Do you need carbs to build muscle? Do carbohydrates help our bodies really bulk up and gain muscle? Or do they have the opposite effect? These are vital questions when it comes to muscle gain, and they gather mixed responses. Read on to find out the answer.
Are carbs necessary?
Carbs are some of our bodies’ main sources of energy. Carbohydrates break down into glucose, giving our brain, cells, and muscles fuel, energy, and ability to function. Some carbs have heavy amounts of fiber, which is really good for you as well.
If your goal is muscle gain, carbs can help energize and fuel your workouts, and help with muscle repair.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a person should eat 45-65% of their daily food intake as carbs.
Carbs get a lot of debate as to whether or not they are good for you. Many people agree with the Dietary Guidelines, but others argue that carbohydrates are causing a lot of problems with fitness and health.
Gaining muscle on the Keto Diet
The Keto diet is a famous low-carb diet, in which one eats mainly fats and protein, and less than 50 grams of carbohydrates a day. It helps with weight loss, and some have found that it helps with muscle gain as well.
By doing the keto diet your body gets really good at burning and using fat for energy, instead of carbohydrates. By training your body to use the glucose found in protein and fat, you will lose fat, gain muscle definition, and be more energized.
People may argue that carbs are necessary to bodybuild or gain muscle.
There are a couple different variations you could do keto which will add more opportunity to eat carbs some times. There is the targeted keto diet, in which you eat carbs around your workouts on days you exercise intensely, and the cyclical keto diet where you go off carbs for 5 days a week, and eat a heavy amount of carbs for 2 days of the week.
A complaint about keto is that it is a harder diet to stick to after a while, but with those variations to the diet, you aren’t getting rid of carbs completely, so it may be easier to sustain long term.
But, even just the normal keto diet is claimed to help with muscle gain.
Not all carbs are created equal
Then, there is the side that carbs are necessary and help you gain muscle.
Carbohydrates help fuel your workout, and provide muscle repair post workout. They are a fast source of energy. There is a worry that by getting rid of carbs, your body will turn to protein (and muscle) to break down and use for energy.
The question might not be IF carbs are good for you, but WHAT carbs are good for you. There are two types of carbs, simple and complex. And those two types do different things for the body.
First, simple carbs. Simple carbs get their name because it is really simple for the body to break them down and use them for energy. Examples of simple carbs include bread, pasta, sugary drinks, and dessert. These foods cause a spike in blood sugar. Most people know and crave these types of carbs.
Complex carbs take a little longer for your body to break down into glucose, and instead of spiking the blood sugar quickly, it’s more of an even and slow process. Complex carbs have more fiber, minerals, and vitamins than simple carbs do.
They’re healthier for you, and your body can use and sustain the glucose from complex carbs for a longer, more consistent time. Examples are complex carbs are whole grains, beans, and dark leafy green vegetables.
Here is more information on what carbs are simple or complex.
Simple carbs, like fries, doughnuts, syrup, etc aren’t the healthiest carbs you could be eating, and they may impede muscle gain as well. They can also increase body fat.
But, complex carbs are healthy and provide you with a good source of fiber. Rather than eliminate all carbs, you could limit or eliminate simple carbs. Most American eat more carbs than the allotted daily amount in the first place, so even limiting your carb intake to the daily allowance could help a lot.
Do carbs help you gain muscle or lose it?
So, there you have it. Carbs are said to be necessary, but there are differences in what types of carbs there are. Simple and complex carbs do different things to your body.
Can carbs help you gain muscle? Yes, they can. Carbs help boost energy and repair muscles. Carbs are the body’s first source of energy. When carbohydrates are not available, your body breaks down protein for energy. Muscles that you have worked so hard to bulk up may get broken down in this process if you aren’t consuming enough carbs. Protein is important in building muscle, but carbs are also important.
However, carbs are also said to NOT be necessary. Many people find success in doing a low- carb diet and gaining muscle. Training your body to use fat and protein for energy instead of carbs can help you lose fat, stay energized, and gain muscle definition.
Every body type is different, and if a low-carb diet what works for you than that is awesome. It is really up to you, and what works for your body. If carbs help you gain muscle, or help with other health goals, than that is great, but if low-carb helps you, then that is also a great way to go.
- If you include carbs in your diet to build muscles, then go for complex carbs that give you extra minerals, vitamins, and fiber, and can help you with your health goals. Aim for brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice, and eat lots of leafy green vegetables. Ditch the sugar and high-in-simple-carbs dessert.
- Keep your water intake up. Water is very important for muscle growth and overall health.
- Choose lean protein and don’t go too crazy on the carbs, or portion sizes to keep off fat as well as bulk.