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Importance of Carbohydrates for Weightlifters: Carbs for Muscle Growth

Protein gets the most praise amongst weightlifters due to its ability to propel muscle growth. However, did you know that carbohydrates play an equally important part in the performance, repair and growth of muscles? 

 


Think about it this way, what is the use of all that protein in your system if your cells don’t have the energy that it requires to use the protein. This is where carbohydrates come into the equation. The amount of carbohydrates that you as a weightlifter consume will define how well defined your muscles are. The trouble with carbohydrates is, excessive consumption of carbohydrates could lead to fat accumulation, resulting in undefined muscles, which can be troubling for weightlifters. However, this should not scare you from consuming carbohydrates. 

 


Getting sufficient carbohydrates in your diet will allow for sustained energy to allow you to complete the workout effectively. Carbohydrates are the primary energy source in our bodies. When there are insufficient carbohydrates in our diet, the lack of energy leads to our body burning available fat to produce energy. Hence, controlling the amount of carbohydrates you consume can be a great way to control fat and weight. However, you do run the risk of muscles being broken down to produce energy. Protein which otherwise would be better used in the repair, growth and maintenance of muscles would otherwise be used as an energy source. 

 


As a weightlifter, you are used to lifting heavy loads. These actions result in the wear and tear of muscles that have to be repaired in order for them to grow. Eating a complex carbohydrate such a brown rice a few hours before a workout not only provides your body with the energy that is required to allow you to perform the workout effectively but also provides sufficient energy to allow for muscles recovery. 

 

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Why is Carbohydrate Important For Muscle Recovery?

Carbohydrates play an important part in muscle recovery. The worn and torn down muscles do require protein, which is the building block of muscles. However, the protein cannot be used effectively unless they have a readily available energy that enables the use of protein to allow for muscle recovery. 

 


Carbohydrates are the helping components of proteins in muscle recovery. You require a good combination of both protein and carbohydrates to ensure that you attain good muscle recovery in time for the next workout. The lack of carbohydrates could lead to the inability to properly heal muscles and may even require more time for your muscles to recover after an intense workout. 

 

The cells in your body require glucose to perform. Glucose is stored in the body as glycogen. When there is insufficient access to glycogen, fatigue results, which hampers performance. When it comes to muscle recovery, you need energy in the form of glucose or stored glycogen to invest in the process of muscle healing. The readily available energy enables the better repair of muscle which leads to better muscle recovery. 


Eating a simple carbohydrate source such as glucose within an hour after a workout will provide the body with a good amount of energy. You tend to use up a lot of energy during the workout itself. Hence, after a workout, your energy reserves will be running low. It is important that you restore your energy reserves by consuming a reliable carbohydrate. This will allow you to maintain good energy levels throughout the day and will keep you ready for the next workout the following day. 

 

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Are Carbohydrates Important for Weightlifters?

Carbohydrates are not as important for weightlifters as they are for endurance athletes. Weight training concentrates on working out muscles and focuses more on muscle growth and toning. This means, the primary nutrient that is required by weightlifters is and will remain as protein. 

 


Protein provides the means to build stronger muscles allow for greater strength. Carbohydrates facilitate this by providing the energy source for the action of proteins in the body. 

 


Though carbohydrates in weight training is not as significant as in endurance training, weightlifters do require reliable carbohydrate sources. Otherwise, they would notice hampered muscle growth and lack of motivation to perform. 

 


Regulating the amount of carbohydrates that you consume allows you to even burn fat. Consuming fewer carbs will allow your body to burn more fat, leaving behind a leaner and better-sculpted body. 

 


As mentioned, when it comes to muscle recovery, carbohydrates are as important of a part of the equation as proteins. You simply cannot expect your body to recover from an intense workout without access to a reliable and effective energy source; carbohydrates provide just that. 

 

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How Many Carbohydrates Do Weightlifters Need?

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, carbohydrates should constitute about 5 to 8 grams per kilogram of body weight. This means, for every kilogram of body weight that you have, you should look to consume about 5 to 8 grams of carbohydrates per day. 

 


Consuming lower than this amount can lead to a lack of energy and motivation. It could lead to slower muscle recovery and slower growth. However, you do stand to notice a loss of fat which will leave behind a leaner and better-sculpted physique. 

 


In terms of pounds, you should look to consume about 2.3 to 3.6 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight per day. This will provide sufficient energy to allow for good maintenance of muscles and will allow for a speedy recovery, resulting in better growth. 

 


Don’t forget, though stamina is often underestimated by weightlifters and is considered more of a thing for endurance athletes, stamina is also an important aspect of progress for weightlifters. The better stamina you have, the more likely you will be able to effectively complete your workout without facing fatigue. The more stamina you have, the more energy you will have available to complete even the most strenuously of lifts. 

 


If you are looking to bulk up and add muscle mass, you should look to consume 40% of your caloric intake from carbohydrates. This means, if you are consuming a diet of 3,000 calories, you should look to consume 40% of the calories from carbohydrates, which is about 300 grams of carbohydrates per day. 

 


To give you an illustration, a 1/3 cup of cooked long-grain rice contains about 15 grams of carbohydrates. When you think about it, you have to eat a whole lot of carbohydrates every day to maintain all those muscles. You may be under the impression that protein is all you need to grow muslces. You couldn’t be more wrong! Carbohydrates are just as important as protein in the results that you would see and you really should not forget to source valuable carbohydrates from your diet. 

 

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What Happens if Weightlifters Consume a Low Carbohydrate Diet?

When weightlifters consume a low carbohydrate diet, this leads to the burning of stored fat. This is because, on a low carb diet, there is insufficient energy available for basic muscle function and growth. Due to the lack of access to readily available energy, your body starts to burn stored fat to produce energy. You could even lose muscle mass in the process. 

 


Restricting yourself to a low carbohydrate diet can be a great way to burn fat. It can lead the way to a better-sculpted body, however may hamper strength training. You will find yourself exhausted during your workout and it is more likely that you may injure yourself due to careless lifting. 

 


It is important that you have sufficient energy during the workout to propel through the workout session. You don’t want to find yourself exhausted and a low carb diet could do just that. A low carb diet is prone to the early onset of fatigue which could hamper workouts. Further to this, a low carb diet will also lead to slower muscle recovery, which isn’t the best combination.

 


However, if you are looking to burn fat and produce more lean muscle, there is no other way around it. You have to restrict the amount of carbohydrates that you consume to allow for an energy deficit which will thereby lead to more stored fat being burnt as energy. 

 


That being the case, eating a low carb diet limits your body’s ability to metabolise protein. This means, even if you consume sufficient protein in your diet, the insufficient availability of carbohydrates will prevent your body from using the protein that is available to grow and repair muscles. This is why a low carb diet is considered to lead to slower muscle recovery.

 


Not just that, you can expect to find it hard to push your muscles to the max. It could lead to powerlifters hitting failure more quickly and can even lead to a lower one-rep max. All in all, you should expect your performance to be hampered when on a low carb diet. That being the case, as mentioned earlier, if you are looking to burn fat, lowering your carbohydrate intake may be the only way to attain this; unless of course you add a good amount of cardio to create a calorie deficit. 

 

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Best Sources of Carbohydrates for Weightlifters

When it comes to carbohydrate sources, you want to attain most of your carbohydrates from complex carbs. Complex carbs consumed before a workout provides your body with ample energy to engage in the workout and maintain good energy levels rep after rep. 

 


Carbohydrates prevent the body from reaching breaking point. A reliable carbohydrate source in the diet, consumed before a workout can provide the body with sufficient energy to ensure effective performance. 

 


When it comes to carbohydrates, the choices are many. However, some carbohydrate sources are considered better for weightlifters in comparison to others. These carbohydrates provide the best source of energy and work as the best means to achieve your carb requirement for the day. Remember, if you are on a 3,000 calorie diet, you should look to consume about 300 grams of carbohydrates, which is 40% of the caloric intake. 

 


The carbohydrates which fall within the healthier spectrum of carbohydrates include, 

  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Low-sugar breakfast cereal
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit

 


Remember, fruits for instance are simple carbs that work really well as an energy source post-workout. You should look to consume a simple carbohydrate within an hour of a workout to replenish your body’s energy reserves and restore energy levels. 

 


Similar to the carbohydrate sources that you should consume, there are certain carbohydrates that you should look to avoid. This is especially true if you are looking to reduce body fat. Sugary drinks, food made of white flour and other sweets all fall into the category of carbohydrates that should be avoided. These carbohydrates do not provide the body with sufficient value for them to be recognised as suitable sources of carbohydrates. Hence, crakers, biscuits, cookies, cakes, sweets, ice cream and candy should all be on the list of carbohydrates to avoid. Save these carbohydrates for cheat days or special occasions. 

 

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Simple Carbohydrates vs Complex Carbohydrates: Which is Better?

As you may have realised, not all carbohydrate sources are considered good for weightlifters. Some carbohydrates simply do not provide the body with sufficient value and can even have a detrimental effect on health. 

 


The two most basic types of carbohydrates are simple and complex carbohydrates. While simple carbohydrates are readily broken down in the body in a quicker manner, complex carbohydrates take more time and slowly deliver energy to the body. It is the quick action of simple carbohydrates which makes them troublesome.

 


Apart from fruits and vegetables which are considered healthy sources of simple carbohydrates, other sources of simple carbohydrates such as sugary drinks can lead to blood sugar spikes resulting in insulin spikes. This can lead to type 2 diabetes in the long run which could really hamper your health and wellbeing. 

 


Complex carbohydrates work to provide energy in a different manner. They take much longer to digest and often have a higher fibre content. This makes them especially beneficial as an energy source. While simple carbohydrates provide quick energy, leading to energy drops which results in food cravings, fatigue and mood swings, complex carbs provide a steady supply of energy which allows you to better maintain energy levels. 

 


Complex carbohydrates are also higher in nutrients making them the better choice in terms of nutrition. Processed simple carbohydrates should for certain be avoided by anyone who is serious about their health and athletic results. Natural simple carbs such as fruits and vegetables are still great sources of energy and can be great components of a post-workout meal, which will provide the body with a healthy and quick supply of energy. 

 

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Importance of a Balanced Diet: You Need Protein and Fat Too!

Though carbohydrates are important to weightlifters, you shouldn’t simply eat a diet rich in carbohydrates. Remember, 40% of your calories should include carbohydrates, which means the remaining 60% should be from fats and protein. 

 


Protein is the building block for muscles and you need protein in your diet to allow for stronger and bigger muscles. It is important that you consume the required amount of protein in combination with the required amount of carbohydrates to reach the desired physique. A whey protein can be a great way to source protein and can often be combined with milk to provide a good fat and carbohydrate boost. 

 


Fats are too responsible for the growth of muscles. Essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 fats provide extra support to muscle building and is considered good for your overall health. Both these types of fats are good for your heart and can even help your fight inflammation. 

 


At the end of the day, you want to consume a balanced diet which includes all three components; carbs, fats and proteins, They all contribute to the success a weightlifter will see and provide the body with a good supply of nutrients which are necessary for effective recovery, maintained energy and performance. 

 


To Conclude

Carbohydrates are an important aspect of performance regardless of whether it is endurance or strength training. As a weightlifter, you too want to keep your stamina at good levels and fight off muscle fatigue which otherwise may prevent you from effectively performing your workout routine. 

 


When it comes to carbohydrates, you have to ensure that you choose carbohydrates that are considered healthy for you. Complex carbohydrates are often considered the best sources, while natural simple carbs such as fruits and vegetables too provide great sources of energy. 

 


We hope after reading this word to word, you have a good idea about the importance of carbohydrates for weightlifters. When it comes to growing muscles, carbohydrates are as important a part of the equation as protein. Hence, don’t shy away from those carbs and enjoy these excellent energy sources in your diet for greater muscle growth!

 


Happy Munching!

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