Are you scared that carbs will make you fat and avoid them completely? Did you know that a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates is not just good but essential for building strength muscle, and shedding fat?
Today, I will be going over all the reasons why, 9 reasons in particular, eating a moderate to high carb diet—or what I like to call a balanced and healthy amount of carbs—is absolutely essential if your goal is to build muscle, get stronger, improve your body composition, get leaner, and yes even make fat loss easier.
Let’s call this the “I love carbs, and you should too” episode. You’ll definitely want to share this with a friend, especially if they’re a low-carb or keto zealot who loves to brag about how they haven’t looked at, let alone eaten a potato or bowl of oatmeal in a while. They are leaving massive gains on the table, and this is a very fast road not only to skinny fat but to a miserable existence in terms of enjoying your food.
If I sound a bit sarcastically aggressive today, it’s because I lived the low-carb delusion for an entire decade and paid the price. Now that my bloodstream is flooded with nature’s sweet glycogen drug 24/7, I look back and feel sorry for my carb-deprived former self and want nothing more than for YOU to put that person in the rearview mirror, too.
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Today you’ll learn all about:
[2:44] Carbs are beneficial to muscle growth
[7:34] Energy for high-intensity workouts
[8:52] Glycogen replenishment
[10:16] Protein sparing and mTOR activation
[11:56] Insulin release and hormone balance
[15:45] Prevent muscle protein breakdown
[18:05] Carbs optimizes testosterone to cortisol ratio
[20:02] Reduce muscle soreness post-workout
[21:18] Support muscle retention
[23:58] Improve overall performance
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When it comes to carbs, you fall into one of three categories. You're scared they will make you fat and avoid them completely. You're testing the waters but whether they will make you fat, or you've realized that a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates is not just good, but essential for building strength, muscle and shedding fat. My goal today is to help you find your way into this pleasant third category. Stay tuned as we uncover nine compelling science backed reasons to embrace carbs for a leaner stronger you. Welcome to the Wits & Weights podcast. I'm your host Philip pape, and this twice a week podcast is dedicated to helping you achieve physical self mastery by getting stronger. Optimizing your nutrition and upgrading your body composition will uncover science backed strategies for movement, metabolism, muscle and mindset with a skeptical eye on the fitness industry so you can look and feel your absolute best. Let's dive right in. Wits& Weights community Welcome to another solo episode of the Wits& Weights podcast in our latest episode 125 peptides, hormone therapy, medical esthetics and personalized wellness with Kristin Jim. We discussed peptides, hormone therapy, medical weight loss, and other ways to complement lifestyle interventions to optimize your health today for episode 126 more carbs, more muscle, why low carb and keto or keeping you skinny fat? I will be going over all the reasons why nine reasons in particular, eating a moderate to high carb diet, or what I like to call a balanced and healthy amount of carbs is absolutely essential. If your goal is to build muscle get stronger, improve your body composition, get leaner, and yes even make fat loss easier. Let's call this the I love carbs and you should to episode you'll definitely want to share this with a friend especially if they're a low carb or keto zealot who loves to brag about how they haven't looked at, let alone eaten a potato or bowl of oatmeal in a while they are leaving massive gains on the table. And this is a very fast road not only to skinny fat, but to a miserable existence in terms of enjoying your food, at least for 99% of people. If I sound a bit sarcastically aggressive today, it's because I've lived the low carb delusion for an entire decade. And I paid the price. Now that my bloodstream is flooded with nature's sweet glycogen drug 24/7. I look back and feel sorry for my carb deprived former self. And I want nothing more than for you to put that person in the rearview mirror too. So let's get into today's topic, more carbs, more muscle, why low carb and keto are keeping you skinny fat. So as often is the case, I love to look at the science look at what the studies say. And I'm going to reference one in particular. But I will say that there are multiple studies that support the idea that carbs are beneficial for building muscle. And there don't seem to be any, there was one that was retracted that support the opposite. So there's a plethora of evidence in support of this case, not to mention, my clients, the very vast majority of them come to me not eating enough carbs, we increase their carbs, lo and behold a lot of the issues they had before not just related to muscle building, but energy recovery, sleep, which all contribute also to muscle building. just magically go away just from having more carbs, hormones, etc. You name it. So I want to get into the exact reasons why this is a beneficial thing. But let me mention one study that Bill Campbell reviewed in his research review, I think it was back in Issue two in the study is by Paoli at all 2021. So it's just a couple years old. And the title is effects of two months of very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet on body composition, muscle strength, muscle area and blood parameters in the competitive natural bodybuilders. And the study looked at the effects of a keto diet, you know, a keto diet versus a normal Western diet, which we're going to call moderate or high carb throughout this episode, but frankly, we can just call it normal carbs. But this is all in the IODP eye of the beholder. If we think of how language works, we've gotten so used to the idea of low carb and keto being somewhat of a norm that the any contrast to that is considered high carbs. By the end of the episode, I hope you'll come to the conclusion that moderate high carbs as we call them, are really just balanced, diverse and balanced diverse diet and a healthy level of carbs. Okay, anyway, they looked at keto versus normal on body composition and strength in 19 Male natural bodybuilders so people were already knew how to train they already knew how to eat control their macros and so on. The keto group consumed very low carb, very high fat, moderate protein, the normal diet group ate higher carb lower fat and that same amount of protein so same calories, same Protein Protein equated diet very important. After eight weeks, the normal diet group gained significantly more muscle mass five pounds of muscle, compared to the Keto group, only 1.2 pounds. That is a 5x difference. The keto group gained very little for all that training and all that work. And they still gain the same amount of weight. So what does that tell you? If they didn't gain muscle mass? What did they gain? Okay, so now we're already seeing one of the differences. Both groups increase strength similarly, right, but muscle wise, the non keto group gained a lot more. The researchers did confirm that the Keto group maintained ketosis based on their ketone levels. And so overall, the studies suggest that a normal higher carb diet may be better for maximizing muscle growth in people who lift. And this is actually one of the first studies on keto diets in bodybuilders that also should, you know, that also show that lower carb intake impairs muscle building capabilities, compared to a more balanced diet that can has adequate carbs. I think Brandon Cruz covered this topic in a recent episode of chasing clarity as well. And he mentioned another study, I didn't get time to verify it. But it showed that women in particular, also experienced a performance hit a performance impact when the carbs are lower, even more than men did. And there's probably some reason for that a validity for that, that I'm going to be covering in I think my very next episode actually is going to be covering female fat loss, specifically for females, because there are differences between men and women. And I think it's important to talk about those differences, both physiologically and also in terms of stigma and society and kind of the the culture as well. So I'll be covering that in the next episode. But for today, let's get into nine reasons. The carbs are just awesome. Like that, you should just eat more carbs, period. All right. By the end of this, if you're not convinced, nobody's gonna convince you. And honestly, I'm not even trying to convince you so much as enlighten you as to what the evidence says. Because I am so excited by the fact that I could always eat way more carbs than I ever used to. And every day I wake up thinking, here's another day, I get to just eat a bunch of foods I love and I just have to balanced approach. That means by goals, it isn't that what we all want is that like rule number one with sticking with it. I feel so bad for the people who are just cutting out entire food groups thinking that that's going to get them results, I just I feel sad for them. And if you know someone like that, please share this episode with them. All right, number one, energy for your workouts. Alright, we're not even talking about strength training here, I wanted to get this one out of the way. High intensity and Glagolitic workouts, glycolytic aerobic workouts like high intensity interval training, cardio, even CrossFit, okay. Carbohydrates are the crucial energy for those modes of movement. And these movements may be part of your overall programming, they may be part of your, you know, muscle building repertoire, even though we often I don't want to say I denigrate cardio, I think cardio is very important for just general conditioning and cardiovascular health. But if you're doing any sort of glycolytic movement, just know that having carbs is also supportive of this. So I just wanted to mention that muscle glycogen is the predominant fuel source during moderate to high intensity exercise. And its availability can make or break the performance you gained during that. And so if you don't have it, it can really wipe you out. And that could actually impede your recovery for other things like you're lifting even more than if you didn't. And so a high carb diet gives you a ready supply of glucose for glycogen synthesis. And this keeps your muscles primed and energized even for those types of workouts. Okay, so that's it energy for high intensity workouts was number one. Number two, glycogen replenishment. One of the most important things we have when it comes to cars, post workout, carbohydrate consumption, replenishes your muscle glycogen, we can drain as much as something like 40% of your glycogen during a heavy lifting session. And if you train frequently, you know, if you're working out four days a week, maybe five days a week, this is a daily thing almost right? And having a more optimal glycogen storage meaning you're filling up the tank, you're having the the carbs around your workout, not necessarily just after but also before just kind of around your workout will improve the it's effectively a form of endurance is it not? Right even though you're you might be lifting very heavy weights, you might be doing singles or triples, you're still draining this, this energy tank. And once it's drained, you're gonna feel wiped out you're gonna feel like you can't quite get enough reps. You might feel like you have to cut the workout short, or you just may feel like you're dragging and this also doesn't make it as enjoyable either you because next time you're like, I gotta go back to the gym and I'm going to feel like that again. Right. So, the carbs for glycogen before and after are important now. After New York out, you've, you actually have greater insulin sensitivity. And so you're gonna be able to make really good use of the glycogen coming in, you're gonna be able to replenish that tank even faster. So that is a really nice synergy there. Alright, so that's number two, glycogen replenishment. Number three very important one, this one comes up a lot. And I think it confuses people, or they don't even realize that this happens. And that is the protein sparing, and mTOR activation. So a couple of mechanisms here, I want to explain. By consuming sufficient carbs, you're effectively telling your body, here you go, here's the easiest, most ready source of carbs or energy for you. And and you're good. Without the sufficient carbs, you're going to start to utilize muscle protein for energy. But when you have carbs coming in, well, now your muscles didn't get repaired and built using your protein directly. It's very efficient. All right, and part of this process is called the mTOR pathway. The mTOR is considered the master regulator of cell growth. It's influenced by nutrient availability. So this is why we want to have protein, protein and carbs coming in. So we get this optimal muscle protein synthesis, right? The carbs enhance the body's anabolic response by activating mTOR. When paired with adequate protein intake, this is probably a very key mechanism as to why carbs are anti catabolic, why increasing carbs helps with the use of the protein to build muscle. Does that make sense? So carbs are protein sparing, partly because they activate the mTOR pathway. I forget what mTOR stands for. It's like mammalian. Oh, man, don't I forget, but a mammalian something of Oh, don't forget, I'm not even gonna I'm not gonna say here. I could look it up and I'm gonna move on. Alright. mTOR pathway, MTR. Alright, number four, insulin, insulin release and hormone balance. All right, so carbs stimulate insulin release, it's one of the reasons they have a bad reputation. People, oh my god, if you eat too many carbs, you're gonna spike your insulin. Now, if you're sedentary, and you're over consuming calories and gaining weight, and you're not training, and most likely the majority of calories are coming from carbs and fat, you probably don't have much protein, then yeah, you're gonna gain a lot of weight, you're going to head toward that pre diabetic, by pre diabetic, eventually diabetic state of metabolic disease. And it's correlated with higher insulin and insulin resistance, but not because of the carbs in and of themselves, because of the carbs being consumed in a hyper caloric environment, right, you're over consuming. You're not training you have in your, you don't have any muscle mass data, data, that right the whole thing, ties together. unhealthy lifestyle means more carbs, and calories are not going to be good for you. But when you are working out when you do eat, the appropriate amount of energy for your needs, carbohydrates stimulate insulin. And this helps with things like nutrient transport into your cells and also modulating other hormones, right? Insulin can reduce cortisol. So there's a reason when you work out, you feel a little bit calm down, like you might feel ramped up mentally, right, like in terms of you're energized for the day. But you've also, quote unquote, burned through some cortisol, because the insulin spike has reduced the cortisol levels. Guess what that does? It mitigates muscle protein breakdown, it increases growth factor, IGF one. And all of this helps with the recovery and the muscle building. I mean, it's a beautiful cascade, I say beautiful a lot I know. But it's a wonderful cascade between carbohydrate, insulin, and the other hormones that are synergistic with building muscle and avoiding muscle protein breakdown. Hey, this is Philip. And I hope you're enjoying this episode of Wits & Weights, I started Wits & Weights to help people who want to build muscle lose fat and actually look like they lift. I've noticed that when people improve their strength and physique, they not only look and feel better, they transform other areas of their life, their health, their mental resilience and their confidence in everything they do. And since you're listening to this podcast, I assume you want the same things the same success, whether you recently started lifting, or you've been at this for a while and want to optimize and reach a new level of success. Either way, my one on one coaching focused on engineering your physique and body composition is for you. If you want expert guidance and want to get results faster, easier, and with fewer frustrations along the way to actually look like you lift, go to wits & weights.com and click on coaching or use the link in my show notes to apply today. I'll ask you a few short questions to decide if we're a good fit. And if we are, we'll get you started this week. Now back to the show. So insulin is a powerful anti catabolic Like, it protects muscle tissue from breakdown, right? And elevated insulin post carb intake then drives nutrients into muscle cells, which supports growth and prevents catabolism. So we love insulin. If you're a lifter, if you're lifting weights or training heavy progressive overload, you're getting the calories you need to get the protein you need. Embrace that insulin release, we want it. We want it because it does all these wonderful things to anti catabolic. All right, you're actually becoming more insulin sensitive, because you are lifting weights. All right, number five. This is the fifth out of nine beautiful reasons. Again, beautiful Saturday, again, sorry, that carbs are worth having as one of your best friends. Okay, number five, preventing muscle protein breakdown. So again, we're talking about the anti catabolic effects, right? Anti catabolic, catabolic is breakdown of tissue. Carbs are anti catabolic. Alright. Now, when you are in a low energy availability state, which is common when you are on a low carb diet, right, or when you're in a calorie deficit, the body is going to accelerate muscle protein breakdown to use those amino acids for energy. Going back to the protein sparing thing, this happens both during fat loss and in a surplus. Now, we're not talking too much about fat loss today, because with fat loss, all of us experience some of the challenges of low carb, because we have to keep the protein relatively high, we need a certain essential level of fat for health. And we're left with kind of a limited level of carbs. So my limited, I mean, oftentimes around 100 grams or less, which I'm going to call low carb slash keto territory. Whereas something like 150 grams or higher, gets into more normal moderate to high carb levels. And a simple formula for that is one gram per pound, very much like protein, right? So if you weigh 150 pounds, and you're getting 150 grams of protein, consider that moderate. And then it can go up from there. Anyway, what I was saying is that when you're losing fat, when you're in a fat loss phase, we know that one of the hardest things is to hold on to muscle. And that's because the body is going to break down the muscle protein and use that energy, because you just don't have much energy coming in. But here's the thing, when you're at maintenance, or when you're in a surplus, you get the same negative effects by not having enough carbs. That's the powerful thing here. That is why the bodybuilders in that study I started with could barely put on new muscle when they were deprived of carbs and the ones had the carbs flowing in. They're like, yeah, pack it on five pounds of muscle. Let's do it. And so adequate carb intake prevents that scenario, right? Here. Here's how the body uses its energy. But just to simplify it, I realized it's more complicated this, the body's energy hierarchy is going to use carbs first, fat second, and proteins as a last resort, adequate carbs adequate consumption, right dietary carbs, ensures that protein is reserved for its primary function that we want it for, which is muscle repair and growth. So carbs prevent muscle protein breakdown, super important. Number six carbs can optimize the testosterone to cortisol ratio, or this is one of those that I was refreshed in my if I even remembered it to begin with for my nutrition education. When I was researching this topic, proper carb consumption supports a favorable testosterone to cortisol ratio. And this is also favorable for muscle anabolism. And recovery. just intuitively think about it, the more testosterone the more anabolic you are, the less cortisol, the less stress the better recover, you have men and women, right? Even though men have multiples the amount of testosterone has women. You know, it's still important in both. And we mentioned before that carbs also help balance hormones. Well, conversely, a low carb diet can lead to hormonal imbalances that can impede your muscle gains. And in this case, the testosterone to cortisol ratio is one of those balances. So whenever somebody tells you like, you know, women over 40, they need to keep the carbs low. Watch out. I honestly that that's pretty terrible advice, just as generic advice, because at the end of the day, the right advice is you need to eat for you and your goals. And he's tested out and experiment with yourself. But also don't just assume that cutting something out to an unnatural level of aloneness. I just awkwardly worded that. But you know, what I mean, would somehow benefit you, right? Whereas a moderate to high carb diet is not moderate to high carb, right? It's a balanced level of carbs. And that actually maintains hormonal balance. So again, women over 40 Way more often than not, in my experience, and two thirds of my clients are women, and most of them are over 40 are going to thrive on higher carbs, their hormones are going to just balance the heck out of each other generally, right generally, unless you have other issues, but I'm just saying relative to a lower carb approach for most women, and And also for most people, all right, number seven, recovery, okay, and soreness. So these are very important aspects, carbs will reduce muscle soreness after your exercise. And they're going to speed up your recovery. I mean, we talked about glycogen, right? But even during and right after the workout, and up to like a day or two afterward, a higher carb diet will decrease the perception of fatigue. And they're going to lower the markers of muscle damage. cart. And the reason is, this is so cool. Carbs enhance the repair and rebuilding process of muscles. And I think that's because of the mTOR pathway. It's because they're anti catabolic is because they allow protein to be used for what they need to be used for just building muscles. You can see this is all related. It's all related. So carbs enhance all of those things. And guess what that means? You don't feel as sore you don't feel the tearing of the muscles as long they recover better. Also, who you know what else that means? Sar stress adaptation recovery I talked about in my last solo episode, progressive overload, this means you're gonna have better adaptation and growth over time. This is why you're gonna build muscle faster. It's so cool. I mean, improve recovery, less soreness, more energy, more anti catabolic, the list goes on and on. Alright, now we get to number eight. So carbs support retaining muscle in a calorie deficit. Okay, I alluded it to I alluded to it earlier, but we have to address fat loss. What does this all me? All right, especially for women, okay, because women apparently will see it and even bigger performance drop with low carb intake. But either way men and women need sufficient carbs to preserve muscle mass during calorie restriction. And I know that's hard to do, because we're also trying to keep the protein high. So if I were to prioritize that, I would say, hit your protein minimum. And that might look different for different people, but it's usually around point eight to one grams per pound, hit the fat minimum, this is where you have a little bit of a lever to play with, because a lot of us might just be consuming more fat than we really need relative to carbs during fat loss. And sometimes just dialing that fat a little bit down from say, 30% of the calories to 20%, or 25 to 15% of the calories and saying keep it pretty tight, gives you that extra room to crank up the carbs a little bit. Now I've also seen cases where just a small drop in protein can go over to a slight increase in carbs, and like these are like dials on a machine. And all of a sudden, the stress response gets reduced, right? Your expenditure starts to climb back up, or at least not drop as fast. And you're still able to retain muscle. It's a fine balance between multiple various variables. And I know it's tough. And this is why it really helps to have a coach like when I'm working with clients and fat loss. It is not just about the calorie deficit, it's about so much more than that. It's about how are we playing with the protein, fats and carbs for you, to give you enough energy to hold on to muscle, as measured by your lifts, and how you feel in the gym and your strength and all that. To give you enough energy, I think I said an energy to help with your sleep topple the recovery, it's all this balanced with the end goal to number one, get through the diet. That's number one, because you can't even do that you're gonna you know, you're not going to be successful. And then number two, hold on to as much muscle mass as possible. Okay, so it just remember even though the carbs might be down to like 100 grams, 80 grams, even 50 grams Aikido territory, do you have some dials to play with on the fat protein side give you a little bit more carbs if it seems to be affecting you. Otherwise, the only other options are to reduce the aggressiveness of the diet. So you eat more food, or, and or to increase your expenditure in other ways, like a higher step count, for example, or maybe you need more sleep or whatever a number of other areas, right. So it's all this kind of budget that we're playing with. All right, number nine, for why carbs are so important. Beyond muscle building, carbs improve your overall athletic performance. And this is this is different than recovery. And this is different than glycogen, this is just that just everything about how you're able to push the weights, you know, handle the intensity of from one rep to knock another and one set to another, to be able to ability to handle smaller rest periods, your work capacity, like all of your athletic markers, during a training session, whether it's lifting or cardio, both. You can have higher quality, more intense workouts in general, by having those carbs in your bloodstream, period. This is why I don't like fasted training, right? When people ask I say just don't do it, unless you've want to compare the two and then see which one works better for you. And 99% of the time it's going to be having the carbs in your system or having the food in your system. So if you only have a little bit of time before you work out out something very fast digesting like banana is a good option. If it's a little farther out, you have more options, it could be a slower digesting carb, like a grain like oats. And if if you have to fast train at all, I would eat a lot more carbs as my dinner the night before and have the dinner a little bit later. I mean, not so late that it impedes sleep but late enough that it kind of carries over into the next day, but it's still suboptimal in terms of the glycogen in the tank when you work out. So sufficient carbon take ensures that the muscle and liver glycogen stores are optimized like we talked about before. And this helps you with your training performance. So a lot of what I said today, these nine things inter weave, right like there's dependencies on each other, so they're not like completely isolated in a vacuum. But I thought it was important to bring up the whole picture so that you understand why carbs are so important. Now, we're gonna go over the negatives of a moderate to high carb diet and they really are not okay, so that was that section. And if you enjoy fruits, rice, pasta, oats, potatoes and the many other sources of carbs in a diverse balanced diet, please, by all means do enjoy them. Okay, so if you found this trip down carb lane, enlightening, or even just entertaining, I don't know. I'm gonna I'm in a good mood today. For some reason I'm always in a good mood but but a little bit more of a cheeky mood today, I guess, as my friends would say. share this episode with a friend please if you found this enlightening entertaining helpful in any way whatsoever, please share it with a friend, especially a low carb keto zealot who thinks that carbs make you fat, please share it with them, and then share it with them in the hopes that we can save one more soul from the misery of constantly cutting out carbs. I mean, that would do a huge service in the world. And it would probably help you know the agricultural industry as well. Anyway, in our next episode 127 Five fat loss mistakes women need to avoid what to do instead, we will go over why females in particular should reconsider jumping right into a fat loss phase. The five most common mistakes women make and how to set yourself up for a successful fat loss phase instead. As always, stay strong. And I'll talk to you next time here on the Wits & Weights podcast. Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Wits & Weights. If you found value in today's episode, and know someone else who's looking to level up their Wits & Weights, please take a moment to share this episode with them. And make sure to hit the Follow button in your podcast platform right now to catch the next episode. Until then, stay strong