How Much Carbs Do I Need to Build Muscle?

ideal carb intake

Table of Contents

This is the third installment of the carbs series. In the two previous articles, we’ve looked at fundamental differences between simple carbs and complex carbs. You also learned how an ideal carb intake can help you build muscle and lose fat faster, in addition to improving your health, cognitive function and athletic performance. The next logical step would be to calculate your ideal carb intake to help you achieve those goals and feel good.

By now, you should have your ideal daily protein intake and daily caloric requirements figured out and adjusted to your preferences and goals. If you haven’t done so, now is the time to go back and calculate those numbers.

So, how much carbohydrates should YOU eat to build muscle, burn fat improve your health?

Ideal carb intake = total daily caloric requirements – (ideal protein intake + ideal dietary fat intake) 

What this means is that after you calculate how much calories you are going to eat, you just need to subtract how much protein and fat you need from your daily caloric requirements and that will represent your ideal carb intake.


Arnold’s target caloric intake per day = 2000 calories.

Arnold’s ideal protein intake based on his goals = 100 grams = 400 calories (every 1 gram of protein supplies 4 calories, remember?)

Arnold’s ideal fat intake = 60 grams per day (I will show you how to calculate this in the next article) = 540 calories.

Thus, Arnold’s ideal carb intake = 2000 – (400+540) = 1060 calories from carbs.

Now, just like protein, every 1 gram of carbs contains 4 calories. Thus, in the example above, Arnold’s daily carb intake would be 1060 / 4 = 265 grams.

That’s it! You’re done.

You have successfully calculated your ideal carb intake per day. 

Complex or simple?

Like I mentioned in the previous article, the majority of your carbs should come from complex sources to optimize performance, health and maximize your muscle building and fat loss endeavors. Thus, here is a quick list of complex carb sources you can include in your diet plan:

  • Legumes. Beans are very satiating and contain lots of fiber, protein (incomplete) and other essential minerals and vitamins.
  • Vegetables. Eat your broccoli!
  • Fruits. Especially berries, melons and fibrous/voluminous fruits.
  • Whole wheat pasta.
  • Whole wheat bread.
  • Brown Rice.
  • Whole wheat flour.
  • Sweet potatoes / yams.
  • Quinoa.

You can also throw in some simple carbs like we discussed before. You will live! The simple carbs will keep you sane and serve as a delicious alternative, although many of the complex carb foods are delicious as well.

Next step

At this point you have the following:

  • Daily caloric requirements.
  • Ideal protein intake.
  • Ideal carb intake.

The next step is to discuss the important role fat plays in our health and body composition. We will also calculate how much fat we should eat to maximize satiety, hormones and health markers.

What is dietary fat? Why is fat essential to optimal health?



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