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Low carbohydrate availability impairs hypertrophy and anaerobic performance.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Highlight contemporary evidence examining the effects of carbohydrate restriction on the intracellular regulation of muscle mass and anaerobic performance.

RECENT FINDINGS: Low carbohydrate diets increase fat oxidation and decrease fat mass. Emerging evidence suggests that dietary carbohydrate restriction increases protein oxidation, thereby limiting essential amino acid availability necessary to stimulate optimal muscle protein synthesis and promote muscle recovery. Low carbohydrate feeding for 24 h increases branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) oxidation and reduces myogenic regulator factor transcription compared to mixed-macronutrient feeding. When carbohydrate restriction is maintained for 8 to 12 weeks, the alterations in anabolic signaling, protein synthesis, and myogenesis likely contribute to limited hypertrophic responses to resistance training. The blunted hypertrophic response to resistance training when carbohydrate availability is low does not affect muscle strength, whereas persistently low muscle glycogen does impair anaerobic output during high-intensity sprint and time to exhaustion tests.

SUMMARY: Dietary carbohydrate restriction increases BCAA oxidation and impairs muscle hypertrophy and anaerobic performance, suggesting athletes who need to perform high-intensity exercise should consider avoiding dietary strategies that restrict carbohydrate.

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