Using Carbs to Build Muscle and Burn Fat

4 Nutrition Tips for a Better Physique

Suffering with carb confusion? You probably already know that you need a diet high in protein to maintain and build new muscle. It’s a widely accepted fact that consuming 1 to 2 g of protein per pound of bodyweight is necessary to build and maintain your muscles, but do you know how many carbs you need, when you need them and which are the best?

Here are four strategies to get the most out of your carbs and build the physique you’ve been striving towards.

4 Carb Strategies To Build Muscle And Burn Fat


Although the theory of nutrient timing has been mostly debunked, its still common knowledge that there are two prime times to get your carbs in – first thing in the morning after a night of fasting and immediately after a tough workout when you have exhausted your carb resources. These are the times when your body is lowest in muscle glycogen – or stored carbs, which the muscle primary source of energy – making it the perfect time to eat carbs. If you work out hard and long enough and limit your carbs to first thing in the morning and immediately after your workout then you can efficiently use carbs to your muscle building advantage!

HOW TO DO IT: Consume about 40 to 50 g of complex fibrous carbs in the morning to break your fast and help balance blood sugar levels. Immediately post-workout taking in about the same amount can help stop muscle breakdown, ignite muscle repair.


Perhaps one of the best methods when it comes to muscle building and fat burning is using a carb cycling plan. Carb cycles can help ensure you are using up excess carbs and accessing body fat as an energy source, while holding on to your hard-earned muscle. This constant flux back and forth can also help up-regulate your fat-burning and muscle-building hormones, making your body more receptive to both processes.

HOW TO DO IT: Cycle between 4 to 5 days of low carb diet about 20% or less of your calories. Choose fibrous carbs like non-starchy vegetables, cruciferous green veggies, and root vegetables. After 4 to 5 days on the low carb phase, switch to a high carb day, then repeat. The high carb days you can refill lost muscle glycogen, stimulate insulin and leptin levels, reducing metabolic slow downs. On high carb days, eat at least 40% to 50% of your calories as carbs. These carbs should consist of mostly the good stuff – high in fiber and complex, but its’ all right to sneak in a few simple ones too, such as white potato, rice cakes, or fruit.

4 Carb Strategies To Build Muscle And Burn Fat


You might not be a fan of green vegetables or whole grain breads, but fibrous slow-digesting carbs pack a great source of energy that can help balance blood-sugar levels and reduce hunger and appetite between meals. Which makes them a better choice than simple carbs, which can spike blood glucose levels leaving you feeling hungry soon after you eat them. Fibrous carbs are energy dense, delivering essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes that help keep us healthy. The soluble fiber found in slow digesting carbs can also help cleanse the digestive track, by removing toxins, and binding to hormones packaging for safe removal from the system.

HOW TO DO IT: Eat a diet containing fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. The daily recommended fiber per day for healthy males is 38 grams.

4 Carb Strategies To Build Muscle And Burn Fat


Yes, that’s right – cheating with carbs can be a great way to stimulate metabolism. Most guys use limit their carb intakes for prolonged periods, in hopes of getting a ripped six-pack. Unfortunately this only works for a period of time. Once your body has used up its storage of carbs – muscle glycogen, and switched over to using fat as fuel, if your body fat does get too low, it will then switch to using your protein or lean muscle! One way to avoid this, keep your body burning fat, and help preserve muscle is to switch it up periodically by using a re-feed. Switching to a high calorie, high carbohydrate day can help refill lost muscle glycogens, and cause anabolic hormone levels that directly linked to your hunger, your muscle building and your metabolism to be up regulated.   One hormone that does get down regulated quickly after just a few weeks of dieting leptin decreases, slowing metabolism. Eating a high dose of carbs can help raise your leptin, and keep from your becoming leptin resistant or avoiding plateaus.

Lauren Jacobsen

Lauren is a biochemist with a background in sports nutrition and supplement formulation. Lauren has over 15 years of experience as a trainer, consultant to the supplement industry and nutrition expert. She is also the TV show host of "Body Fuel," a former competitive athlete and regular contributor to various fitness publications.

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