brown riceIf you are looking to pack on some pounds of serious muscle weight, chances are carbohydrates aren’t the first thing you think of when it comes to building muscle. You’re probably thinking about eating more protein though… After all, protein is what builds muscle, right?

Many people think eating too many carbohydrates leads just causes you to get fat, and it’s just the lean protein you really want. The fact is, carbohydrates play a huge rule in building muscle and depleting them from your diet may stop your muscle building plans altogether.

Now, before you run out and grab a box of chocolate chip cookies, let’s dig a little deeper. You see, carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. When your body is depleted of carbohydrates, it needs to look for additional sources.

[adrotate group=”1″]If you are working out intensely, you will NEED some carbs in your body in order to have the energy to work out hard enough to build muscle. If you do go on a low or no carb diet, your body WILL figure out a way to get the energy it needs, however. When your body needs energy and there are no carbohydrate sources, it simply begins to breakdown protein and use it for fuel instead. This is called muscle catabolism and you want to avoid it at all costs.

So, by lowering the amount of carbohydrates in your body, you are not only robbing it of its main fuel source, you are also forcing the body to use protein for energy which you need to help you build and maintain muscle. You can see how this can lead to a negative downward spiral and push you far away from your weight gain goals.

no chocolate chip cookiesNow that you know you need them, lets look at what KIND of carbohydrates you should be eating to help support your muscle building goals. Carbohydrates can more easily be described as sugars. The kind we get the most of and that are truly bad for us are what is known as simple sugars. These are things such as fruit juices, cookies, cakes, candies, etc. They contain empty calories and will most likely be stored as fat because the sugars enter your bloodstream quickly and cause a spike in blood sugar levels.

If your body does not use this sugar quickly, (If you’re not doing some kind of physical activity soon after you eat them) it will likely be stored as fat. It is best to limit these kind of carbohydrates severely. Many people see no harm in drinking fruit juice but those sugar calories add up quickly as well.

pasta complex carbohydratesNext we have complex carbohydrates. Brown rice, pasta, potatoes and whole grains fall into this category. These are the carbs you want to stick to for the most part as they will help fuel your workouts. These sugars are released slowly into your bloodstream and provide a steady supply of energy over a long period of time without causing the insulin spike that leads to fat storage.

green beansThe final category is the fiber filled carbohydrates. These include such foods as corn, black beans, and broccoli among others. These foods are fantastic in that they help keep your digestive system regular and healthy. Take care to stay around 10 grams of fiber per 1000 calories consumed… Too much more than that could block your body’s absorption of vital macronutrients.

Gaining muscle weight is a team effort. It is not just protein that runs the show, but a combination of nutrients. Don’t skip carbohydrates if you are looking to build muscle, but instead, choose the high quality carb sources that can help fuel your workouts and keep your body operating optimally.

Dan Merrell, CPT

I'm a certified personal trainer from Scottsdale, Arizona. My area of focus is helping skinny guys gain weight and build muscle fast. I've worked with hundreds of skinny guys and helped them transform their bodies. Read all of my articles on and you can follow in their footsteps.

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  • so, would be eating plenty of protein and high fiber, low carb on rest days slow the muscle building process?

    and wouldn’t the body use dietary proteins and fats for energy when low on carbs before resorting to cannibalizing muscle tissue since working out tells the body to keep the muscle being used unless u are starving?