"Sell yourself short on nutrition and you're selling yourself short on maximal physique development."
Proper dieting is essential for packing on slabs of muscle.
You could lift with the intensity of Arnold Schwarzenegger in your workouts and sleep like Rip Van Winkle, but that won't do you any good if you aren't eating properly.
Contrary to misconceptions I've seen out there, you don't have to eat all day or stuff your belly with food until it hurts.
Let's dive into 5 tips for creating a muscle-building diet.
1. Caloric Surplus
You need a caloric surplus to gain muscle.
You need a caloric surplus to gain muscle.
YOU NEED A CALORIC SURPLUS TO GAIN MUSCLE!!!!!!
There's just no getting around this unless you're brand new to lifting; even then, the gains would only last a few weeks. When you think about it though, it makes all the sense in the world though. Your body needs to take in more energy than it burns to build muscle, hence the caloric surplus.
Now, you don't have to eat like an animal; that's a huge misconception. The amount people like to throw around is a 500 calorie surplus; unless you've never lifted before and are in your first 6 months of weight lifting, this is too much. I tried this during my senior year of high school and ended up gaining as much fat as muscle.
Instead, aim for a 10% caloric surplus (someone burning 2000 calories a day should eat 2200 calories). This will keep you lean while gaining strength.
Keep in mind that you burn some calories while lifting (usually from 200 to 300 calories per hour), so that should factor into your calculation when determining the intake for lifting days vs. off days.
2. Proper Macronutrients
Regardless of your body type, carbs are not your enemy for gaining muscle. They're your friend, your partner; the Jesse Pinkman to your Walter White.
Fats also play a big role in muscle building; they help maintain proper levels of testosterone and other hormones, for example.
Here's how your caloric intake should be broken down:
Fats - 25%
Carbs - 55%
Protein - 20%
Depending on your build, I could understand leaning more in favor of fats than carbs. Some people respond better to one than the other. If you're trying to gain muscle, however, I would not go below 40% for your carbohydrates. Similarly, going below 20% fat can induce numerous health consequences outside of hypertrophy.
Protein, as I've mentioned before, doesn't need to be as high as most bodybuilders think; the bigger issue is making sure the protein is high quality..
3. Healthy Foods
You won't gain muscle from eating junk food and binge drinking constantly. Even if you're hitting your macronutrients and taking in a surplus, you need to be eating the right kinds of foods. Heavily processed foods, especially fast food, contain estrogenic materials that lower your testosterone. Less testosterone means less muscle gains.
In addition, you need to eat healthy foods for proper digestion. If your 3000 calorie diet is leaving you constipated, you're probably eating too few fibrous foods. A nice mix of vegetables and fruits will give you plenty of soluble fiber to keep your digestion clean.
Furthermore, failing to eat satiating foods will often lead to eating far over your 10% surplus. When's the last time you got full from eating candy? Halloween? Even on that holiday, you probably don't get full until you've had 2000+ calories worth of the stuff.
Here are some of my favorite healthy items for bulking:
- Fresh Bread
Eat these and other healthy foods to feel better and get bigger.
And you don't have to go crazy with it. Feel free to have sauces and other condiments that make the food taste great.
4. Drink Enough Fluids
Since muscles are literally made up of water, you need to drink plenty of fluids. When you wake up in the morning, have 16-24 ounces of water, tea, milk or coffee to get your fluids circulated (you can factor morning fruit into this amount as well). Most of the fluids you drink throughout the day should be water (filtered if you care about the planet; bottled if you're heartless).
Some people recommend as much as 8 glasses of 8 ounces of water throughout the day; I didn't need this much water until I had packed on over 25 pounds of solid muscle. If you're just starting to build muscle, you won't need this much unless you eat a lot of foods high in sodium (restaurant meals are notorious for this). By eating moderate amounts of sodium and including plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet, however, you might drink as little as 3 or 4 glasses of water during the day.
As far as juices are concerned, it really depends on your preference. One glass of juice during the day isn't going to screw up your metabolism; for some of you that have trouble gaining weight, it will help leap you over the hurdle.
As a rule of thumb, I would recommend drinking enough fluids so that you urinate every 2-3 hours. Less frequent than this isn't enough and more frequent than that would be just uncomfortable.
5. Supplement Well
The vast majority of supplements out there are useless. It doesn't matter if you shop at GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, or your local supermarket; most supplements are a waste.
That being said, some supplements are essential for packing on size:
You need an effective multivitamin. No, not for expensive piss like older people might think. The vitamins you need for ideal health are dispersed across so many foods that it would be inconvenient to try to get them solely from what you eat.
This is where a multivitamin comes into play.
Unfortunately, 100% DV usually isn't enough, especially for the B Vitamins and other minerals. In this case, I would avoid the supermarket and go straight to a GNC or something of that nature since supermarket brands hardly go above 100%.
Make sure your multi has Vitamin D in it. Due to schooling and office jobs, people don't get as much sun as they used to. The result is a deficiency in Vitamin D, which is produced when your body is exposed to sunlight.
To make up for this, supplement with Vitamin D daily. An IU of 500 or 1000 at your local store should do the job.
Joint Health Supplements
One of the biggest issues with resistance training is the degradation of your joints and ligaments. Though heavy lifting is often the culprit, light loads can be dangerous too (if you've heard of "tennis elbow" before, you know what I'm talking about).
Fish oil is one great supplement for improving your joint health. Also, krill oil can be just as effective. In fact, some supplements combine the two and develop a power packed shield for your bones.
I REALLY held off on this one for a while. I used a poor protein powder in my early days of lifting and it convinced me that all powders are useless. That's not the case.
For the majority of you, I would hold off on the protein powder until you NEED it to fit your macronutrients. Most of you would be better off by having eggs, meat & vegetables in your diet.
Truth be told though, now that I'm working full time, it's so convenient to just whip up a shake in the morning in place of my breakfast.
Also, use the powder shortly (within 1 hour is a good rule of thumb) after working out. Whey is a fast-acting protein that is rapidly absorbed by your body.
There you have it! 5 diet tips for increasing the poundage on the bar and your body.
Now put these tips to good use and eat like a beast!