Carbohydrates are commonly misunderstood, especially concerning the role they play in strength training and bodybuilding.
One of the most problematic myths that I constantly hear is that carbohydrates are your worst enemy. Many of us have been trained to avoid or to try and significantly limit carbs because carbs are sugar, and sugar makes you fat, and fat is bad…right
Wrong. Protein is necessary when it comes to muscle growth, but carbohydrates also play an important role in helping you maintain and gain muscle mass. The truth is, that complex carbohydrates are very healthy and provide your body with the fuel it needs to build muscle. Stop doing yourself the disservice of overlooking carbs when creating your muscle building diet plan, and begin by following these rules on how to calculate carbs and where you should be getting them from.
How Much Carbs are Necessary?
It is recommended that your daily caloric intake should be made up of 40-60% carbohydrates. Most people would agree that making carbohydrates 50% of your daily calorie intake is a good rule of thumb, and has been proven an effective ratio as part of a bodybuilding diet.
So, how many grams of carbohydrates is that exactly? This is easy to determine when we know that 1 gram of carbohydrates equals 4 calories. Let’s say you need to consume 3,000 calories per day to build muscle. If carbohydrates make up 50% of your diet, you will need to consume 1,500 calories worth of carbohydrates. At 4 calories per gram, 1,500 divided by 4 would equal about 375 grams of carbohydrates every day.
Your own caloric intake will vary a lot based on your own personal goal and BMR. If you are bulking, you will need to consume between 300-500 calories above your maintenance level. If you are cutting, this number will be 300-500 calories below your maintenance level. You can determine your maintenance level by reading my post on how many calories to build muscle.
Do We Actually NEED Carbohydrates?
It’s important to include plenty of quality carbohydrates into your diet plan during strength training and muscle building. Your body uses carbohydrates as fuel which helps improve your performance and intensity when training. If you are limiting your carbohydrate intake you will be taxing your protein supply, which can lead to a decrease in muscle mass.
Carbohydrates generally serve as the body’s main source of fuel. Carbohydrates are not vital for survival though. Energy can be used from the calories in protein alone. The only problem is that if protein is being used as an energy source, your body will have a difficult time building any muscle mass. Incorporating the right amount of quality carbohydrates into your diet is essential for building muscle while strength training.
What Type of Carbohydrates are the Best?
Although carbohydrates are important, eating the wrong types of carbs can be detrimental to your health. Eating candy that’s made up of mostly high glycemic sugar certainly won’t do anything to help improve your health overall. Processed foods such as white bread, pasta, white rice and other foods with added sugars are poor sources of quality carbohydrates in your diet.
It’s important to limit most of your carbohydrate intake to nutrient dense foods. Nutrient dense foods with carbs include fruits, vegetables, brown rice and whole grains. Nutrient dense foods which contain carbs help to control insulin levels, provide a slow release of energy and provide other compounds which are essential to metabolic functions in the body.
When shopping for food you should always remember that brown is your friend. Brown rice, whole grain pasta and multigrain breads are ideal sources for carbs. These carbohydrates are loaded with fiber which makes them enter the bloodstream much slower than carbohydrate rich foods loaded with sugar. This will help maintain optimal insulin levels which will eliminate the trigger of fat storage in the body, while providing you with the energy you need to power through your workout.