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increase strength/muscle mass when on a deficit? also, what role do carbs play in strength/muscle mass?

by (35)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:55 PM
Created October 12, 2012 at 12:30 AM

As long as I keep my protein high enough, shouldn't I be able to still make gains in the gym even if I am cutting and low carb(<50 carb, daily deficit of 500 cals)?

Also, not only should I be able to make gains, shouldn't I be able to make gains equivalent to as if I was on a maintenance diet?

furthermore, if I increase carbs, and keep total calories same whether it is on a deficit, maintenance, or bulk etc., will that affect my gains? the point being, do carbs effect strength/mass gains?

im wondering this as i have read two opposing articles from two prominent and presumably creditable sources.

the one that advocates at least a decent amount of carbs here http://www.simplyshredded.com/layne-norton-the-most-effective-cutting-diet.html

and the one that advocates that carbs do not matter in respect to strength gains http://www.marksdailyapple.com/muscle-building-and-carbs/#axzz292XbMOH9

i greatly appreciate your answers! i welcome all answers breaking down the biochemistry of it as well!

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12642 · October 14, 2012 at 5:10 AM

Just wanted to throw in this study, which helps explain my experience: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1670506. Insulin may help inhibit muscle breakdown.

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5006 · October 12, 2012 at 9:16 PM

I have had good success coupling the carb back loading while training fasted. I don't know how much of the results are 1 or the other or a synergistic combination (2+2=5).

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126 · October 12, 2012 at 6:59 PM

Thanks - I'll give that a shot. I don't function well on VLC so I shoot for 70 grams on non-workout days and 120 on workout days. It's worth experimenting with these numbers and sweet potatoes are cheap.

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124 · October 12, 2012 at 5:21 PM

1 sweet potato is roughly 30g of carbs, if like me you are only eating meat and veg during the rest of the day you will still be low carb. peel and slice about 3-4 sweet potatoes, coat in olive oil and put them in the oven on a lowish heat while you workout, will be done in 45 mins I have a big appetite so eating 3 sweet potatoes is really easy for me, everyone is different

3228f776e86815bf674a672fc312c4ff
126 · October 12, 2012 at 5:10 PM

I've been eating 1 sweet potato right after my workouts and then making dinner. I wonder if I should just increase my potato count? I usually zap them in the microwave and then add 1 tbsp of butter and a little cinnamon.

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35 · October 12, 2012 at 2:25 AM

this makes sense to me the most. that a calorie surplus is the most important thing when it comes to increase muscle mass. i feel like a calorie surplus signals to the body that it has plenty of available energy and thus can contribute more of that availble energy to protein synthesis, etc. whereas with a caloric deficit, your body realizes it has a limited supply and maintenance of more vital things, organs and what not ;), is a higher priority and thus less goes towards increase muscle mass/protein synthesis.

D826020b1ba2d9d7c7043d3a5eda9140
35 · October 12, 2012 at 2:21 AM

Also, if it does, why? as how would carbs help protein synthesis?or is it the fact that they signal to the body that there are available energy supplies because of the increase in leptin(from the carbs)?

D826020b1ba2d9d7c7043d3a5eda9140
35 · October 12, 2012 at 2:20 AM

interesting. i also do fasted weight training. i even fast after my workouts now for 1-2 hours. i guess my biggest question i have from your comment is: does carb back loading increase muscle gains?(in general that is, as i see you make the very valid point that it depends on your body personally)

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5006 · October 12, 2012 at 1:27 AM

Carbs are a tool that can be used or mis-used depending on goals and other dietary factors. I'll offer up some personal anecdotes to build off what has already been said. I typically train in a fasted state and do any and all carb intake is post workout in the evening. I'm currently testing this and have had great results so far. For example, I had a pretty intense workout and had a "not very paleo" meal that evening and aside from some gastro discomfort looked even "more full and tight" the next morning. Part of that was probably the glycogen replenishment but I digress. I am typically VLC on non workout days. The post workout carbs are the replenishment for the next workout (google carb back loading).

The biggest takeaway is don't be afraid to try new things. I used to be so scared of losing muscle mass if I didn't immediately consume copious amounts of protein post workout and wouldn't even dream of training fasted for fear of muscle loss. Muscle isn't built or torn down in a day, do some proper experiments and see how YOUR body responds.

Matt
PhysiqueRescue.com

06ca9c524c28bc3fba95d4d90f8f43c6
5006 · October 12, 2012 at 9:16 PM

I have had good success coupling the carb back loading while training fasted. I don't know how much of the results are 1 or the other or a synergistic combination (2+2=5).

D826020b1ba2d9d7c7043d3a5eda9140
35 · October 12, 2012 at 2:21 AM

Also, if it does, why? as how would carbs help protein synthesis?or is it the fact that they signal to the body that there are available energy supplies because of the increase in leptin(from the carbs)?

D826020b1ba2d9d7c7043d3a5eda9140
35 · October 12, 2012 at 2:20 AM

interesting. i also do fasted weight training. i even fast after my workouts now for 1-2 hours. i guess my biggest question i have from your comment is: does carb back loading increase muscle gains?(in general that is, as i see you make the very valid point that it depends on your body personally)

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26017 · October 12, 2012 at 12:46 AM

As long as I keep my protein high enough, shouldn't I be able to still make gains in the gym even if I am cutting and low carb(<50 carb, daily deficit of 500 cals)?

Yes and Depends. Make gains, sure. Get built like a bodybuilder, maybe -- you are going to have to find calories, carbs make cheap easy calories.

Also, not only should I be able to make gains, shouldn't I be able to make gains equivalent to as if I was on a maintenance diet?

You need to be at a calorie surplus to make gains.

if I increase carbs, and keep total calories same whether it is on a deficit, maintenance, or bulk etc., will that affect my gains? the point being, do carbs effect strength/mass gains?

Not necessarily. If you are depleting your glycogen stores (we never fully deplete them, but to the extent that your body will let you) then you will need to consume about 50g carbs per day to properly replenish them. The rest can be done through GNG, but that's a lot of fat and protein to have a surplus for muscle building and GNG. Carbs are a cheap, easy form of glucose which will quickly and efficiently refill your glycogen stores. But they are NOT an essential nutrient.

Note: Those two articles are making different points. The first is looking at efficiency -- carbs are far more efficient than protein and fat to convert to glucose. The second one says there is no need for PWO carbs, nor is there a need for carbs to build muscle. Both are true -- For muscle gains, carbs are not necessary, but they can increase the efficiency.

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124 · October 12, 2012 at 4:27 PM

2500 is not too hard if you are cooking all your meals in lots of butter or coconut oil, plus after a workout you can easily devour a steak and 3 sweet potatoes (100g carbs), desert have some berries with some whipped cream to pile on more calories. If you don't consume diary then I really don't know how you can consume 2500+ in a day, it would be a struggle, I'd love to know what other people eat for surplus day.

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126 · October 12, 2012 at 6:59 PM

Thanks - I'll give that a shot. I don't function well on VLC so I shoot for 70 grams on non-workout days and 120 on workout days. It's worth experimenting with these numbers and sweet potatoes are cheap.

7cc64d8fdbca692dccee238f38e24b82
124 · October 12, 2012 at 5:21 PM

1 sweet potato is roughly 30g of carbs, if like me you are only eating meat and veg during the rest of the day you will still be low carb. peel and slice about 3-4 sweet potatoes, coat in olive oil and put them in the oven on a lowish heat while you workout, will be done in 45 mins I have a big appetite so eating 3 sweet potatoes is really easy for me, everyone is different

3228f776e86815bf674a672fc312c4ff
126 · October 12, 2012 at 5:10 PM

I've been eating 1 sweet potato right after my workouts and then making dinner. I wonder if I should just increase my potato count? I usually zap them in the microwave and then add 1 tbsp of butter and a little cinnamon.

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12642 · October 12, 2012 at 1:36 AM

I actually agree with the basic points of both articles based on personal experience.

Per the first article, for losing weight and keeping muscle mass (getting "shredded" as the article calls it) I have found lots of carbs to be the best. For gaining muscle mass, I agree with the second article; as long as I'm eating a caloric surplus, carb intake (except very low and very high) doesn't seem to make any difference for putting on muscle.

This is just my experience though. As PhysiqueRescue said, try new things. See what works for you.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3
12642 · October 14, 2012 at 5:10 AM

Just wanted to throw in this study, which helps explain my experience: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1670506. Insulin may help inhibit muscle breakdown.

D826020b1ba2d9d7c7043d3a5eda9140
35 · October 12, 2012 at 2:25 AM

this makes sense to me the most. that a calorie surplus is the most important thing when it comes to increase muscle mass. i feel like a calorie surplus signals to the body that it has plenty of available energy and thus can contribute more of that availble energy to protein synthesis, etc. whereas with a caloric deficit, your body realizes it has a limited supply and maintenance of more vital things, organs and what not ;), is a higher priority and thus less goes towards increase muscle mass/protein synthesis.

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126 · October 12, 2012 at 1:38 PM

So how many calories are you all targeting in order to achieve a surplus? I have a hard time getting above 2500 on workout days and at the number I'm usually stuffed all day.

I'd love to see what someone's menu looks like on a surplus day.

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