I have mentioned this a lot in the past, but I was reminded of how important it is that everyone get this in their brain and lock it in. Interestingly enough, I was reminded of this simple fact after reading a site dedicated to raw meat diets for dogs. I don’t suggest you go out and consume uncooked chicken livers, but I do insist you read this post and the link I’m attaching in order to lock in your understanding of how this nutrient plays a role in your pursuit for physical perfection.
Without adequate protein in our diet, we would die. Without adequate fat intake, especially with regards to essential fatty acids, we would die. But there is not one instance where we would meet an early demise because we did not consume carbohydrate, barring some form of severe metabolic disease of some sort. Simply put, glucose is essential to survival, and carbohydrates are simple a really quick way to make glucose, but not the only way.
Here is a link to a raw meat dog food mythbuster type of site. Notice the parallels here…
Glucose can be made from protein. During any decent diet, this is happening any time glucose levels drop. Sure, it is dipping into your muscle’s protein content to do so, but trust me, if you are eating enough protein, this won’t be a problem. I am talking here, by the way, about a moderate to low carb diet. Ketogenic diets add a new layer into the puzzle, and mostly in a good way, but even a regular, fairly low carb diet, avoiding starches and sweets for instance, if you are training hard, you will have moments where glucose drops. During those times, the liver taps into glycogen, amino acids from our diet, and then if all those avenues are depleted, it will break down muscle tissue in order to create glucose.
I mentioned Ketogenic diets. At some point during a very strict ketogenic diet, where carbs are restricted to those very few little trace carbs present in meat and seeds, the body will start to realize it is not going to be getting a lot of carbs to do its glucose regulation, and eventually starts making ketones to be used for fuel (hence the name ketogenic diet). Now here’s the rub. The single most insistent organ in the body that depends on glucose is the brain. This is where many people will argue that carbohydrates are essential because our brain needs glucose. They’re wrong on two points, but I have three to make here, lol.
1) Carbohydrates are NOT glucose. They are building block, as is protein. Granted, it’s much more efficient to take carbs and process them into glucose than it is to make it out of amino acids, but nonetheless, these are not interchangable. Protein can be converted to glucose. It is as simple as that. And like I said previously, if you are eating enough protein, you won’t need to worry about wilting away into skinny.
2) Fat is an amazing source of energy! Fat can be used for all sorts of physical tasks. The only time fat can’t live up to the hype is during anaerobic work that involves glycogen and ATP/CP stores for immediate energy needs. But for most activities, including relaxing on the couch, fat is an amazing source of energy.
3) While the brain LOVES glucose, it will also, after push comes to shove, begin to rely on ketones for energy. This is where the real shift occurs during ketogenic diets. Most people give up a few weeks into it because their brain has run out of ample glucose from glycogen and the protein conversion isn’t happening as fast as it would like. So people give in to their brains persistent craving for quick and easy glucose. If you wait it out though, and the body begins to rely on ketones for energy, an amazing shift takes place.
Another thing about low carb diets, specifically for bodybuilders. If your main goal is maximum muscle acquisition I still recommend plenty of carbs. And in the presence of all those carbs, I recommend limiting fats mostly to essential fatty acids and some good coconut oil MCT’s. Why? Because Insulin is a very anabolic hormone. We trigger insulin through eating carbohydrate, and protein to a lesser extent. And during those peaks of high insulin levels it’s probably best that you limit the amount of fat you are consuming since Insulin is also the primary fat storage hormone. It is the key to unlock muscle cells AND fat cells, so use it wisely. So during a leaning-out phase I highly recommend a low INSULIN diet, however you want to accomplish that, and then when you are on a mission to pack on weight, a high INSULIN diet will be most beneficial. That’s not to say you can’t build muscle while low carb, and actually some people I know do quit well in that department while on a low carb diet. But I will say that it is not the most efficient way and will not maximize your gains.