Learn more about Carbohydrates

Learn more about Carbohydrates


Figuring out the optimal carbohydrate intake for bodybuilders is about as easy as getting Congress to agree on how to balance the budget. And like a congress member’s opinion, your carb needs can change day to day, hour to hour during the dieting process. As I’ve said many times before, a major goal of any dieting bodybuilder is to maintain muscle mass while trimming body fat. Retaining muscle is ultra important to your long-term metabolic function and to maintaining strength levels and energy levels. Carbohydrates after all are a very anabolic macronutrient and have been shown to be protein sparing. That’s important because dieting and training with weights breaks down tissue and puts you at greater risk of catabolism. Proper management of your carb intake will maximize fat loss by keeping your metabolic rate high and spare your muscle. Your body burns calories in two ways, through glucose metabolism (using carbs for energy) and
ketogenic metabolism (using dietary or stored fat for energy). The balancing act is to keep your fat intake low enough to allow you to eat more carbohydrates and benefit from their musclesparing properties. To start you off in the right direction I’ve suggested percentages of calories from carbohydrates according to body type:

30–45 percent

Mesomorph: 25–40 percent
Endomorph: 20–35 percent

Again, using the example of the mesomorph weighing 180 pounds and consuming 2,100 calories per day, you can determine specific calories from carbs by adding the calories from fat and protein (calculated in those sections above and subtracting from the daily calorie goal): 

388 (protein calories) + 960 (fat calories) = 1,348 calories

2,100 – 1,348 = 752 calories from carbohydrates, or, because there are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate, 188 grams. (Round this down to 185 for easier tracking.)

carbohydrate intake chartHere’s the full macronutrient breakdown by grams and calories:
Protein: 240 grams (960 calories from protein per day)
Carbs: 185 grams (740 calories from carbohydrate per day)
Fat: 45 grams (405 calories from fat per day)
These are broad guidelines. Carbohydrate tolerance can differ from one person to the next. I once trained two bodybuilders of roughly the same weight, height, and age, and one dieted on 55 grams of carbs while the other was able to consume 350 grams of carbs and still lose body fat.