T Nation

Raising Metabolism


CT or anyone else who can help...

I've been going low(no) carb for about a month with only one 'carb-up' in the past
two weeks or so. I am now on my spring break at home (where i can cook and eat as
clean as i want to - most meals = chicken breast, EVOO, and green veggies aside from
para-workout nutrition which is usually whey and EVOO). Next week ill be going back
to live in the dorms where i have two meals per day and the food choices are no
where near ideal. B-Fast = eggs and sausage and Dinner = sometimes lean meats some
times not.

My fat-loss has halted so my question(s) is this...

1)While trying to raise my metabolism should i reincorporate carbs in my diet then
drop them when i go back to school?

2)Is there anything else you could recommend?

thanks and BTW my DL was stuck for months and i hit a new PR today due to your methods...


You might consider spiking your metabolism a bit more frequently than once in month. In my research I've found most people to hit a wall at about 3-4 days of low carb dieting with their bodies before they need to recharge. You've gone well past that point. I'd say you're metabolism needs frequent spikings in order for you to keep your gains coming in the gym and in the mirror.

Since you've reached a plateau start just spiking your carbs up for a day and then drop it back down to low carb. It works differently for everyone, but in most cases if you choose at least one day a week to top of your tank so to speak you should start losing bodyfat again. Your body is a very efficient machine. Once you've set yourself at a low metabolic starting point it takes a while for it to kick back in again. Honestly I would suggest hitting a high carb day once every 3-4 days, just so you keep your muscle mass and prevent your metabolism from dropping too low. Carb cycling is an awesome way to do it. You can stair step it down, if you're like myself and need a good amount of carbs for operating, or you can just drop them off all at once after you've had a day with some good carbohydrates. Both have worked equally well for past clientele of mine. It keeps your metabolism high, without the leering after affects of being tired all the time and lethargic from lack of carbohydrates.

A couple questions: Why did you go so long on a straight low carb diet? How did you feel during the diet? Did it change at all? Do you pretty much eat the same thing day in and day out?




Thinking that ANY diet plateaus after 3-4 days is idiotic, at best.

What happens with a low carbs diet is that during the initial 3 days or so you deplete muscle glycogen. Since each gram of glycogen is stored with 2.7 (let's say 3) grams of water and that an average body might store 400g of glycogen in the muscles, it is fairly safe to assume that one will lose up to 1.6kg (3.5lbs) during a depletion and this is only water and stored carbs.

Add to that that you might lost anywhere from 0.5 to 1.5lbs of fat during those 3-4 days and it gives you a fairly quick drop in body weight of 4-6lbs.

Obviously, once you are depleted you don't have much ''rapid weight'' to lose so the rate of body weight loss slows down... but NOT THE RATE OF FAT LOSS.

You might lose 4.5lbs during the first 4 days (3.5 from water and glucose, 1 from fat) and 1 during the last 3 days of the week. This gives the illusion of a slower loss, but the rate of fat loss is the same.

So saying that fat loss will plateau after 3-4 days of low-carbs dieting doesn't make much sense.

And everytime you load up on carbs THEN switch back to a low carbs diet you will once again experiment a very rapid drop in body weight, simply because you once again have glycogen and water to lose. So it is fairly easy to assume that after 3-4 days your loss hits a wall and after a day of higher carbs it starts again.

If someone uses a low-carbs diet (without a significant carb-up) for an extended period he will lose a lot of ''weight'' the first week, a lot less the second week and still less for the weeks after that.

It might look like this:

Week 1. - 6lbs
Week 2. - 4lbs
Week 3. - 2lbs
Week 4. - 2lbs

But in reality you are likely losing the same amount of fat every week, but more water and glycogen during the first week.

From experience, in the long run, all ''smart'' diets if properly followed will yield roughly the same rate of fat loss. While initial losses might be relatively rapid, on the long run a loss of 2-3lbs is the norm with most good dietary approaches.

The problem with low-carb diets is not so much that you hit the wall sooner than with other diets, but rather that the sudden drop in bodyweight during the first week creates unrealistic expectations as to what can be achieved in the long run.

Obviously this simply relates to fat loss. The issue of energy also comes into play. Staying on a low-carbs diet can lead to lowered energy levels, thus decreased workout quality.

IMPORTANT POINT: If someone cuts down his calories or energy intake too much he will subconsciously try to expend less energy and will reduce his level of activity (e.g. walking at a slower pace, less fidgiting, less walking, becoming lazy, etc.). This decreases energy expenditure... if you use less energy you will lose less fat.

This is why WHEN ADVOCATING A LOW-CARBS APPROACH (which I don't use all the time and with everybody) I recommend ingesting carbs every 7 days (more often if someone is already lean...the leaner you are the more often you need carbs). The quantity to ingest will depend on the individual's tolerance for carbs and degree of fatness. It could go from one meal up to one full day.


i went low-carb because A) my normal diet is low carb (i dont really respond well to carbs - FFB) and B) the food choices at my school are very poor. i eat roughly the same every day but its hard to eyeball it.

i felt like crap but not because of the lack of carbs. i think just because calories weren't high enough
and i cant eat a high volume because most of the stuff is so calorie dense so i'm always hungry. i can deal with the hunger and feeling crappy just fine so i figured i'd just battle through it and see how it goes. i also decided to do 4 strength days (bench, military, front squat, and DL) using perfect rep techniques to cut down on volume. also i would do fasted cardio most week days


[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

If someone uses a low-carbs diet (without a significant carb-up) for an extended period he will lose a lot of ''weight'' the first week, a lot less the second week and still less for the weeks after that.

It might look like this:

Week 1. - 6lbs
Week 2. - 4lbs
Week 3. - 2lbs
Week 4. - 2lbs

But in reality you are likely losing the same amount of fat every week, but more water and glycogen during the first week.

From experience, in the long run, all ''smart'' diets if properly followed will yield roughly the same rate of fat loss. While initial losses might be relatively rapid, on the long run a loss of 2-3lbs is the norm with most good dietary approaches.

so does the reintroduction of the carb-up's actually 'boost' metabolism or is it just the increase in cals?

if i can go without a carb-up (without it effecting intensity) for an extended period of time would that make a difference in the long run?

thanks again


If one goes off creatine the same week they start a low carb diet will the amount of water weight dropped in the first week increase further?


Sorry Thibs, I guess I should have been more scientific. In essence glycogen is what I meant by recharging. Of course with everything that's highly individualistic with one's dietary needs.

I wasn't suggesting that the overall diet would plateau, I would however start to think the body's metabolism would start to drop once it detects that it's not getting adequate fuel to recover from intense workouts.

So Thibs, thanks for the more accurate clarrification on carb cycling. However you point out also that by reducing calories/energy intake too much will cause less energy expenditure through a person's subconsious state. Do you believe that at this point the body's metabolism starts to waiver and drop down? At what point does your body recognize that you're not giving it enough calories to continue to lose bodyfat and start shutting down the fatburning process?




No problem. I just think that it is erroneous to think that you will hit the wall once glycogen stores are depleted. Eventually you can adapt and use ketones for fuel. Anyway, glycogen stores rarely are completely depleted since some amino acids can be used to replenish glycogen stores. That's why you should increase protein intake during a low carbs diet. Or supplement with glutamine post-workout (20-40g) and before bed (20-40g).


Yes, the subconscious drop in activity level is closely linked to a reduction in metabolic rate. More specifically it happens just before your BMR starts to slow down.

A good sign that metabolism slows down is that your morning temperature decreases. Take your temperature every morning upon waking up. When it goes down more than 1 degree and stays there for at least 2 consecutive days, it indicate a drop in metabolism of 5-10%. At this point you might want to increase caloric intake until temperature goes back up to normal.


Yes, each gram of creatine is also stored with roughly 3g of water.


Mmmmm, yes that's true. So many variables to consider.

What percentage of people that you've come across have trouble with low carbohydrate dieting? Or perhaps I should rephrase that question to be, what do you think is the reason some people are non-responsive or less responsive to lack of dietary carbohydrates? As in the conversion between using carbohydrates to fat and amino acids as fuel sources, given that overall calorie intake is roughly the same.

I'm talking generally here, like it seems that some people respond awesome to high protein-moderate fat dieting (eg. they lose weight quickly, they're always tight, muscles are full, no lack of intesnity while training), while others like myself don't respond well to low carbs at all. The fat loss is great, but the side effects (eg. irritabilty, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, etc.) and the intensity level of your workouts is difficult to manage.




Excellent idea. I'll try that. Makes sense that your body temperature would start to decline with a metabolism drop.




I'd say that there are two kind of people I worked with who respond well to carbs and actually do worse on a low-carbs diet, and oddly enough those are two polar opposites!

They are:

  • Those who are naturally gifted form bodybuilding... they build muscle very easily (most of the time they are somewhat muscular without even training) and stay lean just as easily. I worked with 4 of those people personally: my ex-girlfriend who actually dieted down for the Canadian nationals on 300g of carbs per day (she lost muscle when the carbs were lowered and protein increased), Sebastien Cossette (one of the model for the IBB videos) who dieted down on a carbs cycling diet ranging from 200g per day up to 800g per day, Alex Raymond (a guy I'm working with for the the Canadian nationals who is currently 252 on 5'9'' at roughly 8% body fat) who diets down using a carbs cycling approach and who loses muscle fast on a low carbs diet, and Amit Sapir (Israeli bodybuilder who I helped win his pro card) who used a similar strategy to Sebastien.

My friend and two times Canadian national bodybuilding champion Pat Bernard also diets down on a relatively high carbs diet.

  • Those who are naturally built to be endurance athletes. But in their case it might simply due to the fact that they burn so much energy each day that even at 700-800g of carbs per day they are still on a caloric deficit!

But I'm talking about the extreme... those who ''GOT IT''. Most who believe that they got it (when it comes to bodybuilding) really don't.

Most others will either need a low (0.75 to 1.0g per pound) or very low (50g or less) carbs approach to get super lean. OR have a very high energy expenditure each day (as in doing lots of training of all kind).


BTW the irritability and other type of mood swings or lack of energy are often due to an insufficient energy intake OR failure to get fat adapted (body switches to using fat as the primary fuel source).

If your body is still relying on carbs for fuel BUT you don't give it carbs, then you will obviously feel bad.

Failure to achieve a fat adapted state is either due to:

a) an insufficent fat and too much protein (e.g. following a high protein, low carbs and low fat diet). When this happens, instead of becoming fat adapted, the body will tend to turn the ingested protein into glucose (carbs), but it is not super efficient at doing so. So you are lacking energy and probably catabolizing muscle mass.

If your carbs are lowered, your fat intake needs to go up, at least during the first 10-14 days on the diet.

b) an insufficient adaptation period. The body needs some time to switch to being a fat burning machine. 10-14 days is the norm and some need as much as 21 days. If you ingest carbs every 3-4 days, you will NEVER get fat adapted and every bout of low carbs will be hell.

Someone who wants to use a low-carbs approach should do 10-14 days of low-carbs before having his first carb-up. And that first carb-up should only be one meal of roughly 200g of carbs.

As you prolong your diet, longer or more frequent carb-ups can be used.


but once fat adaptation takes place, does reintroducing carbs increase metabolism/help burn more fat or is it just for the sake of energy, moral, motivation etc?


I have tried the glutamine supplementation and can feel/see difference - only question, Thib - I have taken it @ night before bed, took 20g, and couldn't sleep for several hours (3), just felt energized. Is this normal?


Do these mood swings result in an increase in cortisol levels?


Any stress increases cortisol levels. It's not the mood swings themselves that do, but the diet itself does raise cortisol (any diet, especially if it's too severe tends to increase cortisol) and the consequence of the mood swings (tension with others, pissing someone off, etc.) will also raise it.


More energy = more activity levels (conscious and subconscious)
More energy = better workouts
More motivation = better workouts
Better workouts = better maintenance (or even gain) in muscle mass

Not to mention that carbs are required for the proper conversion of the T4 (less active) thyroid hormone into T3 (more active) thyroid hormone. This raises metabolism.

So yes, on paper adding a bit of carbs after a month of low-carbs dieting could help with fat loss. I was advising a bodybuilder this year. He did all his diet using a low carbs approach, no cheating at all. At 4 weeks out he hit a plateau, couldn't lose more fat but still had some to lose. I advised him to add a small amount of carbs daily (roughly 50-100g 45 minutes pre-workout) and he once again started to lose fat.

Will it help you? Impossible to say, this is why I don't like giving specific dietary advice over the internet. Diet is very much an individual thing. You could try adding 50g of carbs pre-workout with some fast-absorbed protein while reducing fat intake by roughly 15g during the day and see where that does take you.


ok i understand now. i've just been avoiding carb-ups because i dont want them to throw off my ketosis.

thanks again