Aspiring athletes and bodybuilders (this is actually for everyone), young and old, what you do NOW will affect how your body responds FOREVER.
If you wonder how many carbs you should be eating on a daily basis, the answer is….
AS FEW AS POSSIBLE (which of course, is variable based on your goal).
No; the answer is NOT “as many as I can get away with without getting fat.”
I’ll get to that in a minute; but first……
[STORY] I was once in your shoes. Believe it or not, I started out as a 160lb long-distance runner and a vegetarian. Yup; true story. When I discovered that chicks didn’t dig the guy with biceps as big as hockey sticks (I am Canadian, eh!), I decided to set out on a quest to get bigger.
As a young athletic male, I was under the impression that a high carb, low fat diet was “healthy” so away I went. Breakfast was muffins or bagels, lunch was pretty much the same, and dinner was whatever mom made – usually meat and pasta or potatoes and some fresh bread. I was just eating as much as I thought I could. I opted for what I thought were smart choices most of the time, and started eating meat at least twice a day.
These dietary changes, plus my hitting the gym 6 days a week, led to my gaining about 50lbs in the first 15months of training in the gym. Yes, I responded well, but a lot of that was fat. I went from a lean 160 to 210 and about 16% bodyfat (keep in mind that I started as a long distance runner and vegetarian, so the change was drastic).
All I wanted was to get HUGE. Eventually I hired my first bodybuilding coach. At 17 and 210lbs, I definitely wasn’t small, but I really didn’t have all that much muscle. His rule was to eat everything in site, including LOTS of carbs and sugars around the workout. He was huge, so I listened. I mean, all huge dudes know what theyre talking about, right? Long story short, I grew to 22% bodyfat at 240lbs and it wasn’t pretty.
By that point I noticed I was sleepy all the time and my workouts were merely “okay.” I definitely didn’t have the same energy or pumps that I used to and my endurance was atrocious. I got to the point that I didn’t like the way I looked so I asked my coach to start me on a diet. We did, and after 16 weeks of low carb dieting and lots of cardio, I was a pretty lean 210. My educated guess would be around 10-11% bf. I was happy with this.
Now at 19, I had put on 50lbs of muscle in 3 years and I definitely wasn’t built like a runner anymore (this was completely natural, BTW).
I decided I wanted to continue to get huge, but didn’t want to get anywhere near 20% bodyfat again. You can identify 20% bodyfat by the fact that the waistband of your pants starts to roll over, NOT COOL. This time, however, as soon as I started eating any substantial carbohydrate, it was as though I could feel myself getting fatter. I was working out just as hard, even harder than before, but as soon as I started upping the carb intake, it seemed like the only thing that grew was my waistline and my ass. I got up to about 260lbs and damn near 22% bodyfat again in 6months. Even while trying to eat really “clean food.”
I was following a low fat, high carb, moderate protein diet like most in the bodybuilding world advised at that time, and yet I was getting fat and my strength seemed to stay the same. This amount of fat gain just wasn’t necessary, but I really wasn’t eating all that poorly (in my eyes at the time), it was just a lot of “clean” food.
The next time I dieted, I did way more cardio, ate less overall food (even though I had more muscle mass), and yet it took longer to get under 10% bf.
Each year since then, I continued to struggle with keeping my bodyfat down because I was always told that you need a lot of carbs to grow.
I am SURE I ended up losing more muscle than I had gained most years because I had to keep dieting it off to get lean. So, the question became “do I really NEED all these carbohydrates?”
How do I stay relatively lean and still gain muscle? How many carbohydrates do I need to grow optimally and stay as lean as possible? (Remember: the leaner you, are the better your body works hormonally as well).
To be continued…..