Building muscle is one of or should be one of the main goals for a fitness routine. Even if your goal is to lose weight, you should always look to add muscle to your frame. Building muscle has its own health benefits that help with weight loss too, so it’s really important.
However, there is a certain way one needs to eat in order to gain muscle, it has it’s do’s and don’ts. A lot of people just think a high-protein diet is all that’s needed and that’s not true. A lot more goes into a muscle-building diet so it’s not that simple. You not only need to eat in order to gain muscle, but you also have to eat in order to retain the muscle you already have.
Benefits of Muscle Building
Apart from an aesthetic point of view, adding muscle to your frame does have its direct and indirect benefits. First of all, in order to gain muscle, you need a solid workout program. This workout regime needs to consist of intense exercise that will push your muscles to grow. When you take your body through such training, you are immediately at a lesser risk for cancer, heart disease, and many other illnesses.
Your immune system gets a boost from the training as well. Another good thing to come out of muscle training is fat loss. When you put on muscle, you start losing fat. Why does this happen? It’s because your muscles also burn calories at rest. Therefore, the more muscle you have, the greater your resting metabolism, and hence, the more calories you burn which leads to easier fat loss.
The training aspect of muscle building is great and all, but the real benefit comes from the nutritional aspect. In order to gain muscle, your nutrition needs to be on point. A well-balanced healthy diet not only helps you gain muscle but it improves your health in so many ways. Your brain, heart, immune system, bones, and so much more benefit from a well-rounded diet. Remember, it’s 80% diet and 20% training.
How to eat for Muscle Growth
Find out your daily caloric needs
Before you get started on anything, it’s important to know how many calories you need per day in order to maintain your current rate. There are many calculators online with which you can calculate your daily needs. There are a lot of factors that make everyone’s daily requirement a bit different. Factors like age, gender, activity levels, and weight have a big influence on daily needs.
Most good calculators ask for this information and provide a good estimate of how much you need to eat. It’s recommended you use trusted apps like MyFitnessPal to calculate your requirements. The MFP app is free, and it’s used by millions of users across the world, so it’s a pretty safe and accurate app which has a lot more benefits than just calculating your needs. More on that later.
Once you have your daily calories, these are the number of calories you need to consume in order to maintain your current weight. In order to build muscle, you will need to stay at a slight caloric surplus. So, this means that if your daily requirement was, say 2000 calories, you eat 2300-2500 daily. Don’t eat too much over your limit as the extra calories will get converted to fat instead of muscle.
Even if you want to lose weight, this strategy can work for you if you don’t have an excessive amount of body fat. All the fat will get shredded off and will get replaced by muscle giving you a lean and muscular look.
Pay close attention to your Macros
A lot of people take this for granted but counting your calories and macros is a huge part of staying on track with your fitness. Tracking calories provides that mental feeling of responsibility with which you make sure to stay within your limits and not overeat. You also need to track your calories in order to see if you hit that surplus mentioned above. Last but not least, you need to see if you are consistently hitting your macros because that is very important.
Here’s the Macro breakdown for a muscle building diet:
- 35% protein
- 15% fat
- 50% carbohydrates
There are a lot of carbs here, yes, but don’t panic; it’s part of the plan. There is a misconception that carbohydrates are bad for you. That is false. There is a case for simple carbs, that they’re not good for you, and that’s true to an extent. However, complex carbs exist and are much healthier than simple carbs and thus, they should be taken. Your body requires a lot of energy (carbs) in order to fuel muscle growth and recovery. Structure your diet around these macros for optimal results.
What to Eat
After you’ve figured out how much you need to eat in a day and how much of each macro you need daily, it finally comes down to the food itself. Nutrition is everything when it comes to muscle building. You can train for hours every day but until you get your nutrition right, you won’t see much results. Here’s the type of food you should eat:
- Dairy: Try to go for dairy products such as low-fat milk, cottage cheese, greek yogurt etc.
- Nuts and Seeds: These are really important as they contain essential healthy fats that your body requires in order to maintain proper function.
- Grains: These should comprise the bulk of your carbohydrate source. Whole grain or Whole Wheat foods such as brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, and spaghetti etc. are all welcome choices.
- Vegetables: These are essential as they contain lots of fiber which helps with digestion and keeps you full longer. Furthermore, vegetables contain essential vitamins that keep your body and immune system strong.
- Oil: Generally, oily foods are not recommended in healthy diets due to the high amount of unhealthy fats present in them. However, some oils such as Olive Oil and Avacado Oil contain healthy fats and are less in calories. Therefore, it might be a good idea to fry your favorite dish in (less amount of course) olive oil to retain taste and keep it healthy at the same time.
- Meat: Whether this is poultry, red meat, or fish, all of them are going to be your primary sources of protein. Lean meats such as poultry and fish are preferred. However, red meats are also recommended once or twice per week. These foods are high in protein and you’ll likely end up using them in order to meet your daily protein requirement.
What to Avoid
Just like how you need to focus on a few foods more than the others, here are some foods you absolutely need to avoid:
- Deep-fried foods: These contain a lot of oil and hence, a lot of fat. Since your daily fat requirement is only 15%, that’s not good. Moreover, these types of foods tend to promote inflammation. Therefore, stop with the fried chicken, french fries, fried burgers etc.
- Sugary Foods: Avoid foods that contain a lot of sugar or added sugar. They will only spike your blood sugar levels and make you crave even more. Sugary foods also contain a lot of unnecessary calories and all of that excess sugar gets converted into fat as well. There’s are also at a risk of developing diseases such as diabetes due to too much sugar, so be careful.
- Alcohol: This is also a big no-no when it comes to building muscle. One Alcoholic drink contains a lot of calories, and before you know it, you’ll have consumed so many calories just by a few drinks. Excess drinking also negatively impacts your ability to lose fat and build muscle, so it’s not worth it.