How Many Carbs Should You Eat Per Day to Build Muscle?

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Nutrition, Training

Harry-AOne of the most frequently asked nutrition questions I get is, “How many carbs should you eat per day to build muscle?”

Everyone always focuses on protein but if you want to get jacked carbs are crucial.

High fat and Paleo style eating can be great for getting lean but not for getting big.

That job requires some rice and potatoes.

Carb intake should be directly correlated to weekly training volume.

For example, let’s say Billy does an old school 5×5 routine twice per week because he believes that as a hardgainer that’s all the training he can handle.

There are numerous ways to do 5×5 but they usually involve working up to either two or three top work sets and you do three exercises per session. We’ll assume Billy does three progressively heavier sets and two top end work sets.

That means that the total volume for work sets would be thirty reps. So that gives you sixty reps per week of real work sets.

Billy’s trapped in the old school hardgainer mentality so doesn’t run any sprints or do any finishers or conditioning throughout the week. He just wants go drink a gallon of milk per day and bulk himself into an unhealthy slob who can’t get up a flight of stairs.

In this case a primarily Paleo diet is ideal for Billy since he isn’t doing a ton of work that require that many carbs. So his fat intake would be higher and his carbs on the lower side.

An average intake of a gram of carbs per pound of would probably work. Of course this depends on bodyfat and age, but we’re keeping things simple here.

Carbs & Renegade Training

Now, let’s say Ray-Ray trains Renegade style- four times per week in the gym and an extra day outside running hill sprints or pushing a sled. He does some heavy stuff, some explosive speed training and averages sixteen work sets per training workout versus Billy’s six. His average number of reps is eight instead of five.

That means Ray-Ray is doing 512 total reps per week, which is a hell of a lot more than Billy’s sixty. Of course, a rep of clean and presses isn’t equal to a rep of hammer curls but for the sake of simplicity we’ll just compare total reps.

In addition to doing almost nine times the amount of total reps in the gym that Billy is doing Ray-Ray is also doing a hill sprint session every weekend, which further cranks up his need for carbs.

That means that on those five training days per week Ray-Ray could probably get away with an average of two grams of carbs per bodyweight. If he’s older and/or fatter that number would come down a bit and if he’s younger and/or leaner that number might even be able to go up a bit.

So if Ray-Ray is 22 years old, nine percent bodyfat and weighs 170 pounds he can easily handle 340 grams of carbs on training days. Maybe even as high as 2.5 grams per pound, which would be 425.

If Ray-Ray is 37 years old, fourteen percent bodyfat and weighs 170 he’d probably have to bring the carbs down to the 250-275 range on training days.

In both cases, fat intake should always be low when carbs are high.

The Rock knows the importance of carbs for getting jacked.

I was shocked recently to see pics of someone I know who used to eat a moderate to high carb diet and was always pretty lean and jacked. He switched to a high fat Paleo diet with very low carbs and without even hearing it from him I knew instantly.

There’s just a certain smooth, deflated look that comes from this type of low-carb, high-fat eating. This is even more pronounced when you do a fairly decent amount of training each week. You end up looking very dough-sackish.

A high fat Paleo diet is awesome for the general public, and if everyone followed it we’d have a lot less disease and sick people. It’s also great for getting lean when you have a lot of bodyfat to lose.

But if you’ve got your bodyfat in check and train hard and often with a decent amount of weekly volume you will definitely need more carbs; especially if your goal is to gain size.

Again, just remember to keep the fat intake on the lower side. You can’t eat 400 grams of carbs on top of a dozen whole eggs, two steaks and a can of coconut milk each day.

Higher carbs will help fuel your training sessions for better performance, you’ll get better pumps which will drive more growth producing nutrients to the muscle, you’ll always look fuller, your skin will be tighter, you’ll sleep better…. It’s a win-win situation.

Now go pound some rice and get jacked.

Discover the 10 Biggest Nutrition Lies

Leave a Reply

20 Responses to How Many Carbs Should You Eat Per Day to Build Muscle?

  1. Ben Coomber November 5, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    WORD…. The gold standard, carb cycling correlated to training volume and intensity, nice jason!

  2. John November 5, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    When you mention “In both cases, fat intake should always be low when carbs are high.” what is the minimum fat intake (even with high carb intake) which is necessary for high testosterone production?

    • Martin November 5, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

      Probably something like 15-20 % of your total daily requeriments.

      Saturated fat will do cholesterol levels go up, and T up too

    • George Super BootCamps November 6, 2012 at 7:55 am #

      Great question John!

      I’d like Jasons thoughts on this as well…

  3. Lawaun November 5, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    Once again you preach the truth!! I think the reason people are getting into this whole Paleo with low to no carbs is because they don’t understand that to gain the muscle and the body they want they have to be below or at 15% BF!! Otherwise the muscle gain just looks like shit. Keep preaching Jason you’re like a fitness Jimmy Swaggert…just don’t go getting caught in a big scandal with hookers and lose everything brother

  4. Josh U November 5, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    Hi Jason! This is a very informative article, but I’m a bit confused and am hoping you could help me out. I’m 24yo, 5’10”, 155lbs, at 15-17% body fat. I’m doing a beginner 5×5 program at the gym 3 days a week and one day of sprints per week.

    For best results, should I be eating more carbs for muscle gains or focus on getting my body fat below 15% first?

    So far most days I eat high fat, low carb with at least 100g protein per day, but I eat up to 100g carbs on training days.

    Thank you! Hope you guys have been safe during the hurricane.

  5. Kieran November 5, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    hey, what about for someone with T1 diabetes? they are using external insulin daily which is a LOT more powerful than that which is produced naturally in the body. Would love to hear your thoughts?

  6. Jonas November 5, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    Jason,your book it’s really good, I’m so stoked I got it. I’m starting the Diet this week.
    But Do you add the weight of food at the end of the day (like 2 cups of Jasmine Rice= 256 grams) or do you use the amount of carb from each food at the end of the day ? ex: those 2 cups (256 grams) have 44 grams of carbs in them.

  7. Sean R November 6, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    When you say to keep fat low when carbs are high: Are you referring to that entire day or a specific window away from the carbs?

    For example, I typically go high fat in the day but then low-fat and high-carb after workout. Anywhere from 60-110 g fat typically. The high fat meal(s) are normally a several hours away from the workout.

    Sean R

  8. Derek November 6, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    Great post Jason!

    Question though,
    Assuming Ray Ray is complimenting his Renegade Training with Renegade dieting. He’s training sprints on an off day following a high carb weight training day. From a recomp/ fat loss perspective would it be better served for Ray Ray to go low carb/calorie on his sprint training day or higher carb/calorie like a regular training day? Thoughts?

    thanks for all you do,

    Loyal Renegade Derek

  9. Stephan R November 7, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    In ketosis throughout the first half of the day and on non-training days.

    When training volume spikes up, just kill those carbs at night from clean sources (rice, white & sweet potatoes) and you will wake up feeling jacked the next morning.

    Ketosis with cyclical, huge carb refeeds to getting big as well as staying healthy.

    That’s my two cents.

    • Alex March 2, 2013 at 9:20 am #

      Do you think your body will go into ketosis if your glycogen storage is full from last night post workout carb refeed ?

  10. steve November 7, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Just curious on the Gi issue of jasmine rice (i.e over 100). Should Jasmine rice be limited to post workout or is it OK to eat throughout the day?

  11. Scott November 9, 2012 at 7:46 am #

    So one dude who works out like crazy eats white carbs and all of a sudden they’re healthy? For skinny guys looking to get big, yeah, more carbs is key … and some white carbs is ok. But for 95% of people, white carbs only make you fatter.

  12. Stone November 10, 2012 at 6:16 am #

    Sounds like something I remember from Power Eating. Anyway, good stuff!

  13. André Lima November 14, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    Jason, do you like to keep to the hard working athletes around 100 gms per day, even on rest days?
    Nice post!

  14. Luke Logan January 11, 2013 at 5:36 am #

    I used to be obsessed about getting my protein intake right. But, when I put more focus on increasing my carb intake, I started to grow. The easiest way for me to increase my carb intake was with Ultra Fine oats added to my protein shakes. Taste amazing too.

  15. beth September 5, 2013 at 7:52 am #

    Is this any different for ladies??

  16. Luis December 22, 2013 at 4:17 am #

    Great article, although the rock example is close to useless. Anything will work for a guy on juice

  17. protein shakes benefits for women January 14, 2014 at 5:18 am #

    Every muscle in your physique, as a pre-mixed shake
    or in powder form which protein shakes for women you can add up yogurt, butterscotch,
    almonds, even eggs into shakes completely transforms them.
    Remember that having more protein will not be utilized by the body to secrete glucagon.
    It is so simple and easy, it is a weight-loss protein shake, go for whey protein.
    One of the by-products from this metabolism is gas.