Post-workout carbs: Are you drinking tons of sugar for no reason?

There are two kinds of people in the fitness industry: those that give you advice and motivate you, so that you will buy their product, and those that give you advice, because you paid them for it.

Nah, that’s just the cynic in me talking. Cynicism can be a good thing though: it allows you to be objective. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do in this article. I’m going to give you an unbiased review of the effects of consuming carbohydrates before and after your training sessions.

 

Should you consume carbs post-workout?

Suppose you consumed a shake containing carbohydrates without protein. This has been researched many times and low doses (e.g. 6g) of carbs do not increase net protein balance after training. Of course, 6g is next to nothing: maybe we just need more to see an effect. Børsheim et al. (2004) tested this. Here, subjects were given either a placebo or a post-training shake containing 100g of maltodextrin. The result: protein synthesis did not improve, but protein breakdown did decrease, resulting in a significant increase in protein balance. However, the effect was “minor and delayed” and protein balance was still negative. Furthermore, Glynn et al. (2010) demonstrated that 70g of carbs do not influence protein balance more than 30g, so if you’re going to consume carbs, 30 grams should be your upper limit.  Glynn et al. also concluded, in their review of the literature, that elevated protein balance as a result of training shakes is almost all due to increased protein synthesis caused by protein ingestion “with minor changes in muscle protein breakdown, regardless of carbohydrate dose or circulating insulin level.” (Emphasis mine; note that they didn’t study casein.) Still, if carbs help reduce even a tiny bit of protein breakdown, that’s better than nothing… right?

In another review of the literature on training nutrition, it was concluded that studies where only protein was administered found increased protein balance “to a similar degree as previously conducted studies that used a combination of essential amino acids and carbohydrate”. Additionally, “a small dose of amino acids after resistance exercise has been found to stimulate similar changes in protein synthesis and protein balance [...] with carbohydrate or without carbohydrate.”(Emphasis mine; Kerksick & Leutholtz, 2005). In conclusion, carbs may reduce protein breakdown a little when all you consume is those carbs, but if you already consume protein, carbs have little or no additive effect.

Now, there are two studies (Miller et al. 2003; Bird et al. 2006) that show adding 35g of carbs to 6g of protein increases net protein balance, suggesting carbs may have an additive effect. It is beyond me why this stupid design was replicated several times, but I’ll entertain it here. These studies used the same experimental design as Rasmussen et al. (2000), and the results contradict each other.  According to the latter study, “muscle protein breakdown did not change”. The protein stimulated protein synthesis, but the carbs did not increase the effect of protein in any way. Furthermore, the subjects of the Miller study were absolutely brutalized and malnourished. After a fast, they had to do 10×8 leg presses at 80% 1RM and then 8×8 leg extensions at 80% 1RM. That’s like German Volume Training with a higher intensity and reaching failure on every set. Then to ‘recover’ they were given 6g of protein and 35g of carbs. If there’s any situation in which carbs, or anything that gives you some form of energy, can possibly help you recover, it’s this one. And even then only 1 of the 2 studies found a positive, additive effect of carbs.

Koopman et al. (2007) used a much better study design. They examined the differences in protein balance in groups consuming either 0, 0.15, or 0.6 g of carbs per kg of body weight when coingested with ~25g protein after resistance training. Their results? “Whole body protein breakdown, synthesis, and oxidation rates, as well as whole body protein balance, did not differ between experiments. [...] In conclusion, coingestion of carbohydrate during recovery does not further stimulate postexercise muscle protein synthesis when ample protein is ingested.”

Staples et al. (2011) wanted to replicate the above finding to end the discussion once and for all. After a weight training session, they gave their subjects either 25g of whey or both 25g of whey in combination with 50g of maltodextrin. They found that consuming 50g of maltodextrin along with 25g of whey does not stimulate muscle protein synthesis or inhibit protein breakdown more than 25g of whey alone.

The most important aspect of the above two studies compared to previous studies was the presence of an at least semi-respectable dosage of protein. So to conclude, carbs only potentially inhibit protein breakdown under extreme circumstances where not enough protein is ingested. Unless you annihilate a muscle with 18 sets done to failure after a long fast and fail to consume more than 6g of protein, carbs don’t add anything to protein.

You may be reluctant to believe this. It’s no fun to find out you’ve been adding heaps of sugar to your shakes for no reason. Conventional bodybuilder theory (read: broscience) is that carbs jack up your insulin, which then helps shuttle all the protein into your muscles. Translated into statistical terms, this means there is a positive interaction effect between protein and carbs on net protein synthesis. This hypothesis is not supported by any research and explicitly falsified by Miller et al. and Staples et al. As with many theories in the fitness industry, it sounds plausible, but the empirical evidence demonstrates it is wrong. Simplistic theories like that do not account for the many complexities of the human body. Your body doesn’t need carbs to process protein. In fact, your body doesn’t need carbs for anything.

Of course, there are some scenarios where carbs can be of use, such as carb-loading (e.g. pre-contest/water manipulation). During a regular bulk though, carbs add nothing to protein. Also, the best diet is always the one that maximizes the amount of beneficial nutrients you take in, given your caloric restraints. Since dextrose, maltodextrin and other nonsense like Waxy Maize Starch are virtually devoid of nutrients and very caloric, they have no place in a good diet. Instead, your carbs should come from vegetables, fruit and foods like quinoa, (sweet) potatoes and oatmeal.

 

But what about glycogen resynthesis?

Even if conventional workout carbs do not increase protein balance or provide any quality nutrients, they may be needed to preserve glycogen stores, right? First of all, you have to perform an absurd amount of volume to really deplete glycogen stores with weight training. A full-body workout consisting of 9 exercises for 3 sets each at 80% 1RM (something only a beginner can do) only depletes about a third of the body’s glycogen and 9 sets for a specific muscle result in 36% depletion in that muscle (Roy & Tarnopolsky, 1998). After performing sets of 6 leg extensions at 70% 1RM until absolute failure occurred (weird protocol I know) and not consuming anything afterwards, 75% of glycogen was restored after 6h (Pascoe et al. 1993). Also, the body regulates itself adequately. The more you deplete glycogen, the faster the glycogen resynthesis. The higher the intensity, the faster the resynthesis. The greater the depletion, the more glycogen the body stores for next time. Even in endurance athletes glycogen resynthesis is often complete within 24h. You’d have to train a muscle twice daily with a volume you could not possibly recover from in order to require carbs to replenish your glycogen in time for the next training session. Should you ever fully deplete your glycogen stores, you’ll know it, because endurance athletes say it feels like being unable to move. Needing carbs for ‘energy’ is in your head.

 

Origin of the post-workout carb myth

So how come the myth you need carbs in your shakes is so prevalent? There are many reasons.

  • Supplement companies want you to believe you need carbs, because carbs are extremely cheap to manufacture. For example, basically all ‘weight gainer’ products are just sugar sold at a ridiculous price.
  • Many people read the carb-only research without realizing that protein makes the carbs redundant.
  • The literature advocating carbs for endurance athletes can easily be misinterpreted by people only reading the abstracts.
  • Many myths perpetuate themselves, with everyone spreading the word simply because everyone else is also spreading the word. *insert sound of bleating sheep here*
  • Many professional bodybuilders inject insulin post-workout. This requires the consumption of a large amount of carbs to avoid going hypoglycemic. Without exogenous insulin and steroids, this is more likely to turn into fat than muscle.

 

The Verdict on Carbs Post-Workout

You do not need to consume any carbohydrates after your training sessions. When ample protein is ingested, carbs do not have any additive effect on protein balance. You don’t have to avoid carbs, but adding sugar to your shakes is, well, just like adding sugar to any other meal.

 

post-workout dextrose

Putting this in your workout shakes will not make you jacked.

 

References

Coingestion of carbohydrate with protein does not further augment postexercise muscle protein synthesis. René Koopman, Milou Beelen, Trent Stellingwerff, Bart Pennings, Wim H. M. Saris, Arie K. Kies, Harm Kuipers, Luc J. C. van Loon. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2007 September; 293(3): E833–E842.

Combined ingestion of protein and free leucine with carbohydrate increases postexercise muscle protein synthesis in vivo in male subjects. René Koopman, Anton J M Wagenmakers, Ralph J F Manders, Antoine H G Zorenc, Joan M G Senden, Marchel Gorselink, Hans A Keizer, Luc J C van Loon. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2005 April; 288(4): E645–E653.

Effect of carbohydrate intake on net muscle protein synthesis during recovery from resistance exercise. Elisabet Børsheim, Melanie G Cree, Kevin D Tipton, Tabatha A Elliott, Asle Aarsland, Robert R Wolfe. J Appl Physiol. 2004 February; 96(2): 674–678.

Effect of carbohydrate-protein supplement timing on acute exercise-induced muscle damage. James P White, Jacob M Wilson, Krista G Austin, Beau K Greer, Noah St John, Lynn B Panton. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008; 5: 5.

Effects of ingesting protein with various forms of carbohydrate following resistance-exercise on substrate availability and markers of anabolism, catabolism, and immunity. Richard B Kreider, Conrad P Earnest, Jennifer Lundberg, Christopher Rasmussen, Michael Greenwood, Patricia Cowan, Anthony L Almada. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007; 4: 18.

Essential amino acid and carbohydrate ingestion before resistance exercise does not enhance postexercise muscle protein synthesis. Satoshi Fujita, Hans C. Dreyer, Micah J. Drummond, Erin L. Glynn, Elena Volpi, Blake B. Rasmussen. J Appl Physiol. 2009 May; 106(5): 1730–1739.

Glycogen resynthesis in skeletal muscle following resistive exercise. D D Pascoe, D L Costill, W J Fink, R A Robergs, J J Zachwieja. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1993 March; 25(3): 349–354.

Independent and combined effects of amino acids and glucose after resistance exercise. Sharon L Miller, Kevin D Tipton, David L Chinkes, Steven E Wolf, Robert R Wolfe. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003 March; 35(3): 449–455.

Independent and combined effects of liquid carbohydrate/essential amino acid ingestion on hormonal and muscular adaptations following resistance training in untrained men. Bird SP, Tarpenning KM, Marino FE. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2006 May;97(2):225-38.

Liquid carbohydrate/essential amino acid ingestion during a short-term bout of resistance exercise suppresses myofibrillar protein degradation. Bird SP, Tarpenning KM, Marino FE. Metabolism. 2006 May;55(5):570-7.

Macronutrient intake and whole body protein metabolism following resistance exercise. B D Roy, J R Fowles, R Hill, M A Tarnopolsky. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 August; 32(8): 1412–1418.

Muscle glycogen and metabolic regulation. Mark Hargreaves. Proc Nutr Soc. 2004 May; 63(2): 217–220.

Muscle protein breakdown has a minor role in the protein anabolic response to essential amino acid and carbohydrate intake following resistance exercise. Erin L. Glynn, Christopher S. Fry, Micah J. Drummond, Hans C. Dreyer, Shaheen Dhanani, Elena Volpi, Blake B. Rasmussen. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2010 August; 299(2): R533–R540.

Nutrition and muscle protein synthesis: a descriptive review. Weinert DJ. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2009 Aug;53(3):186-93.

Nutritional strategies to promote postexercise recovery. Beelen M, Burke LM, Gibala MJ, van Loon L JC. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2010 Dec;20(6):515-32.

  • Sebs

    Nice article and I like your writing style. 
    I was wondering how this article relates to a combination of powertraining and running. This morning I did some powertraining, some compounds for the upper body, followed by planks. After that I went running for about 5 km, on a relatively low speed of about 6min/km on average.This is my usual training pattern (I alternate between lower and upper body) and I was wondering how I can incorporate my nutrition the best way possible.
    Should I add carbs (oats, I don't like dextro) when I get back from running? 
    Regards

    • Menno Henselmans

      What are your goals? Maximum power and endurance are conflicting goals and pursuing both simultaneously will yield suboptimal results for both. The best way to combine these two would generally be HIIT.

      • Sebs

        My goals are:
        - To develop more strength, mostly assistance to other sports, like krav maga, skiing, swimming and (wave)surfing. Overall constitution, but no desire to be a powerlifter of bodybuilder pur sang,
        - Running 10KM in 50 minutes, this is kind of an arbitrary quantification. Suffice to say I want to develop a better respiratory system condition,
        - A better fysique in general. I'm a bit overweight, not much, but still. Looking a little less 'soft' is a goal.

        So, at the moment, I think what I'm doing is kind of okay, it works towards all three goals to some extent, but I agree, none of them will be optimal. 
        My rest and food is okay, I try to sleep 7-8 hours every night. I don't set an alarm in the morning and usually wake up after 7-8 hours. I eat fruit and veggies, meat and avoid processed foods and (crystalline) sugar. In stead of eating a bag of crisps I'll eat a handful of nuts. 
        So. I'm looking for an optimum way of adding suppletion to my schedule.
         
         

        • Menno Henselmans

          No need for processed carbs then IMO, even post-workout. Just eat good carbs after high volume (endurance) training days.

  • Alex

    Coach Menno,what do you think about EAA vs Whey? A few studies has shown that EAA is better then whey when taken around workout time also it's less expensive.
     

    • Menno Henselmans

      EAA make up most of the effect of whey, but in the article I also mentioned an important study that showed intact whey beats EAA. If you’re really tight on cash, using only EAA will get you most of the results for less money, but whey isn’t expensive compared to whole foods, so I’d go with intact protein sources.

      • Alex

        Thx for the reply Coach Menno, how much EAA do you recommend? I am currently taking 18g(12,2g of it is BCAA) during workout.

  • Al

    Menno,
     
    You say about drinking half the shake before and half after. I was told that the protein in the shake degrades after 20 mins and that one should drink it ALL in 20 mins – not leave it while I did a workout. Is this wrong? (Or should i take 2 bottles to the gym?)

    • Menno Henselmans

      Protein doesn’t degrade that easily. You can even cook with it.

  • http://www.p2p4u.info P2P4U

    Are there any sites comparable to yours that you simply would recommend? I’m interested in creating a website that pulls within the posts from a bunch of related sites like yours.

    • Menno Henselmans

      Hm, you could try the sites of Martin Berkhan, Alan Aragon and Bret Contreras.

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  • http://fast-fat-burning.net/ ExFat Dude

    Menno Henselmans, forgive me if this is a bit off topic, but… This makes just about anyone angry: Diets in reality make you put on weight in the long run and that has turned out to be more and more evident in the weight problems epidemic that\\\\\\\’s

    hurting this kind of fast food, minimal exercise era. Are you aware that stadium seats must be increased in order to support the increase in peoples growing, ahem…girth? This implies that we are now transforming into a bigger country (and never in an exceedingly good way) of individuals than all of us have ever have before which happens to be previously over twenty years only. Our young ones are

    afflicted with unhealthy weight associated

    problems for example all forms of

    diabetes and heart

    problems.

    I read that during a research project 70

    chubby North american young children from the age

    groups of six to 19 were actually subjected to

    several battery of checks to observe the end result that the eating habits packed

    with fat had on their younger physiques. The results have been eye opening. All suffered from

    high cholesterol levels as well as were included in the high-risk group of acquiring heart disease and heart malfunction which

    several individuals were already showing symptoms of.

    Could there really be any kind of hope

    for everybody? I believe your answer should be certainly. Apparently

    virtually all we end up needing is

    without question a little bit of exercise and diet. We almost all have to get started with performing

    it NOW!

  • http://skyefreeman.com Skye

    Menno. I'm beginning a slow gain phase and I'll be testing the concept of keeping carbs below 100 grams (all from fruits/veg, and sweet potatoes), fats at roughly 125 grams (plenty of Extra Virgin Coconut Oil), and protein will start at 300 grams (increasing from there) and be the nutrient to provide glycogen through gluconeogenesis. This is an experiment to test the concept that I'll be able to burn fat (as per chronically lower insulin and MCT consumption (ketone bodies)), while building muscle and experiencing adequate muscle glycogen replenishment, minimizing carb spillover as much as possible (without removing carbs completely). This will be in addition to Intermittent Fasting meal timing, with calorie cycling training 4 times a week.
    It's a slow gain phase so it'll be a success if the scale goes up and I remain as lean or become leaner.
    Your thoughts?

    • Menno Henselmans

      I don’t think that’s a very good plan. I’ve got a few articles coming up that will address most of your points, so you’ll have to wait for those I’m afraid.

      I’ll give you a primer though. Don’t worry about macro-ratios or nutrient timing so much. Cals and protein are the dominant factors of bodybuilding nutrition.

      • http://skyefreeman.com Skye

        I honestly can't wait.

  • http://integratedstrength.com Nick Efthimiou

    Hi Menno,
    Great article and great site content overall. 
    My question is related to the topic, but comes from a slightly different angle: I'm not a nutritionist, and most of my self-directed learning time is spent reseraching training and treatment information, of which there is plenty to keep me occupied.
    As a result, I tend to defer to others (whom I perceive to be reliable sources of information) for nutritional information.
    2 of those "go-to" guys are Mike Roussell and John Berardi, both who advocate limiting starchy carbohydrates to post-training. Bearing in mind glycogen isn't really depleted from weight training (to any significant level warranting high carb intake), and protein synthesis isn't really improved (as per your article) – do you feel there is any scientific grounding  in this (their contention is control of insulin levels)?
    Or is it more a case of it doesn't really matter, as long as macros and kcals are met for the week/day?
    Thanks,
    Nick

    • Menno Henselmans

      I’ll have to refer you to future articles as well, but in short: utter nonsense. Forget about the distinction of carbs based on simple/complex or ‘starchy’ in the first place. This does not mean IIFYM though.

      • http://integratedstrength.com Nick Efthimiou

        Thanks for the prompt reply.
        I'm looking forward to the upcoming articles.

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  • BH

    Fantastic article! As a biochemist/gym fanatic the whole post-workout carb affair has made little sense ever since it was first 'imparted' to me from the resident gym gurru. Great to see empirical evidence prevailing over 'broscience'!

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  • Bobby

    Menno – regarding carbs not being necessary at all, am curious to hear your thoughts on this: http://www.warriordiet.com/content/view/25/36/
    Namely, necessity of carbs for "pentose pathway" and to finalize IGF, GH, and androgens:
    "
    Diet Fallacy #5: CARBS Are Your Enemy
    Carbs are currently regarded as the culprit for the on going epidemic of overweight, obesity and their related disease. It has been commonly assumed that carbs are not essential nutrients and therefore could be severely restricted or even spared. Low carb diet advocates argue that insulin is a fat gain promoting hormone and therefore should be tightly controlled by chronically restricting carbs. Due to the current popularity of low carb diets, it seems as if carbs are the enemy. But are they? As you'll soon see, nothing could be so far from the truth.
    Let's examine the assumption that carbs are not essential nutrients. This assumption literally fails to recognize the two most critical biological functions of carbs (besides being a fuel):

    The activation of the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP)
    The finalization of growth hormone (GH) and insulin like growth factor (IGF1) actions, as well as the enhancement of androgens actions.

    Let's cover briefly the importance of the above functions. The pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) is a critical process that is responsible for the synthesis of DNA, RNA and all energy molecules including ATP and NADPH, needed for all metabolic functions in particular, recuperation (healing of tissues), immunity and growth. In addition, the PPP is a precursor for another metabolic pathway-(i.e. the uronic acid pathway) responsible for steroid hormones transport, production of proteoglycans (essential for connective tissue and cellular signaling), synthesis of spingolipids (lipids that are necessary for neural protection) and over all detoxification. The pentose phosphate pathway, which occurs mostly in the liver, is derived from glucose (i.e. carb metabolism). Now, here is the problem…
     
    In times of a desperate need for energy, such as during prolonged starvation or due to chronic severe restriction of carbs, the PPP would shut down its main function and instead switch into sheer energy production. It is likely that energy demand is a top priority for the body and therefore, in times of a desperate need for energy, the body would suppress certain important metabolic function (such as the PPP) to accelerate immediate energy production. Note that 30% of glucose oxidation in the liver can occur via the PPP.
     
    One may argue that glucose can be synthesized from fat or protein. Yes, but not enough! Since the synthesis of glucose from fat or protein (gluconeogenesis) is actually a very limited metabolic process that occurs mostly in the liver, any severe restriction of carbs, in particular for active individuals, may adversely suppress the PPP critical functions; due to insufficient glucose supply during an increased energy demand.
     
    The PPP actions also decreases with age, a fact that may contribute to the decline in steroid hormone production and the typical muscle waste, that is associated with aging.
     
    To sum up this part, dietary carbs are necessary for the full activation of the PPP and its critical functions. Severe chronic carb restriction (below 70g-100g for an active individual) may lead to an adverse suppression of PPP, with an overall decline in sex hormones, compromised immunity, impaired growth and accelerated aging.
     
    As noted, besides playing a vital role in the activation of the PPP actions, dietary carbs also help finalize the actions of the most anabolic agents including growth hormone, IGF1 and the sex steroid hormones.
     
    Studies at Stanford University in CA and Helsinki University in Finland revealed that insulin is a potent promoter of IGF1 and the sex hormones action. Researcher found that insulin help finalize the anabolic actions of GH, IGHF1 and androgens by down regulating certain proteins that suppress both IGF1 and androgens action, in particular in the muscle tissue, (i.e. IGHFBP-1 and SHBP, respectively). A recent study at the University of Texas, indeed proved that post exercise carb supplementation together with essential amino acids profoundly stimulates net muscle protein synthesis.
     
    Interestingly, simple carbs had a more profound effect on enhancing anabolic actions after exercise than complex carbs. Nonetheless, as a general rule, our body is better adapted to utilize complex carbs than simple carbs. Again, it is when you eat that makes what you eat matter.
     
    In conclusion, dietary carbs biological functions go far beyond just sheer energy production. Chronic carb restrictions may lead in the long run to total metabolic decline with severe consequences on survival (i.e. capacity to regenerate tissues and procreate). Carbs are not the enemy, ignorance is. "
    Thanks!
     
     

    • Menno Henselmans

      This is broscience at its best. Note how it meets almost all the criteria for pseudoscience that I posted on Twitter/FB this week. The study that ‘proved’ carbs and EAA stimulate protein synthesis is discussed in my article above. He provides no references at all for his claims that the body is ‘better adapted’ to use complex carbs, a term that I tangentially showed to be meaningless in my ‘Is a carb a carb?’ article, or that it is ‘when you eat’ that matters greatly, which I covered in my ‘workout nutrition is a scam’ article. As for his claims on the PPP and hormones, those are also unsubstantiated. Gluconeogensis and glycolysis are perfectly capable of making up for a lack of carbs in the diet and his reasoning that low carb diets reduce testosterone levels is also false, as shown in several studies.

      If you give me the author’s Facebook page I’ll be happy to discuss these things with him.

      • Bobby

        Nice, very interesting. The author is Ori Hofmekler of warrior diet "fame" and has a facebook page. I think I read on a forum  (possibly foreign) that you were doing something like Intermittent Fasting/Warrior diet with circadian timing specific to macros etc. Seems like you guys would agree on some things. Will you be writing on IF some time? Would love to hear your take on that. 
        Thanks Menno. 

        • Menno Henselmans

          I’ve heard about him, yeah. As for IF, I definitely have plans to write an article on it.

  • Menno Henselmans

     

     

    • Peter Heesbeen · · Top Commenter · Den Bosch, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands

      So, let me get this straight. If I can get to Maintenance + 10% calories (roughly 3000) with mainly protein and fat I don't really need carbs at all?

      Many succesful (natural) bodybuilders consume carbs/protein/fat in a 50/30/20 division. If they consumed the same amount of calories with a 10/70/20 division they would gain the same amount of musle?

         

      • Peter Heesbeen · · Top Commenter · Den Bosch, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands

        How many carbs do you eat? I've asked this question elsewhere but do you have any recommendations of how much of each macronutrient to consume?

           

        • Børge Fagerli Privat · Top Commenter · Self-employed at Børge Fagerli – Coach

          It sounds like you recommend a ketogenic diet even for muscle building, and if so, I seriously question this. Isn’t liver glycogen status considered one of the systemic anabolic drivers via (among others) AMPK? Although you can get some muscle glycogen repletion without carbs, IF protein levels are sufficient for gluconeogenesis (and in other articles you suggest a lower protein intake which would prevent this), isn’t it easier to just have some carbs?

          Do you have a reason to believe that carbs INHIBIT muscle growth? Or that a higher fat intake is better than carbs for providing nutrients for growth?

          There’s a difference between carbs not necessarily adding to the acute MPS signal vs. carbs not being needed for long-term muscle growth AFAIK.

          A 200lbs bodybuilder would, in your opinion, grow just as much (or more) muscle on e.g. 150g of protein, 50g of carbs and 250g of fats as he would on 150g of protein, 450g of carbs and 70g of fat? Would he even be able to train having to digest bucketloads of butter, fatty meats and nuts?

          I just have a problem reconciling these recommendations with the current literature on macronutrient ratios, so I hope you can clarify.

          •  

            Menno Henselmans

            "It sounds like you recommend a ketogenic diet even for muscle building"
            There's a vast difference between actively eating many carbs and all-out keto-dieting. I don't specifically recommend staying in ketosis and any bulking diet that does not specifically attempt this generally fails at it, so my diets tend to come out in between.

            "Do you have a reason to believe that carbs INHIBIT muscle growth?"
            That's not Bayesian reasoning. Rather, do you have a reason to believe that carbs PROMOTE muscle growth? Signalling proteins are a more indirect measure of anabolism than protein balance and chronic protein balance is simply the long term average of acute protein balance. Since several studies show no benefit to consuming carbs in stimulating protein balance, claiming that this does occur based on more indirect measures is specious.

            Think of this: phosphorylation of p38 MAPK is greater when training with low glycogen stores (http://http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16770359). MAPK is an important pathway for muscle anabolism. Therefore, we should train when glycogen stores are low?

            "Would he even be able to train having to digest bucketloads of butter, fatty meats and nuts?"
            Seeing as fat is highly caloric and not very satiating, I don't see the problem here.

      • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

        Peter Heesbeen · Follow · Top Commenter · Den Bosch, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands

        So, let me get this straight. If I can get to
        Maintenance + 10% calories (roughly 3000) with mainly protein and fat I
        don&#39t really need carbs at all?

        Many
        succesful (natural) bodybuilders consume carbs/protein/fat in a
        50/30/20 division. If they consumed the same amount of calories with a
        10/70/20 division they would gain the same amount of musle?

      • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

        Peter Heesbeen · Follow · Top Commenter · Den Bosch, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands
        How many carbs do you eat? I&#39ve
        asked this question elsewhere but do you have any recommendations of
        how much of each macronutrient to consume?

      • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

        Børge Fagerli Privat · Top Commenter · Self-employed at Børge Fagerli – Coach
        It sounds like you recommend a
        ketogenic diet even for muscle building, and if so, I seriously question
        this. Isn’t liver glycogen status considered one of the systemic
        anabolic drivers via (among others) AMPK? Although you can get some
        muscle glycogen repletion without carbs, IF protein levels are
        sufficient for gluconeogenesis (and in other articles you suggest a
        lower protein intake which would prevent this), isn’t it easier to just
        have some carbs?

        Do you have a reason to
        believe that carbs INHIBIT muscle growth? Or that a higher fat intake is
        better than carbs for providing nutrients for growth?

        There’s a difference between carbs not necessarily adding to the
        acute MPS signal vs. carbs not being needed for long-term muscle growth
        AFAIK.

        A 200lbs bodybuilder would, in your
        opinion, grow just as much (or more) muscle on e.g. 150g of protein, 50g
        of carbs and 250g of fats as he would on 150g of protein, 450g of carbs
        and 70g of fat? Would he even be able to train having to digest
        bucketloads of butter, fatty meats and nuts?

        I just have a problem reconciling these recommendations with the
        current literature on macronutrient ratios, so I hope you can clarify.

        • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

          “It sounds like you recommend a ketogenic diet even for muscle building”

          There&#39s a vast difference between actively eating
          many carbs and all-out keto-dieting. I don&#39t specifically
          recommend staying in ketosis and any bulking diet that does not
          specifically attempt this generally fails at it, so my diets tend to
          come out in between.

          “Do you have a reason to believe that carbs INHIBIT muscle growth?”

          That&#39s not Bayesian reasoning. Rather, do you have a
          reason to believe that carbs PROMOTE muscle growth? Signalling proteins
          are a more indirect measure of anabolism than protein balance and
          chronic protein balance is simply the long term average of acute protein
          balance. Since several studies show no benefit to consuming carbs in
          stimulating protein balance, claiming that this does occur based on more
          indirect measures is specious.

          Think of this: phosphorylation of p38 MAPK is greater when training with low glycogen stores (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16770359).
          MAPK is an important pathway for muscle anabolism. Therefore, we should
          train when glycogen stores are low?

          “Would he even be able to train having to digest bucketloads of butter, fatty meats and nuts?”

          Seeing as fat is highly caloric and not very satiating, I don&#39t see the problem here.

          1 like – Børge Fagerli Privat · Top Commenter · Self-employed at Børge Fagerli – Coach

      • Lemayr

        Great site! A no BS aproach similar to Martin Berkhan’s. Bookmarked!

      • Ibrahim

        Hi Menno, I really like your approach but I am wondering if this position is truly bayesian:

        “Your body doesn’t need carbs to process protein. In fact, your body doesn’t need carbs for anything.”

        Doesn’t the thyroid system require carbs to operate properly? From what I read, studies of low-carb diets showed that they unfavourably alter the thyroid profile (which has extensive deleterious effects) and lead to decreased physical performance compared to normal or high carb diets. See a summary at http://anthonycolpo.com/is-a-low-carb-diet-bad-for-your-thyroid/ (just skip the first several paragraphs, which are tediously anecdotal).

        According to Colpo, carbs have been used by recent Mr Olympia winners to achieve some pretty incredible results.

        • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

          Your thyroid doesn’t need carbs, but it functions better with them (this is controversial even, but I believe it’s true). I don’t recommend zero carb or even ketogenic diets, but carbs are physiologically a strictly nonessential macronutrient.

      • pantherhare

        Just found this great site through Bret Contreras’ blog. Keep up the good work. I find it interesting that you wrote this two years ago, but it was only recently that Alan Aragorn and Bret Schoenfeld got major attention on this subject.

        I have a question regarding carbs and the use of hydrolyzed whey — do you think there’s a risk that if you exclude carbs from your workout nutrition while using hydrolyzed whey, that the insulin spike will result in the body using the aminos for gluconeogenesis?

        • http://mennohenselmans.com/ Menno Henselmans

          No, that’s not a risk. However, I recommend concentrate or isolate over hydrolyzed whey in almost all cases (allergies are a notable exception).