One of the most common questions I get is whether carbs or protein are more important to build muscle.
I hear it often when it concerns fat loss, which, yes, you should be consuming carbs and protein if you’re trying to lose weight. Absolutely.
However, on the other side of things, many people seem to question the role of carbs when it comes to building muscle mass.
Protein is easy though, everybody thinks you should be eating as much of it as possible.
However, for those that wonder if carbs or protein build muscle?
Carbs and protein work together to accomplish this so they’re both important.
If your main goal is building muscle, gaining strength, and improving overall performance – carbs and protein are an absolute must.
There’s also the debate on how much protein and carbs you should eat for building muscle.
We’ll go over all of that and more now!
Let’s get started!
Table Of Contents
- 1 Carbs & Protein For Muscle Growth
- 2 Protein And Carbs For Muscle Gain
- 3 How Many Carbs Should I Be Eating?
- 4 Best Carbs For Building Lean Muscle
- 5 How To Get Enough Protein To Build Muscle
- 6 Best Time To Eat Carbs For Muscle Growth
- 7 Can I Build Muscle Mass Without Carbs?
- 8 Conclusion
Carbs & Protein For Muscle Growth
As we know – proteins, or amino acids, are one of the essential building blocks of life. Without it, we can’t even exist.
And if you want to gain muscle mass, you need to make sure you’re consuming the proper amounts of protein.
This goes double for carbohydrates.
You can force-feed as much protein as you’d like, but it doesn’t mean it’s all going to be driven into the muscle cells for recovery.
Not only does it give you the energy to push through hard workouts, but it also helps drive amino acids into your muscle cells to aid in recovery and kick off muscle protein synthesis.
That’s one of the reasons why carbs are so important before, during, and after a workout.
In theory, the more carbs you eat around your workouts, the better.
That’s part of why protein isn’t the only deciding factor for muscle building.
You need both carbs and protein to build muscle mass.
Overall Calorie Intake Is Super Important As Well
Being in a calorie surplus is also incredibly important for muscle building.
Make sure you aren’t eating in a calorie deficit and think the carbs and protein will save you.
Sure, they absolutely help maintain muscle, but without that surplus of calories, it’s just not going to happen.
A calorie surplus, proper protein, carb, and fat intake are all necessary to build muscle.
But, just how much protein and carbs should you eat to gain muscle mass?
Let’s find out!
Protein And Carbs For Muscle Gain
Luckily, there have been many studies out there regarding the proper amounts of these two macronutrients you need to support muscle growth.
Protein is pretty easy to set and forget for the most part.
In general, if you’re in a calorie surplus, you only need 0.8-1 gram of protein per lb of bodyweight.
Any more than that, and you’re wasting calories, you could be using for your carbohydrate intake instead.
For a 200 lb man, this comes out to around 160-200 grams of protein per day.
As long as you’re in that range, you’ll build muscle just as somebody eating 320-400 grams per day.
Or maybe you’d even build more as you’ll be able to consume more carbs and ultimately have more energy and better recovery.
Now moving on to carbs, there are a bunch of ways to set this up.
A high-carb diet for muscle gain is, without a doubt, the best way to go about things.
Consuming more carbs will always give you a net gain when it comes to energy, and your recovery will increase dramatically as well.
The more you keep your glycogen stores full, the better for building muscle mass.
This is why people that hope on the keto bandwagon basically die and feel like crap until they’re fat adapted.
Carbs are just that crucial for proper energy levels.
The two ways you can set this up are as follows:
- A simple way for beginners. Find out your calorie surplus, protein, and fat requirements – and then the rest of your calories will be carbs.
- Hard way for advanced athletes. You can set them to certain amounts depending on how hard your workouts are. This one is a little harder to calculate but will give you more carbs and calories on your harder workouts. Obviously, this is more of an advanced strategy, so keep that in mind.
I’ll go over the simple method here, but if you want to learn the advanced method, you can check out Renaissance Periodization and their RP Diet App.
How Many Carbs Should I Be Eating?
This method of setting up your carb intake is super easy and works very well for most people out there.
Here’s how we figure this out.
- Start by determining your calorie surplus.
- The easiest way is to find your maintenance calories and add your bodyweight in calories.
You do this by multiplying your body weight by 15 as a rough estimate.
For that 200 lb man example earlier, we’d multiply 200×15 and get 3000 calories for maintenance.
Then, you simply add 200 calories and get a calorie surplus of 3200 calories.
Then, you determine your protein and fat intake.
Our 200 lb male would set protein to 200 grams.
And then he would take 20% of his bodyweight for his fat intake.
This is the low end for fat intake, but you could increase it if you feel lousy from the lower-fat diet.
20% of 200 is 40 grams of fat.
Then you simply take 200 grams of protein, multiply it by 4, and 40 grams of fat, multiply by 9.
We do this because there are 4 calories per gram of protein and 9 calories per gram of fat. Pretty simple.
200×4=800 calories from protein
40×9=360 calories from fat
Next, you add these together and subtract them from your total calories.
Finally, you divide the total calories remaining by 4 to calculate your carb intake.
Your total calories and macronutrient profile starting out would look like this.
- Calories – 3200
- Fat – 40
- Protein – 200
- Carbs – 510
This might seem like a lot of carbs, but it’s going to give the greatest return on your investment, I promise.
Now that we know how many carbs you should be eating, it’s time to find out the best carbs you should be consuming to build lean muscle.
Best Carbs For Building Lean Muscle
If you want to build the leanest muscle mass possible, you want to take your time gaining weight.
If you gain weight at a rapid pace, the odds of the majority being muscle will be lower.
That’s why sticking to a smaller surplus and slowly adding calories is going to be a great idea to mitigate fat gain.
The main way to do this is by consuming carbs mostly around your workout.
You should consume most of your complex carbs before your workout, such as rice, oatmeal, whole grains, etc.
Then during and immediately after your workout, you can and should consume simpler carbs that digest quickly.
That way, they get into the bloodstream quickly and push amino acids into the muscles faster.
Good simple carbs for this can be something like Gatorade, cereal, etc. Just pure carb sources and not junk like pizza.
Then, whatever meal you consume after that should be complex carbs again so they can be released into the bloodstream throughout the rest of the day and night.
Healthy, complex carbs should make up most of your meals for off days as they’ll keep you full and give you sustainable energy throughout the day.
Hopefully, this helps! If you have any questions, drop them below!
How To Get Enough Protein To Build Muscle
Eating enough protein is always a major issue for many clients that I’ve worked with. They tell me it’s hard to eat enough protein when they work, have kids, etc.
I’m sure you’ve had similar thoughts yourself and have found consuming enough protein to be a major issue for you when gaining muscle mass.
That’s why it’s important to know what types of foods have the most protein without the need to eat a ton of meat every day. Which isn’t only expensive, it’s not sustainable for some people with busy lives.
So let me show you a super easy trick to make sure you’re getting enough protein in!
Protein Powder Is Totally Fine
In general, food is going to be better in the long run when it comes to eating for fat loss.
When the goal is muscle building, sometimes you have to consume liquid calories to get in all your necessary nutrients such as amino acids.
That’s why for those that have problems with their protein intake especially, I recommend consuming protein shakes throughout the day.
2-3, 25-50 gram protein shakes are literally all most people need to supplement their diet and continue the muscle-building process.
Higher Protein Dairy Products Are Great As Well
You can also add more protein by drinking milk with each of your meals. Unfortunately for some people that are lactose intolerant, this isn’t a viable strategy.
Luckily, Fairlife makes Ultra-Skimmed Lactose free milk. It’s lower-carb, low-fat, and higher protein compared to regular milk and definitely a great option to add more amino acids throughout the day.
I also highly recommend Greek Yogurt because it’s easy to put down, you can add fruit/granola to it to get in more carbs, and it’s just delicious, so what’s not love?
The kind that I enjoy the best with the best macros is this Great Value brand; it’s Light Greek Vanilla yogurt with only 50 grams of carbs, 0 fat, and 70 grams of protein.
You can easily knock back one of these a day for like 3 bucks, and that’s a high amount of protein right there. Super easy and cheap.
Between all of these choices, it’s super easy to get in enough protein without eating super-filling foods.
Making a ton of chicken breasts to prep for the week isn’t always necessary and makes eating for muscle growth super easy if you use the options I’ve shown above.
Again just a reminder, you don’t need a ton of protein to fuel muscle building. As long as you have enough carbs, you can consume less protein.
Hopefully, some of these options help you stop making excuses and eat enough to start building muscle mass.
What are some of the protein-rich foods you like to eat? Let me know in the comments below!
Best Time To Eat Carbs For Muscle Growth
If your goal is to build the most muscle possible, you absolutely need to consider your meal timing.
For protein it’s pretty simple, eat an equal amount of protein throughout each of your meals.
That way, you have a constant supply of amino acids in your bloodstream.
This is why something like intermittent fasting isn’t the best protocol for gaining muscle mass.
For carbs, it’s actually even easier.
On the days you train, you want to consume the majority of your carbs around your workout. This will give you the most energy to sustain hard resistance training while also helping you recover faster.
On your off days, I would recommend splitting your carbs equally between all of your meals.
This will give you a constant supply to maintain steady energy levels without getting a sugar rush from tons of carbs without any protein or fats to slow down your digestion.
As you can see, it’s really easy to maximize your muscle growth by making a few changes to when you eat your carbs.
Let me know if you have any questions on this and I’ll help you out the best I can!
Now, let’s go over a question that a lot of Keto enthusiasts are sure to be wondering about, can you build muscle without carbs?
Let’s get into it!
Can I Build Muscle Mass Without Carbs?
This might be something a few of you have wondered about.
In general, you definitely can build muscle without carbs.
However, is it the best idea?
If you want a more balanced diet to build the most muscle mass possible, you should be consuming as many carbs as you can.
Hit your recommended fat and protein intakes, then consume the rest of your calorie surplus in carbs.
You do that, and you’re setting yourself up for the greatest muscular gains possible!
If you have a choice between a keto style, medium carb, and high carb diet; the high carb diet will win every time.
Carbs are incredibly important for muscle building.
Full glycogen stores are incredibly potent when it comes to higher energy levels.
The greater your energy levels are, the harder you can train, hit more personal records, and recover faster so you can continue creating the signals your body needs to build muscle mass.
Now I turn it over to you!
Did this guide help you decide what is more important for muscle building?
Let me know what you think in the comment section below, right now.
Until next time,