Low-carb diets are generally not ideal for weightlifters, particularly if you're trying to build muscle mass and bulk up a bit. Carbohydrates are an important element for those with regular weightlifting routines because many carbs are slow-digesting and provide your body with prolonged energy. In addition to a pre-workout energy boost, carbs give your body something to burn as energy, to ensure that you don't begin burning muscle tissue as quickly, allowing you to add more muscle mass. As such, many weightlifters will consume complex carbohydrates just before workouts. If you are going to adopt a low-carb diet and begin a weightlifting routine, there are a handful of factors to keep in mind.
Low-carb weightlifting might be challenging, but it is possible, and there are many successful weightlifters and bodybuilders who count low-carb diets as part of their regimens, since the diet plan can play a large role in keeping body fat percentages low. Bodybuilders typically overcome the energy shortfall that can result from limited carbohydrate intake by timing their eating schedules so that the limited carbs they do consume each day are ingested just before exercising. Another way to avoid running out of energy during workouts is by increasing fat consumption---since fat, like carbs, can be burned as energy---and by performing shorter, more intense workouts.
The fitness world is flush with popular, commercial diet plans that tout low-carb, high-protein foods. Atkins, the South Beach Diet and the Zone Diet are among the more widely known low-carb diet plans, and each requires you to significantly reduce your daily carbohydrate intake for the initial dieting phase, which can lead to immediate weight loss. Depending on the diet and the phase you're in, you'll consume between 25 g and 100 g of carbohydrates per day, far below the Institute of Medicine's recommendation of 225 g to 325 g per day.
If you're going to tackle a regular weightlifting routine on a low-carb diet, be aware that consuming fewer carbohydrates can, in general, mean your energy supply will be short-lived once you begin working out. To help you power through workouts, consume low-carb, high-protein snacks before you exercise, such as whey protein shakes, a handful of almonds or some low-carb peanut butter on whole-wheat toast. High-fiber foods, such as oats and whole wheat, can also help provide you with prolonged energy, since fiber cannot be digested by your body.
During the most restrictive phases of a low-carb diet, it's not unusual for people to feel weak and constantly hungry. This can make weightlifting---and exercising in general---difficult, so you'll want to consume low-carb snacks before and immediately after workouts. On the plus side, your body will be receiving a regular supply of the protein it requires to build muscle, since many low-carb plans will add protein to your diet. Protein contains amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle tissue, and complete proteins are those containing essential amino acids---the ones your body cannot produce naturally. Low-carb, high-protein foods such as egg whites, lean cuts of meat and dairy products contain essential amino acids and are a regular part of most low-carb diets.
Depending on your workout regimen, you might want to consider consuming more carbohydrates than a typical low-carb plan will allow. If you're trying to bulk up significantly, carbohydrates can be an important part of the process, especially just before lifting weights. Pay attention to your body and to how you feel during workouts, and if you are lacking the energy to power through a weightlifting session or feeling weak midway through your workout, consider modifying your low-carb diet to allow more carbohydrate intake just before exercise. As an alternative to a low-carb diet, consider a more balanced approach that allows for carbohydrate consumption but still contains enough protein to help you build muscle.