Our foods are composed of many different micro and macronutrients that are extremely important to keep our body working and healthy, one of them macronutrients being carbohydrates.
Carbs are extremely controversial nowadays especially on social media, where low carb or ketogenic diets are shared among people that want to lose weight. But do bodybuilders eat carbs? Let’s talk about it.
Now that we understand what carbs are and what they do for our body, we can answer the question, do bodybuilders eat carbs?
Yes, bodybuilders do eat carbs for a variety of reasons. Carbs can be used to give you a quick energy boost before working out, make you look bigger, and are an essential nutrient for muscle growth and development. Without them, you basically won’t grow muscle.
But, let’s go more in depth on the use of carbs for bodybuilding.
To better understand food composition, we can divide them into three parts.
Every food is composed of protein, carbohydrates, and fat, for example, according to the USDA, for every 100g of eggs, you get 13g of protein, 11g of fat, and 1,1g of carbohydrates, each one of them having its own calories and nutritional value.
Inside our body, each one of the three macronutrients will have a different function.
Protein will build and structure new cells, especially muscle.
Fats will provide your body with energy in the long term, helping your body to recompose, but what do carbohydrates do for your body?
Carbs are the main source of energy to your body cells, every time you eat carbs, they are broken into glucose, which is then used as fuel to keep your body running.
If you don’t eat enough carbs, your body might start to go low on energy, which may cause lots of adverse symptoms like headaches, nausea, and insomnia.
And as we will cover in just a second- carbohydrates directly affect your muscle growth.
Carbs and Their Relation To Muscle Growth
If you plan to build muscle, you NEED carbs. When you eat carbohydrates, your body will break it into glucose to provide energy to the cells, which directly influences muscle growth.
After a workout, replenishing your glycogen levels with carbs is extremely important for good recovery and better muscle growth.
If your body doesn’t get enough carbs, your body will find other ways to get the energy it needs, affecting muscle tissue recovery and growth and even making you lose muscle.
Typically, if your body doesn’t have carbs, it’s going to break down YOUR OWN MUSCLE to get that energy. Remember, muscles have a TON of energy in them, and are a ton of energy to maintain, so your body doesn’t mind killing two birds with one stone.
That’s why bodybuilders eat a lot of carbs in their bulking season, they need the extra energy to build as much muscle as possible and recover quickly from their workouts.
Bulking and Cutting
Well, bodybuilders can do bulking and cutting in many different ways, but the rule of thumb is, eat more carbs in your bulk, and eat less carbs in their cut.
During the bulking season, bodybuilders try to build as much muscle as possible, so they eat a lot of carbs to get better muscle recovery and performance on their workouts.
That way, muscles have plenty of glycogen to recover and grow. On the other hand, when cutting, bodybuilders tend to consume less carbs, this way they can get calories down and have the body burn fat as energy instead.
If you plan to go on competitive sports that require extreme performance, it can be a good idea to make a carb-loading before the competition.
Carb loadings is a technique used by athletes to get a competitive edge over their competitors to squeeze a little more strength and resistance before an event.
The idea is that carbs give you tons of ‘fast energy’ for your upcoming competition or game. Back when I wrestled, we would do carb loadings before our competitions and eat a ton of pasta the night before a big competition.
On carb loadings, you stop exercising and start eating more carbs, like 200g – 300g of carbs a day, this way, your body will recover fully and stock up on carbs. This way, you will get better results on your workout or sport. Carbs loadings work better with longer exercises like cycling or running a marathon for example.
Carbs Make Your Muscles Look Bigger.
Carbohydrates are great for many things, but if you are looking to get a good pump and make your muscles look bigger, they are extremely good and useful.
Consuming carbohydrates before working out will increase blood flow and increase the glycogen levels, which are stored in the muscles, giving you that fully pumped look.
Bodybuilders that want to compete, will usually tension um the muscles before stepping on the stage, that way, the muscles are bigger and will give you that bigger look.
Some people try to avoid carbs before a pool day or whatever so they look more ‘shredded’ than ‘bigger’. If you’re on a bulk in the winter, carb-loading will make you look huge. But, if you’re on a cut in the summer, it may be better to focus on the abs with reduced carbs. Your call.
How Much Carbs Should You Be Eating?
If you want to know how much carbs you should eat in a day, there are a few things we should consider first.
First of all, you want to know what your base calories are, which can be discovered by using the Harris-Benedict formula.
Once you discover what your basal metabolic rate is, you should be eating about 45% to 55% of your calories from carbs, this way, your body will get enough energy to keep your body healthy.
That number can change from one person to another, but be cautious when reducing or increasing your carb intake.
- Low carb diets are not always the best especially if your goal is to build muscle.
- Carbs are broken into glucose and glycogen to fuel your cells and help muscle growth.
- Bodybuilders do eat carbs for muscle development, better energy levels and better pumps.
- Your muscles need carbs to grow, without carbs you won’t get proper muscle recovery and energy levels to lift to your full potential.
- If you need better performance in a competition, carb loadings can be a good idea.
- You should be eating about 45% to 55% of your maintenance calories in carbs, so be careful when increasing or decreasing carbs in your diet.
- Not eating enough carbs can lead to insomnia, nausea, headaches and a worse immune system.