For the longest time, carbohydrates have been the culprit of undesired fitness results. Most people blame them for the unwanted two or three pounds or when they have trouble building muscle or losing weight. It is, therefore, not surprising that most people will question the impact of carbs on any fitness goal. “Do you need carbs to build muscle?” This ranks among the most commonly asked questions on the effect of carbohydrates in the muscle-building process. Critics of this food group will say you do not need carbs, while carb-lovers will stand and shout carb praises. How about we put an end to this tug of war once and for all?
Although carbs get a bad rap for most things, if they are included in your diet plan they do have some health benefits. That said, the thing you must be cautious of has to do with the portions, types, and calories. In this article, we will be discussing the effects of carbs on muscle development. We will unveil the answer on whether you do need them to build muscle, and if so, how much of them you require. We will also suggest healthier carb options for muscle growth to give you the big and defined muscles you desire in no time.
Do You Need Carbs To Build Muscle?
Over time, carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap from many people. A large percent argue that a low or no-carb diet is an efficient diet plan to build muscle. On the flip side, another equally large percentage acknowledges that you need carbs to build muscle mass.
The question is, who is right? Before we answer this, let us first look at the science behind building muscle mass. If you want a muscular physique, the fact remains that you have to perform strength training exercises (6).
According to WebMD, strength training is the best exercise regime for increasing your muscle-to-fat ratio. It also helps in building the strength of your muscles and connective tissues. Similarly, such a program slows down muscle loss due to natural aging and increases bone density (6).
Carbs are essential when you start any strength training program to build muscle. Noting this, the best diet plan to help you increase your muscle mass is one that contains carbohydrates. In light of that, it is safe to say that you do need carbohydrates to build muscle.
Read More: Carbs Make You Fat: Debunking The Popular Myth
Why Do You Need Carbs To Build Muscle?
Carbs play a significant role in muscle development. Here are solid reasons why you need to add them to your muscle-building diet plan:
They Provide Fuel For Your Exercises
As mentioned earlier, the best exercises to help increase muscle mass, strength, and endurance are strength training programs. Like with any other exercise or activity, you will need fuel to perform these strength training workouts.
Carbohydrates are the macronutrients that give your body energy to perform various activities in the form of calories (3). Your daily carbohydrate requirements vary depending on your age, activity level, sex, and health. For example, an average man with a daily calorie intake of 2, 000 has a carb requirement ranging from 225 to 325 g (3).
This means that you have to eat your carbs if you want to attain your fitness goals. In this case, your carb intake will also be influenced by the intensity of your workouts. If you are doing a light-intensity exercise, you only need 3 to 5 g of carbs for each kg of your body weight (5). This means, if you weigh 150 pounds, you will need roughly 200 to 340 grams of carbs daily.
If your workouts are more intense and last longer, then your carb requirements will increase. If you exercise for more than an hour every day, you will need to consume 6 to 10 grams of carbs of your body weight. If you weigh 150 pounds, your daily carb requirements will increase and range between 408 and 680 grams (5).
They Replenish Glycogen And Prevent Fatigue
According to Medical News Today, you also need to consume carbs to build muscle for their role in replenishing glycogen and avoiding fatigue (2). They replenish glycogen stored in your muscles and liver and prevent you from being tired during your strength training workouts. Remember to stick to the recommended range of carbs per day, per your dietitian’s instructions.
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What Carbs Can You Eat For Muscle Development?
We have determined that carbs are not as bad as most people portray them, from the discussion above. You need to add them to your nutrition plan if you want to build muscle quickly and efficiently.
Considering this, which carbs are you specifically required to eat for muscle development? Before we break down some of the best carb sources, let us discuss this concept. Carbohydrates are classified into two groups: simple and complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbs are those that often have high fiber content and are larger molecules. Your body tends to take a longer time digesting them. On the other hand, simple carbohydrates are small and quickly digested in your body (4). Usually, these carbs are added to the prepared and processed foods such as processed sweeteners or refined sugars.
You should limit simple carbohydrates or any refined or added sugars, if you are trying to build muscle. Such foods only provide you with empty calories, meaning they are high in calories and have low nutritional benefits.
Instead of these, you are advised to get your daily carb intake from complex carbohydrates. Some of the best sources of complex carbohydrates are whole grains and cereals (7). So, eat more whole-wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, whole barley, quinoa, and whole-grain crackers. You can also focus on consuming fiber, a complex carbohydrate found in various fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
What Happens If I Cut Carbs For Muscle Development?
Perhaps you have read or heard that cutting carbs out of your diet can help with muscle growth. In light of this, you may be thinking of cutting carbs entirely from your eating plan. This is a thought that has crossed the minds of those who want to lose weight and build muscle.
They argue that cutting out carbs should lead to fat loss as any stored fat would be broken down for energy. Consequently, they are going to lose weight and gain muscle through their strength training exercises. Cutting carbs from an eating plan can indeed promote weight loss.
However, remember that you need carbs to fuel your workouts, replenish glycogen, and help avoid fatigue when you are exercising. Therefore, cutting out carbs entirely while still performing strength training workouts is really a wrong move. If you suddenly lower your carb intake, you will likely experience weakness, dizziness, headaches, constipation, and fatigue (3).
Cutting these food groups entirely from your diet plan will result in more fatal consequences. For instance, you might experience numerous nutritional deficiencies. It is always best if you talk to a professional before making any major dietary changes.
Consult with a dietitian on the best carb intake for muscle development. Similarly, ask for their assistance when creating a muscle-building meal plan. They will help you learn the right kinds of carbs to add to your diet to increase lean muscle.
Read More: Best Time To Eat Carbs: Separating Facts From Fiction About Nutrient Timing
Do You Still Need Proteins To Build Muscle?
Yes, you do. Sculpting muscles does not only require some killer strength training workouts and moderate consumption of complex carbohydrates. This process also requires you to consume proteins and drink plenty of fluids, preferably water or any other low-calorie beverage.
Proteins help with muscle recovery. They also build and repair muscle tissues that might have been damaged during your workouts (1). To develop and maintain muscle mass, you have to consume 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per one kg of your body weight (2). Elite athletes that perform very high intensity training may even need more.
Given this, focus on giving your body the nutrients it needs to get the results you want. Some of the best foods to help you get bigger and well-defined muscles include (2):
Perhaps you have seen most bodybuilders having a poached or boiled egg after their workouts. Have you ever wondered why this is the case? If you are curious to know, one boiled or poached egg has 6.28 grams of protein. It also contains leucine, a vital amino acid in muscle synthesis.
One ounce of tuna has seven grams of protein. The fish is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help in improving your muscle size and strength.
This is one of the best post-workout snacks for anyone looking to increase lean muscle. Five ounces of this yogurt has 12 to 18 grams of protein. You can add more flavor to this beverage by adding in some banana slices.
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Salmon weighing 227 grams has 58.5 grams of protein. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that have numerous health benefits, including preventing muscle loss in seniors.
Four ounces of lean beef contain approximately 23 grams of protein. It is rich in several vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, and selenium. These minerals play a crucial role in energy production and recovery.
One cup of peanuts has 41 grams of protein. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, which are essential to enhance your exercise performance.
The Bottom Line
Do you need carbs to build muscle? Yes, you sure do. Health experts acknowledge that carbohydrates play a crucial role in muscle development. They provide the energy you require for strength training and replenish glycogen and prevent fatigue during your workouts.
However, you have to be cautious of your carbohydrate intake. Your carb needs will be influenced by your activity levels and the intensity of your workouts. Talk to a healthcare provider if you have trouble calculating your daily carbohydrate requirements.
Similarly, pay attention to the type of carbohydrates you consume. It is best if you opt for complex carbohydrates due to their high fiber and nutrients content. These include foods like barley, brown rice, quinoa, and whole-grain cereals.
In addition to these complex carbs, also add proteins to your muscle-building meal plan. The best protein sources for muscle development include eggs, tuna, salmon, Greek yogurt, peanuts, and lean beef.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 7 Muscle Foods for Men (2011, webmd.com)
- 30 muscle-building foods to fuel your goals (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)
- How many carbs do I need each day? (2017, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Low Carb, High Carb, Bad Carb: How Much is Best? (2018, webmd.com)
- Nutrition rules that will fuel your workout (2021, mayoclinic.org)
- The Basics: Build Muscle for Better Health (2006, webmd.com)
- The Truth About Carbs (2020, webmd.com)