T Nation

Zero Carb Diet. Does it Work?


#1

Hi friends,

Lately I have noticed an increase on my social media of people advocating a zero carb diet, in which many eat only eat eggs and meat, with little or no vegetables.

You would think these people would live sedentary lifestyles, but many work hard in the gym and have put up some impressive numbers. Some claim that this way of eating has led to a improvement of many health parameters, with some even claiming massive improvements from chronic injuries.

Anyway I was just wondering what my fellow t-men and t-girls think of this way of eating. Just a craze? Unsustainable? Unhealthy? Or ideal?

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#2

I eat virtually no cabs, but my fat intake is nearly 2000/calories a day. It’s called a ketogenic diet. I eat copious amounts of veggies too.

A high protein, low fat and carb diet is harmful long term. I think Lyle McDonald as diet doing that for one week.


#3

How long have you done this for?
What is your activity level like?
Physique and performance impact/changes?
Do you ever do a re-feed?

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#4

Gironda was advocating the steak and eggs diet decades ago. I ran it, with some caveats, at the end of last year and enjoyed it. My strategy was to consume two meals a day consisting of 3 large eggs and a piece of steak circa 500g (usually fried in coconut oil). This equated to circa 1900 kcals a day. Energy levels, etc, were fine. But I am no stranger to keto diets and always faired well on them. I trained 5-6 days a week using Gironda routines, e.g. 8x8, short rest intervals. I say caveats because sometimes I had to ship out the steak for chicken, pork, etc. This was due to budget. I also consumed at least one greens supplement daily, which contained around 7g CHO. I would say it worked well, and quickly, but you are encouraged to have ONE carb meal every 4-5 days. So it was a cyclical keto diet. Sensible supplement use was also advocated by Gironda, e.g. digestive enzymes, kelp, p. husk fibre. I used these throughout and tended to use whey isolate and/or BCAAs around the workout period (not advocated by Gironda). By Christmas I had my abs back but I was finding it harder and harder to comply with and it made me more prone to binge eating.

I suppose the short answer is: if someone said ‘you’re going to have to strip off next month for a photo shoot’, or beach holiday with girl of your dreams’. I would be ‘right, optimum fat loss programme = Gironda steak and eggs!’


#5

There’s a thread on here thousands of posts long about Dr. DiPasquale’s Anabolic Diet. That diet:
14 day induction phase zero carbs

Two day carb up (actually carb up until you smooth out/fill glycogen stores)

Then for the rest of time: weekdays zero carb, weekend carb ups.

Adherents rave about the results. And the Dr. himself set some records in Canadian powerlifting in the 80’s. Read the ebook if nothing else, great read.

I actually do better on low carb, but I honestly find food restriction annoying. So I try to limit carbs on non-training days.


#6

This go around has been since December 31st. I did it for nearly 6 months last year.

You get tired fairly quickly, because you have nearly no glycogen in your body. Your liver does convert protein to glycogen, but it’s a small amount. My workouts are lower volume, higher frequency. You can check my log, but I usually do 5-15 sets of one or two exercises.

I’ve gone from 275-216 in 3 years, adding muscle and strength. More specifically, I’ve lost 11 since December 31st.

Yes, If I ever feel I’m losing weight too quickly or once a month.

Keto long term, while hard, is definitely maintainable. The Gironda or McDonald diet, seems harmful long term. The thing about Keto, is that your brain switches from utilizing glycogen for brain function to Ketones, or fat. Literally, your whole body switches to fat for energy, which is great for long-termfat loss.

While I really enjoy this diet, I don’t know that I would use it for bulking.


#7

Not sure how you have come to that conclusion. From what I have read about Gironda, he very much believed in quality foods such as free range/organic produce. Further, as stated, he believed in regular carb meals every 4-5 days, so it is not a strict keto diet. Lastly, this was the approach for those looking to lose fat. Bodybuilders need carbs for muscle gain, a basic fact he recognised like everyone else but somehow seems forgotten when people talk about his methods.


#8

Any thoughts regarding the anti-inflammatory aspect of this way of eating?

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#9

Could someone utilize a ketogenic diet for the rest of their life? Yes, many do.

Could someone utilize the Gironde diet for the rest of their life? Steak and eggs twice a day, indefinitely…?

:roll_eyes:


#10

At the risk of sounding like a Gironda fanatic, all I can do is report what he stated on this subject - which was he personally ran this for 9 months without issue.


#11

There are many studies supporting exactly that. Some researchers think that high insulin diets increase inflammation and inflammation causes insulin resistance. So it’s a 1-2 punch straight to diabetes and every other chronic illness.

If you look at studies on Kitavans and Inuits who eat nearly all fat. Their inflammation markers are super low, as are incedents of chronic disease.

Conversely if you look at studies on the Amish they eat high fat (lots of pig) and high carb (pies, cookies, sugar) and their levels of chronic disease are just as low. Conventional wisdom on nutrition says the Amish should have terrible risks for disease.

In my un scientific mind the common factor keeping those groups healthy is the fact they aren’t sedentary. If you were working physically for 10-12 hours per day you could likely subsist on bacon and skittles and still have good blood makers and not get fat. Your body can’t get resistant to insulin if you’re never storing anything, just burning it off at maintenance.

Remember that as a lifter you are basically changing your body chemistry completely. Most long term studies on inflammation, insulin resistance are on fat sedentary people. The best ways to increase insulin sensetivity and reduce inflammation is through sleep, exercise, diet and stress management. So. If you do all that right you’ll be better off low carb or high carb.

There are very few world class athletes that are low carb (keto) though. You need glycogen for anaerobic activity. Can it be done? Sure, but it is harder.


#12

I know there are many varying view points here, just chiming in based on my experience. I have done keto before as part of my bodybuilding prep last year, and IMO it is not sustainable or healthy to do for an extended period of time, but I do think it can be a very helpful weight loss tool when implemented properly. Our bodies and brains are meant to run on carbs, I think doing a permanent 0 carb, 0 vegetable diet is not healthy or sustainable. It is most definitely helpful for weight loss, I’ve found some people respond better than others to a keto diet. I recently put a client of mine on keto for a few months to lose some very stubborn weight, he used to be diabetic and has a family history of it, was extremely carb sensitive. We put him on keto, he lost more weight, now we’re slowly getting carbs back in.

I think a more moderate carb approach, even if they’re just from beans, veggies, etc., would be more sustainable and healthy. I can’t imagine any situation where eating only meat and fats, and not vegetables, is a good way to go.

Training was very challenging on 0 carbs, brain fog (even after the transition period), I told my coach if I had to do keto to do bodybuilding, I wasn’t go to compete anymore.

That’s just my experience with it. I know some people do keto as a more permanent diet, but even those, like @dchris, have carb refeeds. IMO doing a more consistent, low carb approach would be smarter and healthier than permanent keto.


#13

Well, that’s not exactly a fair statement. Everything in our society is set up to push you to eat lots of carbs. Only a small percentage of high end athletes are low carb but probably even less of the general population are. Meaning that low carb athletes my even be over-represented in high end athletics. If only 1% of the population is actually low carb, 1% of athletes would be even representation.

There are also high level athletes that claim increased performance on low carb. T-nations very own Maryland’s strongest man (alpha) is a great example of a high end anaerobic athlete who makes such claims. I think he would very much disagree that he is making it harder on himself.


#14

I’m curious as to why you think keto is unhealthy or our brains and bodies are meant to run on sugar.

I’d caution that if you used a short term keto diet while in a substantial calorie deficit in a non-fat adapted state, you probably should take results with a grain of salt. Contest dieting is never sustainable or healthy long term. Caloric deficits of all types aren’t sustainable indefinitely, keto or otherwise. I think part of the confusion here is that most people have only experienced keto for weight loss as a means of creating a deficit. Who here has maintained or gained weight and stayed on it for more than a “dieting period”? I’m betting not the people being most critical of it.


#15

I am @Alpha biggest fan. He’s who I want to be when I grow up. He isn’t 100% keto though. He talks about not planning his refeeds or cheat meals but occaisionally he lets them happen. The terms burgers and burritos get bandied about. That makes it more of a CKD and less pure Keto.

I like CKD alot. I never eat carbs before dinner and on non lifting days I go <50 grams usually. But if the wife makes potatoes on a non lifting day I don’t sweat it. I’m not going to teach my sons to be scared of potatoes. I don’t think there’s a day I ever hit >150 grams other than thanksgiving. So I kind of bastardize CKD/backloading.

But if you told me long term nutritional ketosis (forever <50g) would add 3 inches to my member and make me live 10 years longer I still wouldn’t do it. Just don’t want to.


#16

Agreed, again which is why I said just posting from my experience. Aside from being in a contest prep, I just train better, and feel better, and enjoy life more, with carbs.


#17

Well, Alpha isn’t keto just because of the amount of whey he eats probably. It’s still very very low carb and still an elite anaerobic athlete.

But I get the “I don’t like it argument” and I agree. My diet right now is probably not too far from yours. I don’t eat carbs other than veggies except blue apron 3 nights a week where I get a little potatoes or grains at night.

I just don’t know any good reason it would necessarily be an unhealthy lifestyle if you enjoyed it.


#18

I’m Rob’s biggest fan on here but that doesn’t chime in with conventional knowledge. While I’m loathe to insist our well-muscled ancestors subsisted on keto diets, perhaps we can all at least agree on the fact that carbohydrate is not an essential macro? This should then answer the basic question of whether they are sustainable long term, i.e. they should be!

Now whether they are optimum for health and longevity, who can really answer this? Again, we could cite evidence from Inuit people subsisting on a near zero carb diet and having no underlying heart or blood sugar issues. In reality, few people are going to embark on this type of diet nowadays. Further, I would wager that someone who lived on grass-fed organic beef, wild caught salmon, organic eggs, etc, would have better health than someone who adopted a traditional Atkins approach (anything goes as long as it’s fat and protein).

For me, this is all a sideshow because people are on this site for far more shallow purposes, i.e. to improve their physical status. So the questions are what gets the job done and what is sustainable? For answers, I look to people who have plenty of experience


#19

Conventional knowledge according to whom?

Didn’t DiPascale explain all of this? Wasn’t there a member here that is making a living out of this very subject?


#20

All great points made by @JamesBrawn007 and others . I amend my original statement to, “my body and brain need carbs and I hate keto.” :hugs: