How many carbs should you eat? For optimal muscle growth

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Are carbohydrates your enemy? Nope, carbohydrates are in fact just as important for muscle growth as proteins. How much of it do you need? As much as possible.


Carbohydrates are important for muscle growth for several reasons.

In the first place, they are the main source of energy for strength training. Strength training is an anaerobic activity that primarily uses carbohydrates as an energy source, namely in the form of glycogen that is stored in the muscles and liver. Carbohydrates are therefore more important for strength training than fats, which are only used a lot during aerobic (more prolonged) activities.

In addition, carbohydrates stimulate the release of the hormone insulin, which, according to coach and author Mike Israetel, has a positive effect on the recovery of your training and on muscle growth. In addition, full glycogen stores promoted recovery and the presence of (a lot of) glycogen in itself also has an anabolic effect, again according to Israetel. Finally, carbohydrate intake reduces the production of the anti-catabolic ‘stress hormone’ cortisol. The latter also has a beneficial effect on the recovery of your training.


Whether you’re bulking or cutting, because of their important role, you should always aim to consume as many carbohydrates as possible. This with due observance of the minimum required amount of proteins and fats. For proteins, you need about 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight per day (round up to 2 g/kg/d) and for fats you do not need more than 1-1.5 g/kg/d (in the cut 0.5-1 g/kg/d).

Your daily amount of carbohydrates is therefore what remains after deducting the quota proteins (2 g/kg/d) and fats (1-1.5 g/kg/d). In bulk, that usually comes down to 3 to 5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight.

Many bodybuilders eat excessive amounts of protein, much more than the recommended ~2 g/kg/d, in the hopes of increasing muscle growth. However, eating more protein than that recommendation no longer affects muscle growth and so only comes at the expense of the amount of carbohydrates you can eat. This is a shame, especially in the cut, because then you already have to save a lot on carbohydrates to achieve your energy deficit.


From a health perspective, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains (such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and sweet potatoes) are the best sources of carbohydrates (so-called complex carbohydrates). They are also very filling and contain a lot of fiber, making them ideal for during the cut.

In the bulk, however, you will also need to use less filling and fiber-rich sources, such as bread, potatoes and white rice (the so-called simple carbohydrates).

Simple carbohydrates are also found in snacks, drinks and ready meals, but it is better to avoid these from a health point of view. Although you are allowed to sin during a firm bulk, especially if you find it difficult to eat a lot of food.

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