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Many bodybuilders choose to cut carbs in shredding season. However, there are multiple reasons that this may not be the best idea for muscle recovery. We all know that protein is critical for building muscle mass, however, carbs are commonly mistaken as the bad guy. Well, its time to turn around your ideas on carbs; they can get vital nutrients into your body, making you faster and stronger. They also help with muscle recovery by replacing glycogen storage. Low-GI and low-calorie carbs consumed within half an hour of your workout are a fantastic choice. International Protein has put this article together to let you know all about why carbs are crucial for bodybuilders and which carbs are the best for your muscle gains.


Carbohydrates are essential to your muscle recovery after a gruelling gym session and all professional bodybuilders understand this. What this means is that you can, in fact, get ripped while still loaded on carbs. The main thing you need after an intense workout is to replace the glycogen storage in your body. Weight training and sport can deplete the levels of glycogen you have stored in there which is why you should be adding carbs into your post-workout meal to maximise your recovery. Carbohydrates can increase your concentration of insulin, as well as allowing you to resynthesize glycogen faster.

If you try to cut carbs altogether, you’re going to experience some serious cravings and crashes, leading to your hand reaching for the cookie jar when your mind has sabotaged your efforts. Avoid this by understanding the importance of carbs as part of your recovery meal.

Carbs offer bodybuilders and athletes the following benefits:

• Vital nutrients

• Makes you stronger and faster

• Replaces glycogen storage

After your next workout, Enjoy your usual protein shake but start loading in carbs by adding measured amounts of oats and fruit or Extreme Carbs. The body will thank you for it almost immediately.




Low-Calorie Carbs

Low-calorie carbs are a great choice as they can provide enough carbohydrates for recovery without blowing your macros for the day. Dairy products, for example, are a great choice because they provide plenty of protein, good fats and carbs, but they don’t tend to have excessive calories. That said, you need to choose your dairy products carefully. Some products may seem healthy, but there are plenty of imposters, loaded with sugar and extra fat, in the Yoghurt isle for example; Read the label carefully and choose low fat. protein shakes, yoghurts and sugar-free custards are all good choices.


Low GI Carbs

Some carbs are known as low GI (glycaemic index). Foods which are low in GI release energy over a longer period, which keeps your body feeling fuller for longer. This can help you reach higher muscle glycogen levels which preserves muscle and gives you high-performance fuel. Low GI foods store more carbs in the muscle and lower your risk of storing glucose as fat. That’s why brown rice is a favourite for bodybuilders. Other low GI foods include beans, pasta, couscous, sweet potato, apples, low-fat dairy products and nuts. Eating a mix of low-GI and high-GI foods aKer a workout can help you recover quickly, feel full, and then stay full.



There is a type of complex carb is known as maltodextrin. It’s derived from the starch in rice, corn, or tapioca. The molecular chain of maltodextrin is shorter than the starch carb it is derived from. As it gets absorbed by your gut, it can raise your levels of insulin and blood sugar. Like starch, Maltodextrin still needs to be processed by your liver to break down the glucose molecules in it, however, it is a relatively rapid option for replenishing the glycogen in your system post-workout.




The next question on most bodybuilders minds is how many carbs should I eat?. According to the Australian Institute of Sport, the higher your training volume, the more carbs you should eat. So, the more exercise you do, the more carbs you should consume to ensure muscle recovery. Athletes need to eat around 3 – 5 grams of carbs per kilo they weigh each day to replenish what is used during weight training and cardio sessions. The specific amount depends on how intense your gym session was. The higher the intensity, the more carbs you need.

Another way to work out your total carb needs is based off your calorie intake. For example, a good macro ratio for muscle growth is 35% protein, 20% fat and 45% carbs. If you consume 1800 calories per day, 810 cals (45% of 1800) come from carbs, which is about 202g of carbs total per day.




Ideally, carbs would be eaten in a larger proportion immediately post-workout and the rest consumed evenly throughout other times of day. Carb replenishment is most effective in the first 30 minutes to two hours after a workout, however, full glycogen replenishment can take up to 24 hours, depending on the workout and of course, if cardio is also part of your daily routine. Within this immediate post-workout window is when you should ideally be consuming at least 1/3 of your daily carbohydrates to help your body recover. In this example, that would be around 30-40g. Don’t forget that this meal should also contain loads of muscle-building protein to really amplify your gains.

Carbs are not to be feared as they do NOT lead to fat gain if you are not consuming more calories than your body needs. If you are trying to grow muscle you require extra calories. Carbs provide the fuel to train hard while the protein provides the amino acids to grow new muscle tissue. Thanks for reading this International Protein article about the importance of carbs, Please ask any questions you have about eating carbs in our comments section below. And subscribe to our podcast for detailed nutrition advice from our World Champion Bodybuilder and Co-owner of International Protein – Christine Envall.

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