T Nation

Carb Confusion


Background info: 18 years old. Been lifting for almost 6 months, currently at 5'10" 146 lbs. I'm guessing BF% is in the high teens. Obviously trying to gain. I just finished week two of Dan John's Mass Made Simple program as described here: http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/mass_made_simple. The training is going fine, but I need to get serious about my diet.

I have read some articles on this site about nutrition, probably too many because I've gotten so much conflicting information. I know nutrition is an individualized thing, but I'm not very good at reading the signals my body is sending. But I can definitely tell that I don't handle carbs well. Obviously I'm not afraid of vegetables and some fruit, but I generally don't feel well eating grains and I'd prefer to avoid them.

I understand the need for PWO nutrition so I get about 30g of carbs both before and after lifting. Other than that, I get a few trace carbs (nuts, eggs) and decent amounts of vegetables. Off days I eat the same, minus PWO of course. Even on supposedly "low carb" or CKD type diets the total carb intake is much higher, but since I've got so little muscle my body won't store too much glycogen anyway. I'm definitely getting a surplus and plenty of protein, so am I going to hold myself back by staying at 80-90g on lifting days and 40-50g on off days?



It's gonna be really hard to gain with a carb intake that low. Try doubling your off and tripling your training day intake. That's my take on it.


Can't hurt to experiement with low carbs, have you read the 100 gram a day article? You should be able to still make gains if you're eating low carbs as long as they are centered around your workout. Obviously you should choose your priority, gaining muscle or losing fat though.


As an underweight, under-muscled teen (no offense, just laying it out), I don't really think a low-carb diet is the best idea.

However, if you don't "feel" well with certain carbs, we can certainly work around it to some extent.

There are plenty of carb sources other than "grains." Beans, white/red/sweet potatoes, Ezekiel bread, and quinoa would be a few things to look into.

In the two weeks you've been following Dan John's plan, how much bodyweight have you gained? That's going to be the best answer as to whether you're holding yourself back or not.

Have you been trying to follow the basic nutrition plan Dan laid out in that article?...


In my humble opinion 80-90g of carbs is far too low, even at 146lbs. I'm 170 lbs and I get about 300-350g on training days, pretty much split evenly between breakfast, peri-workout (including a post workout shake I have about 45 minutes after training) and lunch. On one of my training days I pulse fast (so 0g carbs) and I skip most of my lunch carbs on Sunday, my only off day, so I get about 150g, slightly more if I feel like having an MD bar or something.

With that setup I'm losing fat, slowly gaining muscle and my overall weight is very slowly going down. If you want you can call this a maintenance phase (not quite true, since I'm making progress both in terms of composition (slow but steady) and strength (pretty fast for me)). If I was on a proper bulk I would start increasing carbs and see how my body reacts. Same if I was trying to "cut" (yeah, I'm 170lbs, it's called "cutting", right.....).

You said you don't handle carbs well. What makes you say that? I used to think so too, until I realised the incredibly complex truth that carb intake should largely depend on activity level and goals. (I'm sure body type and hormonal profile also play a part, but since I've only ever paid close attention to own progress and diet I don't really have anyone to compare myself to.) Making sure I walk every day allowed me to add more carbs to my diet while staying lean and improved my gains.

At 5"10 and 146lbs you probably don't have that much fat on you, so I wouldn't worry too much about not having much room to gain fat if you want to stay lean. I got to 18% last year and got down to 12% within 8 weeks. Fat gain is reversible and the more you learn about your body the more you will be able to limit it without sacrificing gains.

A lot comes down to what your goals are. If you want to one day step on stage or at least get bodybuilder-big for your own satisfaction you will need to gain more fat than you might be comfortable with at some point. If on the other hand you're training for other reasons you might be more inclined to sacrifice some gains in order to stay lean. Although by "staying lean" I do not mean not gaining an ounce of fat, simply shifting your focus a little bit.

Sorry for the long post and excuse me if it's a bit incoherent at times. It's a friday night and I'm still at work. Brain is slightly mushy.



No offense taken Chris, you are right about the other carb sources. Quinoa and potatoes aren't going to work with my college budget and cooking facilities, respectively but I can definitely do beans (especially since DJ recommends them). I wasn't following the nutrition plan laid out in the article because he suggests leaning out first which I didn't do. I'd probably weigh 135 before I got below 10%. I didn't take into account that this program is designed for a very lean person so now I'm thinking I should try something else? Or try to drop some fat and start over?

To clarify, I don't handle carbs well in the sense that I feel pretty sluggish and bloated eating them as compared to when I eat more fat. I always make sure to get my protein in of course, but by manipulating the rest of my diet I've found that I prefer fat. I don't plan on bodybuilding competitively, and just want to have a healthy amount of muscle mass and strength. Since I've already got a decent amount of fat on me (love handles especially), I'd obviously like to stay as lean as possible. That said, I accept that some fat gain is inevitable when putting on mass.


Gotcha. Not sure exactly what your facilities are, but if you can boil water, you can cook either. And Costco recently started carrying quinoa in 4-pound bulk bags. Just throwing it out there.

A few articles that might give you some ideas for bulking on a budget:

When Dan talks about leaning out before bulking, it's mainly to capitalize on the "rebound effect" the comes from reducing calories and then increasing them. While it might be an ideal scenario that Dan's talking about, it doesn't exactly apply to you, since we already figured you're in need of lean muscle pronto.

Fair enough. A lot of the guys who follow the Anabolic Diet feel similarly. It could also have to do with your general insulin sensitivity, which will improve as you drop some fat and have more muscle to "use" those carbs.

So yeah, arrange your nutrition in a way that has you feeling good, of course. Like you were talking about, try to have more carbs on the days you train, particularly before, during, and/or after your lifting sessions.

Weigh-in once a week, on the same day under the same conditions (usually first thing in the morning, after using the bathroom). Make sure your strength and bodyweight are going up each week. If those are both happening, then you're on the right track almost regardless of how many carbs you're taking in.


Dude, you are 146lbs. Why are you worrying about this shit? Pick heavy shit up. Eat as much as you need to gain some weight.