Do Carbs Help Build Muscle?

When it comes to building muscle, protein seems to dominate the discussion. While it’s true that adequate protein intake is important for muscle growth it’s also important that you’re consuming enough carbohydrates. In this post I’ll discuss some of the ways that carbohydrates aid in the muscle building process.

First off, by eating enough complex carbohydrates your muscles cells stay loaded with glycogen. Glycogen is the stored version of carbs. It is stored primarily in your muscle cells with some being stored in your liver. When your activity levels increase, you’re body is able to tap into this stored fuel, usually when intensity is high.

By eating enough carbohydrates and keeping our muscle cells full we prevent the need for muscle to be broken down and used as energy. If carbohydrate intake is low and your activity level increased to the point where you needed some quick energy, your body would wind up breaking down muscle tissue to be converted to glucose. This process is called gluconeogenesis. Clearly this isn’t an ideal situation.

That’s one of the most important reasons for consuming more complex carbohydrates. Carbs are a muscle sparing nutrient!

Another way that eating carbs helps to build muscle is by giving you a ton of fuel for your workouts. In order to build muscle you need to train hard! Training hard requires a lot of energy. As I’ve already pointed out, carbs are an ideal source of energy during intense activity. If you’re training correctly then you’ll NEED a solid amount of carbs on daily basis just to fuel those workouts.

The reality though is that a lot of people need to ramp up their intensity in the gym. They need to talk less and lift more! If you’re not shaking, sweating and borderline dizzy for most of your workout then you need to crank it up a notch. Take shorter breaks between your sets and and increase the volume and density of your workouts! That means get more done in less time while still pushing heavy weight.

Consuming some fast digesting carbs post workout can increase blood sugar levels resulting in the release of Insulin. Insulin will increase the absorption of the nutrients into your muscle cells. If you’ve done a good job of hitting the weights hard then you’ve emptied your glycogen stores a little. Insulin will help you refill those glycogen stores quickly while at the same time bring in protein to begin the repair and recovery process.

In addition to preventing the breakdown of muscle tissue, providing an optimal fuel source for super intense weight training sessions and shuttling protein into the muscle post workout, carbs also play an important role in the production and regulation of certain hormones. Specifically Testosterone!

In two separate studies (Study 1, Study 2) subjects where shown to have significantly lower testosterone levels after following a low carbohydrate diet for several weeks.

That’s not to say that one should NEVER follow a low carbohydrate diet. It’s just not the ideal approach when building muscle is your main goal.

Another benefit to consuming a ton of complex carbs while you’re building muscle is how great you feel during your workouts. The pumps that you’ll get are amazing! You’ll be shocked at how quickly you bounce back between sets and you’ll discover that it’s virtually impossible to get tired. You’ll feel like you can train for hours!

Do carbs help build muscle? I believe they do. They prevent any muscle breakdown. Fuel insanely intense training sessions that tear apart your muscles. Extra carbs also aid in the recovery process which allows you to heal faster and be ready to train again sooner. So if you’re trying to build muscle don’t forget about your carbs!

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