T Nation

Bulking with Lower Carbs?


I just wanted to hear opinions on bulking with a lower carb intake (say 20% of total calories). I'm currently trying this approach taking in roughly 40% of protein and fat for around 3000 calories per day; something like 290g protein, 115g fat, and 110 Net carbs after fiber.

Am I just spinning my wheels keeping carbs lower?

Normal day of eating something like

*5-6 egg omelet with 1/2 cup oats

*7oz chicken salad with almonds/olive oil

*7oz chicken salad with avocado/olive oil


*2 scoops whey, 1 scoop WMS

*9oz meat with 2 cups broccoli/olive oil

*2 scoops casein with 2 tbsp PB

Protein overkill? Energy levels are fine w/o carbs


from personal experience, it is hard for me to gain weight with low carbs even when eating well above maintenance level with just extra protein and fat, plus you won't have as much endurance in your workouts on a low carb diet.


Everyone is different, try it out. I personally wouldn't even cut with carbs that low.


I would imagine that people who have become sufficiently fat-adapted can get along just fine. Considering that both Fats and Carbs are fuel sources, I'm sure it's possible. Of course if your protein intake is high enough, your body will be convertiong the excess to glucose, so you'll essentially be getting your fuel source from carbs anyway. Would this be the more efficient approach? While I'm sure for a small percentage of people it might work fine, I know that for myself, and the majority of people it may not be the best idea.



Consider the wisdom in creating a caloric surplus with the energy substrate that is most easily stored a adipose tissue.

If you're worried about getting fat on your bulk, then either don't bulk or get lean enough beforehand that some fat gain isn't going to bother you.

You are at least equally likely to get fat from a surplus of fats as I are from a surplus of carbs. Carbs aren't "stored as fat" (must undergo DNL beforehand) but fat is. Fat doesn't make you fat without refeed to overall caloric intake, but thats not a golden ticket to eat a much of it as you want.

A low carb diet is great for fat loss, but inadvisable for someone looking to put on muscle. But, when all you've got is a hammer....


I agree. But (and I think you'll agree) that a high(er) carb diet can be just as effective for fat loss.


How high exactly would be good for fat loss?

Surely you want to get at least 20% of your diet from fat, and a heavy dose of protein to boot. I've heard of bodybuilders doing 17% but I don't think that's optimal.

40/40/20 works well, but I prefer something along the lines of 45/35/20 or 50/30/20; P/C/F.


As effective maybe. Not nearly as easy though imo.


Ya 40/40/20 is a good breakdown. It provides adequate protein and fat, and enough carbs to make it more manageable. But I would not agree with the other breakdowns because protein is the dominant nutrient, and though protein is very important you wouldn't want it as your dominant macro because you'll increase protein oxidation and the conversion of protein into glucose.


Do you mean easy as in "easier to lose fat" or easy from a psychological/adherence perspective?


First off I know fat gain is inevitable in a bulk regardless of the macro split and I'm not worried about that, I'm just trying to understand the science behind having more fat in place of carbs.

Also, could anyone help to explain the pros/cons between having macros in excess or deficit? To better phrase this, what are the differences between having protein, fat, or carbs as your major source of caloric energy? Should I be basing the macro split on percentage of total calories or aim for a certain amount per lb of body weight.

Sorry for the barrage of questions I'm just having a difficult time settling on a routine diet for my bulk and heard the lower carb approach might be a nice switch.


In fat loss. Psychologically it's pretty hard.


so you dont think that fat storage is more based on the individual than the substrate?


I'm not sure exactly what you're trying to say here. Fat storage is primarily about eating too many calories. After that, it's about the macronutrient composition of those calories. After that, you can start nit picking based on individual differences.

Caloric intake and macronutrient composition ultimately trump nutrient timing and whether or not your ancestors came from Scandinavia or Vietnam.

This approach may work for the rare individual with very poor insulin sensitivity. For most of the population, it's going to mean more fat and less muscle.

The idea of a "low carb bulk" came from the mistaken notion that carbs were the sole reason why people got fat and that by simply lowering carbs and increasing fat intake(rather than total calories), one could lose fat.


yeah, i was still half asleep when i wrote that. what i meant to say was you dont think that the "ease" of which fat and carbs are stored as adipose varies from person to person.

i think i remember reading something like (typically) during digestion your body burns off 3% of the fat, 5% of carbs and 8% of protein. is that what you're referring to?


No, those amounts that are burned off as a result of digesting, processing, and storing nutrients is usually referred to as "diet induced thermogenesis" or "thermic effect of feeding/food (TEF)." It's essentially the component of energy expenditure (burning calories) that is directly a function of eating food. If we look at it from a purely empirical perspective, then it seems that TEF can be well approximated by the total amount of food being consumed and the amount of each macro nutrient being consumed. The actual % will vary dependent on the biochemical pathways the nutrients are processed through and overall physiological regulation mechanisms(basically, if nutrients are stored, oxidized, converted, etc there will be a slightly different value). Protein has the highest thermic effect of ~20-30% (dependent on the research you look at), fat has a thermic effect of about 2-5% (which is like nothing) and carbohydrates have on average ~10% (can be anywhere from 5-25% though depending on the biochemical pathways it undergoes). Overall, on most diets, TEF can be approximated to be around 10% of the overall calories being consumed (which isn't too significant). Hope that helped.


I don't see how protein oxidation can occur if 40% of calories are coming from carbs. I read an article on Lyle's site about this so I'll have to dig it up if you're curious, but I'm pretty sure protein oxidation does not happen easily, i.e. there is a narrow set of parameters that would allow it to happen.

I think there is a caloric range where some of these abnormal, physiological responses will not occur - protein oxidation, DeNovo lipogenesis - so, for the majority of people, these responses are non-issues in their dietary planning.

When you hit really low or high caloric levels, though, you might see those "abnormal" responses.


it did. i got those numbers from a mens health article so yeah...


No no, I never said that about the 40/40/20 breakdown. I said that about the other breakdowns. And sure if you can find that article I'd be more than happy to give it a read :slight_smile:


I wouldn't be too concerned if you're bulking, start at 33/33/33 and adjust from there. I've found an emphasis on carbs to be beneficial, but everyone's different.