This Sports Dietitian Explains Why You Shouldn't Cut Carbs If You Are Trying to Build Muscle

Photographer: Cera HensleyEditorial and internal use approved. OK for Native and co-branded use.
POPSUGAR Photography | Cera Hensley
POPSUGAR Photography | Cera Hensley

If you're trying to put on muscle, you're probably lifting weights and loading up on protein; protein is the building block of muscle and helps build and repair tissue, so it's essential if you want to see gains. But many people make the mistake of focusing too much on protein and neglecting carbs.

Carbs have been demonized as the macronutrient that will spike your blood sugar, make you store fat, and derail your fitness efforts. In reality, eating carbs can actually help you lose weight. And like protein, it's essential for gaining strength and growing muscle. Jim White, RDN, ACSM, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios, recommends a high-carbohydrate diet for muscle growth since carbs are the main source of energy that your muscles will use.

"Carbohydrates increase glycogen stores in the body, and thus allow for more intense workouts," he told POPSUGAR. Glycogen is used by your body to fuel exercise, especially high-intensity exercise with moderate-level repetition and resistance.

"During workouts, the body relies and depends on muscle glycogen," he explained. "Thus, having low levels of muscle glycogen, which would arise from a diet that is low in carbohydrates, would negatively affect performance for high-intensity exercise." Especially after you exercise, carbs are important for muscle repair and renewal in a process called "muscle glycogen resynthesis."

So while, yes, it's important to fuel up with protein after a workout, you should also get some carbs in, too. Stumped on what that should be? Check out our list of recovery snacks that provide the perfect amount of protein and carbs to fuel your muscles and help you recover. If you want to build muscle overall, Jim recommends a macro breakdown of 55 percent carbs, 25 percent protein, and 20 percent fat.