You’re probably aware of the fact that diet is an essential part of building muscle. In fact, bodybuilders like Ronnie Coleman and Arnold Schwarzenegger state that in the scale of importance, diet is 70%, training 20%, and resting 10% of the equation.
However, diet is often overlooked by some gym rats, who consider just going to the gym and pounding on the weights and machines will magically transform their bodies. Without the proper intake of protein and essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, this is simply not the case.
So to get you on the path to building muscle faster and more efficiently, this article is all about the essential diet tips you can implement straight away.
1. Protein Is The King
This fact cannot be overstated – protein is the building block of muscle tissue! When we train, the muscle doesn’t grow, it actually breaks down. The muscle re-building part happens after the workout, as we eat our post-workout meal (PWM) and relax. If you don’t consume enough protein, the muscle won’t have the necessary material to grow.
The recommended amount of protein for a physically active adult is 2 grams per pound of bodyweight. So if you weigh 170 pounds, your daily intake of protein should be about 85 grams. This is not an exact science, of course, since we don’t train with the same intensity every day, and we have to take into consideration rest days as well. But it’s a good estimate that we can base our consumption on.
Eating less protein than that might sustain our progress for some time, but why risk it? Protein is fairly cheap nowadays, both in whole food and supplement form.
2. The Big, Fat Steak
Supplements are great. Whey protein is especially convenient for getting in enough protein for the day. However, nothing can compare to real food. There is currently a trend in bodybuilding to go back to real food instead of relying on supplements. In fact, some supplement companies are starting to sell packaged ‘protein meals’ that consist of meat, vegetables and complex carbs, instead of focusing on sparkly labelled pills and powders.
Meat, and red meat in particular, is the best strength and muscle builder out there. A 3oz serving of steak has 25g of protein. A pork chop 3oz serving contains 26g of protein. Both are packed with creatine, which dilates the blood vessels in the muscle tissue and increases strength. Increased strength in return leads to better workouts and faster muscle growth.
Although we can get both protein and creatine in supplement form, real food is simply packed with minerals and other nutrients which are exempt from the supplement form. The calories should also be taken into consideration, as in order to build muscle, we need to eat a caloric surplus.
3. Eat More Meals
In a previous article about weight loss, I stated that intermittent fasting is the best dietary approach to lose fat. Intermittent fasting is based on skipping breakfast and eating 2-3 larger meals in late afternoon or evening. Well, the opposite is true when we’re trying to build muscle.
It’s hard to take in enough calories for muscle growth from two meals alone. The problem arises because we would have to eat too much in those two sittings. It would be unhealthy for our digestive system, and probably quite painful as well. There is a reason why all professional bodybuilders have a 5-6 meal eating schedule. It’s just more convenient for getting in lots of calories.
So my advice is to eat at least 5 meals in the day. The meals should be moderately sized, and have an even distribution of protein, fats and carbohydrates. A standard meal in this schedule would consist of a 2-3 oz. serving of chicken breast with rice and broccoli as a side dish. It’s hard to beat this combination both in terms of quality, price and practicality, as all of these foods can be easily prepared in the morning, and remain tasty throughout the day.
4. Use The Supps
Okay, I bashed the supplements a bit in the second tip. Please forgive me supp overlords for my sins. But hey, that doesn’t mean I condone using them at all, in fact you can read my in-depth article on natural pre-workout supplements here. I just encourage everyone to sort out their diet first, and then use these products for their correct purpose.
As the name says, supplements should be a SUPPLEMENTARY addition to diet, not the other way around. But the practicality and power of some products is undeniable.
First of all, protein powders are a very practical way to consume proteins. If you work all day on an oil rig, it’s probably hard to get those 6 chicken/rice/broccoli meals in. It’s much easier to down a few protein shakes. Whey protein for example is just a processed milk protein that doesn’t contain much calories. If you add some oats or fruit to it, it can replace virtually any meal, in terms of protein intake and nutrients.
Another great supplement that can help with muscle growth is creatine. Creatine is a non-essential amino acid found in red meat, and some creatine is produced by the human body itself. However, these amounts are miniscule compared to the ones you can get from supplements.
Creatine increases strength, endurance and energy, and through these mechanisms the training performance of the user. It also increases the utilization of protein by the muscle cells. This naturally impacts muscle growth in a positive way.
5. High Quality Carbs
Other than a large intake of protein, muscle building requires a lot of calories as well. To increase muscle it is necessary to be in a caloric surplus, meaning that you need to consume more calories than your body uses to maintain the current weight.
However, this should not be taken to extremes, as being in more than a 300-500 calorie surplus will lead to gaining fat as well. In order to generate lean muscle tissue, we should be at about 200-300 calories surplus, and the best way to achieve this caloric intake is through high quality carbohydrates.
Some examples of these are oats, rice, pasta corn, potato and wholewheat bread. These foods are not only inexpensive, but will also provide energy for your gruelling hypertrophy workouts.
There are plenty of muscle building diets online, and we’ll be adding more diets to this site in the near future. In order to see which ones work the best, see if they are implementing the strategies laid out in this article.
Frequent, moderately sized meals, high quality protein, and some supplementation in the form of protein powders and creatine are the fundamentals of creating epic and long term muscle gains.