How To Gain Muscle If You Are Carb Intolerant? - Leopard Nutrition

How To Gain Muscle If You Are Carb Intolerant?

A common misconception in bodybuilding is that you need high-carb diets to build muscle successfully.

So, does this mean you cannot do so if you are carb intolerant?

Fortunately, no.

There is hope for you since you can actually get ripped on a low-carb, keto diet. With the ketogenic diet, you get to achieve your fitness goals quicker and comfortably while minimizing the risks of weight gain and the negative symptoms that come with carb consumption.

This article delves into all you need to know about muscle building when carb intolerant.

What Is Carb Intolerance?

Some people feed on large amounts of carbohydrates and do not end up feeling sick, but others cannot stomach carbs.

The main reason behind people reacting differently to carbs is influenced by something known as carb intolerance.

When carb intolerant people consume excess quantities of carbs, they are likely to suffer from the following symptoms:

  • Brain fog
  • Increased hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating

What Causes Carb Intolerance?

There are two main factors that significantly influence carb intolerance, that is insulin sensitivity and genetics, as clearly explained below:

  • Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin sensitivity means how your body reacts to insulin. When you consume a meal, your body releases insulin to break down the nutrients to different cells in the body.

However, if your body cells do not respond to insulin, they will need to increase insulin production, minimizing your rate of weight loss.


  • Genetics

A 2014 study performed on average Americans proved that some people produce less of the enzyme responsible for carb digestion.

In turn, they are generally predisposed to excessive weight gain due to high-carbohydrate diets.


Do You Need Carbs to Gain Muscle?

Back in the day, it was common to hear people say that glycogen from high-carb diets was central to building muscles.

This notion is now being challenged by a rising number of bodybuilders who have adopted low-carb, keto diets to successfully grow their muscles without gaining weight.

Moreover, studies have proven that people who mainly consume low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets usually achieve their fitness goals comfortably without excess fat gain.

So, in general, you do not need to consume carbohydrates to achieve your body goals, which is good news to carb intolerant people who wish to build muscle.

Note: The bodybuilding process takes some time. Therefore, as you go through the "keto-adaptation’’ period of using fat as body fuel, your workout performance might reduce for about 1-4 weeks.

Keto Diet: What Is It?

The keto or ketogenic diet is a low-carb diet derived from the term ketosis. Ketosis is the metabolic process through which the body transitions to a state of limited access to carbohydrates and glucose.

In response, it begins to utilize fat as an alternative fuel source to make ketone bodies.

For your body to fully transition into ketosis, you will have to feed less than 50g of carbs daily as you rely on obtaining your body's calories from a moderate, high-fat protein diet.

At this rate, most people will take about 2 to 4 days to transition into a ketosis state, but others might take weeks or longer.

Benefits of Gaining Muscle Without Carbs

There are numerous benefits gained from opting to use a low-carb diet to increase muscles, including:

  • Maintained Muscle Mass

The ketogenic diet functions by producing ketone bodies and beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), which are responsible for preventing your muscles from breaking down as your body goes through ketosis.

As you continue with the diet, your body starts depending on ketones and fat instead of glucose as the primary fuel sources.

This will, in turn, cause your body to lower its protein-into-glucose conversion rate, helping you maintain muscle mass.


  • Performance Boost

For people who mainly rely on high-carb diets, their energy levels tend to fluctuate frequently, especially after they spend long periods without consuming carbohydrates.

However, with a keto diet, your body will adjust to low carb intake and have unlimited access to tons of calories stored as fat in your body. This means that your overall performance will be significantly increased.

  • Lean Form

In most cases, people who consume high-carb diets end up with increased muscle and excessive weight.

However, with a low-carb diet, your body lacks carbohydrates and glucose as the primary energy source and instead utilizes the already stored body fat.

This, in turn, leaves you in lean form year-round.

Gaining Muscle on a Low-Carb Diet

Now that you know that muscle building when carb intolerant is possible, a question arises, how do you do it? Here are the four main steps to help you easily grow and maintain your muscle on low-carb diets:

  • Incorporate More Strength Training Exercises into Your Routine

For you to effectively build your muscles, you will have to exercise regularly. Consider including more strength training exercises in your workout routine so you can exert more stress on your muscles and grow them gradually.

  • Consume More Calories

The average person needs to consume about 150 to 500 additional kcal to gain and maintain their body mass. Your approach should be to get these extra calories from proteins and fats and effectively build your body muscles without triggering your carb intolerance.

  • Maintain Your Electrolyte Levels

Your body needs to maintain optimum sodium, magnesium, and potassium levels, all of which you lose through urine and sweat. These electrolytes are crucial in preventing your body from experiencing brain fog, fatigue, and cramps, and you should continually replenish them.

  • Eat Proteins

To build muscle, you are recommended to consume adequate amounts of protein. This is about 0.8 to 1.6kg of your body weight, depending on your average physical activity level. Since you will not be consuming a lot of carbs, it is essential that you consume enough proteins for mass building.


Carbohydrates intolerance is an obstacle that some bodybuilders have to overcome to obtain their body goals.

Fortunately, as clearly explained in this article, high-carb diets are not really necessary for building and maintaining muscle mass. If you cannot stomach carbs, consider adopting a low-carb diet like the ketogenic diet for your fitness program.

Finally, keep in mind that besides diet, you will need to do more strength training exercises, watch your electrolyte levels, and consume enough calories.



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