By Myprotein Writer
Your body is a machine and adapts to changes in the environment instead of resisting it. When you look at your overall physique and the changes that you want to make to it you think about it in weeks and months. However, it is more seconds that your bodies are adapting and changing on a cellular level.
Every second your body is building new cells and destroying the old cells. These new cells are better, more adaptive and better for the current environment they are living. So, when you are dropping your calories and trying to lose weight and thinking that you can continue with this weight loss – it may be slightly more difficult than anticipated.
Your body has already quickly adapted and learned how to survive on this lower energy intake that you are feeding them. Ultimately, causing potential side effects such as a slower metabolism, muscle loss and reduced endurance abilities.
It doesn’t need to come across as all doom and gloom. Just as your higher energy cells are killed off and replaced by lower energy cells, the reverse can happen too!
Long Term Low-Carb? |
All About Insulin Sensitivity
Some diets claim that pro-longed periods of consuming minimal carbohydrates prepares your body for that high-carb spike – for example, eating low-carb all week and topping up your energy levels with a cheat meal/day.
During this high-carb spike you will then be able to carb-up and store this food as glycogen and little fat (an increase in insulin sensitivity).
This however, is only going to happen during early periods of carb deprivation. Just as mentioned before, your body is adaptive and is more efficient at processing fat over time because it become less efficient at processing carbs.
Over time, your insulin sensitivity is going to drop (insulin resistance). Therefore, your re-feed days become less and less effective as your body is going to release more insulin during each carb-up, which will cause more carbs to be stored as fat – not glycogen for muscles.
✓ This may be the reason why many individuals may lose weight after their first experience of consuming a low-carb diet – and fail to see the results once repeated again and again. That, and the metabolic damage caused by inconsistency.
How Do Low-Carb Diets
Effect Recovery Periods?
Training is dependent on the glycogen stores (energy stored in the body from carbohydrate consumption).
In a true-carbohydrate depleted state, it takes 24 hours after lifting for protein synthesis to shift towards a positive balance. This gives the idea that if a person works out more than twice a week then that person is going to get smaller and smaller as the workout have pushed them into a catabolic nightmare.
The issue here is insulin – or the lack off. This is the transport hormone; ingested protein post-workout isn’t able to get into the muscle cell walls because there isn’t the mechanism to get them there.
Instead, these amino acids are floating in the blood stream until they are converted into carbs using gluconeogenesis. Once you have finished your workout, the body’s main concern is to refill its glycogen stores….
Re-fueling energy stores
Failing this, then you are delaying the time for your body to recover and causing it to revert to using protein as its carbohydrate source. This is the reason for the need to eat enough carbs post-work out to stop you body from using the protein.
Once the glycogen levels have been restored then the protein breakdown levels and build up can begin! The insulin shuttles use this protein to get it into the muscles; without the insulin then they will use the protein for themselves.
✓ This cycle is what is the cause of slow recovery periods due to the fact that your body must make the glucose it needs. Overall, carbs are efficient for helping your body to avoid turning to your protein intake to survive.
Recovery can be as quick as four hours if sufficient macronutrients are ingested. Those on a low-carb diet will spend 24 hours in a catabolic state (muscle breakdown) and the next 24 hours in a anabolic state (muscle growth) if workouts are not on successive days.
Whereas, a person that is on a moderate carbohydrate diet will spend 44 hours in an anabolic state and only 4 hours in a catabolic state – or 20 hours and 4 hours if workouts are successive.
When carb intake is low then roughly a chunk of your protein intake is going to be used to be converted into glucose. The body is already limited to the amount of protein that it can digest in one sitting so by even reducing this further by taking roughly 40% for glycogen stores is huge!
For example: If a 220-pound body builder is taking in 330 grams of protein a day (1.5 grams of protein per 1 pound of body weight), then they are loosing 134 grams of protein a day to gluconeogenesis. They would then have to eat about 500 grams of protein per day to make up for the loss. 500 grams!
Calories in v Calories Out
Thermodynamics is the concept of what goes in must equal what does out for someone to maintain his or her weight.
So, in this case someone that is consuming 2000 calories of burgers and fries would get the same results as someone eating 2000 calories of chicken and rice.
Yes, they consume the same anount of calories – however, there are some differences.
The individual eating the burgers would lose a greater proportion of muscle:fat whereas, the second person would lose more fat:muscle. You can consume far more calories and stay leaner on a less processes diet as compared to a high processed diet.
You body acts as a sorting machine and utilises macronutrients differently. If you were to consume 500 calories of rice, oats and sweet potato then 80% would be used as glycogen and use for muscle building with the other 20% being for fat storage.
Whereas someone eating the same amount of calories on cakes, chocolate and cookies would have 30% used for glycogen and 70% for fat.
Now – put this concept into a situation of someone trying to build muscle.
The ‘clean’ eater may result in building more muscle than the other person.
So, while in terms of energy transfer thermodynamics is correct, the body works using a number of different pathways and it has no control of how your body will utilise this energy.
Take Home Message
On one side of the coin we have seen how long-term low-carb diets may be detrimental to muscle recovery – however, moderate-carb diets have the abilityy to lead to greater muscle loss and reduced fat loss.
Therefore, it is clear that we need to meet somewhere in the middle. A balance between all three macronutrients needs to be put into place.
Whilst high or low-carb diet might be effective for part of your fitness journey, they shouldn’t be used for the entire journey!