Call Us Today! 1.800.344.3404

The Achilles Heel of Keto: “Did you ever notice that the Ketogenic advocates are unable to build muscle size?”

By Duke Nukem

In a recent podcast interview, bodybuilding guru John Parrillo offered an insight into ketogenic dieting that no one else had noted, “Did you ever notice that the Ketogenic advocates are unable to build muscle size? How can you build muscle with a complete absence of carbohydrates?” Parrillo, per usual, sees things that others miss. Glycogen is needed heading into a muscle-building workout and glycogen-replenishing carbs are needed after that same workout. The key to muscle growth is consuming the right kind of carbs at the right time in the right amounts. Bodybuilding has two major goals: strip off excess body fat; build lean muscle mass. No one cares about seeing a highly defined 12-inch arm or a ripped 36-inch chest. Conversely, there is no sense in building a pair of 19-inch arms if they are covered in fat. What good is a 50-inch chest if it has man boobs and sits atop a 45-inch waist? Optimally, muscle mass is constructed and done in such a way that the new muscle is not marbled with an unacceptable amount of body fat. Once the bodybuilder has acquired a goodly amount of muscle, body fat can be systematically reduced while retaining hard-earned muscle mass. It is counterproductive to melt muscle while stripping off fat. Because of his time in the trenches, competition prepping competitive bodybuilders, John Parrillo discovered what works when it comes to using nutrition to optimize training results. 


Primal Keto: The various low-carb/no-carb ketogenic (Paleo) diets have been the most popular dietary approaches of the last decade. The ketogenic nutritional approach is not new to bodybuilding. It was discarded in the 1970s because bodybuilders found a better way. Back in the 1960s, bodybuilders discovered that they could lose body fat by eliminating carbohydrates. The first formal ketogenic bodybuilder diet was the infamous fish-and-water diet. As simple as the name implies, ancient bodybuilders would eat fish and drink water and that was it. High-level bodybuilders are not accomplished sea food cooks adept in the kitchen. This meant that the fish-and-water diet was really the “tuna fish out-of-a-can” and water diet.” Keep in mind that back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, there was no water-packed tuna, all canned fish was packed in oil. The reality was that bodybuilders would live on gross smelling oil-packed tuna for months on end. If guards forced terrorists in Guantanamo Bay to eat nothing but oil-packed tuna, they’d be accused and convicted of war crimes. 

Starve! Bodybuilders like Dave Draper would exhibit iron willpower by being able to adhere to this brutal eating regimen week after week, month after month. Eventually the smarter bodybuilders figured out they could make the fat-stripping diet work substituting other lean proteins. Ken Waller, a legend of the 1970s, related that he could get “cut” switching out fish for turkey breast. Bodybuilding guru (of the 60s and 70s) Vince Gironda had his bodybuilders eating steaks loaded with fat and drinking straight cream. The champion bodybuilders of the era were small and striated. Chris Dickerson captured two Olympia titles with 16.5-inch arms. Arnold once derisively called Frank Zane, “A chicken – with 17-inch arms.” There is no denying that those who were able to stick to the fish-and-water approach lost fat – and so do prisoners of war in a concentration camp where inmates are overworked and underfed. Sounds like the same strategy as an Olympia competitor on the 60s, 70s and early 80s, i.e., train all the time using pee-wee weights, then starve yourself, call it concentration camp bodybuilding!

Enter the Master Blaster: until Parrillo arrived on the scene, the standard operating procedure for a high-level competitive bodybuilder was “bulk up” in the off season then swing into full-on starvation mode during the last 10-12 weeks leading up to a major bodybuilding show. Coming off a starvation cycle, i.e. after the bodybuilding show was over, bodybuilders tended to go buck wild and immediately begin to eat way too much of the wrong stuff for way too long. They would convert their physiques from starved and emaciated (leading up to the show) into off season fatsos, eating chips, drinking beer, pizza, ice cream, whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. This extreme back and forth between starving and stuffing, yo-yo dieting, was a complete dead end. Parrillo revolutionized the entire game by showing that there was another way. Rather than starve in the lead up to a competition, eat big but eat “clean.” In the off season, avoid indiscriminate face-stuffing, rather than get unacceptably fat Parrillo offered a way in which to add new muscle devoid of excess fat. Parrillo’s year-round nutritional strategy revolutionized bodybuilding. 

Build a Better Mousetrap and the World Will Beat a Path to Your Door: Parrillo created a strategy that was opposite of everything conventional. Rather than starve down in a manic quest to lose fat at the last minute before a show, eat amply, even in the final phases. Words are one thing and results are quite another. No one really started paying attention to the (then) “radical” “counterintuitive” “crazy” Parrillo approach until bodybuilders using John’s methods began winning shows. There were a lot of bodybuilders that had gone as far as they could go using the bulk-and-starve approach. The dramatically different Parrillo nutritional approach gave a lot of older bodybuilders a new lease on life: men that had thought that they’d reached the limit of their genetic potential were reborn using these new tactics. Parrillo showed them a new and better way, a way that avoided starvation and catabolism, and offered an alternative – with a lot of caveats.


Keto Alternative: Parrillo pointed out that carbohydrates are varied, and it is critical to distinguish between carbs types. Fibrous carbohydrates are difficult to digest and virtually impossible to end up stored as body fat. Fiber is calorically insignificant, yet tremendously beneficial both as a powerful nutrient that slows digestion (a good thing) and as an internal organ cleanser. Fiber is complimentary to a high protein diet. Fiber has a cleansing effect on the intestines as it scrapes intestinal walls clean of sludge and build-up. Fiber carbs include broccoli, carrots, onions, bell peppers, spinach, celery, lettuce, green beans, kale, etc. Natural starch carbs, complex carbs, potatoes and oatmeal, release their nutritional payload at a much slower rate than refined carbs and simple sugar carbs. The Parrillo nutritional approach advices to only eat complex carbs and always eat starch carbs in conjunction with protein and fiber. Protein, fiber and fat all dampen the insulin spike associated with starch. Food combining is a key component and should not be overlooked or ignored. 

Banned and Recommended: eliminate all refined carbs, all man-made carbs, all pastries, sweets, candies, all industrial foods that come from a can, all lite, low-fat, fat-free and freeze-dried foods. It all needs to be discarded. Lean protein, fiber carbs, healthy fat and natural complex carbohydrates form the backbone of the Parrillo nutritional system. The expert use of regular foods is augmented by the expert use of potent nutritional supplements. The Parrillo nutritional program should be customized and personalized: select supplements depending on the goal. Want to embark on a mass-building phase? Heavy up on CapTri® C8 MCT, Hi-Protein™ and Pro-Carb™. When it comes to adding lean muscle mass, this seems to be a magical combination. Looking to lean out? Try augmenting with Advanced Lipotropic Formula™, Optimized Whey™ and Hi-Fiber Soft Chew bars™. Supplements used right accelerate progress. Are you looking to add mass or get ripped? Custom select Parrillo supplements based on your personal goals.

Why Starve? Isn’t it ironic that the same nutritional strategy John Parrillo argued against 35 years ago – the no-carb diet (the fish-and-water diet) has reemerged under a different guise, paleo, keto, etc. John restates his original counterargument: keto diets, no carb diets, are all the rage, and this is understandable. Yet for those seeking muscle, Keto is flawed. Deprived of carbs for protracted periods, the body is unable to grow muscle. Again, to the Parrillo way of thinking, those that eschew carbohydrates are throwing the baby out with the bathwater, to use an old cliché. Rather that make sophisticated use of carbohydrates, the shortsighted eliminate them. This betrays a lack of understanding. Combine a ketogenic approach with a low-calorie approach and you have replicated and resurrected the ancient fish-and-water diet. 

• Eat only natural complex carbs: rice, potato, sweet potatoes, oatmeal

• Avoid processed carbohydrates: do not eat manmade carbohydrates

• Avoid sugar: including fruit

• Eat natural carbs in combination with other food: lean protein, fiber carbs or MCTs

We Want Muscle! As a bodybuilder, leanness is paramount. Equally as important is the acquisition of lean muscle mass. Without carbohydrates the acquisition of additional muscle is problematic. Used correctly, insulin is a powerful anabolic hormone. In the Parrillo nutritional strategy, carbs are eaten in plentiful amounts – but only certain types of carbs at certain times and in specific amounts. Because of the type, kind and timing of carb ingestion, the Parrillo method optimizes the construction of lean muscle mass. Pizza and beer are carb foods, but these are the type of carb that need be avoided. The quest for maximum leanness is made far easier when the athlete has been ingesting quality carbs in the off-season. Starch carbs are then systematically reduced (not eliminated) in the lead up to a show or competition. Muscle construction needs loads of lean protein for the amino acid content. Muscle construction requires quality carbs for glycogen replenishment. Carbs are used to strategically stimulate insulin (an incredibly anabolic hormone) that in turn, sparks muscle growth. You need quality carbs.


Supplemental Carbs? Pro-Carb™ is a slow-release carbohydrate supplement that has been used by elite bodybuilders since 1985. Pro-Carb™ slowly releases its carbs into the bloodstream, thereby minimizing insulin spikes. Pro-Carb™ mixes with cold water and turns into a delicious shake loaded with glycogen-replenishing carbohydrates. Top bodybuilders will drink a serving or two of Pro-Carb™ immediately before a hardcore training session. They are supercharging with glycogen in anticipation of glycogen being exhausted at some point during the session. By loading up on Pro-Carb™, they get better “pumps.” Loading up on Pro-Carb™ forestalls the point where glycogen exhausts itself. As soon as the workout is over, that same elite bodybuilder will drink a Parrillo 50/50 Plus™ replenishment shake, half high BV protein, half Pro-Carb™. This is the smartest thing you can do after a body-shattering workout. Replenish with exactly what the body needs to heal, repair and recover. The body needs quality carbs before a hardcore session and again after a hardcore session.

Carbs Deserve a Seat at the Table: those that exclude carbohydrates inadvertently exclude muscle growth. How can muscle grow when deprived of glycogen? True, you can lean out going keto, but be prepared to say bye-bye to some of your hard-earned muscle mass in the process. Low calorie keto makes a bad thing worse: now, in addition to depriving the body of carbs, you deprive it of calories. Full-blown catabolism sets in, the body engages in muscle cannibalism, scraping muscle walls of amino acid content to fuel caloric shortfall in order to preserve precious body fat, the body’s last line of defense against starvation. The trainee that goes full-blown low-cal keto has zero energy and drags their listless, drained body around throughout the day. Parrillo offers the thinking man’s alternative: there is nothing wrong with carbs – assuming they are quality carbs eaten at the right times in the right amounts. Wise up! Get right with (quality) carbs. If you are plateaued, the intelligent use of carb supplementation can be just the thing needed to blast you through to the next level.

2019-08-11T22:48:14-04:00 August 11th, 2019|Duke Nukem, The Press|

Already familiar with Parrillo Products? Click Here - New Quick-Order Form! Dismiss