Are Carbs Required for Muscle Gain?

One significant reason why people want to eat healthily is that they want to get YOLKED. Or SWOLE, if you rather. In addition to lifting weights on a consistent basis, eating the right food will take you to the next level – performance-wise and appearance-wise.

Here at The Cool Carnivore, we advocate an all-meat diet as we believe it is the best possible diet for human nutrition. As the popularity of this way of eating continues to increase, we see more and more people coming out the woodwork wanting to join us. However, one of the questions we’re always getting is:

“How can you gain muscle when eating zero carbs? Carbs are required for muscle building.”

This seems to be one of the main reasons why some are reluctant to indulge in carnivory. It is not hard to see why so many people think this. Remember, years and years of nutritional propaganda have infected the masses with misinformation. People still think cholesterol is bad for you and vegetables are good for you. Wrong! More people are being woken up to the truth, but this muscle-building carb myth needs to die!

One of the reasons why people think we need carbs for muscle building is because we look to the diets of world-class bodybuilders and see that they are filled with carbohydrates. These bodybuilders are counting their macronutrients as accurately and consistently as possible to ensure they are meeting their goals.

Your macronutrients, or macros, are going to adjust based on whether or not you are bulking or cutting. If you are bulking, you are obviously going to be eating much more calories in order to put on mass. A general rule of thumb for weightlifters is to get 30-35% of your calories from protein, 55-60% of your calories from carbs, and 15-20% of your calories from fat.

It’s pretty striking to see that it’s recommended to get 60% of your daily caloric intake from carbohydrates. Lots of us in the carnivore cult get 0%! We are fat-adapted machines, where fat has replaced glucose as our preferred source of fuel. The common bodybuilder is eating a diet rich in starchy vegetables, grains, fruits, and seed oils, and we are trying to get ripped on steak and eggs!

Here’s the good news: You CAN get absolutely INCREDIBLE RESULTS from eating steak and eggs. Enter Vince Gironda.

Gironda in the 1950s.

Mr. Gironda was a professional bodybuilder back in the mid-20th century. He is often quoted as saying that bodybuilding is 85% nutrition. Gironda was an early proponent of low carb dieting, and lived on the steak and eggs diet! For six days out of the week, he ate nothing but steak and eggs, and for one day out of the week, he ate whatever he felt like.

This guy was absolutely jacked, and he vehemently against the use of steroids, believing they contributed to a “grotesque appearance”. Gironda often recommended to eat up to three-dozen fertile hen-eggs per day, and raw cream or half-and-half milk. He said that large amounts of fertile eggs are equal to the steroid Dianabol in effectiveness. He seemed to know what he’s talking about if we look at his stellar reputation as a personal trainer. Trainers at his gym included Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, and three-time Mr. Olympia winner Frank Zane.

We also can’t forget about the man who made the carnivore diet mainstream: Dr. Shawn Baker.

Doctor Baker is also a world record-setting rower.

Let’s break down the science behind zero-carb muscle building to show that it can be done effectively.

The Science of Zero-Carb Muscle Building

We all know that muscle growth is developed through resistance training and protein is used to support its growth. When all the classic bodybuilders are telling you that you can’t optimize muscle growth on a zero carb diet, it’s because carbs are stored in your muscles (glycogen). When you exercise you active the T-glut receptor in your muscle which increases the muscle cell’s ability to absorb carbohydrates. When your muscles are filled with glucose, they’re also filled with water. This is what gives the appearance of huge muscles.

Also, when you have that much fluid volume inside of your muscles, you can fit much more creatine in which helps with the ATP cycle that allows you to achieve more repetitions when lifting.

Essentially, you can still do this on zero carb, you just won’t get the “swollen” look that you do from all the carbs and glucose. The fact is, your body wants to carry a baseline amount of muscle based on what your hormone levels are and what your daily lifestyle is like. When people on the carnivore diet say they are building muscles without working out, this is likely because they were eating such a small amount of protein, they weren’t even able to maintain that baseline level.

All the studies done on the performance benefits of carbs around workouts were not done involving athletes that were fat-adapted. Athletes who ate a 50% carb diet their entire lives are obviously going to perform poorly if they are in an adaptation phase to using fat as fuel. Fat adaptation is a huge advantage; if you can seamlessly switch to burning high amounts of fat for fuel, any exogenous glucose created is a bonus to performance, rather than a requirement.

Because the carnivore diet is a relatively new thing many people are trying, we have to look at this issue on a case-by-case basis. Many anecdotes have shown that zero carbers have improved recovery time, less muscle soreness, and more strength. By removing foods that could be inflammatory to you, you find out naturally what works for you.

Less inflammation leads to faster recovery times, and that leads to building more muscle AND more motivation to lift weights.

In looking at various studies, I have found a few that pique my interest. In studying the effects of carb-intake on protein synthesis, one study found that muscle protein breakdown did not change with added carbohydrates. Protein synthesis was stimulated by protein consumption, and the added carbs did not increase the effect of protein in any way.

Another study in 2007 examined the differences in protein balance between groups consuming differing amounts of carbohydrates after ingesting 25g of protein post workout. The results showed that whole body protein breakdown, synthesis, and oxidation rates, as well as whole body protein balance, did not differ between experiments. The researchers concluded that “coingestion of carbohydrate during recovery does not further stimulate postexercise muscle protein synthesis when ample protein is ingested”. Here’s a great article that summarizes the finding of all these studies.

Besides carb loading for water manipulation (pre-contest ritual), carbs add nothing during a regular bulking cycle. Stick to eating the best diet you can, the one that maximizes the beneficial nutrients you can ingest. We, of course, believe this is the carnivore diet.

Organ meat is unbelievably nutritious and filled with protein. Remember folks, protein is what we need for muscle growth, and red meat has a hell of a lot of it!

Read meat is INCREDIBLE for muscle gain. In this study researchers looked at whether eating an omnivorous (meat-containing) diet would influence resistance training-induced changes in body composition and skeletal muscle size in older men compared with a vegetarian (meat-free) diet.

They found that eating a diet that included meat contributed to greater gains in fat-free mass and skeletal muscle mass when combined with resistance training in older men than did a vegetarian diet. An eight ounce strip steak packs 52 grams of protein in only 265 calories! Eat all the meat you can!

In conclusion, it obvious that carbs are NOT required for muscle gain. All we have to do is look at the science AND the people who are getting jacked by eating only meat. It’s time to add GET JACKED to the 7 GREAT Reasons To Start The Carnivore Diet TODAY!

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Here are some more articles about the lifestyle benefits of the carnivore diet:

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