The International Society of Sports and Nutrition has published various studies along the years proving how a ketogenic diet, or a low carb diet, does not affect the strength performance in elite gymnasts, but instead improves body composition.
Muscle gain and weight loss rather depend on the intake of protein and kcals consumed rather than carbohydrates. Carbohydrate restriction + high fat consumption allows you to become ketoadapted, which allows the body to improve performance by increasing the body’s reliance on fat fuel, hence decreasing the glycogen use — which could indeed improve athletic performance.
The study by Paoli et al. published in the ISSN found no decrease in bodyweight-based strength performance in elite gymnasts during 30 days following a ketogenic diet. Another recent study, by Wilson et al. reported similar increases in strength and power in a protein and calorie-matched via a Western ketogenic diet discussing how a ketogenic diet might have less ergolytic (meaning: that impairs exercise performance) potential for strength training than endurance training.
Other study (2014) that focused on the effects of ketogenic dieting on skeletal muscle and fat mass resulted in a great increase of lean body mass and decrease of fat mass for the ketogenic group when compared to the traditional group.
In 2017, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, a 10-week study of athletic men eating a very low carbohydrate diet gained a similar amount of muscle and lost slightly more fat than those who followed a traditional western high-carb diet.
The idea is essentially to focus on highly-nutritious foods that tend to be dense in fat and protein to attain a leaner, healthier (improved immune system) physique. Carbohydrates might help an individual who mainly focuses on overall mass increase (such as bodybuilders willing to get big quickly) and not so much strength performance or long-lasting health (from overall health gain to age-related muscle loss).
There is far too much focus on calorie counting and not enough on nutrient intake and this approach will motivate you start gaining lean muscle mass steadily instead of using rapidly digested carbohydrates (such as rice) that shaking your insulin resistance to shock (which will make it harder for you to control your blood sugar and cravings – reason why many bodybuilders need a ‘’cheat day’’).
Perhaps next time we will look at how sleep can affect weight gain/mass gain.