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Low Carb & High Protein Diet for the Gym

By Kimberly Schaub ; Updated July 18, 2017

You have probably had this conversation in the gym before: you say you want to cut fat and build muscle, and someone tells you to follow a particular diet that emphasizes low carbohydrates and high protein. You might shrink back from that suggestion, because low carbohydrate and high protein diets have developed bad reputations. The best diet that will complement your exercise routine is not as restrictive as those diets and balances all food groups.

Low Carbohydrate

The premise behind the low carbohydrate diet is that Americans eat too many carbohydrates, and all of the excess is turned into fat. You should eliminate carbohydrates to force your body to burn the fat it already has. While the diet may seem to make sense, the result is that dieters eat more protein and usually more fat to replace the carbohydrates they are avoiding. While individuals who follow a low-carbohydrate diet may lose more initial weight than low-fat dieters, the long term effect is that the weight loss is about the same. The low carbohydrate diet may also restrict how much fiber, vitamins, and minerals you take in, and you could develop a nutrient deficiency over time.

High Protein

Because you are likely to increase your protein and fat intake when cutting back on carbohydrates, you might eat more saturated fat than you did on a more balanced diet. This high saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol levels. This can increase your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes, among other chronic conditions. Some individuals' bodies are not designed for such high protein intake and may develop kidney distress.

Protein and Carbohydrate Needs

You need at least 130g carbohydrates each day if you exercise two times or more per week, the American Dietetic Association shows. You also need approximately 1.4g to 1.8g protein per kg of body weight. For a 170-lb man, that translates to about 110g to 130g protein per day. When you exceed the protein needs or do not get adequate carbohydrate, you disrupt your body's ability to metabolize nutrients correctly. As a result, ketosis could result.

Balanced Diet for the Gym

Rather than focusing on emphasizing certain types of nutrients over others, prioritize developing a balanced diet that meets your needs. You can get your protein from whole food sources, such as lean meats, fish, low-fat dairy, whole grains, nuts, legumes, eggs, soy foods, and certain vegetables and fruits. In addition to the protein you will get from the whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, you will also consume complex carbohydrates. Eat three balanced meals and a light snack prior to exercise. Drink plenty of water to replace the fluids you lose during exercise.

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