Myth #1: Cutting Carbs Causes You to Lose Muscle Mass
At the very beginning of a low-carb diet, glycogen stored in muscles becomes depleted. Glycogen pulls water into muscle fibers, and when it disappears, water levels within the muscle drop. This causes the muscle to temporarily lose size.
This temporary drop in muscle water and fullness causes many guys to abandon their low-carb diets because they think the effect is permanent. However, after a few days, the body adjusts to the decreased carb intake, creates and stores glycogen from other sources, and the muscles refill with water.
Low-carb, high-protein diets do not cause you to lose muscle, and they can actually help you gain muscle while you lose bodyfat. This is due to two factors: the increase in dietary protein intake and the increase in the burning of fat for fuel. When you drop carbs, you should up protein consumption to at least 1 1⁄2-2 grams per pound of bodyweight per day. Research shows that protein intake drives the muscle-building process, which is known as protein synthesis; the more protein you ingest, the more protein synthesis that occurs and the greater the potential for muscle growth.
Meanwhile, ketones, which are produced when you burn major amounts of bodyfat, are used by the body for fuel to prevent the breakdown of muscle protein. With that decrease in muscle breakdown due to ketones and an increase in muscle buildup from higher protein intake, you have a perfect recipe for stimulating muscle growth. In fact, a study performed at the Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut found that men on a low-carb, high-protein diet gained muscle mass without even exercising. When you couple a low-carb, high-protein diet with a solid training program, you’ll be amazed at how much fat you can lose while maintaining, if not gaining muscle.
Take Home Message
Increase protein consumption to a minimum of 1 1⁄2 g per pound of bodyweight per day when going low carb. Choose animal protein sources, such as beef, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy, as well as whey and casein protein powders.