Building muscle with….carbohydrates?

You work out almost every day, you devote serious time to weight training, you also add some aerobics (running, swimming, rowing)….so make sure you feed your muscles well.

How?  You need adequate calories, mostly carbohydrates, with appropriate but NOT EXCESS protein and moderate amounts of healthy fats.

What??  Is that a typographical error?  “Didn’t you mean mostly protein, not carbohydrates?”

No…it’s true.

When building muscle, endurance athletes need 0.55 g/lb. and strength athletes need 0.75 g/lb. So, if you weigh 160 lbs., you need 88 grams (endurance) or 120 grams (strength) of protein a day.  These amounts assume you are eating enough calories from carbohydrates and fat.  Keep in mind that growing teenage athletes and/or athletes who restrict food intake use protein for fuel, so you”ll need  slightly more protein (0.9 g/lb.).

So a teenager weighing 160 lbs. needs 144 grams of protein daily. To translate 144 grams of protein to what to eat, consider this: 4 ounces of chicken (35 grams), 6 ounces of fish(40 grams), 2 cups of milk (16 grams), 1/2 cup of cottage cheese (15 grams), 2 tablespoons peanut butter (9 grams), 1 cup of cooked quinoa (8 grams), 1/2 cup kidney beans (6 grams), 1/2 cup edamame (11 grams) and 1/2 cup of hummus (6 grams) adds up to 146 grams.  And you haven’t added in any vegetables, or nuts, or grains.

The bottom line?  Eat mostly carbs, get enough protein, include some healthy fats, so when you hit the weight room, you have the stored energy to train hard.

Read the “Got Sports? Eat this” post to learn more about carbohydrates.

Happy training!


The Athlete’s Kitchen, Nancy Clark, MS,RD,CSSD  August 2012

“Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association, March 2009

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