Do Carbs Or Protein Build Muscle? 3 Things To Consider!

Do Carbs Or Protein Build Muscle?

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One of the most common questions I get is whether carbs or protein build muscle?

I hear it often when it concerns fat loss, which, yes, you should be eating 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. 

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 more muscle, gaining strength, and improving overall performance, carbohydrates and protein are an absolute must. 

There’s also the debate on how much protein and carbs you should eat to gain muscle. 

We’ll go over all of that and more now!

Let’s get started!

Carbs & Protein For Muscle Growth

As we know, protein is one of the essential building blocks of life. Without it, we can’t even exist. 

And if you want to build muscle, 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. 

eat more food
You definitely don’t have to force yourself to eat a ton of extra food. Just a small calorie surplus and you’re set. If you aren’t gaining, add more calories and keep working.

And this is one of the reasons why carbs are so important for muscle growth. 

Not only does it give you the energy to push through hard workouts, but it also helps drive protein into your muscle cells to aid in recovery. 

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 growth. 

You need both carbs and protein to maximize how much muscle you can build and how fast your recovery will be. 

Being in a calorie surplus is also incredibly important for muscle gain to occur.

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 intakes are all necessary for building muscle. 

But, just how much protein and carbs should you eat to gain muscle? 

Let’s find out!

How much protein and carbs do I need to eat to gain muscle?

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 it and forget it 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. 

That’s it. 

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 as much muscle 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. 

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Now moving onto carbs, there’s 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. 

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. 

its not juice its a protein shake
Take it from Samwise Gamgee the Brave, drink your protein shakes but just enough to supplement your diet.

The 2 ways you can set this up is as follows:

  • The 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?

so much math
Calculating your carbs is the easy part, actually eating in a calorie surplus to build muscle consistently is the hard part!

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 multiple 200×15 and get 3000 calories for maintenance. 

Then, you simply add 200 calories on 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 it 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. 

800+360=1160

3200-1160=2040

Finally, you divide the total calories remaining by 4 to calculate your carb intake. 

2040/4=510 carbs

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

obsessed with carbs and gluten

If you want to build the leanest muscle 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. 

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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 the majority of your carbs around your workouts. 

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. 

gatorade

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, 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 building more muscle.

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.

i love protein

So let me show you a super easy trick to make sure you’re getting enough protein in!

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 growth, sometimes you have to consume liquid calories to get in all the nutrients necessary.

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 is literally all most people need to supplement their diet and continue the muscle building process.

I always recommend Optimum Nutrition as they have some of the best flavors, their whey and casein is super high quality, and they’re well reputable as well.

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Whey if you want to digest it quickly and eat more food.
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Casein if you want to digest slowly and keep you fuller longer.

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 protein throughout the day.

fairlife milk
These are awesome macronutrients if you want to build more muscle and get in a decent amount of protein with each meal.

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.

greek yogurt front
greek yogurt

Between all of these choices, it’s super easy to get in enough protein without eating super filling foods.

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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 growth. As long as you have enough carbs, you can consume less protein.

Hopefully some of these options help you stop making excuses and eat to grow though.

What are some of your 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.

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 blood stream.

This is why something like intermittent fasting isn’t the best protocol for building muscle.

You want to have a consistent supply of protein to feed your muscles to aid in recovery.

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 training while also helping your recover faster.

workout and eat
You definitely shouldn’t be smashing cakes and chocolate during your workouts but some gatorade with electrolytes added in is a great way to fuel hard training!

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 changed 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 Without Carbs?

No carbs

This might be something a few of you have wondered. 

In general, you definitely can build muscle without carbs. 

Something like the keto diet where you consume a ton of fat, moderate protein, and low to no carbs could work in theory. 

However, is it the best idea? 

Definitely not. 

If you want to optimize your 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 everytime.

Carbs are incredibly important for optimal muscle growth. 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 more muscle

Thank you all for reading; I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll talk to you all later!

Until next time,

-Dante Redgrave

Dante

Dante

I'm a Strength Coach and Content Creator with freedom on my mind! Without strength training, I hate to think of where I would be without it. What kind of person I would be, what kind of shape I would be in. It scares me, and that's why every day is a new chance to better myself.