Written by justis berg
01 June 2011


Wow, time flies when you are having fun! In the last nine issues of MD, we covered the following “commandments” of natural bodybuilding: 1) be consistent; 2) be positive; 3) visualize; 4) focus; 5) never become complacent; 6) wage war on the weights; 7) overcome adversity; 8) have faith; 9) dream big. It is very important to take these commandments to heart, as there is nothing more vital to achievement than the proper mindset. Your body will follow exactly where your mind leads it. Each thought you have penetrates every single cell of your body, as well as the universe around you, which will eventually dictate the outcome of most events in your life. Remember this…“Whether you believe you CAN or you CAN’T, you are right.”

But what about the 10th commandment of natural bodybuilding? Well, this is one that I leave up to you! I am interested to hear what you, the readers and MD forum members, wish to add to the list. Please feel free to message me on the board or send an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , and let me know your thoughts. I will print some of the best ones right here in future “No Juice” columns!

Natural Diet Dilemma: Zero Carb vs. Low Carbs 

This month, I will continue my discussion of why I feel that a zero-carb approach to dieting is detrimental to the drug-free bodybuilder. Thus far, I have mentioned that a lack of any carbohydrates in the diet will also cause a lack of insulin, which can compromise one’s ability to rapidly and efficiently uptake amino acids, glucose, creatine and other muscle-building compounds into muscle cells at several critical times during the day. As well, this lack of insulin will also result in higher levels of circulating cortisol, which can cause a myriad of problems for the dieting bodybuilder, such as impaired thyroid function and lower GH output. But the negatives do not stop there…


Reason #5: High cortisol levels can affect sleep patterns!

A little-talked-about fact in regard to cortisol is that it is actually one of the hormones associated with waking and sleeping patterns. Naturally, levels of cortisol are highest in the morning and lowest at night, with a number of fluctuations during the day. The higher amounts of circulating cortisol in the early hours help to wake us up. When the daily cycle of cortisol secretion is disrupted to a large degree, it can cause levels to remain elevated at night, with the result being an inability to relax and fall asleep. I don’t need to tell you just how important sleep is to a bodybuilder, especially one who is dieting to lose body fat while doing everything possible to keep hard-earned muscle mass intact. Insomnia? No thanks!


Reason #6: No carbs pre- or post-training can compromise the immune system!

The type of intense training that bodybuilders engage in suppresses the immune system, which of course can lead to increased risk of illness. When the body is forced to work harder to fight off bacteria and infection, it will have less energy to put toward recuperation, repair and growth. Combating illness is certainly higher on the body’s priority list than building muscle and burning fat. Not to mention that when you are sick, you might not be able to train or do cardio as needed to facilitate maximum progress. Studies show that carbohydrate consumption built around workouts (pre/intra/post) can reduce the immune system reaction to vigorous exercise, helping to keep your muscle-building and fat-burning machinery working at optimum levels. Important stuff!


Reason #7: No carbs in the diet can impair genes for muscle hypertrophy!

Let’s face it…as a natural bodybuilder dieting down for a competition, photo shoot, or even a nice vacation; your goal is not only to lose as much body fat as possible, but also to retain your muscle size. Most naturals (except the most genetically gifted) simply lose size on zero carbs and often end up looking more like fitness models or swimmers than serious bodybuilders! And I know this is not acceptable to the hardcore natty readers of Muscular Development!

Robbie Durand, a fellow MD columnist, recently discussed a couple of recent studies (that I also have viewed), which showed that low muscle glycogen concentrations reduce the expression of several genes responsible for muscle hypertrophy! While a 2005 study reported a blunting of an important molecule in cell signaling and protein synthesis pathways called PKB (or Akt), newer research has also proven that low pre-exercise muscle glycogen stores decrease resting levels of two other major genes involved in muscle growth…myogenin and IGF-1! No wonder drug-free athletes tend to “string out” on zero-carb regimens!

So now that I have given you some food for thought (mostly protein and fats, but also some well-timed carbohydrates), you can make a well-informed decision in regard to what fat-loss diet is best for you…the natural bodybuilder. While I do not like to necessarily separate bodybuilding into two camps (enhanced and drug-free), sometimes it is essential to do so, because there are differences in how training and nutrition can, and should, be approached. Drugs are powerful tools that allow the guys/gals utilizing them room to do things that would be detrimental to a natural trainee. I make no judgment, nor say that one form of bodybuilding is better than the other. But as a trainer and contest prep coach it is my job to know how to optimize the progress of both types of athletes!

In Part 3 of this mini-series, I will lay out a general guideline for how I feel it is best for a natural athlete to approach a contest diet. Until then, train hard, stay focused and of course…read MD!