How Many Carbs Should I Eat To Gain Muscle or Lose Fat?

build muscle lose fat womenDepending on your current body fat percentage, 1-2 grams per pound of bodyweight on training days is a good place to start. Some recommend big time athletes to consume upwards of 4 grams per pound of bodyweight, but this would be far too much for a typical gym rat and strength seeker.

The point here is that all carb intake should be tailored to your training volume.

Some athletes can afford those 4 grams because they train for a living (sometimes multiple times a day), whereas the working man and gym rat has no business going anywhere near those amounts.

These guidelines below are meant for gaining muscle mass while minimizing the fat gain you would get by eating carbs indiscriminately.  If you want to get massive at all costs, then eat whatever the hell you want.

  • If you are already lean (less than 11% bodyfat) and are trying to put on size, training 4 days a week with a moderately high volume and getting your hill sprint sessions in, you could build a good amount of muscle from consuming 2 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight a day.
  • If you are between 11-15% bodyfat, 1.25 – 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight would be your starting point.
  • For each of the above, if you aren’t gaining mass or can stay lean while eating more carbs, then have at it.
  • For each of the above, on non-training days, cut your carb intake by 50%.
  • Carrying more than 15% body fat and want to lean out?  Cut the carbs down to about .8 – 1 gram per pound of bodyweight and assess your progress.  If you aren’t cutting, scale back more, but this is a safe place to start. This will allow you to preserve muscle while losing fat.
  • If you are above 15% bodyfat and fat-loss is your main goal, you can significantly cut back your carbs to around 100 grams per day, consisting mostly of green veggies. Ideally, total carb consumption would come post-training.

There is a delicate balance to be had here.  Too few carbs and your body will not grow.  However, consuming too many carbs can make you fat, especially if you are not tailoring your carb intake to your workload.

build muscleTiming and cycling of your carbs is also very important.  The majority of your carbs should be consumed post workout and in the evening to replenish the glycogen stores you depleted during your workout.  Consume less carbs on your non-training days.  What carbs you do eat can be consumed later in the evening to prepare you for the next day.

Not sure what carbs to eat?  Here is a shopping list:

  1. Any kind of potatoe you can get your hands on (sweet, red, purple, russet)
  2. Lots of veggies and greens (broccoli, broccoli rabe, kale, spinach, arugala, cauliflower, squash, tomatoes, asparagus, green beans, colored peppers, swiss chard)
  3. Grains (brown rice, jasmine rice, sushi rice, basmati rice, quinoa)

Bottom line?

If you are trying to cut body fat, cut the carbs.  If you want to add mass, you may need to consume a few more potatoes.  Plain and simple.

Want to know the guidelines for protein intake?  Check them out here.


— Tank

5 thoughts on “How Many Carbs Should I Eat To Gain Muscle or Lose Fat?”

  1. I work out at 5 am. I have read a couple of your articles about not eating breakfast, but also this says to get carbs immediately after training. So I’m curious as to how I should eat because I want to try the “eating big at night” thing but in the morning.

    1. Hey Brandon,

      What you would do is just get a protein drink and a couple of bananas or some other fruit (fast digesting carbs) post workout. Then you would under-eat the rest of the day, limiting your carb intake, and then eat big at night. Your will be more receptive to carbs from under-eating, and you wil be stocked up for the next morning of training and day of activity.

      — Tank

  2. a question to the diet. i want to lose some body fat so my area would be 0.8 gram carbohydrates per pound. that would be 120 gram with my bodyweight. when co-reading protein I would come to 105 gram protein for my weight and body type. added up and transferred to kcal that would be 900 kcal in total. so to get a decent kcal intake i have to get the rest by fat? sounds too much for me.
    or should i just eat mor protein as they dont do any real harm in my cause?

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