Don't quit carbs! How to gain muscle without putting on fat

If you’ve been dissatisfied with your muscle gains, it’s time to assess what you’ve been doing

Racha Adib
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Packing on muscles and building abs doesn’t only happen in the gym. Lean body mass gain requires a formula based on eating the right foods and exercise. The right diet will fuel your workouts, repair muscle tissue, aid in recovery, and help you reach the results you’re looking for.

If you’ve been dissatisfied with your muscle gains, it’s time to assess what you’ve been doing and make a change. Remember gaining muscle weight is a slow process that can take months rather than days and weeks.


Infographic: Don't quit carbs!

Infographic: Don't quit carbs!
Infographic: Don't quit carbs!

Consume enough calories

To gain muscle, you can’t eat salads all days. You need to consume enough energy to maintain body weight, load up on nutrients, and support muscle growth. If you follow a low calorie diet, you’ll use up your muscles for energy. A low calorie diet will also affect your performance at the gym and prolong the recovery process.

Make sure you’re eating enough calories without resorting to junk. You need the right nutrients and building blacks found in wholesome food to support muscle growth. But be careful, it’s a delicate balance of eating enough calories to build muscle but not too many calories to gain body fat. Seeking the advice of a dietician can help determine the right amounts for you.

Don’t quit carbs

If you want to gain muscle, don’t be lured into a low carb diet. Carbs are essential for muscle gain, especially after a workout. They replenish glycogen stores, which is a chemical form of carbohydrates stored in your muscle and fuels them during activity. Glycogen gets depleted after a heavy workout and eating fast absorbing carbs cab help replenish the stores. According to the latest joint position paper by Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports medicine, carbohydrate recommendations for athletes range from 6 - 10 g/kg body weight per day.

Get your protein

The goal with eating proteins is to build and repair muscle tissue. Proteins also support other functions such as producing hormones and immunity factors. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that athletes get anywhere between 1.2 – 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. If you’re looking to gain muscle mass, aim at the higher end of the range. Ironically, in a world where protein shakes are popular among body builders, the Academy’s recommended intakes can easily be met by diet alone. An athlete that weighs 70 kilograms can target 112 grams of protein per day. In one chicken breast, he can get 54g of protein. The remaining 58 grams of protein can easily be attained from consuming one glass of milk (9g protein), 2 eggs (14g protein), 2 brown toasts (5.4g protein), one cup broccoli (2.6 g protein), and 1 small 100 g tuna can (30g protein).


Many people underestimate the importance of water to bodybuilding. Water is the most abundant nutrient in the body making it critical to the balance of all the body’s systems. A mere 2% drop in body water, which is considered dehydration, can decrease exercise performance by reducing endurance, decreasing strength, and affecting concentration.

Drinking water is essential throughout the day. During exercise, the aim is to drink enough fluids to replace sweat lost, not more. For every 0.5kg of body weight lost, drink 450-675ml of water.

Incorporate “good” fats

Both protein, carbs, and fluids affect performance during your workout while fat does not seem to benefit it directly, according to the position statement. It remains, however, an essential part of an athlete’s diet. At 9 calories per gram, fat is a concentrated source of energy helping you reach your caloric needs easily. Fat is also a source of fat-soluble vitamins. According to the position statement, fat intake should range between 20-30% of your calorie intake. Choose healthy fats such as olive oil, olives, avocados, nuts, and sunflower seeds and use them to garnish your salad.

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