How To Use Carb Cycling To Build Muscle: Growth Phase

October 31, 2023

I’ve split this article into two:

1. How To Use Carb Cycling To Build Muscle: Reset Phase

2. How To Use Carb Cycling To Build Muscle: Growth Phase (This article)

I suggest starting with the RESET PHASE article first. As this will give you a better understanding of the growth phase.

The growth phase

We will be eating in large calorie excess in this growth phase.

Around about 500+ calories for men and 300+ calories for women on top of your maintenance number.

Once you switch into the growth phase from the reset phase.

Your body will be much more effective at accumulating muscle tissue and using the additional carbs you eat effectively.

This phase can last between 4 weeks to 3 months depending on how your body responds, the foods you chose and the timing of those nutrients. 

Put the largest portions of your carbs during and after workouts

Your macro break down in this phase

Protein 30%
Carbs 45%
Fat 25%

This is a starting point split.

You may find adjustments are needed depending on how your body responds and what you like or don’t like to eat.

Things to expect and be aware of in the growth phase

> Frequently dose meals full of carbohydrates throughout the day to maximise insulin.
Put the largest portions of your carbs during and after workouts and one an evening meal.

I’ll come onto exactly what to eat in the specific post for this phase

> Use high amounts of fast-acting carbohydrates during and after workouts and for the evening meal.
We look to take advantage of white starches here.

Things like organic powdered banana, white rice flour and normal white rice.

Whilst carbs like sweet potato, oats and brown rice are good, they don’t deliver a big enough hit of insulin spiking that we want.

> Add 2 – 4g of essential amino acids and leucine to meals.
This will help with recovery and allow for more frequent workouts

> NO MISSING MEALS.
We want to be eating frequently throughout the day. Ideally 5 – 6 small-medium meals a day, on top of a shake for pre, intra and post.

I know initially this sounds intimidating, but once I’ve shown you how to do it, it’s actually relatively easy.

For example, we make one BIG breakfast and lunch and eat 50% of it at a time, that’s 4 meals right there.

1000 cals for men and 600 cals for women excess is a MUST.

Small caloric intake will not convince the body to grow.

Stick to the 80%/20% rule, 80% clean, healthy foods and 20% ‘anything’ foods.

Incorporating cardio

I’d like you to try and incorporate at least one day or one session of good quality aerobic cardio for a minimum of 40 minutes each week.

Two sessions would be great!

This is not a HIIT session, it’s playing in your aerobic zone of between 140 – 165 HR consistently for 40 minutes.

When to stop a growth phase

Eating correctly, you should be able to maintain a growth phase for at least 6 – 8 weeks.

What this time will depend on will be HOW you eat.

If you indulge too much or eat foods that are processed, then you will reduce this time as your insulin sensitivity will diminish quicker.

Always remember, you can’t bulk forever.

Once your progress stalls, continuing to do the same thing is silly.

Don’t be scared to switch phases when your body needs it.

You should always be either gaining muscle or losing fat. Never stalling.

These are the key signs that you need to switch from a growth phase to a reset phase:

  • You start to gain more fat. This becomes noticeable in the mirror. Look for the signs in the abs and face first, especially if you seem to be holding more water.
  • Your training doesn’t seem to be progressing as quickly from workout to workout
  • You have energy or mood swings throughout the day
  • Low morning energy
  • Sleep quality begins to suffer

Growth phase nutrition

These are the foods that are optimal for a growth phase: Proteins, Smart Fats, and Starches.

Proteins

  • Red meats are great due to their muscle-building amino acid complex. Go grass-fed.
  • Whitefish is another great source that you can have regularly.

Smart Fats

  • Omega 3’s from fish oil
  • MCT oil
  • Anabolic saturated fats and CLA from grass-fed butter
  • Monosaturated fats from nuts, olive oil, and avocado

Starches

  • Gluten-free grains (rice, quinoa, oats)
  • Root starches (potatoes, yams, yucca)
  • Minimally processed versions of: Gluten-free pasta, bread, flours, pancakes

Growth Phase FAQs

Q. How do I eat on a rest day?

Exactly the same minus Meal 2. You can combine meal 1 and meal 2 if you wish to make a big breakfast. Or keep them separate as 2 breakfasts.

Q. What is the easiest way to add and subtract calories

If you need to add more calories the easiest way to add and take away those additional calories is by adding them to the meal after your workout.

For me, I just increase or reduce rice flour and some yoghurt to my breakfast.

This keeps it simple and means you don’t have to change any other meals if you’ve batch cooked or have a good routine going on.

Q. How much fat will I gain?

A. Apply the 80/20 rule. 80% of the weight you are gaining should be lean body mass (muscle, glycogen and hydration).

20% you would expect to be fat gain. So if you gained 5 pounds in 1 month, you’d expect 1 pound of that to be fat, which we can easily shift in the reset phase.

These aren’t solid numbers as it all depends on your lifestyle and food choices.

Just make sure to be diligent in your reset phase and stick to the overall plan and smart food choices.

Q. How much weight should I gain?

A. During the growth phase, males should aim to gain 1% – 1.5% of their bodyweight a week and females 0.5% – 1% of their bodyweight a week.

As mentioned in the Intermediate Program, weigh yourself each morning as soon as you wake up and go to the toilet.

Record it in the Happy Scales App so you can see your constant moving average.

Q. How can I eat so many carbs?

A. Trying to eat that many whole potatoes or bowls of oats as your entire carb source is going to be tough.

At times, we will use powdered carbs that go down much easier in a shake.

Our two main sources for this will be organic rice flour and organic powdered banana.

Q. What about cheat meals?

A. During the growth phase, cheat meals like pizza and ice cream are allowed.

This is the time to enjoy more freedom as during the shorter reset phase we will be strict.

Be smart about it though, don’t go overboard.

The more sugar, cane syrup and high fructose corn syrup you consume, the shorter your growth phase will be.

These types of food have negative impacts on your metabolism and cause more fat storage and insulin resistance.

Q. How do I know if I’ve picked enough calories during the bulk?

A. If you are NOT gaining 1% – 1.5% of your bodyweight a week as a male and 0.5% – 1% of your bodyweight a week as a female, then you aren’t consuming enough calories, mainly in the form of carbs.

Add 100 calories extra a day and see how you go for a week. Repeat this process until you begin to gain weight.

*NOTE When shifting from the growth phase to the reset phase and vice versa, you can expect your bodyweight to shift dramatically by sometimes 3-4 pounds. This is normal.

Q. How do I know if I’ve picked too many calories during the bulk?

A. If you start accumulating a lot more fat after 4-5 days in the growth phase, especially around the love handle area, and your weight is jumping up on the scales more than 1.5% of your body weight (1% for females) a week.

Then this is a sign you are eating too many calories.

If you notice this happening, do 5 days on the reset phase and then return to the growth phase with 10% fewer overall calories.

Q. I’m struggling to eat the meal sizes. What should I do?

A. Keep it simple, keep the same size meals but eat them over two sittings.

I have a HUGE breakfast meal, I eat the first 50% of it, wait for 1hr or so then eat the second 50% of it.

Let’s get to it!

Coach Adam

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How To Use Carb Cycling To Build Muscle: Growth Phase

By Coach Adam  (aka TRX Traveller)

By Coach Adam (aka TRX Traveller)

Body Transformation Coach

I help people build lean muscle and transform their body from home with my Fitness Freedom Suspension Trainer and Resistance Band Programs, and Private 1-1 Coaching.

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