One 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.
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.