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From the low-fat, high carb bodybuilding diets of the 1980s, through to the ultra-low carb and high fat Anabolic diet, bodybuilding experts have argued what the optimal ratio of carbs to fat is for muscle gain. It’s time to clear up the confusion.

No two people are alike when it comes to building muscle and creating the optimal diet.

While the above guidelines are a great place to start, and will work fantastically well for the vast majority of people, you may find you need to tweak them slightly to suit your body type, genetics and metabolism.


Naturally skinny folks, known as ectomorphs often have very high metabolisms. If this is you (and you’ll probably know if you are) then you’ll probably need more calories – your body should be able to cope with a surplus of around 600 to 700 per day without gaining fat. Not only that, but you can handle more carbs too. Try getting the majority of these extra calories from carbohydrates.

At the other end, you’ve got the endomorphs – those unlucky people who suffer with excess fat, and struggle to stay lean. If you’ve always been a little on the heavy side, your body may not like you going in on such a high carb intake to begin with. Take your fat intake up to 0.5 grams per pound and bump your protein up by 10 percent too, then recalculate your new lower carb intake.

The good news is that over time, your metabolism will adapt, and start using these carbs more wisely – putting them towards growth and recovery rather than storing them as fat, but you’ll have to build up slowly.

High and Low Carb Days

Incorporating high and low carb days – a technique known as carb cycling, is an ultra effective way to build muscle while staying lean.

Many carb cycling diets are ridiculously complicated, and you need a degree in advanced algebra to figure them out, but there’s no need to get quite so complex.

On the days you train, increase your carb intake and decrease fat intake slightly, and on rest days lower the carbs a touch and bump up fats to compensate.

To keep things basic, on workout days increase your carb intake by 20 percent and lower your fats to keep calories at the same level, and on days you don’t work out, take carbs down 20 percent and increase fats.

Carb and Fat Timings

With your carb and fat ratios sorted, you’re definitely on the right track, and will no doubt get fantastic results and build lean muscle, but to take your diet from great to perfect, the last consideration is macronutrient timing.

To get the most from your carbs, consume a higher proportion around your workout times. Ideally, take in around 30 percent one to two hours before training, another 30 percent in the hour or two after training, and have the remaining 40 percent spread throughout the day.

Ingesting carbs before training gives you energy and starts off shuttling protein to the muscle cells, while carbs afterwards replete your lower glycogen and blood sugar levels and kickstart the rebuilding of damaged muscle fibers.

With these key factors all in place, you’re already ahead of 99 percent of the other wannabe muscle-heads.

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