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Muscle for life

How to Know Exactly How Many Carbs You Should Eat

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How to Know Exactly How Many Carbs You Should Eat

High-carb…low-carb…no-carb… Which diet is right for you and your goals? Read on to find out.

 

When it comes to building muscle and losing fat, most people “in the know” agree on at least a few things:

In fact, those fundamentals are so well established both scientifically and anecdotally that they form a litmus test of sorts for diet “gurus” and methodologies

If someone claims otherwise–that a low-protein diet is optimal or that you don’t have to worry about calories if you “eat clean,” for example–you should ignore everything they say.

That may sound harsh but, as you probably know by now, one of the biggest barriers to getting fit is just figuring out who to listen to.

Just because someone sounds smart doesn’t mean they know what he’s talking about. A degree doesn’t mean she can get results. A great body doesn’t mean he also has a reliable, universally workable system for getting there.

Determining who is and isn’t full of shit can be tricky, but know this:

One of the easiest ways to quickly assess the reliability of a self-style fitness expert is their grasp of the the non-negotiable fundamentals of dieting.

If someone…

  • rejects the laws of energy balance
  • claims certain foods make you fat by “clogging your hormones”…
  • rants about how sugar is ruining your life…
  • pushes other foods as the “keys to weight loss”…
  • or otherwise claims how a century of metabolic research has it all wrong and he knows better…

…he should be defrocked, pilloried, and exiled. He’s a fitness Flat Earther.

I don’t care if these misguided people have good intentions, either. If they’re going to step up on the stump and gather a crowd, they now have a responsibility to be well informed. We all have a right to ignorance but not to infect others.

As the saying goes, hell is full of good intentions but heaven is full of good works.

And no, I don’t presume to know everything or consider myself a Grand Inquisitor of health and fitness advice. I do, however, get a lot more right than wrong and have hundreds of success stories to prove it. I can rest easy at night knowing I’m helping people reach their fitness goals in a reasonable amount of time while actually enjoying the process.

So, all that brings me back to the topic of this article, carbohydrate intake.

Ask Google how many carbs you should eat, weed out the idiots, and you’re left with a lot of contradictory answers.

Many well-respected health and fitness authorities argue why low-carb dieting is the way of the future. Many others rail against it as just another fad. Many still are in the middle saying “it depends…”

Well, in this article, I’m going to explain the science and logic behind my position, which is this:

If you’re healthy and physically active, and especially if you lift weights regularly, you’re probably going to do best with more carbohydrate, not less.

And yes, that applies to both building muscle and losing fat. The reality is a relatively high carbohydrate intake can help you do both, and this article will explain why.

The Great Carbohydrate Controversy

It’s easier to talk with some people about religion and politics than diet. And if you’re going to get into a diet debate, it’ll probably get hot over the subjects of carbs.

Why? What is so contentious about this little bugger?

Well, most of the criticism of the carbohydrate revolves around the hormone insulin and its effects in the body.

Every time we eat carbs our insulin levels spike, which, we’re told, tells our body to store everything we eat as fat. Thus, if we want to lose fat or prevent weight gain, eating as little carbohydrate and keeping insulin levels as low as possible is the key.

It’s easy to sell simple explanations like this to the unsuspecting masses, but the reality is far more nuanced.

Yes, insulin triggers fat storage, but no, it doesn’t make you fat.

I know that sounds like dietary doublespeak but I’ll explain.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and its job is vitally important. When you eat food, the nutrients it contains make their way into your bloodstream along with insulin. Insulin tells cells to “open up” to receive the nutrients and thus causes them to be absorbed into muscle and fat tissues.

As your body absorbs more and more of the food you ate, insulin levels drop. When everything is cleared from the blood, insulin levels settle at a low, “baseline” level. (This is known as the “fasted” state.)

When you eat again, the process repeats. This is how your body stays alive.

Now, when viewed that way, insulin seems like an alright dude. We literally can’t live without it so how bad can it really be?

Well, if you’ve been paying attention, you noticed that earlier I said that insulin causes both muscle and fat tissues to “open up” to the foods you eat. It’s that latter role, related to fat storage, that has so many people in a tizzy.

You see, insulin tells the body it can stop burning its fat stores for energy and use the food you just ate instead. It also tells your fat cells to store a bit of the food energy for use when it runs out.

This physiological mechanism makes for reductionist dieting advice that goes something like this:

High daily carb intake = high insulin levels = store a bunch of fat = be fat.

And then the corollary:

Low daily carb intake = low insulin levels = burn a bunch of fat = be lean.

Simple is sexy and it’s hard to get simpler than that. Too bad it’s bullshit.

Insulin doesn’t make you fat. Overeating does.

Yes, insulin helps your body increase its fat stores, but fat storage isn’t bad per se. If your body weren’t able to replenish fat stores it would have no energy reserve to tap into when food isn’t available and you would simply die.

Check out the following graph:

how-many-carbs

This is how your body fat stores increase and decrease each and every day.

The green portions represent periods of fat storage following meals (energy surplus). The blue portions represent periods of fat burning following the absorption of meals (energy deficit). And as you can see, insulin is merely the messenger, not the underlying mechanism.

Let’s now look at how that plays out over time.

When people say they don’t want to gain fat, what they’re really saying is they don’t want their total fat mass to increase over time. That is, if you have 25 pounds of fat on your body now, you don’t want to have 35 pounds a year now from now.

Now, a rise in total fat mass represents a rise in the amount of energy stored in your body. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can change forms but can’t be created or destroyed, so what has to happen for your body to increase is energy stores?

It must obtain more energy than it burns so it can use the surplus for fat storage. And insulin can’t spontaneously create additional energy for fat storage–it can only work with what you give it.

That’s why research has shown that so long as they’re eating less energy than they’re burning, people lose fat equally well on high-carbohydrate or low-carbohydrate diets.

That’s why professor Mark Haub was able to lose 27 pounds on a “convenience store diet” consisting mainly of Twinkies, Little Debbie cakes, Doritos, and Oreos: he simply fed his body less energy than it was burning.

The bottom line is insulin levels and the amount of carbs you eat have little to do with losing or gaining weight. Energy balance is the key.

How Many Carbs Should You Be Eating Then?

Now that you’ve learned why you have no reason to fear carbs, let’s talk about how many you should be eating.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, if you’re physically active, and especially if you lift weights regularly, you’re almost guaranteed to do better on a higher-carb diet than a low-carb one.

That said, if you’re sedentary and overweight, you’re guaranteed to do better on a low-carb diet simply because your body doesn’t need the energy they provide.

Chances are you’re in the former category and not the latter, so let’s talk more about determining carbohydrate intake for active people.

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How Many Carbs to Eat for Building Muscle

One of the substances your body breaks carbs you eat down into is glycogen. This is a form of potential energy that is stored primarily in the liver and muscles.

Glycogen is a primary energy source for intense exercise, which is why keeping your liver and muscles full of it can dramatically improve workout performance.

Maintaining high levels of glycogen requires maintaining relatively high levels of carbohydrate intake.

The elevations in insulin levels helps you build more muscle too.

Insulin isn’t anabolic like other hormones such as testosterone, but it does have powerful anti-catabolic properties. This means that insulin decreases the rate at which muscle proteins are broken down, which creates a more anabolic environment conducive to muscle growth.

This isn’t just theory, either. There are several studies that found that high-carbohydrate diets are superior to low-carbohydrate ones for building both muscle and strength.

One of these studies was conducted by scientists at Ball State University. Researchers found that low muscle glycogen levels (which is inevitable with low-carbohydrate dieting) impair post-workout cell signaling related to muscle growth.

Another study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina found that when athletes followed a low-carbohydrate diet, resting cortisol levels increased and free testosterone levels decreased. This is more or less the exact opposite of what athletes want for optimizing performance and body composition.

These studies help explain the findings of other research on low-carbohydrate dieting.

For example, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Rhode Island looked at how low- and high-carbohydrate intakes affected exercise-induced muscle damage, strength recovery, and whole body protein metabolism after a strenuous workout.

The result was the subjects on the low-carbohydrate diet (which wasn’t all that low, actually—about 226 grams per day, versus 353 grams per day for the high-carbohydrate group) lost more strength, recovered slower, and showed lower levels of protein synthesis.

In this study, researchers at McMaster University compared high- and low-carbohydrate dieting with subjects performing daily leg workouts. They found that those on the low-carbohydrate diet experienced higher rates of protein breakdown and lower rates of protein synthesis, resulting in less overall muscle growth than their higher-carbohydrate counterparts.

This is why I recommend that when you’re wanting to maximize muscle growth, you set your carbohydrate intake somewhere in the range of 1 to 3 grams per pound of body weight.

Click here to learn more about carb intake and “bulking.”

How Many Carbs to Eat for Losing Fat

Low-carb dieting is has become the go-to solution for weight loss, but there’s little scientific evidence to support this.

There are about 20 studies that low-carb proponents bandy about as definitive proof of the superiority of low-carb dieting for weight loss. This, this, and this are common examples. If you simply read the abstracts of these studies, low-carb dieting definitely seems more effective, and this type of glib “research” is what most low-carbers base their beliefs on.

But there’s a big problem with many of these studies, and it has to do with protein intake. The low-carb diets in these studies invariably contained more protein than the low-fat diets. Yes, one for one…without fail.

What we’re actually looking at in these studies is a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet vs. low-protein, high-fat diet, and the former wins every time. But we can’t ignore the high-protein part and say it’s more effective because of the low-carb element.

In fact, better designed and executed studies prove the opposite: when protein intake is high, low-carb dieting offers no especial weight loss benefits.

As you can tell, I’m no fan of low-carb dieting for weight loss, but I do think it can be useful for people very overweight, whose bodies don’t process carbs well.

Insulin sensitivity refers to how responsive your cells are to insulin’s signals, and insulin response–or insulin secretion–refers to how much insulin is secreted into your blood in response to food eaten.

Research has shown that weight loss efforts aren’t improved or impaired by insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance per se, but there’s evidence that people with poor insulin sensitivity and response may lose more weight on a low-carb diet.

For instance, a study conducted by researchers at the Tufts-New England Medical Center found that a low-glycemic load diet helped overweight adults with high insulin secretion lose more weight, but not overweight adults with low insulin secretion.

A study conducted by scientists at the University of Colorado demonstrated that obese women that were insulin sensitive lost significantly more weight on a high-carb, low-fat diet than a low-carb, high-fat diet (average weight loss of 13.5% vs. 6.8% of body weight, respectively); and those that were insulin resistant lost significantly more weight on a low-carb, high-fat diet than a high-carb, low-fat diet (average weight loss of 13.4% vs. 8.5% of body weight, respectively).

Two studies is hardly definitive, but it’s interesting and worth noting.

Practically speaking, this wouldn’t apply to you unless you’re obese, sedentary, and near diabetic, and don’t want to exercise to lose weight.

So, here’s how I recommend you calculate how many carbs to eat for weight loss:

1. Calculate your calorie target for weight loss.

Click here to learn how to do this.

2. Set your protein intake to 1 to 1.2 grams per pound of body weight.

If you’re very overweight (25%+ body fat for men and 30%+ for women), set it to 1.2 grams per pound of lean mass. (Click here to learn how to calculate this.)

3. Set your fat intake to 0.2 grams per pound of body weight.

If you’re very overweight, set it to 0.4 grams per pound of lean mass.

4. Fill in the rest of your calories with carbohydrate.

It’s that simple. For example,

  • When I want to lose fat, I start my calories around 2,400 per day (I burn about 3,000 per day on average).
  • My daily protein intake is around 220 grams (I generally start my cutting periods in the 190s).
  • My daily fat intake is around 40 to 50 grams.

This leaves about 1,000 calories for my carbs, which means 250 carbs per day.

The Bottom Line on How Many Carbs You Should Eat

Carbohydrate intake is just given way too much attention these days, and especially for healthy, physically active people.

Their results aren’t going to hinge on how many or the types of carbs they eat. It’s going to hinge on how they manage their energy balance over time.

 

What’s your take on how many carbs you should eat? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

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  • Steve Crook

    “If you’re very weight, set it to 0.4 grams per pound of lean mass.”
    I assume that was meant to be “if you’re very overweight…”

  • Nick Riedel

    Been waiting on an article like this because I’ve heard both sides and stands on high and low carbs for cutting. Carb cycling as they call it, however my trainer keeps carbs relatively high but I’m still on a deficit oerall

  • Darren

    Mike
    I think it is worth stating that you can juggle the carb and fat macro balance if you wish. People will read this post and try to get their macronutrient balance gram for gram as you stated.
    For example I chose the meals I liked for fat loss and found that I was consuming more fat than carbs. I am happy with this and feel good, so rather than change my food plan I adapted my macro ratio by reducing the carbs and upping the fat.
    My fat loss diet looks like this:-
    2000 calories – 225 Protein 45% – 150 Carbs 30% – 56 Fat 25%. My protein is a bit high but again this fits my food plan. As my meals stay basically the same I can get extremely close to this on a daily basis which makes my life easy.

    Do you agree? Please put me in my place if you do not.

    • Oh yeah absolutely you can play with carb/fat intake to tweak to best fit your needs. Good point.

      I do recommend that people don’t go below 0.2 grams fat per pound though (or 0.3 g/lb lean mass).

  • Excellent post with bang on info. What a relief to have quality stuff shared on a topic so often butchered! Great job Mike!

  • Dane

    Hej Mike
    When you write: “When I want to lose fat, I start my calories around 2,400 per day (I burn about 3,000 per day on average).”

    Don’t you start your cut by “reverse” dieting from your bulk cal and then reduce your cal gradually? or did i miss something in BBLS.

  • Anita Arkins

    Hi Mike, I just recently bought your Thinner Leaner Stronger book, what’s the best way for me to get in touch with you privately? I have a couple of quick questions, Many Thanks all the way from Ireland, Anita!

    • Thanks! My email address is in the back of the book. Shoot me an email!

  • Anita Arkins

    Just to say that based on the calculations above if I were to follow that formula my fat intake for the day wud only be 24g! I’m 124lb, 20% bf, seems very low for fats? I just need to ask u a few things privately if you don’t mind?

    • Your body doesn’t need more than 0.3 g fat per pound of LBM to do what it needs to do. That said if you want to add some fat for dietary flexibility, reduce carbs and increase fats. For every 2 g carb you remove, you can add 1 g fat.

  • Sean

    Mike, your previous article: ‘The Definitive Guide to Effective Meal Planning’ recommends a ratio approach of 40% carb / 40 % protein / 20 % fat. Using that, I end up with very different results instead of the method you recommend here: using 1 to 1.2 g protein per lb of body weight / .2 g fat per lb of bodyweight / and filling the rest with carbs.

    With a cut diet calorie limit of 2,300, the 40/40/20 ratio method puts me at 230g carb / 230g protein / 51 g fat. At 170 lbs, the ‘fill the rest in with carbs’ method results in 295 carb / 204g protein / 34g fat. Which method should I go with? Will 34g of fat (~13% intake) for a 3-4 month cut period be enough to properly produce the testosterone and other hormones I need? I want to properly enter my macros into MyFitnessPal (as the new Premium version lets you enter by grams, not just percentages!!!)

    Also I just finished BBLS last week while I was laying on a beach in Bali, looking good thanks to your BLS book and MFL blog tips!

    • Honestly both approaches will work fine but if you go with 1.2 g pro/lb, 0.2 to 0.25 g fat/lb, and the rest from carbs, you’ll do fine.

      Your body doesn’t really need more than 0.3 g fat per pound of LBM to do everything it needs to do.

      Check this out for some more info on high-fat dieting:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/clean-eating-and-weight-loss/

      • Sean

        Thanks Mike. Using your calorie cycling method, my rest days are at my BMR or 1,893 calories, and my training days are 3,153 calories. Training day macros come out to 203g protein (169 lbs x 1.2), 34g fat, and a whopping 509g carbs. That puts macro ratios at 65% carb, 25% protein and 10% fat. Kinda crazy to think that my cut-diet has me eating 509g of carbs! Does that look right to you? It’s actually going to be hard to eat foods that are pure carbs without tipping past 34g of fat!

        I just placed my first order at Legion Athletics by the way, ordered some Pulse and Recharge!

        • Well remember calorie cycling isn’t cutting. That’s putting you at weekly TDEE…

          Thanks brother! Let me know how you like!

          • Sean

            Ah, I get it now. I love the idea of it, so maybe instead of TDEEx7 I might do TDEE x .8 x 7 and build it out from there to achieve a cut version of calorie cycling. Pulse helped me achieve a new squat max today even after a 2 week vacation in SE Asia with limited gym access!

          • Yeah you’d have to do TDEE 3-5 days per week and a deficit on the other days. Slower weight loss but better workouts and such.

            Haha that’s awesome man! Love it. 🙂

  • Point that should be clarified (I’d mention this whenever you mention a bodyweight / macronutrient ratio…) When you make these calculations (particularly on a cut) is the body weight your CURRENT or GOAL weight? I think in this case you’re talking current, but I feel like I’ve heard you (or a guest on MFL podcast?) state the other…

    • Generally current weight is fine except in the case of the extremely overweight, in which case we usually go by LBM.

  • Great! Keep it up!

  • brandon

    Mike is the book really on sale for 99 cent on amazon?

    • Steven Scott

      The Kindle version is. The paper version isn’t. Mike would lose several bucks per copy if he sold the paper version for that price.

  • Tim Thaens

    Mike, great information you have there. I’ve been doing a low carb – high fat – higher protein 😉 diet for several months now, but it just doesn’t feel right. At least not in combination with have weight training. The BLS workouts require lots of energy! Especially after a few weeks, and you still want to increase weights every week.

    Now, the question. I want to try this out, but I guess I just can’t go and rush into this diet. Going from about 60gr of carbs to 200gr of carbs per day…
    Can I? Or should I slowly increase the amount of carbs per day?

    • Thanks!

      Yeah if you do a lot of heavy lifting low-carb is NOT for you.

      You can slowly increase, yes. Bump to 100g for a week, then 150 a week later, then 200, etc.

      Make sure you adjust fats down to keep cals where they need to be. 🙂

      • Tim Thaens

        Great thanks.
        Yes, ofcourse keep KCal’s steady. Calories are king 😉

        I assume you still prefer carbs in the lower GI? (except for perhaps directly after a workout)

        • Cool cool.

          Yeah I do because low-GI carbs are generally the nutritious ones. There aren’t many high-GI carbs in nature (few fruits and grains and such but you know what I mean).

  • Rachel Lopez
  • Rachel Lopez
  • Kim Sikes

    Hey Mike, thanks for the article. You’ve said .3-.4 grams of fat per pound of body weight before but here you say .4 for overweight people and .2 for average I’m assuming. Could you clarify? (I’m really hoping .2 doesn’t apply to me. I’m a fat lover.)

    • Kim Sikes

      Ok my bad, I’m just looking at the comments below and you’ve answered 🙂

  • Nik

    Hi Mike thanks for the great article
    Does this advice work for all body types i.e endo, ecto, meso?
    I am an endo and have read some authors suggesting that endos should focus on low carb dieting because they store fat easier. Might be a good idea to write an article on the requirements for different body types, or lack of.

  • christopher

    Hey Mike, I don’t know if my last post went through so I am Trying again. I am 6’7 228lb at 13%BF. My TDEE is 3128. My 20% Deficit is 2502 and my BMR is 2317. My question is I have seen a few ways you describe calculating your macros for a cut. This article says use a 40/40/20 Split. I have also read use 1.2g for pro, 1g for carbs and .2g for fat. AND I have also read use 1.2g for pro, .2g for fat, and fill the rest up with carbs to meet your calorie needs……Which one should I use???

    • christopher

      Sorry you already answered this, I jumped the gun!

      • No worries. 🙂

        • christopher

          One more question. When you calculate your protein intake do you go by LBM or Total body weight??

          • I go by total body weight to keep it simple. LBM is mostly useful for people that are very overweight.

  • Pasquale L Nocito Jr

    I think an extremely important point here is to be as mindful as possbible of your own body and how it reacts to micronutrients as well as supplements and more specifically the the percentages Mike mentions above once you get your TDEE. Some people can handle the higher side of carbs and some get lethargic like I do. That tells me to stay on the lower percentage side of carbs but still within range since the body needs them. Once I figured those micronutrient percentages relvant to MY own body you’ll find it much easier to maintain, cut, or build muscle no matter how your body is structured.
    This combined with the proper supplements that Mike mentions..ex omega 3, tumeric, creatine ( in some cases) ect. will take you whereever you want to go bodybuilding wise. Keep in mind you need to know you body when it comes to supplements as well and that takes more time. This process of discovering you own body is something most don’t due. They just follow a percentage chart and wonder why they fail. Mike can only be a guide to us and hey does that damn well! Thanks for all the great info so far Mike!

  • Richmond Hess

    I’m far from an expert so eager to hear your opinion on the following points Mike.
    1)You suggest 0.2grams of fat per pound of bodyweight when setting your macros up for dieting. Is this a bit on the low side? I’ve seen quite a few other gurus who do actually stand up to you litmus test suggest between 0.5g-1g per pound of bodyweight for fat intake, and I was under the impression that it aided testosterone production?
    2)How about low carb days and high card days? E.g. I am currently eating quite a few more carbs on training days and comparatively less on non training days, just looking at my last couple of training days 70g of carbs non-training and 240g on training days. Would I be better served by jiggling with my macros and taking in more carbs on the non-training days. (but keeping my caloric intake the same), bearing in mind I am taking in more cals on training days, than non training days.
    3)Whilst I’m at it, is there any point in taking in more calories on a training day than a non-training day?
    Eager to hear your thoughts!

    • Hey hey!

      High-fat dieting is trendy these days but the reality is your body doesn’t really need more than ~0.3 grams per pound of lean mass for health purposes. I talk about this here:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/clean-eating-and-weight-loss/

      2. I’m not a fan of carb cycling. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-definitive-guide-to-carb-cycling/

      3. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/calorie-cycling/

      • Richmond Hess

        Hey Mike ,
        Since your reply I’ve read 3 of your books cover to cover , so it’s now safe to say I a fan of what you have to say. For calorie cycling does this also work when cutting from 10% bf and trying to get shredded? Or would you recommend same cals everyday? The idea of cutting on the same cals every day has me shit scared of losing muscle!
        Rich

        • Thanks so much. I really appreciate it.

          I prefer same intake every day when cutting but some people enjoy cycling. Just a bit more “administrative” work but go for it if you like it.

          You won’t lose muscle if you just stick to the book.

  • Anthony

    Great article Mike, awesome read! Watched a few YouTube videos already too!

    I eat 500-550gr of carbs each day. Protein 220-230 and fats around 50gr. I can’t gain weight! Been stuck for about 8-10 weeks at the same weight…

    Don’t know what to do exactly!

    • Glad you liked it! 🙂

      That’s crazy you’re not gaining weight on those numbers! Looks like you’re going to have to go up! Add 25g carbs for your daily intake and see what the results are.

      You’ll have to keep adding the 25g carbs per week until you’re gaining!

      What do you think?

      • Anthony

        700gr of carbs daily thats ABOSOLUTELY crazy isn’t it. Most ppl think I am lying when I say 700gr carb/225gr protein and 50gr fat but it’s true. Also, know that I am just 173-175lbs and 6’1”, so I am not heavy at all compared to weight/heigt ratio, but I am quite lean. But even then, ppl who are quite lean should gain a ton of weight on 700 gr of carbs per day.
        But OK, I will add another 25gr carbs (100 cals) to my daily intake. I may have some simple sugars instead because my fiber intake is already to the roof with 700gr of carbs per day.

        • I would cap the carbs at 600 g/day and then start increasing fats from there if necessary. LMK how it goes.

  • Brian Giffin

    Mike I like to take in carbs while I’m working out generally 50 gm.
    Is it better to wait till after Mt work out or does this matter at all?

    What’s my optimal time, thanks!

  • Jared

    Hey Mike, I was wondering if you have any info or experience with strength/energy levels in relation to carb source?
    Specifically with oats?
    The reason I ask is I started making the baked oatmeal you spoke about in one of your recent podcasts. I have it each evening after dinner, starting last Friday. All this week I felt my strength in the gym wasn’t great. It could be a coincidence, but oats and fruit were the only changes I made to my diet.
    I usually get my carbs from brown rice and potatoes, but was looking for something different since I’m on a bulk and there’s only so much rice and potato you can eat in large quantities.
    I wondered if it had anything to do with the energy release rate of oats vs brown rice or potatoes?

    • If you switch your carbs from starchy, glucose-loaded sources to fruit you may notice some effects due to lower muscle glycogen levels.

      Try going back to your other carbs and see how it goes.

  • Raubgraf

    Hey Mike,
    being obese myself, what is a cost-effective way of achieving the goal of 1-1.2 grams of protein per pound? The bigger you get, it gets continually harder to achieve this amount of protein per day.

    Thanks for putting out these articles!

  • Neal Saddington

    Hey Mike, I’ve only been reading your articles for a little while, but I’ve noticed some conflicting information. While I am obese (6′ tall, 255 lbs, WELL over 20% BF), I am also physically active. Right now I’m marching from 3-9pm to prepare for the football season (I’m in the band). Once football’s over, I’ll go back to lifting dumbbells (incline bench, standing press, hammer & bicep curls, triceps extensions, pull-ups & chin-ups; 15# for anything going over my head, 40# for curls since I’m not too strong). In your article on building muscle and losing fat you recommend a higher carb intake, whereas in other articles, obese people lost more weight on a low carb, high fat diet. I DO know to keep my protein intake high no matter what. What diet would maximize my ability to lose fat and build muscle? Do you think fasted training and/or HIIT would help too? Also, should I use total weight or lean mass for # of grams of food?

  • Hey, Mike. Like the article but you didn’t say anything about simple and complex carbs. Is it true that eating simple carbs are digested faster and whatever you don’t use immediately is stored as fat? I know that after a workout, for instance, simple carbs are good to help your body absorb protein better, right? But other than that isn’t it better to take complex carbs so your body has a steady source of energy and carbs to act as an anti-catabolic effect? Cheers.

  • Aikas

    Hey Mike,
    Is it better to have 30% of my daily carbs in my post-workout meal or 1gr per kilogram, if we take into account the fact that I also have 50% of my post-workout carbs 2 hours later, regardless which of the two rules I follow. I find it easier to stick to 1gr per kilogram I was wondering if there are benefits over that.
    Cheers 🙂

  • Kalin Stoev

    Hey Mike, I wanted to ask you what’s the GI of Rice cakes and are they “healthy” complex carbs ? Thanks

    • It depends on what kind of rice is used.

      However, the GI isn’t something you need to worry about. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/glycemic-index/

      Hope this helps! My pleasure!

      • Kalin Stoev

        Well Im eating rice cakes made out of brown rice.So it’s supposed to be low GI food. However I wanted to ask you , because they’re processed and etc.

        P.S. Im bulking right now, so GI does matter for me

        • Cool. It’s around the middle of the GI scale.

          Even when bulking, GI isn’t very important. Did you read the article?

          LMK what you think.

  • Tyler

    Hey mike. I’ve been struggling getting a lot carbs into my diet. My goal is 240g a day. I’ve been getting around that but I recently ran out of my Carnivor mass protein which had 125g of carbs to 50g of protein with 710 calories. And it worked well but I felt like I needed something with less calories and more protein and I swapped it out. But now I’m about 60-75g carbs short a lot and was wondering if there was any supplements for carbs that you would recommend. Seems like anything with a decent amount of carbs doesn’t fit my calories. Cutting right now and only eating 1800 a day.

    • I’m not a fan of weight gainers anyways TBH. They’re usually just filled with junk carbs.

      As to good carb recommendations, there are tons! You can have bread, pasta, rice, baked potato, fruit, etc. If it’s tough for you to eat that many carbs, fruit juice and rice milk are a nice, easy way to get carb intake up.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Miroslav Kovar

    Hi Michael, firstly – thank you for all the awesome content you put out for free. I love how, unlike many in the industry, you back up your claims with research. I love your business model and philosophy of focusing on helping people and putting out great products, rather than maximizing immediate profits.

    Can you please help me determine my level of sensitivity to carbs and optimal macronutritient ratio? I am 5′ 8”, 154 pounds, about 12% BF (guess). I have been eating HCLF vegan diet – 100/230/50 for about two years with great results. Lately however, I have been experiencing some of the symptoms of low carb tolerance:

    feeling hungry very quickly after eating a high carb meal, sometimes I even got shaky, mindfogged and totally ravenous
    waking up in the middle of the night hungry, even though I have eaten enough throughout the day
    intense craving for (and bingeing on) fatty foods like nuts, peanut butter, even though I have included them in my diet in reasonable amounts
    gastrointensinal problems

    Upping proteins to 200 didn’t help. I switched to HFLC diet (carbs around 100) for a week and noticed that some of these symptoms went away (but with them, also mind clarity I need for work). I am not sure if these are results of my intolerance to carbs, or of eating huge amounts of low calorie / high fibre foods (especially concerning the gastrointensinal problems). Can you help, please?

    • Miroslav Kovar

      Listening to your podcast, I’ve come across the idea that foods high in FODMAP might cause bloating for some people – I was eating a lot of broccoli, apples and legumes, which are high in FODMAP, so might this account for some of the gastrointensinal problems?

    • Miroslav Kovar

      OK, I’ve done some experimenting on myself and, for anyone interested, here is what I think I’ve done wrong and how to solve it.

      Eating nutritionally unbalanced meals high in sugar. Vegans often think that two bananas and and two apples are a perfect meal. It is not – even though the fiber slows down digestion of the sugar, it still spikes up insulin, sending you for a crash a bit later. Do this long enough and body starts demanding its sugar more and more often, resulting in symptoms of hypoglycemia. The thing to do is eat sugary fruit in small amounts before and after
      training, opting for slowly digesting carbs combined with fat, which
      further slows digestion.

      Also, I found that eating majority of my calories in calorie rare foods, like salads (even combined with beans, tofu and olive oil) makes me more hungry and crave calorie dense foods like nuts and nut butters for some reason (despite the volume). So eating majority of calories in calorie dense foods helps.

      LCHF helps with these symptoms, but thankfully it’s not the only solution.

      • Thanks for the update.

        You might find that a very filling carb like potato or oatmeal will help.

    • Hey!

      I’m glad you’re liking the content. 🙂 Thanks for the kind words and support.

      Interesting.

      Are you exercising?

  • Jennifer Peacock

    Hi Michael! I see a lot of info on how many grams of carbs you should have, but how much CAN you have? In other words, if I’m meeting my protein needs, is it ok to set my fat to 20% to allow me to have more carbs? I’ve always been a carb addict. Wish I could drop fat by just eating bread and pasta! One other question along those lines, if again I’m meeting protein, is it ok to swap up percentages some days to allow more carbs or fat? Seems like if some days were higher fat and some days higher carb, it would equal itself out over a week. Edited to add that I weight train 3x per week and do light cardio such as walking or hiking one to two days a week.

  • Becky Ramsay

    How would you transition from a low carb diet to a higher carb diet? I’m currently on 50% protein, 30% fat and 20% carbs at 1400 kcal per day.

    • You can keep the intake the same if it’s correct and just change the macro breakdown to how I lay it out here:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      You can expect some possible weight gain due to water retention and glycogen from the increase in carbs. It isn’t fat gain, don’t worry.

  • Angela Parkinson

    Hi Michael, great article!

    I’m curious about percentage of fat required when you have PCOS. I also had half my thyroid removed but take thyroxine so I’m not sure if that affects anything greatly. When I calculate based off your recommendations, I’d be on quite low fat compared to now. My previous coach put me on high fat, highest reaching 110g a day. I’m 5’10, 158lbs and seem to (historically) respond to a higher fat diet. Also, in saying this, is it possible for your body to eventually stop responding how it once did? After a few months I noticed less progress with high fat and craved more and more carbs, at my lowest point was only eating 85g of carbs a day and training heavy 6 days a week. Would appreciate anything you can share with me!

  • Chintan Jariwala

    Hey Mike
    Would u count 99.99% unflovoured pure glucose consumed post workout as carbs?
    I have been consuming glucose along with protein and creatine post workout.

  • kaelli

    Hi Mike,

    I have just started MACROS and wanting weight loss.

    Im 165cm, 60kg and am currently on 35% C – 40% P – 5% F at 1400 kcal per day.

    Does this sound right? I’m so overwhelmed and have currently gained 1-2 kilos since starting 1 week ago. Is it worth pushing on and keep going?

    Would appreciate and love anything you can share with me!

  • Will

    Hi Mike –

    I’m noticing that I seem to have more cravings on a low-fat diet than before when I was lower carb, higher fat. Any idea what is going on there?

    Also, how much fat is too little? With my calories restricted, I prefer to stay away from fats because they are so calorie dense and I want to “get my bang for my buck.” However, it means that over the last 30 days I’ve averaged probably 40 grams of fat per day. Is that enough?

  • Paul Stowell

    Hi Mike,

    After having a pretty successful cut last year (190 down to 160 at around 9-10%) I’m struggling with my bulk again. I was one of those that ate everything for the bulk and didn’t cut for a looong time! But eventually after reading a lot of articles on your website I decided to bite the bullet, strip all back and start again. I counted calories/macros pretty religiously and it worked and i was happy/impressed with my cut and reasonably happy with my appearance. So that brings me back to the bulk. So standing at 5’10” 160lbs I started the religious calorie/macros and worked up from 2800cals to 3000cals and after 3 months, strengths going up a little but the scales are not. So still at 160lbs and still lean. My protein intake is around 220g to 240g, fats between 80 to 100g and carbs 300 to 340g. Should I be increasing calories to say 3200? or staying at around 3000cals but lowering protein and upping carbs?

    • Hey Paul! Great job on the cut.

      I hear you on not gaining weight on the bulk. Simply put, you gotta eat more. Let’s increase your cals by 200 (50g carb), and see how you do for 7-10 days. If you’re still not gaining 1/2-1 pound a week, increase again. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/bulking-up/

      LKM how it goes.

  • Serenity

    I want to do a very low calorie diet, 1200 kcals as I am close to 40% body fat. When I factor in fat ( .3 g per lb bodyweight= 45 g fat @ 405 kcal), and I factor in protein ( 1 g per lb lean body mass = 145 g protein @ 580 kcal), that only leaves me with 54 g carb @ 215 kcal. This seems extremely low. There must be a minimum recommended amount of carbs? Maybe I need to adjust my macros? I do high intensity aerobic workouts (kickboxing aerobics) 3x per week for 30 mins, and do martial arts 3-4x per week for 60 minutes. I don’t necessarily want to build muscle, but I do want to lose weight and build strength, and I want to eat enough carbs so I don’t lose muscle.

    • JP Perez

      Hi Serenity,

      I’ve been following MFL for over a year now and have now bulked and dropped weight using some of Mikes advice so here is my take on your situation.

      First off I really like your enthusiasm, but if you drop your calories that low to soon if your body actually requires more calories then that to actually start the weight loss trigger. Your body will think you are trying to kill it and will reduce your metabolic rate, which will in turn result in minimal weight loss and could hurt your metabolism as well.

      To avoid this, use Mikes BMR calculator http://www.muscleforlife.com/bmr-calculator/

      Find out your BMR and start with those calories. By using these metrics this will prime your body for weight loss and once you plateau, then you will input those calories into the BMR calculator then rinse and repeat until you hit your target body weight. Hope this helps!

      • JP Perez

        Oh and the article helps as well

      • Serenity

        I got 1640 for my BMR. I guess I start with that and see how progress goes!

        • JP Perez

          You’ll do great!

    • @disqus_5O2r5GJfaL:disqus covered everything. 🙂 Thanks, man!

      LMK if you have any other questions, @disqus_xEjASWNPwY:disqus.

  • Amanda

    Hi Mike! I have been reading your articles for the past few hours so thank you for all of the information! I am a 28 year old female and I’m trying to figure out my macros if I’m trying to gain muscle but also lose a little weight or cut at the same time. I am at about 21% body fat. I feel like I have been gaining muscle but there is fat on top of it. I was on a high protein (about 170 grams) and high carb diet (about 190 grams) and almost no cardio and I felt like I was gaining weight. I want to gain muscle but also cut a little at the same time. What would you recommend in terms of my macros? I also workout 6 times a week (25 min of cardio and about an hour of weights per
    workout). Thanks so much for your help!

  • csandycarrahlynn

    Hi mike! I’m new to muscle for life. So couple questions. As someone trying to cut, does it matter if I consume more grams of carbs than protein if I’m eating the right amount of protein and sticking within my calorie deficit? Also when I’m tracking the macros, do I have to make every gram count? Like say it has 1 g fat and 20 carbs for instance do I have to count that tiny g of fat?

    • Welcome! Yep, it does matter. You can calculate your macros and calorie target here:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      Absolutely! Track everything. You’d be surprised how quickly things add up when you are lax with tracking.

      • csandycarrahlynn

        Thanks Mikey! As of right now I’m starting with just tracking grams of protein since it is essential and a priority to my goal and relying on “21 day fix app” for the rest only because it’s overwhelming to do it all at once. I’ve been transforming with Beachbody workouts with the “portion fix” plan now I’m doing that while counting calories so I took it up a notch by counting protein grams.

        • That’s a good start. Get counting on the others soon as you can. Not too big a step, as you’ll soon find out!

          Keep up the good work.

  • Conner

    Yo Mike!

    So I used to do a Paleo Style low carb diet and I never really realized that 150g of carbs per day was really low I thought I was right where I needed to be. So yesterday I recalculated my macros according to the advice here and your macro calculator and holy shit…What a difference! I’m up to 230g of carbs for the past few days and wow I feel soooo much better. I had no idea how shitty I was actually feeling on 150g per day, I guess the fish doesn’t know that it’s swimming in water…

    The satiety lasts for hours after my large, warrior diet style meal at dinner. I do IF and just pack everything into a late afternoon evening meal. With the new macros this allows me to eat over a kilo of potatoes, almost a half a kilo of Chick Breast and a salad, it’s just awesome. Thanks for the great advice!!

    My advice to you all: If you’re low carbing it try recalculating and see how you feel, sometimes it’s hard to know you’re feeling like shit until you don’t feel like shit. lol!

    • Haha thanks for sharing, Conner! Glad you’re feeling a helluva lot better.

  • Paul

    Hi mike firstly thanks for all your videos their great and thorough . However I’m not sure if I’m doing everything right , I’m struggling at the moment it seems everywhere I look for low carbs I just can’t find them . I’m 42 . 5ft 8 165 pounds , uk 11 stone 11 and worked out my calories at 1900 per day cutting to 1600 . I’m 20 percent body weight so I believe I need to be in calorie deficit in order to cut first. my metabolism has always been fast I’m naturally like that so I’m lucky in that respect , that to a point I can eat what I like . However if my calculations are correct I’ve worked out that my daily targets are .

    Carbs 80 g
    Protein 120
    Fat 62

    I have one banana or a bowl of cereal and I’m already aware of not only how hungry I still am but I need to spread my carb intake out for the rest of the day it’s not leaving me much at all for later meals Am I doing something wrong ?

    thankyou in advance

    Paul

  • Thao

    Hey Mike! So I just started a reverse diet a couple days ago and I’ve been asking you many questions… So I tried searching up some stuff… So, as you may or may not recall, I was in a serious calorie reduction of 400-600 calories… And I weigh 107 lbs at 5’2. I know I should follow the steps in the plan but I really am stumped on the Carbs and fat increase. Before the reverse diet I had around 15 g of fat and around 75 g of carbs… Now how should I increase it? …. By that being said I already tried increasing it to 80 g of carbs and I don’t know about the fat…. Please help me…
    Thank you for all your advice and responses 🙂

  • Christopher

    Hey, Michael, I was wondering… in your book, BGS, the cutting diet is set at 1.2 g of protein, 1 g of carbs and 0.2g of fat (all per pound of bodyweight). However, do I also have to eat an extra dose of carbs (1g per bodyweight) after workout? Or should I still cut my diet at 154g? (Which is my weight)
    Thank you very much😄I’m a huge fan of you

  • Israel

    Hey Mike,
    What are your thoughts on intra workout carb drinks/powders? Would it really make a huge difference? would it really help your workout by replenishing glycogen as you go or is it all Fluff?

    Thanks!

  • Alex Hernandez

    I worked my number and this is what i ended up with

    body weight 180lb
    body fat percentage : 20%
    TDEE if supposed 4-6 hours workout days (2408 calories)
    target 1712 calories

    Protein 216g
    Carbs 151g
    Fat 36g

    so I tried to make a meal plan but i ended up with all the carbs on pre and post and no room for the 2 hours after nor morning so i ended up with carb deficiency or is this correct? I read all over the website and the BLS book. Please help me get back on the right path here.

    my carbs seems too low. i was thinking of reducing the protein to 190g and add more to carbs. Let me know

    • Hey Alex, use these:

      1926cal/day
      P 216g
      C 169g
      F 43g

      It’s not too few carbs. you can spread out your intake or arrange your schedule so that your postworkout meal falls right after the workout. For best fat loss results, I recommend training fasted–which eliminates the need for a preworkout.

      • Alex Hernandez

        Interesting. Didn’t think of it that way. Thank you. Makes a lot more sense that way. What about to prevent muscle loss for fasted state? I’m trying to build muscle and lose body fat. I want to maximize my newbie gains.

        • For fasted training or fasting, you can take HMB (Forge), Leucine, or BCAAs

          • YF

            Hi Roger,

            I’m a bit wary of fasted training. Does it really increase fat loss? I thought the most important factor for fat loss is that there is a caloric deficit overall, irrespective of meal timing.

            Also, wouldn’t the lack of carbs in the fasted state negatively affect training performance and ultimately lead to muscle loss? Thanks in advance for clarifying!

          • It helps with the stubborn fat areas. Of course, you still should be in a deficit though. Check this out for all the info you’ll need on fasted training:

            https://legionathletics.com/fasted-cardio/

          • YF

            Ok, thanks Roger!

          • No problem man!

  • DJ Avalo

    Hello, I bought your book and have been reading your posts since a friend told me about you. It’s too early for results, but I can say after increasing my carbs, my workouts feel so much better. I’m only in my second week but I feel great and have lost weight (I’m sure only water weight).

    I’m a 39 years old, 6′ 235 pound man. I have digital calipers that say I’m at 25% body fat.

    I understand from your book that my macros should be, –0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day, • 0.6 grams of carbs per pound of body weight per day, and • 0.3 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day–

    So that is what I have done. But once I get down to say, 24% body fat, do i immediately switch to the 1 gram pre pound formula?

    My goal is to get down to 200 pounds and then bulk for muscles.

    Thanks.

    • Hey! That’s awesome you’re making good progress so far. Once you’re down under 25% BF, switch to 1.2g/lbs bodyweight protein, 20% cals from fat, and the rest into carbs:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/macronutrient-calculator/

      • DJ Avalo

        Thank you very much! I guess I’m going to need 3 servings of protein shakes a day for that much protein lol.

        • Ideally, get all your protein from whole foods:

          * Lean meat (chicken, lean beef, fish, and so forth)
          * Low-fat dairy
          * Eggs and egg whites
          * Whole grains like wheat, brown rice, oats, and barley
          * Vegetables like green beans, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower
          * Legumes like green peas and beans
          * Tubers like white potato, which is incredibly satiating, and sweet potato

          Shakes can definitely help though!

          • DJ Avalo

            Thanks Mike. With my busy life it’s sometimes hard to stop and eat for protein throughout the day, so I depend on shakes to help me out. Sure, protein powder and almond milk may cost me a few bucks, but nothing near the cost of the junk I was filling up on everyday.

          • No problem. Work life can make things tough sometimes.

            Sounds good!

  • Lindsay Boyd

    Hello.

    I just joined a challenge at my gym. It’s an 8 week challenge and focuses on transforming the body and losing a jean size or something. The food plan is the macros. I was given the following to eat on daily basis:

    131 protein, 58 fat, and 110 carbs with refeed day of 220.

    I’m 31 and weigh 146.6. (Female) I’m 5’3 and will be working out 4-6 hours per week. Do the above numbers make sense?? I want to tone and lose weight and they stated we could adjust carbs and fat–I’m concerned at the fat and carb intake. What is your suggestion?

    Any help would be wonderful. Thank you.
    Lindsay

  • Diāna Winters

    Hi, I’m currently on a LCHF diet (less than 10g carbs per day) just to lose a few pounds (got 10 left to go) and I’m planning to give strength training a go once I’m there. My stats when i begin will be (17yrs) 5’6, 100lbs and about 16%bf.
    Thing is, my macros terrify me. My dad always told me to eat no more than 0.8g protein per kg and this is saying I should go for ~1g/lb/day. The carbs are incredibly high too so as I said before- I’m really scared of gaining fat with my *future* tdee just above 1600.
    So I’ll basically end up with about
    100g protein
    30g fat (saw some articles say 0.4g/lb is the minimum?)
    263g carbs.
    Doesn’t this sound too excessive? Should I add more fat to the diet? Sorry for making this long.. I blabber on a lot

    • Those macros would put you in the 1700s, and if that’s appropriate for your level of activity, great! they work just fine. You can increase fats if you’d like as long as you adjust for it by reducing carbs.

      Increasing your carb intake will improve your exercise performance. It will also bring in some water weight, so don’t be alarmed when you see that.

      • Diāna Winters

        Thanks Mike. I did decide to tone down the protein to 0.9g/lb due to another article of yours. Adjusted the rest of the macros accordingly. This whole site is a gift to humanity.

        All the best ^^

        • Sounds good! Glad to hear you’re enjoying my content, and thanks for the support! 🙂

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