Carbs boost muscle growth…
When we think about building muscle, we usually think of protein. But research shows that lowering carb intake can affect your muscle mass even if protein remained constant.
Protein sparing (amino acid sparing) is the process by which the body derives energy from sources other than protein. Protein sparing conserves muscle tissue without specifically using protein as a nutrient.
So, even if you’re drinking protein shakes or eating steak and chicken 5 times a day, you could still be losing muscle if you aren’t getting enough carbs.
A recent study from the Netherlands compared three diets:
a high carb diet (85% carbs);
a medium carb diet (44% carbs); and
a low carb diet (2% carbs).
All diets had the same total calories and the same amount of protein — 15%. (Yes, a little low, but more or less adequate.)
Here are the results…
T3 levels and reverse T3 levels stayed the same with high and moderate carbohydrate intake.
T3 levels and reverse T3 went down on the low-carb diet.
But here’s the interesting part…. In this study, the researchers also measured urinary nitrogen excretion to see how the diets affected protein breakdown.
The low carb diet increased muscle breakdown, because severely low carbs lowered insulin levels.
You would assume that protein intake would determine if the muscle builds or breaks down. And you might assume — based on what you’ve heard — that having higher insulin is always “bad” insulin but it is crucial for building muscle.
When you get enough carbs to meet your needs, you replenish muscle glycogen and create an anabolic (building-up) hormonal environment. You get strong and buff. That’s good.
So we know that we need carbs because they’re protein sparing and because they are the predominant fuel source to improve performance in the gym, which is key to building or maintaining muscle.
Another very important thing carbs do is to activate and produce ATP. As much as 80% of ATP production comes from glycolysis (glucose production). ATP plays an important role in anaerobic training – which is super important in getting stronger and building muscle!
So when you get enough carbs to meet your needs, you replenish muscle glycogen and create an anabolic (building-up) hormonal environment.
You get strong and buff!!