Carbohydrates – No Villain

Very often “facts” which are true today become fallacies tomorrow. Once an idea is established, people are reluctant to change in spite of concrete evidence to the contrary.

Columbus had a bad time convincing his peers that the world wasn’t flat. It has been my habit throughout the years to risk contradiction for the sake of the science and art of bodybuilding. This brings me to the point of this article – the age old villain, CARBOHYDRATES.

Of the three food components, carbohydrates have received the most abuse. The two remaining, fats and proteins, have been the panaceas of bodybuilders. Well, I’ve got news for those of you who think this way. Carbohydrates may very well be the bodybuilder’s best friend, and proteins their enemy! Let me explain in detail for you.

It is currently “fashionable” to limit carbohydrates to a minimum and in some cases allow them into the diet just one day a week, while the remainder of the week taking just proteins and some fats. Over long periods of time this can be dangerous, leading to serious side effects as well as decreasing life span. Dr. Ralph A. Nelson, associate professor of nutrition at the Mayo Medical School states: “Animals fed high protein diets have increased activity of enzymes associated with protein and amino acid metabolism and have increased urea production.”

“Kidney hypertrophy occurs in animals on long-term protein diets; more strikingly, if one kidney is removed, the degree of hypertrophy of the remaining kidney is directly related to the amount of protein digested. High protein diets increase albumin and casts in animal urine. Rabbits on high protein diets develop nephritis, as do rats if the diet is continued long enough. Trout fed a low protein diet live twice as long as trout given a high protein diet; the microscopic water animal, the ratifer, has a similar inverse relationship of protein to longevity.”

The high protein intake increases enzymatic activity, urea and albumin production thereby in effect causing our metabolic engine to “idle” at a faster rate. the majority of bodybuilders I come into contact with seem to feel that if they ingest only proteins they won’t put on body fat. This is untrue! When the body receives more protein than is necessary for its normal maintenance, it has no way of excreting it, so it stores it in the body as adipose tissue or in plain language, F-A-T!

I advocate a relatively “low” protein intake, about 45 grams per day. Too much protein creates a negative nitrogen balance which in turn leads to gout, sluggishness, and liver and kidney problems. The body can’t digest more than 20 grams per meal, anything beyond that leads to problems. At least one meal per day should be carbohydrates in the form of vegetables or grains, thereby giving the body a protein break.

Furthermore, it has been demonstrated repeatedly that protein combustion is not higher during heavy exercise than under resting conditions, while on the other hand the body uses carbohydrate stores first before it turns to other sources. Even after depleting the carbohydrate deposits, continued exercise does not hike protein needs significantly.

According to my research, athletes performing strenuous endurance tasks such as bodybuilding, and burning up 9,000 calories per day, show no noticeable increase in protein needs.

If this all isn’t enough to turn your heads, Dr. Per-Olaf Astrand, a famous exercise physiologist in Sweden, performed a study which concluded that endurance tends to decrease as protein intake is elevated! He discovered that a high protein diet lowered endurance as well as reduced buildups in muscle carbohydrate, more than a high carbohydrate diet.

During my investigation I cam upon a classical experiment by Christensen and Hansen, who observed the participation of fats and carbohydrates in energy metabolism during physical work of different intensities. I won’t bore you with cold statistical facts, but in conclusion they found that in heavy work such as powerlifting or bodybuilding the major participant towards endurance was, once again, carbohydrates. Also, the subjects were able to perform three times longer on a carbohydrate diet that a protein or fat diet.

I am strongly convinced that bodybuilders get too little carbohydrate. Recently a team of Russian researchers found that a high carbohydrate diet is superior for athletes in training, while protein should be increased only during periods of inactivity.

I can almost hear some of you shouting disapproval of these ideas. Probably the most asked question now is, “If bodybuilding essentially is the tearing down and building up again of muscle tissue, then isn’t increased protein necessary for that process?” The answer is NO! A high protein intake even after a sustained injury, doesn’t prevent a transient rise in nitrogen losses.

Dr. Doris Calloway and a team of researchers found that animals fed three times as much protein as normal recovered no better than those on normal amounts of protein.

Power lifters and power event-type athletes are under the delusion that excess protein supplementation will be useful in bulking up. But according to David L. Costill, Ph.D., Director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University, this is untrue. Essential amino acids that are utilized are provided by the normal diet and any excess converts into, once again, F-A-T!

Now let’s get one thing straight before we go any further. There is a quality difference between carbohydrates. Don’t go out and load yourself up with candy and that type of “junk” carbohydrates. Carbohydrate loading with sugar is a mistake. Carbohydrates replace glycogen which the body stores and uses for energy. Sugar in any form leaches the stored glycogen from the liver and produces nervousness, irritability, fears, doubts, and various psychic changes in the personality. The major sources of carbohydrates should be from, as I stated earlier, grains and vegetables.

I hope that this discussion has convinced some of you that my point is well taken. So don’t be afraid of carbohydrates – they are the bodybuilder’s best friend.

(IronMan Magazine Sept 1978 Vol. 37 No. 6)

  1. Yes I’m with Roy on the confusion, what is the deal with carbs? Vince says carbs once a week at the max and high protein while this article claims the opposite is best for bodybuilders (and general health). Which is it?

  2. I agree this is a very confusing article. I was reading an article on here about consuming up to 35 raw eggs a day, not consuming too many carbs and like all other articles I have read, consuming 1gram of protein for every pound of body weight. So I am little thrown by this article.

  3. The main crux of the article from Vince is carbs have their place in a muscle building diet.

    Protein + Fat (Paleo) diet is good but you cannot be fat-burning all the time if you hope to add muscle.

    At times you need to be anabolic and carbs help in this regard.

    Look to carbs at the peri-workout timing and for carb-ups as per Vince’s advice if training Very Low Carb (VLC) or Zero Carb (ZC).

    There’s a lot of fine detail in Vince’s advice and people take it too black and white.

    “Don’t squat”, “No Carbs”, “No Running”, etc. however Vince would often use all of these approaches if the individual in question needed it.

  4. Vince just jumped on the carb bandwagon at a time when it was popular to do so. For him to say that carbs were perceived as the villain is plain wrong. It’s always been fat that has been portrayed as the villain. Why do you think so many low fat diets still exist today?

  5. This guy is spreading false news about Vince. I have read vinces book.
    He was against daily carb eating. He said you can eat protein and fats daily because protein only digest well with fat. And becuz ur body prefers carbohydrate you need to eat carb after 4 -5 days to make your body feels happy by raising the insulin level up.

  6. I find much of this article suspect not only in accuracy but that Vince would have said such contradictory things. And where is the data/studies backing this info up? I think this statement for one is very likely incorrect. It makes no sense from an evolutionary standpoint… “The body can’t digest more than 20 grams per meal of protein”. And all that nitrogen balance stuff just sounds like common wisdom hogwash. Also lots of illogical stuff. So there is a quality difference between different types of carbs but not different types of protein? Just treat them all the same no matter the source plant or animal, how it was raised, and how it was processed or cooked?

  7. #6, who exactly is “this guy” that you speak of? This article is from Vince’s own Iron Man magazine column from the 70s!

    Now the question is, since this seems SO much different from Vince’s usual stance on carbohydrates, did Vince just have a brainfart when coming up with this article? Or, was it actually ghostwritten by someone else and passed along to be printed without him getting a chance to approve it first?

  8. If one can only digest 20g of protein then it would be impossible to get fat from excess protein since anything in excess would not be absorbed. So you can’t have it both ways, ie. excess being stored as fat and only 20g being digested. I like the theory that Vince might not have actually written this or perhaps was not stating his position very clearly.

    That being said if one is in a growth phase strategic use of quality carbohydrate can be implemented.

  9. This contradicts everything vince ever wrote in all his books ergo: SOMEONE ELSE WROTE THIS AND PASSED IT OFF AS VINCE.

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