The sails of the low-carb craze caught their first real wind with the popularity of the Atkins diet, which took off after his second book, Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, was published in 2002.
Over the course of the next 12 years, carbohydrates have been relentlessly vilified and persecuted, with diets such as the paleo diet adding extreme amounts of fuel to the fire.
From this rubble, three critically false myths about carbohydrates have surfaced, thoroughly confusing dieters who were originally taught that “fat was bad”, all to hear now that “carbs are bad”.
The Truth about Carbs and 3 Carb Myths:
The truth is actually somewhere and nowhere in the middle. Below are five myths that elite athletes and bodybuilders never fully believed, which science is beginning to prove wrong:
“You need to cut carbs to lose weight or burn fat”
Actually, in order to lose weight, it’s still all about calories in vs. calories out.
You can argue this until you’re blue in the face, but there are nearly two dozen well-performed studies that will prove you wrong. Eight of them are cited below.[1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8]
Most people care about body composition, not weight
However, unless you’re a competitive weight-class athlete or a member of military, chances are that your weight really doesn’t matter (nor does anyone really care what you weigh).
Hopefully, you care about body composition — ie. muscle and fat.
It turns out that when comparing low-fat to low-carb diets for body composition changes, the biggest factor (after overall caloric control) is a high-protein diet![5,8,9]
Losing tons of weight without a high-protein diet will also yield muscle loss, which in turn makes for a “skinny fat” composition that nobody likes. However, the research is showing that high protein, incorporated with low-fat or low-carb or balanced diets (whatever works best for you and keeps you in your caloric range) are what make for best weight loss.
Correlation does not equal causation
The reason why so many low-carb diets actually work for people is that dieters naturally shift towards higher protein intake when you take their carbs away. This was discussed on a recent analysis regarding the flaws in the latest popular low-carb vs. low-fat diet on Pyroxamine.com, our sister site.
“You need a big post-workout insulin spike to build muscle”
On the other side of the coin, let’s say you’re bulking.
This time, a caloric surplus and a high-protein diet are important. Carbohydrates are also extremely beneficial to building muscle mass.
In fact, several studies have shown that post-workout carbohydrate ingestion prevents muscle protein breakdown and improves net muscle protein synthesis.[10,11]
But do you need to purposefully spike your insulin with high-GI (glycemic index) carbohydrates after working out to get more carbs “shuttled” into your muscle cells?
It turns out that this is also a myth. Simply working out hard already activates your muscle glucose transporters, and regardless of insulin levels, your body knows what to do with your carbs, and no This is known as the “insulin-dependent phase of glycogen restoration”.
Are you overthinking it? Stop, and just lift hard and eat right
In fact, some will still argue that there is not enough research comparing post-workout carbs + protein to post-workout protein alone. Over the course of the day, if you’re sticking to your bulking diet macronutrients, as argued in the section above, your body will recover just fine.
“Gluten is the devil!”
The gluten-free diet craze is the latest extension of the Atkins Diet / Paleo Diet / low-carb craze.
Humorously, Jimmy Kimmel recently showed how few people who claim to be on gluten-free diets can even explain what gluten is:
But all jokes aside, while some people truly are gluten intolerant (this is known as celiac disease and potentially Chrons disease), the majority of the rest of us are blaming the wrong thing for the wrong problem.
Heard of FODMAPs?
The New York Times recently covered a researcher named Dr. Peter Gibson, who found 37 subjects that did not have Celiac disease, yet claimed to have improved gastrointestinal symptoms when on a gluten-free diet.
You’ll love what he found out, after rotating through various diets without the subjects knowing: the problems were almost purely psychological! The placebo diets performed identically to the gluten and gluten-free diets![15,16]
However, they did find a link to gastrointestinal problems: FODMAPs, or short chain carbohydrates like oligosaccharides, disaccharides, and monosaccharaides! Their existence is correlated to gluten (due to both being in higher abundance in high carbohydrate foods), but a gluten-free food with FODMAPs could just as easily cause problems as a gluten-based food with FODMAPs.[14,15,16]
Once again, correlation does not equal causation.
Perhaps “FODMAP-Free” will be the next “Gluten-Free” craze. If so… you heard it here first.
There are more myths, but we hope you see the point: the media is out to sell clicks, and “correlation does not equal causation”. Just because low carb diets work for someone doesn’t mean that low-carb diets are truly the reason they are working.
In the end, whether you’re bulking or dieting, you need to work out hard, monitor and keep your calories in check, and eat high amounts of quality protein each and every day.
Consistency is key — fads are not.
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