Over the last two or three years sev-eral “new” dietary strategies have been advanced that are specifically designed to help bodybuilders get extremely lean for contests. These diets have in common a fairly high protein intake, around 25 to 30 percent of calories. Another common feature is that they advocate reducing car-bohydrate content in favor of increasing dietary fat consumption. Some of these plans call for limiting carbs to 30 to 50 grams per day, or even less, and providing around 70 percent of calories from fat. This regimen is carried out over a five day (or so) course to deliberately induce ketosis and a fat-burning metabolism, to promote the use of stored body fat as energy.
This is followed by two or three days of carbing up to provide an anabolic growth spurt. Another program is more moderate, suggesting a diet of 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbs, and 30 percent fat, with-out cycling. There is a lot of science and theory behind these diets, although the high-fat recommendation is quite contro-versial. Without getting too bogged down in the biochemical details, the fundamental idea behind these approaches is to reduce carbohydrate intake in order to reduce insulin levels. Insulin is a potent inhibitor of lipolysis, or fat breakdown. By reducing insulin levels, you can take the brakes off fat metabolism and encourage the use of stored body fat for energy. In my work with bodybuilders, I have found that reducing carbs does indeed help to promote fat loss, especially in people who have a hard time getting lean. I don’t have a problem with carb reduction – as long as it’s done right (I’ll get to that in a moment). But what I have a problem with is that with high fat diets, the dietary fat is VERY prone to be stored as body fat.
Sev-eral studies have demonstrated that body fat percentage is more highly determined by dietary fat intake than by calorie intake (1,2,3,4,6,8,9,10). Not only does dietary fat contribute more to fat stores than protein or carbohydrate (1-13), but dietary fat (es-pecially long chain saturated fat) increases your cholesterol level and your risk for heart disease . Back to carbs for a moment: A prob-lem with the very low carb approach is that energy levels fall dramatically. Anaerobic exercise, such as weight lifting, is fueled almost exclusively by carbs. Fat cannot be used as an anaerobic energy source; it can only be oxidized aerobically. Therefore, strength and energy levels fall dramatically without carbs. This results in more muscle catabolism (breakdown and loss), as the muscles turn to branched chain amino acids as fuel. In addition, low carbohydrate diets have been found to reduce thyroid hormone level, which is one of the chief controllers of metabolic rate.If you’re familiar with my work at all, you know that I advocate, in general, a diet high in protein, high in complex carbo-hydrates, and very low in fat. I agree that hard-training athletes need more protein than sedentary people, at least one gram to 1.5 grams or more per pound of body weight per day.
This is a good general guideline, especially during weight gain. As you decrease calories to lose fat, it helps to increase this amount to as much as 1 .5 to 2 grams or more per pound of bodyweight per day. The higher dietary protein intake helps prevent catabolism of muscle protein during energy-restricted diets . Next, you should allot 5 to 10 percent of your daily calories to come from fat. The remainder of your calories come from complex carbohydrates, which I divide into starches (potatoes, rice, beans, and so forth) and fibrous carbs (vegetables and salad greens). By combining protein and fibrous vegetables with your starch at each meal you can greatly slow the rate of release of glucose into the bloodstream. This in turn decreases insulin levels, taking the brakes off fat metabolism. You will find that by proper food combining you can stimulate a powerful fat burning effect without elimi-nating too many carbs from your diet. But because carbohydrate reduction is such a powerful tool for fat loss, I’ve devel-oped an approach to low-carb dieting that allows you to utilize the power of the low carb diet without resorting to using regular fat as a food source. Instead of regular fat, you use CapTri®, a specially engineered fat with a unique molecular structure which causes it to follow a different metabolic route than regular fats (14,15). It behaves more like a carbohydrate in the body, ex-cept that it doesn’t increase insulin levels.
This means you can use CapTri® in place of carbs to decrease insulin levels and shift your metabolism into a fat-burning mode. This is very similar to the strategy of the high fat diets except without relying on conventional fat as an energy source. In short, CapTri® lets you reap the benefits of the high fat approach without the problems that go along with conventional dietary fat. To use CapTri® for fat loss, continue to keep your protein intake high at about 1.5 to 2 grams or more per pound of body weight per day, then reduce starchy carbo-hydrate intake and provide an equivalent number of calories from CapTri® while making sure you still eat plenty of fibrous carbs.For example, if you normally con-sume 300 grams of carbs per day (1200 calories worth), reduce that to 150 grams per day and add 5 tablespoons of CapTri® per day (providing 570 calories). By re-ducing carbs and always combining your starches with protein, vegetables, and Cap-Tri® at each meal, you will dramatically reduce insulin levels and maximize fat loss. One more point: Unlike conventional fats, CapTri® also works well during weight gain because it doesn’t contribute to fat stores (14,15).
1. Horton TJ, Drougas H, Brachey A, Reed GW, Peters JC, and Hill JO. 1995. Fat and carbohydrate overfeeding. Ameri-can Journal of Clinical Nutrition 62: 19-29 .
2. Flatt JP. 1988. Importance of nutri-ent humans: different effects on energy storage. balance in body weight regula-tion . Diabetes/Metabolism Reviews 4: 571-581 .
3. Flatt JP. 1995. Use and storage of carbohydrate and fat. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61: 952s-959s .
4. Hill JO, Peters JC, Reed GW, Schlundt DG, Sharp T, and Greene HL . 1991. Nutrient balance in humans: effects of diet composition. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 54: 10-17 .
5. Hill JO, Drougas H, and Peters JC. 1993. Obesity treatment: can diet com-position play a role? Annals of Internal Medicine 119: 694-697 .
6. Bray GA. 1987. Obesity – a disease of nutrient or energy balance? Nutrition Reviews 45: 33-43 .
7. Thomas CD, Peters JC, Reed GW, Abumrad NN, Sun M, and Hill JO. 1992. Nutrient balance and energy expenditure during ad libitum feeding of high-fat and high-carbohydrate diets in humans. Ameri-can Journal of Clinical Nutrition 55: 934-942 .
8 . Astrup A, Buemann B, Western, Toubro S, Raben A, and Christensen NJ. 1994. Obesity as an adaptation to a high-fat diet: evidence from a cross-sectional study . American Journal of Clinical Nutri-tion 59: 350-355 .
9. Schutz Y, Flatt JP, and Jequier E. 1989. Failure of dietary fat intake to pro-mote fat oxidation: a factor favoring the development of obesity. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 50: 307-314 .
10. Miller WC, Niederpruem MG, Wallace JP, and Lindeman AK. 1994. Di-etary fat, sugar, and fiber predict percent body fat content. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 94: 612-615 .
11. Tucker LA and Kano MJ. 1992. Dietary fat and body fat: a multivariate study of 205 adult females. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 56: 616-622 .
12. Acheson KJ, Flatt JP, and Jequier E. 1982. Glycogen synthesis versus li-pogenesis after a 500 gram carbohydrate meal in man . Metabolism 31: 1234-1240 .
13. Flatt JP. 1987. Dietary fat, carbo-hydrate balance, and weight maintenance: effects of exercise. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 45: 296-306 .
14. Baba N, Bracco EF, and Hashim SA . 1982 . Enhanced thermogenesis and diminished deposition of fat in response to overfeeding with diet containing medium chain triglyceride . American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 35: 678-682 .
15. Bach AC and Babayan VK. 1982. Medium chain triglycerides: an update . American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 36: 950-962 .