it’s horrible. 10 out of 10 times they’re 1) eating crappy unltra=processed junk (not even carbs)
    2) eat very little fruits, vegetables, and whole grains,
    3) portion sizes are way too big
    4) sit on their arse 97% of the time.
    Put the blame where it belongs
    1) eating ultra-processed crap
    2) portion size is too big.
    3) inactivity
    This again is 110% accurate and Mike is on target. In the last 26 years, I have helped 1,000s of people control their diabetes & insulin resistance (even reverse some), I’ve helped people with CHD, and cholesterol improve their health and become healthy and fit all on a high-carb eating plan! 50% of the eating plan should be fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans and legumes, 80% of the healthy eating plan should be plant-based. It’s that simple.
    Don’t blame carbs because you’re eating like crap and not exercising. Put the blame where it belongs: on piss poor eating and lack of exercise.

  11. Shawn Eagle March 20, 2017 at 11:14 am - Reply

    25 + years of experience with working with clients and helping them with weight loss, cholesterol, prediabetes, T1DM, T2DM, insulin resistance, and CHD!
    My trainer used the same techniques for over 50 years. He Never had clients cut carbs for any reason.

    Not so “low-carb” diet for diabetes:
    “My experience has been that a diet of between 40 and 50 percent carbohydrate makes controlling my patients’ blood glucose much easier. It also leads to weight loss because you don’t tend to substitute protein or fat for the reduced amount of carbohydrate in the diet. My patients on “lower” carbohydrate diets are able to reduce the amounts of drugs they take, such as insulin, which can cause weight gain and complicate controlling their diabetes. They also have a better fat profile.” -Alan L. Rubin, MD (Alan is one of the top MDs in diabetes, cholesterol, and CHD) He states 40-50 percent as “lower” but that is considered high by the standards I have been using for over 25 years. I think some consider 75-80% high.

    For the record 40-50 percent is not low. At least not by the standard I was taught. If this is what people consider “low-carbohydrate” then they aren’t being taught right. 40-50 percent is high, not low. This is the percentages I use with my diabetes clients. The amounts vary from one to the next depending on the type of exercising they do (weightlifting, runner, combination of both, etc.)

    T1DM, T2DM, Prediabetes, & Insulin Resistance:
    Carbohydrates best bet for Diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cholesterol!
    All info comes from Diabetes studies and from RD’s Diabetes specialists and exercise physiologists. I make sure anything I read comes from those qualified in Nutritional sciences, Diabetes specialists, Exercise Physiology, Molecular & Cell biology etc.

    Causes of Diabetes:
    The origin of type 1 diabetes differs from that of type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. This is a medical way of saying that the body attacks its own cells. There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes. With type 1 diabetes, the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin are destroyed. Thus, insulin cannot be produced as it normally would in response to a meal. As a result, blood glucose is not able to enter the cells, causing glucose levels in the blood to become elevated. A high level of glucose in the blood is more technically referred to as hyperglycemia. Hyper means a high level and glycemia refers to blood glucose concentrations. As a result of the deficiency in insulin production, type 1 diabetes must be treated with insulin injections.
    Type 2 diabetes occurs when body cells cannot properly use the insulin produced by the pancreas. This is called insulin resistance (i.e., body cells are resistant to the action of insulin). Insulin normally allows glucose to enter cells in the body to provide energy, but with insulin resistance, the glucose cannot enter the cells and thus remains in the blood. The body’s ability to produce insulin also decreases over time, which also contributes to hyperglycemia. Obesity has a definite link with the development of type 2 diabetes, in particular, upper-body fat stores (i.e., an apple-shaped physique). In the past, type 2 diabetes was called adult-onset diabetes because of the typically older age of onset. Unfortunately, the increased incidence of obesity and a sedentary lifestyle has resulted in type 2 diabetes developing at earlier ages, thus exposing the body to elevated blood glucose for longer periods of time and increasing the risk of complications that can occur with diabetes such as kidney, eye, and heart disease in addition to nerve damage. Following are other factors in addition to excessive body weight and inactivity that increase the chances of developing diabetes:
    • Prediabetes (see The Slippery Slope of Prediabetes)
    • Age (greater than 45 years old)
    • Family history (parent or sibling)
    • Other health concerns, including low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure
    • Certain racial and ethnic groups, including non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaska natives
    • Women who had gestational diabetes or have had a baby weighing 9 pounds (4 kg) or more at birth
    Although a number of items cannot be changed (e.g., your race or age), you can control your body weight and physical activity level.

    The Slippery Slope of Prediabetes:
    Blood glucose exists on a continuum from normal to elevated (diabetes). Prediabetes is diagnosed when the fasting blood glucose is above normal (greater than 100 mg/ dL) but below the cutoff for diagnosing diabetes (126 mg/dL).3 Consider this a slippery slope toward fully realized type 2 diabetes. If your glucose level is in this range, you are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease in addition to developing type 2 diabetes.
    Although a diagnosis of prediabetes increases your risk, it does not mean that type 2 diabetes is unavoidable. Losing weight and increasing your physical activity level will not only lower your risk for cardiovascular disease but also decrease your likelihood of progressing to fully developed type 2 diabetes. A weight loss of as little as 5% has been found to decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related complications in people who are overweight.
    ACSM Complete guide to fitness and health.

    So, what is the common cause of IR (Insulin Resistance)?
    If one constantly overeats, excess calories are stored as fat, which causes fat cells to increase in size. The growing fat cell itself becomes insulin resistant, and the resulting prevalence of FFA will cause the body to favor the use of fat for energy at the expense of glucose. This becomes a vicious cycle, with the overweight condition leading to IR, which in turn leads to impaired glucose use. Blood sugar levels rise, insulin levels rise, and cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure rise as well. To make matters worse, the impaired ability of glucose to enter muscle cells keeps glycogen stores lower, which can increase appetite, motivating the individual to eat more, increasing fat stores, exacerbating IR, and so on.

    It is much more likely that a high-fat diet leads to excess consumption of calories, obesity, IR, and eventually non–insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus than it is that carbohydrates cause IR and, as a result, obesity. The only solution is a diet containing the appropriate amount of energy, high in fibrous vegetables or starchy carbohydrates, and exercise. In fact, a study of type 2 diabetics, those with IR, and people of normal weight found that 3 weeks of a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet and an exercise program significantly lowered insulin levels

    Are carbohydrates reason for obesity in America? (heart health study):
    If you pay attention to popular media, you may get the impression that carbohydrates are the last thing you should eat. Actually, as I just noted, carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. Has carbohydrate consumption contributed to the increased incidence of obesity in the U.S. as some claim? I would suggest that this assertion is misleading. Overconsumption of calories, coupled with inadequate physical activity, has led to the explosion of obesity in the U.S. Unfortunately, many of those extra calories have come from refined
    simple carbohydrates and added sugars, which essentially are empty calories, or calories that don’t provide the nutritional punch of whole-grain foods and fruits and vegetables. So think and choose whole grains!

    Processed meats and red meat and diabetes:
    “Both processed and unprocessed red meat are related to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, consistently and quite strongly in all of our studies,” says Willett. “If you want to keep diabetes risk low, replace red meat with some beans, nuts or other plant sources of protein, or some dairy, poultry, or fish.”
    Refined ultra-processed foods, red meats, processed luncheon meats all contribute to T2DM.
    Eating wholesome plant-based meals works best at preventing, controlling and even reversing (T2) diabetes. Not just about “carbohydrate cutting).
    Meals should have whole grains, beans/legumes, healthy fats (oil, nuts, etc.), leafy greens and other veggies and a fruit, Then for protein either a lean protein (fish, poultry, pork), meat substitute, or dairy (yogurt cottage cheese, low-fat milk)
    Remember, beans/legumes (also called pulses), whole grains, nuts, and seeds have protein too! and are high in fiber.
    The combination of high fiber, complex carbohydrates, protein source and healthy fat will slow down the absorption and won’t raise blood glucose quickly and the drop it down even faster causes crashes. (unstable blood sugars) instead, they stay stable.

    • Shawn Eagle March 20, 2017 at 11:15 am - Reply

      Resistant starches:
      refer to a type of fiber that “resists” being digested. Unlike other types of fiber, resistant starch ferments in the large intestine. This fermentation process creates beneficial fatty acids, including one called butyrate, which may block the body’s ability to burn carbohydrates as its main source of fuel, causing it to burn stored fat instead. Butyrate has been shown to decrease blood sugar and insulin responses, lower plasma cholesterol & triglycerides, increase “full” feelings, and reduce fat storage.
      Some low glycemic resistant starches.
      Beans
      Bananas (slightly green)
      yams
      pearl barley
      Corn

      Whole grains vs Refined carbohydrates and insulin response:
      Insulin is one of the main culprits of belly fat. The more insulin that’s introduced into your bloodstream, the more your body stores fat, specifically belly fat. All foods create an insulin response. However, certain foods, specifically refined carbohydrates, and simple sugars cause the largest spike in insulin, which is why you want to avoid them. These foods not only lack nutrients but because of the insulin response, they also store belly fat — even if you keep your overall calories reduced!
      Whole grains trigger an insulin response, but because of the fiber and protein in the whole grain, this response is reduced. As a result, you have less insulin circulating throughout your body, and therefore less belly fat is being stored.
      Remember, just because all grains, even whole grains, cause an insulin response doesn’t mean that you should avoid them all together. Carbohydrates are essential to your body in many ways, with the main reason being energy. If you reduce your intake of grains too much, you may notice a dip in energy levels. In fact, you may even have trouble thinking clearly (because sugar is the main source of energy for your brain).

  12. andersenyy August 8, 2017 at 11:25 pm - Reply

    Personally, I think there’re some points there as to that cabs are necessary for bodybuilding. The key lies in the amount. Carbohydrate synthesis now are very popular.

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