Muscle mass is created as a combination of brutal workouts, heavy weights, set after set of pounding in the gym and most important – enough food to supply energy for your body as well as enough building blocks to make the muscles grow.
Putting together a muscle building nutrition plan is not a rocker science, in fact it’s pretty easy – at least on paper.
– First rule – you need to eat enough food at specific times of the day.
– Second rule – you need to eat the right kind of foods at certain times of the day.
Following just the first or the second rule is not enough. Just look at someone who has a difficulty gaining muscle mass. That person carefully selects the food he eats, but never eats enough of that food.
On the other end we have the guy that eats everything in sight in the pursuit of gaining muscle, until his belly becomes the largest “muscle group”.
To be able to compose your ideal muscle plan you need some smart planning and some experimenting. In the list below there are 9 “experiments” you should try on yourself in order to create your muscle building plan.
1. Eat more often
If you are not gaining muscle mass with your 2, 3 or even 4 meals a day, you simply need to eat more. It’s relatively easier to eat all your calories and macro nutrients if you eat 6 or even 7 smaller meals than 3 larger meals a day.
Some people are just not designed to eat large amounts of food in one sitting. Try this experiment if you can’t gain muscle mass eating your current number of meals a day.
2. Increase the amount of protein you are consuming
Proteins are composed of amino acids, and amino acids are the basic building blocks of muscle cells. In order to grow you need enough amino acids.
Usually the quantity of protein you need to consume varies between 1.0-1.2 grams per lb of weight (depending on your build and metabolism). So if you are a 200 lb athlete, you will need to eat about 200-250 grams of protein every day in order to build more muscle mass.
240 g of protein divided in 6 meals is 40 g of protein per meal or 200g of chicken breasts. The calculations are easy, but often, sticking to the plan and eating is the hard part, and without enough protein the results are always bad.
3. Consume lots of protein after your work out
Follow the rule of 1.0 – 1.2 g/lb of protein per day, but take your biggest dose of protein on one critical moment – after your workout. This is when your body needs protein the most.
After the workout the body starts the recovery process and releases different hormones. Your job is to provide the building materials to repair the damaged muscles.
4. Eat enough carbs
Carbohydrates in combination with protein create a specific hormonal state in the body, perfect for gaining muscle mass. They directly influence process in which amino acids are transported into muscle cells. They are also stored in the form of glycogen in the muscles, increasing them in size and weight.
Start with 2.5-3 grams/lb of carbohydrates a day. This means that a 200 lb athlete should eat 500-600 grams of carbs every day in order to increase his muscle mass. Try to restrict or cut your carbs in your last 2-3 meals of the day.
5. Consume more carbohydrates during the first meal of the day and right after your workout
If you are still not gaining weight, increase the carb intake during these 2 critical times for about 15-30g.
6. Control your fat intake
The great part of fats you eat should come from sources like fish, seeds, nuts, avocado, etc. These are healthy fats rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. However, don’t neglect the “unhealthy” fats.
You still need a certain amount of cholesterol for hormone production and muscle gain. So don’t cut red meat and egg yolks from your diet.
7. Eat dietary fiber
Fiber is a nutrient that is going to help you gain muscle rather indirectly. The role of fiber is to help with the digestion and absorption of foods. Consuming more fiber is especially important when we are on a high calorie diet.
Try eating about 4-5 portions of fibrous foods during the day. Good sources of fiber include vegetables, oats, beans, brown rice, berries, seeds and nuts.
8. Drink enough water
About 75% of our body is water. If your goal is to gain muscle, you need to be well hydrated, because muscles get bigger, heavier and stronger when they are loaded with water. Water also helps the digestion process. Try to drink about 3-5 liters of water a day when you are trying to gain mass.
9. Use supplements
Lots of people make one of the two supplement mistakes – they either count too much on them and don’t eat enough, or they don’t use them at all. When your diet is in check, the supplements can be that last 10%-15% of strength or size that you need to look great.
Using supplements such as protein powders, creatine, BCAA, glutamine and fish oil can make a dramatic change in your appearance in a few months. Just remember that supplements are supplements – an addition to your diet. They should not replace your food.
Here is an example of how your meals should look like during your muscle gaining phase:
1 cup of oats
4 whole eggs
120 grams of chicken breasts
50g of nuts
30g of fruits
200g of red meat
2 slices of brown bread
100g of steamed vegetables
Meal 4 (before the workout)
25g of whey protein
50g of carbs
Meal 5 (after the workout)
50-60g of whey protein
50g of simple carbs
200g of meat
a small potato or a cup of brown rice
25 grams of casein with water
So gaining muscle is not rocket science, but you have to be consistent, determined and able to eat sufficient quantity of calories and macro-nutrients. Like I said, all of this looks pretty simple on a piece of paper, but the real test starts as soon as you start eating.
As an addition to the muscle mass building diet, read about the 6 Supplements For Building Monstrous Muscle Mass.