Atkins & Low-Carb – Part 3

Tracie Johanson
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Papa Murphy’s has a new low-carb pizza. Burger King has a low-carb hamburger. Applebee’s has rolled out a new low-carb menu, as have dozens of other national restaurant chains. There are low-carb tortillas, breakfast cereals, breads, and just about anything else you’d care to eat! No doubt about it…..low-carb dieting is the biggest trend since deep-fryed turkeys!
But as we’ve discussed in the last few articles, low-carbing may not be right for everyone. While the evidence does support the claim that a reduction in carbohydrates will help you lose weight, conclusive evidence on the long-term impact of low-carbing remains elusive.
In this article we’re going to take a look at some professional bodybuilders. With single-digit bodyfat and loads of muscle, bodybuilders are arguably among the most fit people on the planet. After all, professional bodybuilders are paid to exercise!
Jay Cutler, the IFFB 2002 and 2003 Arnold Classic Champion, includes brown rice in his diet when preparing for a contest. The sample menu shown on his website,, states that Jay eats brown rice at least twice per day. With 32 grams of carbs per serving, brown rice certainly would not make the grade with some low-carb diets.
Garry Holmen, who among other things gives nutritional advice to bodybuilders, advises his clients to ‘carb cycle’ when preparing for a competition. Without going into a long explanation, carb cycling is simply reducing carbohydrate intake for 3 days and then replenishing carbohydrates stores on day 4. On carb depletion days, Garry recommends that bodybuilders still get 20% of their calories from carbohydrates.
Female competitor Debbie Patton (, on her FAQ page, says: “I eat a diet high in protein, with moderate carbs. Lots of chicken breasts, egg whites, tuna, protein shakes, brown rice and potatoes.” Debbie is the November, 2002 NPC Mid States Muscle Classic 1st Place Women’s Middleweight Overall Title & Best Abs Champion.
While there are literally HUNDREDS of other examples of bodybuilding diets, these three are sufficient for our purposes: how do bodybuilders eat to get them so lean?
The consistent theme you’ll find when examining the diets of all bodybuilders is that THEY DO NOT EVER COMPLETELY ELIMINATE CARBS. That’s because not all carbs are bad. On the contrary, some carbohydrate in your diet helps you maintain a balanced diet.
Although most bodybuilders do not COMPLETELY eliminate carbs from their diet, it is important to note that they DO restrict carbohydrate intake. Rarely, if ever, will you see a professional bodybuilder eating the ‘garbage carbs’ that are so popular today: french fries, cake, cookies, crackers, white bread, etc.
Bodybuilders are also very careful to get their carbohydrates from QUALITY SOURCES like brown rice, vegetables, and whole grains. So although they are not eliminating carbs altogether, they are eliminating ‘garbage carbs’.
So what’s the bottom line? Can we learn more about low-carbing from bodybuilders? After all, they’re paid to be healthy! Most of them employ a personal doctor, trainer and nutrition expert!
Here are the low-carb lessons from professional bodybuilders:
1) Most people should not remove ALL carbs from their diet.
2) Get your carbs from high-quality sources.
3) Don’t consume ‘garbage carbs’ which are those high in fat and/or have no other nutritional value.
4) If you do follow a restricted-carb diet, consider cycling in some moderate-carb days.
6) Don’t forget to EXERCISE!!!