How many carbs are needed to build muscle? It’s a question that’s rarely asked – everyone seems to focus on how much protein they need. There is no short answer to this question. But realize this: Your body isn’t stupid and neither is Mother Nature. Certain foods were put on this earth for a reason and you should take full advantage of that.
First of all, what are carbs?
If you do happen to have intentions of cutting carbs from your diet or strictly reducing them, it’s good to know exactly what they are and what their function is.
The word “carbs” is actually the short form of carbohydrates. These are macronutrients, along with protein and fat. Macronutrients are needed in large amounts by the body to promote overall function.
Carbs contain 4 calories per gram and when they’re consumed they are either used for energy immediately, stored in the liver and muscles to be used for energy later, or stored as fat if you have an abundance of them.
The key element with their intake is that you want to get enough, but that’s it. Remember, an excessive amount will lead to fat storage, which you do not want!
Which foods contain carbs?
This is a good a question. The answer is this. Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, wheat berries, oatmeal, and barley are all good sources of carbs. Plus, you have fruits, most vegetables, beans, and certain dairy products.
All of these carbs are the good kind, which are known as complex. They get digested at a slow rate and give you balanced energy.
Simple carbs like cakes, cookies, pastries, sweet beverages, alcohol, and white flour products are the sinister ones you want to dodge. They quickly spike your blood sugar, which boosts your energy for a nanosecond; then you come down and feel exhausted shortly afterwards.
Your pancreas then releases insulin to calm the situation down and you end up creating a favorable environment for weight gain because insulin is a fat-storage hormone.
One last side note. Carbs are where you obtain fiber and a host of vitamins and minerals. This should all give you the evidence you need to persuade you to keep this macronutrient in your diet.
So how many grams to build muscle?
Like the rest of the macros, the exact amount you need is not an exact science. It all boils down to your workout methods. Since you are trying to build muscle, it makes sense that you want an adequate amount.
Remember, carbs not used immediately are stored in your muscles and liver for use later. That “use” occurs when you’re throwing weighted barbells around in the gym. If you are carb-deficient, the struggle you’ll be in for will be just filthy! Don’t get to that point.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you should consume between 225 and 325 grams of carbs a day based on a 2,000-calorie diet. But here’s the rub. This is for the average person walking down the street. You might be a hardgainer and not able to gain weight even while consuming 325 grams a day.
The best approach
You know what the rough estimate is for carb intake. But what you should do is to get more dialed, which can be done like this. Monitor your carb intake and track the amount you take in for five days. Add all these totals together and divide by five to get an average.
After doing this, take measurements of your major muscles and increase your daily carb intake by 25 grams. Perform your workouts like normal and then take measurements again after two weeks. If you’ve gained mass, you’re in the right place. Keep everything the same.
If you didn’t gain any mass, add 25 grams to your total again and check your measurements in two weeks. Keep following this procedure until you start gaining.
Once you do, keep your intake where it is for maintenance. If a time comes when you want to bulk up even more, follow the same system.
If you take muscle-building seriously, don’t neglect your carbs! Not only are they going to benefit you from a fitness perspective, they’re also fun to eat. Just remember to strive for balance in your meals. A salmon steak with stir-fried vegetables and quinoa is an example of a balanced meal.
Looking for more advice on building muscle then take a look at our ultimate guide to building muscle >