Demographic Specific Carb Recommendations & Moderate Macros For Physique Training

Sorry it has been a bit since I shared some fitness tidbits. It was a jam-packed finish to the year over here – some monumental birthdays, a few weddings, celebrated my 10-year wedding anniversary with my Island Babe, and holy shit, I myself turned freaking 40!

While the seasons, styles, and profiles have changed, one thing has stayed the same – my first love is still getting after it in the physique game. As an athlete, I trained for a photo/video shoot over the summer. And just for shits and giggles, a personal challenge, and probably a mini mid-life crisis, I decided I would try to hit a new physique peak for my 40th birthday. Here’s how that ridiculousness turned out:

But my main gig in the game is still my private coaching business. These days I primarily work with intermediate and advanced trainees trying to take it to the next level and reach higher-level physique goals. Honestly, I just don’t have the patience, empathy, or psychology skills necessary to give beginners the service they deserve.

I’ve found that THE critical step to success for this demographic is teaching and integrating the specificity principle into their training and nutrition programs. They may be working out regularly and paying some attention to their food intake, but it’s about making sure those two are aligned with each other, and with their main fitness/physique goal, in order to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of their programs.

One topic that keeps coming up under the umbrella of that overall strategy is The Great Carb Debate. Shoot, I thought we put that shit to bed a decade ago. But it’s still raging on strong, and will probably do so indefinitely.

With new research, access to outlier results people can point to via social media, and the resurgence in popularity of keto diets, I totally get where the lingering confusion comes from. I think you should zoom out and see the entire spectrum of recommended intakes for this starchy stuff to finally make sense, and to figure out what the best starting assessment point for you is, based on a variety of factors.

For the past year, I’ve also been working on putting together an updated nutrition course geared towards intermediate/advanced physique-focused peeps. Given the current trends in the industry, and the demographic I work with, I’ve been sending out some lessons from the course early to my private clients.

Based on conversations, questions, and specific program set-ups, I’ve sent one lesson out so many times that it seems like almost everyone could benefit from it. So today, I wanted to share that lesson with you too.


In the video below, we cover the entire spectrum of carbohydrate intake recommendations. One of the main problems in our industry is trying to slot everyone into one single diet system and proclaiming it is the best for everyone, everywhere vs. putting in some work to test, assess, and find what is the most appropriate approach for each specific person. For real-world success, I think we need informed strategies as starting points vs. blanket systems as the definitive end.

There’s research that supports the use of very low carb/ketogenic diets for specific demographics and conditions. There’s research that supports high carb/traditional Sports Nutrition-type intakes for certain demographics, especially anaerobic athletes trying to optimize performance.

As we zoom back in, I believe most natural physique trainees will likely find their sweet spot somewhere in the middle ground between those two extremes. And it might shift towards one end or the other based on the training phase and focus (more towards lower carb during fat loss phases, and more towards moderate-to-higher carb during muscle gaining phases). Anyways, we dive into the details of all of that in the video below.

On a supporting side note, and with a bit of confirmation bias, this is what three of the top physique coaches I highly respect recommend as a ballpark starting assessment point for physique training as well:

The no-carb crew believes that fat can only be burned when carbs are kept close to zero or under 50 grams a day – about that found in a small apple and a single thin slice of bread. That’s not true. As long as you eat fewer carbs along with fewer calories than you typically eat on a daily basis, you will start to burn some body fat. Plus extreme low carb dieting poses a few problems. Near carb-free diets completely zap your energy levels which downgrades the metabolic rate. In a rush to lose fat fast, the individual who slashes carbs across the board will often create a downdraft in the metabolic rate – the total calories burned each day. So while he begins to eat radically less calories and carbs, the body often compensates by downgrading its metabolism.

The other negative; those who train with weights using a very low carb diet often lose muscle because you need an adequate carbohydrate intake to preserve and hold muscle mass. When carbs are cut too low, you burn a lot of muscle while you train. When you burn muscle, you initiate a drop in metabolism because the total amount of muscle one carries is directly linked to burning calories. When you have a lot of muscle, you burn a lot of calories and when you add muscle you upgrade your metabolism. On the other hand, when you burn muscle, you downgrade your metabolism. I call it dumb dieting. Most dieters who train with weights can see great results by modifying their carb intake from 2 or more grams recommended in the mass gaining phase to 1 to 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight in order to cut up.–Chris Aceto

 A quick metabolic starting point is necessary.I will usually start with one gram of protein and one gram of carbs per lb bodyweight or LBM, depending on how much body fat there is to shed. And often I will use 15-20 % bodyweight for fat allowance. – Scott Abel

So far I haven’t considered the impact of activity on all of this as this can affect daily carbohydrate requirements. I’d comment that all exercise is not the same and different types of activities will affect carbohydrate requirements very differently. The type, amount and intensity of activity will impact on carbohydrate requirements. 

Typical low intensity aerobic/cardiovascular work doesn’t generally use a lot of carbohydrate. So if someone were only performing that type of activity (i.e. walking 3-5 times per week), there wouldn’t be any real need to increase carbohydrate intake over the above minimum. They might want to increase carbohydrates to higher levels than that (for various reasons) but, strictly speaking, they probably don’t need to.

The carbohydrate requirements for weight training actually aren’t that great. I did some rough calculations in The Ketogenic Diet and concluded that, for every 2 work sets (assuming a set length of 30-45 seconds) or so, you’ll need 5 grams of carbohydrates to replenish the glycogen used.

So if you did a workout containing 24 work sets, you’d only need about 60 extra grams (24 sets * 5 grams/2 sets = 60 grams) of carbohydrate to replace the glycogen used. So if you were starting at the bare minimum of 50 grams per day and were doing roughly 24 sets/workout, you’d need to consume an additional 60 grams (total 110 grams/day) to cover it. If you didn’t function well in ketosis and were starting at the 100-120 g/day, you’d increase to 160-180 g/day. I’d note that, for the average male lifter, this works out to about 1 g/lb or ~2 g/kg lean body mass carbohydrate per day

In this context, bodybuilding nutrition (much of which has been determined empirically over the years) has long recommended carbohydrate intakes ranging from 1 g/lb on fat loss diets to 3 g/lb for mass gains so we’re definitely in that range at this point. – Lyle Mcdonald

Alrighty then, I think that’s enough carb contemplation for now. If you want more awesome training and nutrition advice to kick start your fitness and physique transformation plan in 2019, don’t forget you can sign up for my free Fundamentals of Physique Transformation video course HERE

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