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HIIT and low carb
Old Mon, February 18th, 2008, 05:19 PM   #1
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Default HIIT and low carb

I'm low carbing on my current cut, and I've read numerous articles that say not to do HIIT in a carb-depleted state, because you will burn up muscle. CT at t-nation says this in every fat loss article he writes, as well as numerous other people I've read.

Well I want to do it anyway. What I want to know is this; is it an opinion or a fact? Are we positive we burn muscle if carb depleted? Does anyone know of other trainers that recommend doing HIIT when you're carb depleted?
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Old Mon, February 18th, 2008, 05:31 PM   #2
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I'm low carbing on my current cut, and I've read numerous articles that say not to do HIIT in a carb-depleted state, because you will burn up muscle. CT at t-nation says this in every fat loss article he writes, as well as numerous other people I've read.

Well I want to do it anyway. What I want to know is this; is it an opinion or a fact? Are we positive we burn muscle if carb depleted? Does anyone know of other trainers that recommend doing HIIT when you're carb depleted?
Waterbury's Summer Project had a lot of HIIT and highly glycogen depleting weight workouts, and he recommended t-dawg 2 as the diet to use with it. Tdawg is 70 g carbs on non-lift days (HIIT days in other words), 120 g on lift days.

Fairly low carb.

I do it. I always do it with BCAAs onboard. Never fasted. Might I be screwing up? Possibly. I doubt it makes a huge difference, especially if your body is pretty well adapted to lower carb and burning fat as a primary energy source.

I think periodic carb ups are wise, though.
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Old Mon, February 18th, 2008, 05:37 PM   #3
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HIIT training is all about sprinting, and then taking it easy etc. In a nut shell, when you sprint, your body needs the fastest energy source it can it's hands on. There are only 3 energy sources in the body i. carbs ii. proteins iii. fats. Carbs are the easiest to process and fats are the hardest. Therefore, if your body has no carbs in it, then it will turn to it's next easiest energy source i.e. protein.

BUT, since protein is used to repare and build muscle, if you deplete your body of it - it cannot grow muscles and you will be sore from exercising because your body cannot repare itself. Also, if you deplete your body too much, it will turn catabolic and your body will actually eat your muscles for energy and to 'repare' itself (a scarry thought!).

NB walking burns more fat than carbs, because your body doesn't need to use the fast energy source and saves it for future usage. My only advice really is to either take it relatively easy on HIIT or take on some carbs before training (coffee and sugar, water and dextrose*recommended, honey on toast etc). This won't affect your diet either because you'll simply burn off all the carbs you eat anyways and HIIT training increases your metabolism so you'll burn more kcals throughout the day anywayz! Hope that was helpfull enough!
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Old Mon, February 18th, 2008, 05:40 PM   #4
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I did WSP, but I was drinking surge 1/2 before and 1/2 after my weight workouts. I was also hitting the 70 carbs a day, and now I'm no where near that (my only carbs during the week are green veggies.) I think since I'm going low cal and low carb I'm better off avoiding the HIIT, I just prefer it to LISS and would like to include it in my current plan.
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Old Mon, February 18th, 2008, 05:55 PM   #5
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I did WSP, but I was drinking surge 1/2 before and 1/2 after my weight workouts. I was also hitting the 70 carbs a day, and now I'm no where near that (my only carbs during the week are green veggies.) I think since I'm going low cal and low carb I'm better off avoiding the HIIT, I just prefer it to LISS and would like to include it in my current plan.

I do it on 30g carbs net of fiber. I've not had problems.

And I disagree with Running-man on the fact that the next thing a body will go to is protein for fuel in all cases. If you are adapted to using fat as a primary fuel, that can work for fuel as well. But I use BCAAs as a partial buffer to that as well just to be safe.

I used to believe the carb thing, but with periodic carb ups, I have just as much energy to workout as I've always had and I've added muscle along the way.

HIIT isn't that much different than strenuous weight training, and you don't hear people advising not to lift weights on low carbs. We've built these mental ideas of what's cardio and what is resistance work, and I'm not sure that it matters that much in a lot of cases. A lot of my "cardio" these days looks like resistance work.
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Old Mon, February 18th, 2008, 05:58 PM   #6
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I do it on 30g carbs net of fiber. I've not had problems.

And I disagree with Running-man on the fact that the next thing a body will go to is protein for fuel in all cases. If you are adapted to using fat as a primary fuel, that can work for fuel as well. But I use BCAAs as a partial buffer to that as well just to be safe.

I used to believe the carb thing, but with periodic carb ups, I have just as much energy to workout as I've always had and I've added muscle along the way.

HIIT isn't that much different than strenuous weight training, and you don't hear people advising not to lift weights on low carbs. We've built these mental ideas of what's cardio and what is resistance work, and I'm not sure that it matters that much in a lot of cases. A lot of my "cardio" these days looks like resistance work.
OK, I think you talked me into it! I'm an endomorph anyway, so I doubt it'll burn too much muscle.
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Old Mon, February 18th, 2008, 06:08 PM   #7
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OK, I think you talked me into it! I'm an endomorph anyway, so I doubt it'll burn too much muscle.
Try it and see how it goes. If it doesn't work for you, it's just one more thing to use in the future to shape your plans then.

I think we respond to these things differently, so what works for me might not work for others and vice versa.
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Old Mon, February 18th, 2008, 06:14 PM   #8
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I do it on 30g carbs net of fiber. I've not had problems.

And I disagree with Running-man on the fact that the next thing a body will go to is protein for fuel in all cases. If you are adapted to using fat as a primary fuel, that can work for fuel as well. But I use BCAAs as a partial buffer to that as well just to be safe.

I used to believe the carb thing, but with periodic carb ups, I have just as much energy to workout as I've always had and I've added muscle along the way.

HIIT isn't that much different than strenuous weight training, and you don't hear people advising not to lift weights on low carbs. We've built these mental ideas of what's cardio and what is resistance work, and I'm not sure that it matters that much in a lot of cases. A lot of my "cardio" these days looks like resistance work.
I didn't say your body will burn protein in all cases - it depends on your intensity. Btw, i also disagree with one of your comments. Your body doesn't 'learn' to use fat as fuel...it already uses fat as fuel for most of the day anyway! Proteins are used to repair muscle damage, fat is used (for the most part) to lube the joints, increase organ functions and (actually and ironically) help break down fat molecules and burn fat. Carbs on the other hand are used as fuel - and if you don't use it as fuel right away, it is stored in the muscles for latter - and if you don't use THAT then it turns to fat (and most of us don't do enough exercise to burn all the carbs). In other words, only carbs are 'fattening'. This is why a low carb diet isthe best way to loose weight! + if your body has 'really' learned to adapt at using fat as fuel, then why on god's earth do you put about alf a stone on when you binge one day on carbs! lol
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Old Mon, February 18th, 2008, 06:28 PM   #9
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I didn't say your body will burn protein in all cases - it depends on your intensity. Btw, i also disagree with one of your comments. Your body doesn't 'learn' to use fat as fuel...it already uses fat as fuel for most of the day anyway! Proteins are used to repair muscle damage, fat is used (for the most part) to lube the joints, increase organ functions and (actually and ironically) help break down fat molecules and burn fat.
You do fat adapt to use it as a primary fuel. Just start a low carb plan and see. For a few days to a couple of weeks, you will feel foggy and low on energy. Then, almost as if somebody flipped a switch, you'll have more energy than you remember having before.

Yes, you will burn fat on any kind of diet, but this is different. And no, it's not necessarily going to be ketogenic (producing ketones in the urine) if you are truly shifted over to this style of eating.


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Carbs on the other hand are used as fuel - and if you don't use it as fuel right away, it is stored in the muscles for latter - and if you don't use THAT then it turns to fat (and most of us don't do enough exercise to burn all the carbs). In other words, only carbs are 'fattening'. This is why a low carb diet isthe best way to loose weight! + if your body has 'really' learned to adapt at using fat as fuel, then why on god's earth do you put about alf a stone on when you binge one day on carbs! lol
Carb loads bring with them a lot of water. For every gram of glycogen that goes into the muscle, several grams of water come with it. Off the top of my head, it's a 1 to 4 ratio of glycogen to water. I'll go up 6 lbs or so after a day long carb load, but 4-5 days out, all of that's gone. Some of it is food in the system, but a lot of it is water and glycogen going into and out of the muscles/liver.

And it's not the carbs that are stored in the muscles converting into fat if you don't use them, it's the additional carbs after the muscles are full that the liver converts to fat stores. "Spill over" basically.

Read up on the Anabolic Diet for a lot of background into this. There are other similar plans, such as the new TNT Diet book that came out.
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Old Mon, February 18th, 2008, 06:51 PM   #10
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Yep, i've bin on a low carb diet. It was absoulutly brillient for loosing weight! Was the leanest i've ever bin in fact! BUT it was terrible for my training. I'm a runner for the most part (hence the name lol) and i use a HR monitor for most of my runs. When i was on the diet, i didn't even feel sluggish at all (and i was on 20 carbs/day for the 1st 2 weeks), however, because of the lack of a quick energy source and energy stores in my muscles, my HR was constantly way above what it normally should have been and consequently and couldn't do my easy runs anymore, simply becasue they where too hard! So i ended up increasing my carb intake and my HR returned to normal. I spoke to my coach about this and he gave me a look like he was gunna take a hack-saw to my head for goin' on a low carb diet!! lol. Hence, no decent athlete can train on a low-carb diet, because you can't even do your 'easy' sessions, let alone get through a HIIT session.

But anywayz, i think we've gone off the point a little bit. Doin' HIIT on a low carb diet isn't the best idea. You'll either not complete the workout, loose motivation, burn muscle as fuel or best case scenario look like a complete tool for puffing and panting on the treadmill goin' @ 2 mph and then trying to explain to someone that that was a HIIT session. Get mi?
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Old Mon, February 18th, 2008, 09:09 PM   #11
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Yep, i've bin on a low carb diet. It was absoulutly brillient for loosing weight! Was the leanest i've ever bin in fact! BUT it was terrible for my training.
Welcome to what the Russians figured out in the 1960s.

But it is important for you to understand that training can (and if you are smart) should increase the fraction of your exercise Calories that come from fat.

Since you appear to be interested in some sort of distance running, this is a pretty important fact for you. It comes under the heading of lactate threshold training if you want to look it up.
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Old Mon, February 18th, 2008, 09:27 PM   #12
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Yep, i've bin on a low carb diet. It was absoulutly brillient for loosing weight! Was the leanest i've ever bin in fact! BUT it was terrible for my training. I'm a runner for the most part (hence the name lol) and i use a HR monitor for most of my runs. When i was on the diet, i didn't even feel sluggish at all (and i was on 20 carbs/day for the 1st 2 weeks), however, because of the lack of a quick energy source and energy stores in my muscles, my HR was constantly way above what it normally should have been and consequently and couldn't do my easy runs anymore, simply becasue they where too hard! So i ended up increasing my carb intake and my HR returned to normal. I spoke to my coach about this and he gave me a look like he was gunna take a hack-saw to my head for goin' on a low carb diet!! lol. Hence, no decent athlete can train on a low-carb diet, because you can't even do your 'easy' sessions, let alone get through a HIIT session.
Is low carb with no carb ups good for long competitive endurance work? No. Does that apply here? No. Totally different situation. This is a weekend warrior situation where arbitrage is trying to get lean and maintain lean mass.

But the carb ups are key to this strategy, as is getting enough fat and protein for energy during the week. I'm not for low carb all the time with no glycogen replenishment at all.

You can look through my journal if you want to see what my training is like, but I have no trouble performing as well or better than I did before starting the Anabolic Diet style of eating (low carb through the week, carb up to top off glycogen 1-2 days on weekends).

My heart rate at rest varies in the 50s, which is decent for me (it's been in the 40s before a couple of years ago, but my training style was different then). I do no long endurance work, but do a lot of lactic acid style training mixed in with strength work (and HIIT).

Just today I was able to hit about 170 bpm and drop back to 120 within less than a minute after a long BB complex completed (lactic type training). This is fairly typical for me.

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But anywayz, i think we've gone off the point a little bit. Doin' HIIT on a low carb diet isn't the best idea. You'll either not complete the workout, loose motivation, burn muscle as fuel or best case scenario look like a complete tool for puffing and panting on the treadmill goin' @ 2 mph and then trying to explain to someone that that was a HIIT session. Get mi?
No, we aren't off point. We disagree here about what arbitrage asked, and I think the discussion is relevant. I think I'm able to put in a pretty good effort eating the way I do.

Is this for everyone? No, we all respond differently. But after doing this for months and having decent success in adding some muscle while doing it (thighs up over an inch on each side since end of summer, even working around a knee injury), I know it can be done.
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Old Mon, February 18th, 2008, 09:37 PM   #13
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You can look through my journal if you want to see what my training is like
I actually think this would be a good idea for everyone who is wondering about what sort of advice they are getting. MannishBoy has a pretty comprehensive journal and if you think his diet is trashing his workouts, it's quite simple to just do one of them and see. I recommend this one of his from the end of January:

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A Front Squat 5x5@185
B1 RDL 6@225, @280 8, 8, 7
B2 BB Bulgarian Split Squat @145 6, 5, 4
C1 Glute Ham Raise (negs) 4x5
C2 Ab Wheel Standing Rollout (past head but not full) 4x5
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Old Mon, February 18th, 2008, 10:05 PM   #14
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IIRC, that workout had 1 minute rest intervals.

I didn't bonk The weights used on front squats and bulgarians weren't up to what I was doing a bit back due to the knee, but they were respectable for me.

That said, I'm probably going to switch things up on the diet in a bit. I'm probably going to do a bit of a cut along with an increase in metabolic style training for maybe 3 weeks, then I'm going to switch off AD to something with a bit more carbs in the week PWO with more moderate carb ups vs pretty big ones (400g+) right now.

I like to try new things periodically to see what I respond to.
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Old Mon, February 18th, 2008, 10:16 PM   #15
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No, we aren't off point. We disagree here about what arbitrage asked, and I think the discussion is relevant. I think I'm able to put in a pretty good effort eating the way I do.

Is this for everyone? No, we all respond differently. But after doing this for months and having decent success in adding some muscle while doing it (thighs up over an inch on each side since end of summer, even working around a knee injury), I know it can be done.
I really do appreciate your response. I'm going to do some HIIT, I just don't know how much. I'm just coming off the velocity diet, and I'm still keeping my calories super low ~1500 non-workout, 1750 workout. I'm carbing up on Sat. with ~200 carbs. I am concerned about muscle loss because my carbs/cals are so low, so I'm just going to do it on Saturdays and maybe one other day. Thanks again!
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Old Mon, February 18th, 2008, 11:12 PM   #16
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I would watch things closely more due to the low calories than due to the low carbs. I suspect the low cals are riskier.
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Old Tue, February 19th, 2008, 12:30 AM   #17
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i was my absolute most shredded when i was doing HIIT and low carb. i would use caffeine in the form of either a very basic caffeine stimulant like a no doz, or maybe something like a VPX redline or something.

Also i would pop a bunch of bcaa's before and after my workout, and sip on some water with really diluted powered gatorade.
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Old Tue, February 19th, 2008, 02:24 AM   #18
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I am a runner tooand at the moment I am doing one HIIT running session, one long and one medium(10km) run per week on the anabolic diet. So far so good. I think it is worth giving it a go Arbritrage to see how it wotks for your body as you enjoy HIIT
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Old Wed, March 12th, 2008, 05:50 PM   #19
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arbitrage, thanks for posting this question. I do low carb too and also enjoy HITT. I haven't noticed any fat loss but I just found out I have hypotyroidism which may explain why I can't lose weight even with diet and exerice. I drink a little whey protein with espresso in the morning and take an L-glutamine supplement before my cardio. I do HIIT twice a week with one of those being after lifting legs. Otherwise, all my cardio sessions are in the AM after waking. Good luck! Thanks again for question this. It reassured me about my training program.
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Old Wed, March 12th, 2008, 06:59 PM   #20
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arbitrage, thanks for posting this question. I do low carb too and also enjoy HITT. I haven't noticed any fat loss but I just found out I have hypotyroidism which may explain why I can't lose weight even with diet and exerice. I drink a little whey protein with espresso in the morning and take an L-glutamine supplement before my cardio. I do HIIT twice a week with one of those being after lifting legs. Otherwise, all my cardio sessions are in the AM after waking. Good luck! Thanks again for question this. It reassured me about my training program.
If you weigh 150 and your BF% is 14, as a female, you really don't need to lose any weight. I'm guessing that could be a typo though?
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