Training is only half the equation when it comes to building muscle. In fact, if you are hitting the gym but not taking care of your diet, you are severely undermining your muscle building prospects! Even taking muscle building supplements can only partly make up for a crummy diet because you cannot build muscle without a steady supply of protein, carbs and other essential nutrients.
If you are serious about building muscle, putting some thought into what you eat will really pay off.
If you are serious about building muscle, you need to follow these nutritional rules…
Calories – you need lots of them! Calories provide you with energy not only for training but also for recovery. To calculate your daily calorie needs, multiply your weight in pounds by 15 – that’s how many calories you need per day. E.G. 200 lbs. x 15 = 3,000 calories. If you still aren’t gaining muscle, increase this by 10%.
Protein – protein is necessary for repairing and building muscle tissue and too little protein will significantly impair your progress. Chicken, fish, eggs, and beef are all good sources of protein as are dairy, nuts and beans. You need around one gram per pound of bodyweight so our example 200 lbs. lifter needs 200 grams of protein per day.
Protein contains four calories per gram so 200 grams of protein equals 800 calories.
Fat – although often vilified, fat is very important for your health and, especially, the production of anabolic or muscle building hormones. Consume around 0.4 grams per pound of bodyweight which gives our 200 lbs. example a fat intake of around 80 grams per day. Divide this equally between saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Fat contains nine calories per gram so 80 grams of fat equals 720 calories.
Carbohydrates – carbs give you energy and are your main sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber. The balance of your calorie intake should be made up from carbs. Good choices include wild rice, brown pasta, sweet and white potatoes, wholemeal bread, oats and other unprocessed foods.
Carbohydrates contain four calories per gram. After protein and fat calories have been subtracted, that leaves 1480 calories which equals 370 grams of carbs.
Remember to adjust these figures to match your bodyweight – you may need more or less than the examples above.
Breakfast Of Champions
While you sleep, your body is busy building muscle and repairing the damage caused by your workouts. That means, when you wake up, your energy reserves are all but used up and your body is crying out for fuel. That doesn’t mean a paltry bowl of sugar-laden breakfast cereal though – if you want to be big you need to breakfast big too!
Oatmeal and eggs are the muscle building breakfast of champions as, between them, they provide both carbs and protein. Throw in some bacon, a piece of fruit and plenty of water or green tea and you have all you need to start your day the right way.
If, however, you aren’t really a breakfast person or don’t have the time to put a big breakfast together before heading off to work, you could always make any number of muscle building shakes out of whey protein, natural yogurt, and soft fruit.
Lunching It Large
Most people have lunch at work or at school which means you will probably need to carry food with you if you want to have total control over what you eat. This means packing your lunch in advance. The best time to do this is the night before so you can spend a little bit of time making something nutritious and delicious. Sandwiches loaded with chicken and salad are a good choice and rice or pasta with tuna and vegetables are also great.
If your school or place of work provides meals, make sure that you make protein your nutritional cornerstone and fill up on meat, fish, chicken or eggs and then eat plenty of vegetables to make sure you get lots of essential vitamins and minerals.
As you’ll probably be tired when you get home from work or school, it’s all too easy to go for a takeout rather than cook a nutritious bodybuilding meal. This may well end up undoing all of your good work from earlier in the day. To avoid this, try to make your evening meal as quick and easy to prepare as possible.
A big salad with grilled chicken takes only a few minutes to prepare while a baked potato takes longer but can be cooking while you are doing other things such as preparing tomorrow’s lunch. A slow cooker or “crock pot” can be safely left working all day so that you come home to a meal that is hot and ready to eat you just need to put it on in the morning.
If you want to have a sweet after dinner, choose something that is healthy like fruit and/or natural yogurt and avoid eating too much ice cream, cake or candy which might taste nice but will do your waist (and teeth) no good at all.
While three good meals per day will help you build muscle, you’ll also need to eat a couple of nutritious snacks to ensure you are keeping your muscles supplied with essential nutrients. Snacks like cold, cooked chicken or turkey, hardboiled eggs, nuts and seeds, canned tuna, beef or turkey jerky, fruit, protein shakes and meal replacement bars make for ideal snacks. Needless to say, candy, chips and cookies do not!
Muscle Building Supplements
There are numerous, safe, muscle building supplements available that can enhance your bodybuilding efforts. Creatine, protein powder, amino acids and other such products can be combined into muscle building stacks or used individually as required.
Supplements will not make up for a bad diet or ineffective workout program but can certainly help give you an edge.
Protein powder makes it much easier to hit your daily protein quota while creatine will give you energy for better workouts while enhancing your recovery.
Remember, if you are serious about building muscle, you need to be serious about food too so plan your muscle building diet as carefully as you plan your training. That way you’ll get the best possible results.