T Nation

My Thoughts on Carbs

After about my 1st year of serious training and eating I started to read more and more about how CKD’s would help keep you leaner and in general how much easier it is to lose fat with lower carbs and how gains would be significantly leaner with low carbs. After some not too scientific observations of the last few years I’m really starting to wonder about this.

The reason I thought about it recently was because of some of Chris Aceto’s work. I was talking with Dusty Hanshaw and he mentioned how Chris is doing his diet…low fat/high carbs. I figured “OK this guy’s got great genetics…he’s the exception”. As I read more of Chris’s stuff though it seems he believes in this method for people in general.

Maybe this guy is just gimmicky and just trying to go against the norm? I mean could IA, Poliquin, Christian Thibaudeau (old idea’s anyway) all be wrong about what works best? Then I realized Aceto really isn’t alone. Layne Norton is also a fan of higher carbs and lower fat, as is Thibaudeau now and if you look at the guidelines for Troponin Nutrition carb cycling guidelines fat is generally kept anywhere from as little as possible to 0.5g/lb at most.

This made me think back to my own results. I had always been overweight even as a kid so I figured I must fall under the category of doing better with lower carbs but now I’m not so sure. I have fairly detailed records from since I started 4 years ago and I never saw any leaner gains while keeping carbs much lower. In fact the 2-3 times I seemed to gain fat the fastest was on low carbs and higher fat.

One time was a CKD, but calories were very high so I chalked it up to that. However, in another situation I switched from carb cycling to lower carbs and higher fat for simplicity and I went from slow lean gains to still slow gains but much quicker fat gains. Recently back in August I was following a similar diet coming off a cut. Moderate carbs and fat below 90g, then I switched to the Anabolic Diet before I went back to college, again for simplicity, and although muscular gains have been fairly good (almost 1in. gain in arms in 4 months) I have also gained 2in. on my waist for a 10lb weight gain. Overall it really doesn’t seem like I get any leaner gains at all with low carbs and maybe even put fat on faster.

Anyway these are just some things I’ve noticed that I thought were pretty interesting, especially considering someone like me with such “endomorphic” tendancies. I’d be interested in hearing others thoughts and/or experiences with similar situations

I’ve had a very similar experience as you. When I was younger I was probably high teens in body fat and ate like total shit. I disliked being chubby so I started doing cardio and essentially starving myself. I got all the way down below 120 lbs at about 6’ (yeah, really). When I started playing sports I started lifting and I started working at Subway and I was a carb maniac.

Like, literally anywhere from 500-1000g of carbs a day, everyday. I didn’t eat much fat, and I stayed pretty lean and got up to 190ish with less BF than when i started at 120. That was about 3 years ago, when I found TNATION and started getting into lifting more intelligently and eating better.

Anyways, over my years of manipulating and tracking my body, I’ve realized that it generally works well for me to keep the same amount of fats regardless of my current goals, and focus on manipulating carb intake depending upon whether I want to add or drop weight. High fat diets when in a calorie excess don’t work well for me, but they work awesome for dropping body fat.

[quote]BlakedaMan wrote:
I’ve had a very similar experience as you. When I was younger I was probably high teens in body fat and ate like total shit. I disliked being chubby so I started doing cardio and essentially starving myself. I got all the way down below 120 lbs at about 6’ (yeah, really). When I started playing sports I started lifting and I started working at Subway and I was a carb maniac.

Like, literally anywhere from 500-1000g of carbs a day, everyday. I didn’t eat much fat, and I stayed pretty lean and got up to 190ish with less BF than when i started at 120. That was about 3 years ago, when I found TNATION and started getting into lifting more intelligently and eating better.

Anyways, over my years of manipulating and tracking my body, I’ve realized that it generally works well for me to keep the same amount of fats regardless of my current goals, and focus on manipulating carb intake depending upon whether I want to add or drop weight. High fat diets when in a calorie excess don’t work well for me, but they work awesome for dropping body fat.[/quote]

Yea that is very similar to what happened with me. I got down to about 125 at 5’11 when I was younger through the same unhealthy methods.

And from what I can tell I’ve also had better results with keeping fat around the same (60-90g/day) and then manipulating carbs depending on my goal. It seems when I try to gain with 120-200+g/day I put on even more fat than a lower fat/higher carb approach

Out of curiosity what do you typically keep your carbs and fat at when trying to gain? And when you say “high fat diets when in a calorie excess don’t work well for me” do you mean they make you gain fat faster or do you just not put on muscle as quickly?

I’ve had several attempts using none/very low carb (less than 20-30g per day) and low (carbs peri-workout only) for fat loss and have been frustrated with the results each time. At one point I went about 2-3 months of practically no carb and dropped maybe a pound or two.

For whatever reason, my fat loss stalls when carbs are not in my diet. As soon as I introduce carbs back into the diet (and keeping total calories constant) my fat loss accelerates. As far as I can tell, my results can’t be explained by other factors like increased exercise, working out harder, calories being lower overall, etc. when I have carbs in the diet.

The funny thing is that aside from fatiguing slightly faster during my workouts, I feel better when I low carb. During that 2 to 3 month period, I felt great. I just could not shed any weight.

Last time I was adding weight my carbs were 300-500g on workout days, about 100-150g on off days. Fat was about 80-100g. Once every 5th or 6th day I had a full on cheat day, since I struggle to gain weight as it is. Weight gain was pretty slow with this for me since I have a really fast metabolism.
Since I’ve been cutting the past 7 weeks, I’ve been taking in typically around 90g fat and 100g carbs, and every 5th day I carb up with trace fats, but I started out pretty lean anyways (fully visible upper 4 abs).

I actually get both with higher fat gaining diets - slower and sloppier gains.

This time around, since I’m still cutting, I’m actually adding more carbs as I get leaner. I’m hoping to get down to about 7% with this method, and then have a smooth transition to gaining, though I’ll likely start off with a 3-5 day binge to see if I can get a nice sling back in my weight :slight_smile:

[quote]pumped340 wrote:

[quote]BlakedaMan wrote:
I’ve had a very similar experience as you. When I was younger I was probably high teens in body fat and ate like total shit. I disliked being chubby so I started doing cardio and essentially starving myself. I got all the way down below 120 lbs at about 6’ (yeah, really). When I started playing sports I started lifting and I started working at Subway and I was a carb maniac.

Like, literally anywhere from 500-1000g of carbs a day, everyday. I didn’t eat much fat, and I stayed pretty lean and got up to 190ish with less BF than when i started at 120. That was about 3 years ago, when I found TNATION and started getting into lifting more intelligently and eating better.

Anyways, over my years of manipulating and tracking my body, I’ve realized that it generally works well for me to keep the same amount of fats regardless of my current goals, and focus on manipulating carb intake depending upon whether I want to add or drop weight. High fat diets when in a calorie excess don’t work well for me, but they work awesome for dropping body fat.[/quote]

Yea that is very similar to what happened with me. I got down to about 125 at 5’11 when I was younger through the same unhealthy methods.

And from what I can tell I’ve also had better results with keeping fat around the same (60-90g/day) and then manipulating carbs depending on my goal. It seems when I try to gain with 120-200+g/day I put on even more fat than a lower fat/higher carb approach

Out of curiosity what do you typically keep your carbs and fat at when trying to gain? And when you say “high fat diets when in a calorie excess don’t work well for me” do you mean they make you gain fat faster or do you just not put on muscle as quickly?
[/quote]

I believe that the current low/none carb with high fat HYPE is just another HYPE. In a few years they’ll write articles about “new and better” ways to eat.

It’s very simple, keep your calories a little lower (about 500) than your intake. That’s what works for me. And i’ve been working out for 10 years now.

My experience on low carb is that you lose a lot of water and muscle. And you look fucking flat. Sorry but I prefer more volume in my muscles. That volume comes from the water held by the glycogen.

And you read shit about saturated fats being “healthy”. Well, I rather believe what a heart surgeon (who actually studied for about 12 years) said about saturated fats (they kill) than some internet guru.

Call me old fashioned, but I care to much about my health to believe internet hypes.

No offence.

Carbs in a diet IS the norm, especially in bodybuilding. I have yet to see a person NOT handle carbs when their diet is in order.

I can only speak anecdotally about myself, but I definitely notice a difference in energy and mood when I don’t consume enough saturated fat.
If you have a family history of heart disease, then sure, it’s likely something to be more concerned about. Otherwise, I think saturated fat is very important for hormonal health, regardless of whether or not internet gurus tout it.

I hate to open up a can of worms, but many things that doctors learn are often outdated. Unless, like I stated above, you have a heart condition or family history of heart disease, diabetes is a greater contributor to heart disease than saturated fat will ever be.

[quote]Dahollow wrote:
I believe that the current low/none carb with high fat HYPE is just another HYPE. In a few years they’ll write articles about “new and better” ways to eat.

It’s very simple, keep your calories a little lower (about 500) than your intake. That’s what works for me. And i’ve been working out for 10 years now.

My experience on low carb is that you lose a lot of water and muscle. And you look fucking flat. Sorry but I prefer more volume in my muscles. That volume comes from the water held by the glycogen.

And you read shit about saturated fats being “healthy”. Well, I rather believe what a heart surgeon (who actually studied for about 12 years) said about saturated fats (they kill) than some internet guru.

Call me old fashioned, but I care to much about my health to believe internet hypes.

No offence. [/quote]

Now carbohydrates and fats are both forms of energy. Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram and fats about 9 calories per gram of concentrated energy.

Carbohydrates are digested in the mouth and small intestine by enzymes and broken down into monosaccharides and disaccharides and used as energy in living cells. Complex carbohydrates take longer to break down providing energy for a longer period of time.

Fats are divided into saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are solid in room temperature and deposit themselves along arterial walls. Unsaturated fats are liquid in room temperature and used i.e. transporting vitamins, manufacturing hormones and lowering cholesterol. EFAs are essential fats that can’t be synthesized by your body. EFAs have to be acquired in your diet.

Fatty acids i.e. help cells take nutrients in and keep toxins out and prevent inflammation by producing eicosanoids, hormone like compounds. They also help keep blood vessels dilated and so help in cleaning bad fats from your arterial walls.

Carbs are the main source of energy. If you don’t eat enough carbs your muscles don’t grow, you fatigue easily and you feel more depressed more often. Fats keep you healthy and good looking.

Because of all this when loosing weight the diet should be a radical, fast low carb and high fat diet. The point is to deplete those carbs at the start and burn the excess fat from your hips after that. When fat is burned you can keep it away by eating fat just for what its for. Isn’t this the reason why low carb and “high” fat diet is best at some point for what ever reason?

Now carbs are needed but so are fats. Its just a matter of what is your situation. Mr.Thib probably doesn’t need excess fat laying around his body but needs more carbs for high intensity muscle fuel. Eat healthy. Thats the thing.

I’ve been consuming no carbs other than about 100g per day peri-workout nutrition and I’m making great gains with minimal fat gains.

Surprisingly good thread (for the first 8 posts at least), and it’s nice to see everyone’s views on this topic.

I usually call carbs my ‘dietary diety’, they’re either your God, or a Demon, depending on how they are used.

As for me, (and the following is pretty much 95% anecdotal), I have found that I lose (and gain) body fat easier on a higher fat diet, and when a higher percentage of my diet is comprised of carbs, my weight tends to stay similar.

I remember reading a study on athletes that showed those with a higher percentage and total carbohydrates in the diet gained less body fat than was expected due to their caloric excess, and it was hypothesized that this is because it was being burned off. Led me to the (very) preliminary conclusion that given the two main energy substrates (Fat and Carbs), the more one eats, the more their body ‘trades’ in that substrate (Adipose and Glycogen, respectively).

From this, I usually have the fat totals, and minor deviation in protein totals, between cutting and bulking, as I want my excess calories to have less ability to be stored on my body (See ‘weight tends to stay similar’)
Cutting calories for a cut can be done for me by simply eating less carbs, as I can gain weight on a well balanced 2500kcal a day :smiley:

[quote]silverhydra wrote:
Surprisingly good thread (for the first 8 posts at least), and it’s nice to see everyone’s views on this topic.

I usually call carbs my ‘dietary diety’, they’re either your God, or a Demon, depending on how they are used.

As for me, (and the following is pretty much 95% anecdotal), I have found that I lose (and gain) body fat easier on a higher fat diet, and when a higher percentage of my diet is comprised of carbs, my weight tends to stay similar.

I remember reading a study on athletes that showed those with a higher percentage and total carbohydrates in the diet gained less body fat than was expected due to their caloric excess, and it was hypothesized that this is because it was being burned off. Led me to the (very) preliminary conclusion that given the two main energy substrates (Fat and Carbs), the more one eats, the more their body ‘trades’ in that substrate (Adipose and Glycogen, respectively).

From this, I usually have the fat totals, and minor deviation in protein totals, between cutting and bulking, as I want my excess calories to have less ability to be stored on my body (See ‘weight tends to stay similar’)
Cutting calories for a cut can be done for me by simply eating less carbs, as I can gain weight on a well balanced 2500kcal a day :D[/quote]

Thus, the birth of Carb Cycling. It wouldn’t be a fantastic way to diet if it wasn’t proven by tons of bodybuilding coaches around the world.

My $0.02 is as long as you control your calories and maintain a deficit, you’ll lose fat. A low carb diet might be faster weight loss (water/glycogen) at first, but after several weeks a low fat diet will cause the same weight loss due to energy balance. Thermodynamics. Too many scientific articles to reference on this topic.

Some people are more satisfied with fast results and low carb diets produce those (think PSMF), but any dedicated bodybuilder knows for a long term (~12 week) fat loss, carbs can be consumed and will help immensely in sparing LBM, maintain a fuller look, and provide necessary energy for intense workouts.

I too prefer higher fat diets for bulking and eat lots of red meat. For a cut I’ll replace the steak/ground beef with more fish, turkey and chicken because of their lower fat content. Carbs might come from cleaner sources (oatmeal, fruit, veggies, sweet potatoes) when I cut, but I’ll leave them in my diet. They are DELICIOUS and NUTRITIOUS.

[quote]Dahollow wrote:
I believe that the current low/none carb with high fat HYPE is just another HYPE. In a few years they’ll write articles about “new and better” ways to eat.

It’s very simple, keep your calories a little lower (about 500) than your intake. That’s what works for me. And i’ve been working out for 10 years now.

My experience on low carb is that you lose a lot of water and muscle. And you look fucking flat. Sorry but I prefer more volume in my muscles. That volume comes from the water held by the glycogen.

And you read shit about saturated fats being “healthy”. Well, I rather believe what a heart surgeon (who actually studied for about 12 years) said about saturated fats (they kill) than some internet guru.

Call me old fashioned, but I care to much about my health to believe internet hypes.

No offence. [/quote]

You seriously need to take a biochemistry class. Low carb diets aren’t hype–and up to about 50 years ago, it was the normal way people ate. Low-carb diets and the human body, when actually studied from an academic/scientific point of view, are absolutely fascinating, and leave little room for doubt that the human body isn’t designed to take in large quantites of carbs.

I’ve seen people shed massive amounts of weight on proper low-carb diets (starting with myself, lost over 100lbs of lard in a short period of time).

Low-carb, lots of water, lecithin, vitamin d, and fish oil supplements, and hour of proper exercise, and fat melts like freaking butter in the sun. Most people who don’t experience weight loss on low carb diets used a fad book and never actually studied what low carb is and how it is done, thusly they did it wrong.

The #1 mistake I see people make on low carb? They don’t take in a proper protein to fat ratio. Too much protein in relation to fat, and the body turns it into glucose, preventing all the benefits of low-carb while stalling weight loss to zero.

[quote]mrw173 wrote:

The funny thing is that aside from fatiguing slightly faster during my workouts, I feel better when I low carb. During that 2 to 3 month period, I felt great. I just could not shed any weight.

[/quote]

I too generally feel better on lower carbs (more steady energy) but would rather get the results than have constant energy levels.

[quote]BlakedaMan wrote:
Last time I was adding weight my carbs were 300-500g on workout days, about 100-150g on off days. Fat was about 80-100g. Once every 5th or 6th day I had a full on cheat day, since I struggle to gain weight as it is. Weight gain was pretty slow with this for me since I have a really fast metabolism.
Since I’ve been cutting the past 7 weeks, I’ve been taking in typically around 90g fat and 100g carbs, and every 5th day I carb up with trace fats, but I started out pretty lean anyways (fully visible upper 4 abs).

I actually get both with higher fat gaining diets - slower and sloppier gains.

[/quote]

Glad to see maybe I’m not alone is that aspect lol. I’m surprised you say you have a fast metabolism and have trouble gaining weight, yet you started off chubby with high-teens level body fat?

[quote]elusive wrote:
Carbs in a diet IS the norm, especially in bodybuilding. I have yet to see a person NOT handle carbs when their diet is in order.[/quote]

It’s not so much that I thought it wasn’t the norm…especially for gaining. But that almost everything I’ve ever read at the very least said low carb would help with leaner gains. Maybe slower but still leaner. From what I can tell by looking back at my logs over the years it has not helped gains come leaner at all (as I mentioned on the AD I gained 10lb. and gained 2 inches on my waistline, another time I switched from carb cycling to a TCD/TKD and gained about an inch on my waist for a 2lb gain). And even cutting results didn’t seem any better with very low carbs and a carb up than just a traditional carb cycling plan (although I do like the keto for cutting in the sense that I feel less hungry and the carb up helps socially…and can be fun :slight_smile: )

[quote]silverhydra wrote:
Surprisingly good thread (for the first 8 posts at least), and it’s nice to see everyone’s views on this topic.

I usually call carbs my ‘dietary diety’, they’re either your God, or a Demon, depending on how they are used.

As for me, (and the following is pretty much 95% anecdotal), I have found that I lose (and gain) body fat easier on a higher fat diet, and when a higher percentage of my diet is comprised of carbs, my weight tends to stay similar.

I remember reading a study on athletes that showed those with a higher percentage and total carbohydrates in the diet gained less body fat than was expected due to their caloric excess, and it was hypothesized that this is because it was being burned off. Led me to the (very) preliminary conclusion that given the two main energy substrates (Fat and Carbs), the more one eats, the more their body ‘trades’ in that substrate (Adipose and Glycogen, respectively).

From this, I usually have the fat totals, and minor deviation in protein totals, between cutting and bulking, as I want my excess calories to have less ability to be stored on my body (See ‘weight tends to stay similar’)
Cutting calories for a cut can be done for me by simply eating less carbs, as I can gain weight on a well balanced 2500kcal a day :D[/quote]

I had to one part of that to be sure lol but you’re saying you lose fat faster on a high fat diet, but that you also gain fat faster when gaining on high fats? I’d say that’s similar to what I’ve noticed as well, more so with the gaining statement.

So when you need to gain you just raise the carbs and keep fat about the same correct? If so that seems like what BlakedaMan and I mentioned as well, keeping fat about the same and manipulating carbs as necessary

[quote]phatkins187 wrote:
Some people are more satisfied with fast results and low carb diets produce those (think PSMF), but any dedicated bodybuilder knows for a long term (~12 week) fat loss, carbs can be consumed and will help immensely in sparing LBM, maintain a fuller look, and provide necessary energy for intense workouts.

I too prefer higher fat diets for bulking and eat lots of red meat. For a cut I’ll replace the steak/ground beef with more fish, turkey and chicken because of their lower fat content. Carbs might come from cleaner sources (oatmeal, fruit, veggies, sweet potatoes) when I cut, but I’ll leave them in my diet. They are DELICIOUS and NUTRITIOUS. [/quote]

Out of curiosity what do you have your carbs at when gaining?

Squiggles, I agree with what your saying too. However when cutting these diets still generally aren’t HIGH fat…usually around moderate. Lets say you have a 2500 calorie diet to cut and 50% comes from fat, thats 135-140g. With no carbs I could definitely see fat loss coming pretty well but eventually a lot of people (especially for contests) end up bringing fat to about 100g or even less which might be high relative to overall calories but it’s not like the body reads macro’s as a % of overall calories. As mentioned with my starting point, for whatever reason it just seems like a high fat diet when gaining doesn’t help me stay any leaner. I can definitely think of counter examples but it’s just what I’ve noticed (which, again, is definitely surprising given my endo qualities)

I would like to incorporate some more carbs and less fat now but to be honest there’s almost no healthy carbs at my college (fruit and occasionally oatmeal is about it)

Pumped, my carbs are probably between 150-200g/day when gaining. Oatmeal, rice, beans, fruits, Surge Recovery, the occasional meal out (burger/sandwich/pasta).

I have a pretty detailed carb cycling diet online for those interested…starting Monday.

I eat no red meat. I haven’t eaten any kind of meat for half a year now. I eat fish, yoghurt, eggs, wide array of vegetables (brokkoli, corn, spinach, cucumber, tomatoes…), oatmeal, french fries occasionally, EFA capsules and protein shakes… I use plenty of oil when cooking. I recently gained 10lbs with this diet in maybe a month and I’m not little anymore, over 210lbs.

I’m not exactly sure where I stand on this issue. From the very beginning up to around 7 months ago I had carbs with every meal and once I got into college most days I was having 800g+. I actually stayed quite lean in that I still had 6 abs showing all the way up to 260 lbs with this approach. I kept going though and got to 285 but was much too soft for my liking. At that point I ended up keeping carbs at just breakfast and workout while having a much higher fat intake and over the past 7 months my physique has improved dramatically, although I am only 272ish at the moment.

So I guess I’d say if you want to put yourself on the fast track, pound the carbs. If at some point you feel you need to tighten them up, drop some carbs and up the fats.

Also, make sure your protein is high. I don’t really give a fuck what science has to say, I still say 1.5g is the absolute bare MINIMUM a serious trainee should be consuming. Doesn’t matter how “good” your diet is if your protein intake inst high, you won’t make the kind of gains you want.

[quote]phatkins187 wrote:
Pumped, my carbs are probably between 150-200g/day when gaining. Oatmeal, rice, beans, fruits, Surge Recovery, the occasional meal out (burger/sandwich/pasta).

I have a pretty detailed carb cycling diet online for those interested…starting Monday.

Looks pretty good, I guess your cutting? Calories are pretty low, especially for starting a cut at about 185

[quote]waylanderxx wrote:
I’m not exactly sure where I stand on this issue. From the very beginning up to around 7 months ago I had carbs with every meal and once I got into college most days I was having 800g+. I actually stayed quite lean in that I still had 6 abs showing all the way up to 260 lbs with this approach. I kept going though and got to 285 but was much too soft for my liking. At that point I ended up keeping carbs at just breakfast and workout while having a much higher fat intake and over the past 7 months my physique has improved dramatically, although I am only 272ish at the moment.

So I guess I’d say if you want to put yourself on the fast track, pound the carbs. If at some point you feel you need to tighten them up, drop some carbs and up the fats.

Also, make sure your protein is high. I don’t really give a fuck what science has to say, I still say 1.5g is the absolute bare MINIMUM a serious trainee should be consuming. Doesn’t matter how “good” your diet is if your protein intake inst high, you won’t make the kind of gains you want.[/quote]

I was wondering if you’d post here, I knew you used to have carbs much higher but I didn’t know you maintained your 6 pack all the way up to 260…that’s crazy.

I agree with the protein part


This was a few months before I turned 19 and I was drinking 24 glasses of skim milk a day along with solid carbs at every meal, haha quite a bit of carbs in that diet. I can’t do it anymore though :’(

[quote]waylanderxx wrote:
This was a few months before I turned 19 and I was drinking 24 glasses of skim milk a day along with solid carbs at every meal, haha quite a bit of carbs in that diet. I can’t do it anymore though :’([/quote]
Do you think that’s because of the weight you’ve reached or age? Your only 22 or so if I recall so it’s hard to imagine a few years alone causing a seriously drastic change.

By the way you were also taking in very high fat during that time as well weren’t you? Pretty much high everything if I’m remembering correctly lol