Looking to build muscle and get stronger? Then you want to make sure you're eating the best carbs for muscle gain.
It's well known that the proper diet and nutrition give your body what it needs to make those gains in the gym and stay healthy. And carbohydrates are an important part of that equation.
But not all carbs are created equal when it comes to helping you build muscle mass. In this article, we'll be going over the best carbs for building muscle so you know exactly what to eat to hit your strength goals.
Do Carbs Help Muscle Growth?
Before we talk about the best carbs for muscle gain, it's important to understand how carbohydrates help with muscle growth. The first thing carbs do is provide fuel for your workouts.
They're one of your body's best sources of energy for intense physical activity. If you're not getting enough carbs in your diet you're going to feel sluggish, have low energy levels, and you’ll struggle to push yourself in your workouts or improve your fitness.
Carbs also help preserve your current muscle mass and promote muscle building. Carbohydrates stimulate insulin release, which promotes the uptake of amino acids into muscle tissue and supports muscle protein synthesis, leading to increased muscle mass.
So not only are carbs helping provide energy for the workouts you need to do to build muscle, but they're helping support the muscle-building process that comes after. For that reason, you want to make sure you're getting the best carbs for muscle gain in your diet.
Best Carbs for Muscle Gain
Now that we understand why carbs are important, let's talk about the best carbs for muscle gain. There are three main criteria we want to look at when deciding which carbs are best for muscle growth:
- The carb should have a low glycemic index rating.
- The carb should be packed with important vitamins and minerals.
- The carb should provide sustained energy rather than a quick spike in blood sugar levels.
With that in mind, here are some of the best carbs for muscle gain:
First on our list of the best carbs for building muscle is bananas. Bananas are a quick healthy snack that you can easily eat on the go.
Not only are they a good source of carbohydrates, but they're also high in potassium and Vitamin B6. Potassium helps regulate muscle and nerve function, which is important for optimal muscle performance and recovery.
While Vitamin B6 plays a role in protein metabolism and the production of red blood cells, which are essential for delivering oxygen and nutrients to working muscles.
Another carb that's great for building muscle is sweet potatoes. Sweet Potatoes are a good source of complex carbohydrates as well as dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants.
The fiber helps regulate digestion and provides sustained energy. The antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, help protect muscle cells from oxidative stress and damage caused by intense workouts.
While the vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese, play a role in muscle recovery and growth.
Next on our list of the best carbs for muscle gain is yams. Similar to sweet potatoes, yams are a good source of complex carbs and are high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Sweet potatoes are slightly healthier than yams and have higher levels of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. However, yams tend to be larger and a bit sweeter than sweet potatoes.
Both, however, are great sources of carbs for building muscle.
Next on our list of best carbs for muscle gain is legumes. Legumes, such as beans and lentils, are a great source of complex carbs, fiber, and proteins.
They provide sustained energy for your workouts similar to other complex carbs, but they also provide an added boost of protein which is important for muscle growth and repair.
Legumes are also high in important vitamins and minerals like Iron, zinc, B Vitamins, Potassium, and Magnesium. These vitamins and minerals will help you stay healthy and perform optimally during your workouts.
When it comes to the best carbs for building muscle, another good food is oats. Oats are a great source of complex carbs and fiber, which helps regulate digestion and provides a sustained energy source.
Oats are also high in important vitamins and minerals like manganese, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and iron. These minerals are important for muscle growth, repair, and performance.
In addition to all the great nutrients, oats also contain a fair amount of protein which helps support muscle synthesis and recovery.
Quinoa is another great carb for muscle gain. Quinoa is a grain that's high in protein and fiber as well as important vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, B1, and B2.
All of which play an important role in muscle function and recovery as well as providing sustained energy for your workouts.
Quinoa also happens to be a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids, which are necessary for muscle growth and repair. This makes it a valuable source of protein for individuals following a plant-based diet.
It's rare to find food that has so many health benefits, which is why it's an excellent addition to a muscle-building diet.
Whole wheat bread
Whole wheat bread is another great source of carbs for building muscle. Whole wheat bread is a good source of complex carbs and fiber, which regulates digestion and offers sustained energy.
It's also high in important vitamins and minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, Vitamin B6, and folate which are essential for muscle growth.
In order to get the full benefits, it's important to choose whole wheat bread that's made from 100% whole grain flour without added sugars, as processed white bread doesn't provide the same nutrients for your body.
Whole wheat pasta
Just like whole wheat bread can help with building muscle, so can other whole wheat foods, such as whole wheat pasta. Whole wheat pasta is a good source of complex carbs that help fuel your workouts.
It also provides important vitamins and minerals for muscle growth, such as iron, potassium, and magnesium. It has many of the same benefits as whole wheat bread, just in a different form for more variety in your meals.
Just remember to choose whole wheat varieties of pasta that are made from 100% whole grain flour without added sugars.
Lastly, brown rice is another well-known and healthy source of carbs for building muscle. Brown rice is a complex carb that provides sustained energy as well as important vitamins and minerals like magnesium and manganese, which are essential for muscle growth and repair.
It's also high in fiber, which helps to regulate digestion and keep you feeling fuller longer after meals. It's best to choose brown rice over white, as the bran layer of the grain has been kept intact and provides more nutrients for your body.
Best Carbs for Muscle Recovery
You've probably caught on a bit by now, but a big part of building muscle is also paying attention to your recovery. The best carbs for muscle recovery are the same ones that are good for muscle gain.
It's not just about having energy for your workouts. It's also about eating foods that help replenish glycogen stores, reduce inflammation, and speed up recovery time after workouts.
What makes these carbs so great for muscle recovery is that they also provide lots of important vitamins and minerals. Once the workout is done, your body will get the nutrients it needs to start repairing and rebuilding your muscles.
The more quickly and efficiently that process goes, the faster you'll be back in the gym training, and the faster you'll see results.
Best Time to Eat Carbs for Muscle Growth
Now that we're clear on the best carbs for muscle building, let's talk about the best time to eat them. Some of it depends on what time of day you're exercising.
If you're exercising in the evening, then you'll naturally consume some complex carbs throughout the day to help provide some solid energy for your workout. If you exercise in the morning, you may or may not need something like a banana or some whole-grain bread with nut butter to help fuel your workout.
After your workout, you'll want to eat carbs for muscle gain within 30 minutes to help replenish glycogen stores and provide the needed vitamins and minerals for muscle repair.
Simple or Complex Carbs for Muscle Building?
We've been talking a lot about the best carbs for muscle gain, but it's important to note, that not all carbs are created equal. Some carbs help build muscle, provide sustained energy, and aid in recovery, while others will actually do the opposite.
That's why it's important to differentiate between simple and complex carbs when making your choices. Generally speaking, complex carbs are best for muscle building because they provide sustained energy over a longer period of time and also help to reduce inflammation after workouts.
Simple carbs, on the other hand, can cause spikes in blood sugar which can slow down weight loss, lead to energy crashes, and increase inflammation. So it's best to avoid simple carbohydrates when trying to gain muscle and focus on complex carbs instead.
Carbs to limit when you're building muscle
Here is a list of simple carbs you'll want to avoid while trying to build muscle:
- Sugary cereal
- Baked goods
- Snack bars
- Fruit juice
- White bread
- French fries
- Potato chips
FAQs About The Best Carbs for Muscle Gain
Here are some common questions about the best carbs for muscle gain:
How many carbs do I need to bulk muscle?
Most people need to consume between 1-3 grams of carbs per pound of body weight when trying to bulk muscle. Keep in mind that everyone is different, so you may need more or less depending on your activity level and other factors.
Are carbs bad for muscle gain?
No, carbs are not bad for muscle gain. In fact, they're essential for muscle growth and repair. The best carbs for muscle gain are complex carbs like oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and other whole grains.
Is low carb good for building muscle?
Not necessarily. Low-carb diets can be helpful for fat loss, but they're not ideal for muscle building as carbs are needed to fuel workouts and help with recovery.
Conclusion to the Best Carbs for Muscle Gain
So there you have it, these are some of the best carbs for muscle gain. Adding these to your diet will help provide energy for your workouts and support muscle growth and repair.
So make sure to include these in your meals to get the best results from your training!