Workout Routines

Low-Carb Workout

Don't let a low-carb diet kill your training. Here's how to get a great workout, with energy to spare.


If you're one of the millions of people on a low-carb diet and you work out, you might know these symptoms all too well: Tired. Sore. Unable to focus or muster enough energy to rumble through your usual lifting and cardio sessions.

Obviously, while cutting carbohydrates out of your diet can have a beneficial effect (i.e., getting shredded), it does have a downside. Simply put, your energy levels can go in the tank.

I'm not here to argue the pros and cons of this type of diet. I'll admit, I had great success with a low-carb strategy for the better part of two decades while I competed as a bodybuilder. So let's just say you've gone low-carb and you want to continue to train hard, drop bodyfat and build muscle. Here's how to manipulate your workouts to do just that.

Revamp Your Training

While the low-carb diet can help you get ripped by cutting your bodyfat levels, it also can cost you valuable muscle size. That's because stores of glycogen (stored glucose from carbohydrates) inside your muscle tissue and liver are compromised when your carb intake is too low. And with low stores of glycogen, it's difficult for your muscles to exert the sustained, high-intensity effort required to lift weights. Essentially, you suffer a decrease in strength, your training poundages drop and your muscles get less stimulation, which leads to muscle loss.

In addition, when you diet (whether low-carb or otherwise), you're almost always in a hypocaloric state (you take in fewer food calories than you burn). In this environment, your body looks for the "missing energy" it needs to function, usually breaking protein structures into amino acids, which can then be used for energy.

Because of those factors, you need to structure your resistance training so that it's brief, heavy and intense. Brief workouts consume fewer calories than longer workouts. For those of you who don't feel like you've had a good workout until you've spent the entire afternoon in the gym, remember this: There's an inverse relationship between training volume and training intensity. You can train hard for a short period or not-so-hard for a longer period, but you can't train hard for a long period! In fact, if you truly give it your all on every set of every exercise, you won't last longer than 20-30 minutes per bodypart.

You want to also go as heavy as possible as quickly into the workout as possible after a warm-up. This is important, because when a muscle is fresh, ATP (the chemical responsible for energy and contraction) and stored glycogen in the muscle are at their highest. That's when you can generate really big power output. Think of training your bodyparts this way: You should be exerting as much force as you can in as short a time as you can. Make maximizing the stress during your workout your first goal.

Because of the intense nature of this type of training, warming up becomes more crucial to avoid injury. Always start with a couple of light sets of your first exercise.