Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Low-carb diet and muscle: what you should know

I have been advocating for the low-carb diet on this blog for quite a while now, and I feel like it's time to play the devil's advocate a bit. I still think that you MUST try this diet if you suffer from IBS, because it IS a life-changer, but I recently found out that too much low-carb can become problematic. Here is what you should know, and why you should avoid limiting carb intake too much.

Your muscles need carbs

I had already mentioned in a previous post that I would from time to time experience a small muscle pain. This is a very common problem when going low-carb, and the usual advice is to take supplements of magnesium and potassium, which I did. It helped, but eventually the problem came back.

After some research, I found a very interesting page from Lyle McDonald, where he shares his conclusions on the minimal amount of carbs to eat. Basically, if you don't do a lot of physical activity, you should always be fine. Some people can hold a very low carb diet for years without a problem.
But on the other hand, if like me you do a lot of sports, the game changes. Your body needs to break protein and change it into carbohydrates if it doesn't get enough. But protein is needed to help your muscles recover and develop. This is why we need to be careful and start thinking about a minimal carb intake.

How much should you eat?

 Of course everyone is different, and it totally depends on your activity level. McDonald says a safe minimal value is 50g a day. That is what I used to have, before reading his article. He then explains it is safer to increase the amount depending on your sport activity.
For me, I ride my bike every day, I lift weights two times a week, and, it might sound strange, but playing guitar actually make my finger muscles work really hard.

So this is what I did: I added a banana per day. It has many advantages: First, it gives me 20g more carbs a day. Second, it contains a good amount of magnesium and potassium, which are known to help for this kind of muscle pain.

So I am still following the diet as recommended by Doctor Lutz in life without bread, but now I really pay attention to being close to the limit (72g a day). Actually I may occasionally go over it to 80g some days. I have been doing that for 2 weeks now and I notice a big difference. My muscle pain is almost gone.

Not enough studies

Now, although I do hope this can be of some help to someone, I wrote this article for a precise reason: the truth is, there are not that much studies concerning the low-carb diet. You can find every opinion on the subject, I read about no-carb, I read about "if you don't eat at least xxx g per day you will die in two weeks",  and almost everything in between. You can find studies supporting every camp.
Also, we must keep in mind that even some low-carb nutritionists recommend to move to 100g-150g a day in the long run, staying below 100g a day just for a few months.

So the only conclusion that we can draw here is that... we don't know much. In this aspect, I think we should be careful: a minimum amount of 50g carbs a day can not do any harm. Let's put it this way: Is there a reason to limit carbs that much? With 70g carbs a day, my symptoms have totally disappeared. So for me, the answer is clearly no, and I choose to play it safe.
If we feel something is wrong, moving up to 100g a day is ok, it should already bring a lot of relief in IBS symptoms.

4 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

I dont think its unhealthy to limit your carbs for an otherwise heath person. may diets including the atkins diet are based on the idea of eating less then 30 carbs a day. my mother and sister both lost ovver 20lbs solely on this diet and no added exercise regiment. in reality they would eat less then 10 carbs in a day and they were perfectly healthy and full ( surprisingly) in the end. you would be surprised to find all the foods out there that dont have any carbs at all. and if your worried about how the pains might come a good thing to do to add card to your diet without it hindering your ibs or anything like that would be gatorade. i think theres like 23 carbs in a 24 oz. bottle and your intestines dont have such a hard time digesting it.

Anonymous said...

I live a busy life, I exercise, and staying around 100g a day keeps me IBS free with no problems. My weight remains stable and my energy level is good.

Anonymous said...

I have around 190g of carbs every day - and that's before 3pm. Probably another 100g for the rest of the day. I'm also 31, an ectomorph (so lean) and find it tough eating enough food to not get dizzy while avoiding carbs and typical FODMAP foods.
Which sort of meals and snacks enables one to keep carbs to maximum 100g per day and still have energy for the gym?

Guillaume said...

I found that nuts are a really good solution for this.

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