Are Carbs Needed For Muscle?

October 17, 2009

Wow!  There were some awesome comments to the last blog post!  Thank each of you for your feedback!  For every question that was posed, I will either post an answer in a future post, or I will reply to you directly.

Today’s post is on carbohydrate consumption.

If you want to maintain or build muscle (and you do want to do at least one of those), you have to have sufficient carbohydrates in your diet.  Why do you need carbohydrates?

1. For energy.  They are the body’s preferred fuel for high intensity exercise.  Carbs are stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver.  Also, a small amount of carbohydrate energy is in the blood stream as glucose.  Without sufficient carbohydrates your body begins to lean more heavily on other macronutrients (fat and protein) for energy.  Fat and protein convert to energy more slowly than carbohydrates do.  Therefore, when you are carbohydrate depleted, your exercise intensity, as compared to the intensity of your exercise when you are loaded with carbs, will decrease.

Think of it this way.  Consider all of the food you eat to be fuel, kind of like coal in the old-time locomotives.

GWR 4-4-0 Steam Engine Did you ever see a movie in which there were guys shoveling coal from a huge coal pile into a furnace to power a steam engine?  In your body, you have 3 coal piles.  A carbohydrate pile, a fat pile, and a protein pile.  In high intensity exercise, really fast, strong guys are shoveling fast burning coal from the carbohydrate pile into your body’s energy furnace, and this causes the furnace to burn HOT.  When the carb pile begins to run low or it runs out, slower guys shovel slow burning coal from the fat pile, and really sluggish guys shovel slow burning, slightly damp coal from the protein pile.  The fat and protein keep your energy furnace burning, but it doesn’t burn as hot or as intensely as when the fast, efficient burning carbohydrates were supplying the energy.

So, for powerful, muscle enhancing workouts, get your carbs!

2. As a protein sparer.  If your carbohydrate levels drop, either through diet or because of prolonged exercise, your body will generate glucose from your body’s protein stores (muscle).  In the extreme, this will cause a noticeable decrease in muscle mass.

Lack of carbs can cause muscle wasting!

Lack of carbs can cause muscle wasting!

In other words, if you want to maintain or build muscle, maintain your carbohydrate levels!  Also, for those attempting to build muscle, if you go on an extremely low calorie diet, your body will eat its muscle regardless of whether or not you’re consuming a ton of protein.  To build muscle, you’ve got to eat, and you need your carbs!

3. As a metabolic primer.  Substances generated during the body’s breakdown of carbohydrates are used when your body burns fat (fat oxidation).  In other words, for the body to breakdown and use fat as an energy source, you have to have some carbohydrates in your diet.

This piece of information is more directed to those that want to lose fat.  Eat a balanced diet for the most efficient and healthy fat loss.  Reduce your daily caloric intake a bit, and exercise to increase your daily caloric deficit.

4. As fuel for your central nervous system.  Your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) requires an uninterrupted supply of carbohydrate so that it can function properly.  Under normal conditions the central nervous system uses blood glucose almost exclusively as its fuel.  In cases of prolonged low carbohydrate intake, the brain adapts after about 8 days and uses fat as an alternative fuel.

In short, eat carbohydrates for energy, health, and to keep and build muscle.muscle, fat loss, six pack abs


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18 Responses to “Are Carbs Needed For Muscle?”

  1. Don Shepherd says:

    carbs are good. Especially when they are delivered by Ben and Jerry! Hey a guy has to have a little fun once in a while. it breaks up the monotony of all that lean turkey and chicken….

    Don Shepherd
    Central Oregon Expert

  2. kate McKeon says:

    BUT, most of us don’t really need to think about haivng carbs as we already consume too many. If you have even a trace of a belly/luv handles, you do not need to think about carbs.

    You get plenty of carbs form veggies and fruits. I’m concerned this will lead people to thinkign a big bowl of pasta is a good idea – it ain’t folks. Even when you’re skinny.


  3. Very educational. Most of the time we only get part of the things the so called “gurus” write, not the whole story. Thanks.

    Robert Martin

  4. JJ Jalopy says:

    This helped clarify a few things.

    There’s a lot of fantastic knowledge up there Darryl!

  5. Greg says:

    So if I’m pulling an all-nighter on my projects, I’ll need some consistent energy…

    Greg Dougall, Literary Agent

  6. John Ho says:


    Thks for the knowledge you share here.Now I understnad more about the significancefo ahving enough carbs.

    Spelt bread, rye bread or millet bread is much better than the ususal bread made from wheat.

    John Ho
    Numerology Expert Helps Understanding Personality for Better Influence & Persuasion

  7. Rob Northrup says:

    I have always heard that whole wheat bread is much preferred to the processed white bread. Some carbs are necessary it appears.

    Seize the Day,

    Simple Survival Tips For Disasters and Emergencies

  8. Lynn Lane says:


    What an outstanding post. You put it in metaphor that most people can understand. Thanks for the education today.

    Lynn Lane

    The Warrior Of Success

  9. This is excellent information on why we need carbs. I need to show this to my son. I hope he can understand it . He is about the size of that skinny guy in the picture. lol We hear alot about carbs but never why we need them. This is great.

    Lisa McLellan
    Babysitting Services – Babysitter in your area

  10. Scott Payne says:

    Always get them right after the workout Darryl…. best time!
    Scott Payne

  11. Great information! Thanks!

    Martin O’Connor

  12. There is a lot of confusion out there on the proper balance of fat, protein and carbohydrates. I know I’m confused. What passes for knowledge on this subject seems to change every few years before circling back to where it was in the beginning.

    I’m finding your insights enlightening and informative. I feel I have a much clearer understanding of modern day nutrition science.

    Steve Chambers
    Sales Training Speaker

  13. I didn’t realize carbs are important thanks!

    Jose Escalante

  14. Hi Darryl,

    what a wonderful overview of the usefulness of Carbs! They can get a bum deal with the popularity of the Low Carb diets out there right now. And indeed GOOD carbs are a good idea.

    Just ate quite a lot of mixed organic greens this afternoon…..

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell

  15. Lisa says:

    You blew my mind after the first point. Great analogy! From hearing all about low-carb diets and the evil of breads, I feel like I have been really mis-informed. I don’t want to be the sluggish coal burner! I’ve been told bread will make you fat and the more you cut it out of your diet the better for you. Thanks for clearing this up.

  16. Keri Eagan says:

    I had no idea carbs are needed to break down fat! I have heard about carbs being bad.

    Keri Eagan

  17. Vicki says:

    I never have problems keeping up on carbs. As far as the central nervous system needing an uninturupted supply of carbs I didn’t know that. Good think I keep up with them.

  18. I like carbs! They don’t seem to be that popular from a diet stand-point through.



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