By John L. Boos, L.M.T., N.S.C.A., C.P.T.
Three of the 20th centuries most outstanding weight management and fitness myths are: 1) Aerobic exercise will considerably increase your muscle shape and build strength. 2) Aerobic exercise burns a greater number of calories and fat than strength training exercise. 3) Low carbohydrate / high fat diets are the best methods for reducing body fat.
The low carbohydrate /high fat/ high protein diet seems to be gaining a second wind of popularity. The scientific fact, is that it is not only unnatural to the needs of the body and brain, but it can accelerate the aging process by reducing the muscular strength and tone. This is especially true if you attempt to build muscle while the carbohydrates are low (50% or less of the total calorie intake). Half of the weight loss on this diet is muscle, which leads to a lower metabolism.
These diet demons claim that fruits, vegetables and grains add too much sugar to our diet. The over abundance of blood sugar in the American vascular system isn’t from too much fruits, vegetables and grains. It’s the added sugar (28% increases since 1983) in the so-called fat free foods and foods, in general. This fact along with the desire to do as little proper exercise as possible culminates into poor decision making when the weight loss panic sets in. Most of the poor decision process takes place because of lack of education that is linked to a love for magical formulas for the quick fix.
I began weight training in the early 1960’s at 115 pounds. I didn’t have above average genetics. I didn’t have a lot of money. I especially had no help from bodybuilding drugs that are now being digested at greater than epidemic rates (even by women) to increase muscle shape and reduce body fat.
In 1970, I entered my first serious body building contest. I began my contest dieting at 207 pounds and entered the contest at 160 pounds. I can honestly say that the last 20 pounds I took off were pure muscle due to the ever-so popular above diet formula that I used.
Between 1970 and 1973, I struggled with low carbohydrate diets and aerobic exercise to get the fat loss and muscle definition I would need to be a serious contender. I ran and bicycled 4 or 5 days a week. My fat and protein intake was high and my carbohydrate intake low (just like the book recommended).
My strength levels dropped and were the lowest ever since my second year of training. I was tired all the time, dizzy and no fun to be around. It didn’t matter, because I didn’t want to get laughed off the stage by not having the muscle definition I needed.
Even though I did fairly well from 1970 to early 1973, it wasn’t until I nearly ended up too sick and weak to continue that I ran off to a doctor for a check up. My problem was that I was continuing to lose body weight but failing to get more muscle definition –“cut up” as it is referred to in the body building world.
After a full check up by an internist, the real reason reared its head –I was in the state of ketosis, otherwise known as starvation. I was doing anaerobic (strength building) type exercise as well. You can’t do strength building exercise (anaerobic) if you are in the state of starvation or ketosis (low carbohydrates).
My Doctor was an athlete and explained to me that you are unable to develop maximum muscle strength and shape without the muscles’ (and the brain’s) primary fuel source–carbohydrates. This is a biological and physiological fact of exercise science. Try running your gas car on diesel fuel and watch the fun (hope you like pushing cars)!
After the doctor convinced me to reverse this total nonsense, I increased my carbohydrates and lowered my fat intake. A miracle seemed to happen. In less than 3 months, I gained 11 pounds of muscle and better yet, lowered my body fat which improved my definition. I also cut my aerobics down as my energy for strength building increased.
The bottom line: I gained weight, lost body fat, improved my overall shape and won the outstanding physique of the year award along with the Mr. New York State and Mr. World contest. Not bad for a start (I continued to compete until 1980)!
Today’s bodybuilders are able to reduce the carbohydrates and maintain muscle through the magic of chemicals (anabolic substances). This is not a good idea.
I learned that if you want to build muscle, build strength and increase your energy and well being (without bodybuilding drugs), you must supply the muscles (and the brain) with adequate carbohydrates. The healthiest way is through fruits, vegetables and grains. Fat also must be present, but not in abundance. (Never above 30% of the total calorie intake). Protein must also be present–somewhere in the 15%-20% range to maintain and repair the body.
I know how boring all of this sounds, because there is no promise of magic or unusual gimmicks. It’s not like I didn’t try all of the special diet twists and turns that the so-called “Health Houdinis” promised would work. I did! But nothing worked better than regular and proper exercise and eating.
Allow me to make a clear and honest point. You cannot obtain excellent physical shape without weight training. You cannot weight train without the necessary energy. You cannot obtain the energy without the proper amount of carbohydrates. If you listened carefully to the advocates of the low carbohydrate/high fat and protein diets, you will not see a muscle building exercise regimen included in their program.
The simple fact is, you are unable to do the exercise that requires the muscle build up at the same time that the body is using the very same muscle to feed off. Where there is an inadequate carbohydrate source (and you are strength training), the brain orders chemicals to break down muscle tissue to convert to sugar for energy. Muscle weighs more than fat, so the weight loss becomes greater if you can breakdown muscle. In addition, muscle is 80% water and the water is lost as well.
This is how the low carbohydrate diet trick works at the expense of your youth-providing muscle tissue. Nice thought isn’t it! Don’t be fooled by the Phantom Menace! Break the cycle: Build muscle, reverse aging, gain control and may the “Force be with You!”