We already know that a good workout routine will build strong & defined muscles. But what about nutrition - how exactly do I eat to build muscle? What should I cut down on? And the age-old question… where do I get my protein from?
In this article we’re breaking down your nutrition and teaching you how to eat for optimal muscle gains 👇🏼
#1 Eat enough calories 🍛
We all know that calories = fuel.
Not only are calories what fuel your day and workouts, but they also help build up your muscle tissue after you've done a workout. That’s why you need to make sure you’re eating enough if your goal is to build muscle. Aim to eat 200-500 calories above your calorie maintenance.
If you don't regularly eat enough, it's going to be harder for you to build muscle. Why? Let's compare it to building an extension to your house - in order to build the extension you need the extra materials for it. If not, you won't have anything to build with. The same goes for building muscle - if you don't eat the extra calories your muscles won't have any nutrients to build themselves up stronger with.
Your calorie maintenance depends on factors like your activity level, age, gender & current muscle mass.
For women, calorie maintenance is typically 1800 - 2300 cals. A moderate surplus will therefore be 2200 - 2700 calories.
For men calorie maintenance is typically around 2300 - 2800 cals. A moderate surplus will therefore be 2700 - 3300 calories.
How to do it:
The best way to know if you’re eating enough to build muscle is to track your calories, weight and strength progress.
Aim to eat 200-500 calories above your calorie maintenance and keep and eye on. Your weight should stay the same or go up slightly, and you should see improvements in your strength.
If you’re not seeing any progress in muscle or strength, up your food intake with another 100-200 cals.
Tip: When trying to build muscle, avoid being in a calorie deficit. Doing this for too long, your body will start searching for fuel on it’s own and therefore break down muscle- or fat tissue to use.
#2 Get quality protein in 🥜
You’ve heard it before. A high protein diet will give you all the nutrients and building blocks your body needs to build muscle. It will also help you feel full for longer and avoid big dips in sugar levels or energy.
Proteins will help repair muscle tissue after every workout and build them stronger for the next session. It's ideal that we get protein spread out throughout the day instead of it all in 1 or 2 meals. There's only so much protein our body can absorb in one sitting.
How to do it:
For each of your 3 main meals, aim to get in 15-30g of protein. This could for example be 180g tofu, 200g of cooked chickpeas, 2.5 eggs or 120g chicken or soy mince substitute.
💡 Tracking calories isn’t for everyone, nor is it something you have to do every day, but it can really help you understand any nutritional shortfalls you might have.
#3 Don’t forget carbs 🥯
As well as getting enough calories & protein, you also need to work enough carbs into your diet. They are what give you energy to have great workouts. A little extra carbs will allow you to squeeze in extra reps here and there, and therefore lead to better gains in the long run.
Great carb sources could be oats, brown rice, potatoes, wholegrain pasta or bread.
How to do it:
Aim to include healthy, whole grain carbs for at least 2 of your main meals. There are many great carb sources out there and many of them are kitchen staples you’ll always have on hand.
#4 Most importantly: Stay consistent 🙌🏼
One of the most important ingredients to build muscle is consistency.
Remember when we talked about setting realistic goals in part 1? It’s because it’s going to take time and commitment to achieve our fitness goals. But I promise, a few months of consistent and well thought-out workouts make it so so worthwhile.
Yes, there will be times where you'll miss a workout, you won’t get enough protein, or you’ll pick chocolate over chickpeas - that’s okay. Consistency allows for these imperfections. Just like 1 healthy day won’t give you results, neither will 1 unhealthy day ruin your progress.
Start your fitness journey to build lean muscle
Your nutrition puts all the hard work you do in the gym to good use in your body. What you put on your plate really determines how much and how quick you build muscle.
So here are my top tips for optimising your nutrition to build muscle:
Eat 200-500 calories above your maintenance
Aim for 15-30g of protein with every main meal
Include carbs for at least 2 of your main meals
Most importantly: be consistent with both training and nutrition.
Keeping on top of your workouts with a progressive training plan is just as important as the nutrition. My name is Sarah Louise, and I'm a personal trainer. I'm here to help you optimise both your nutrition & workouts so you can achieve healthy, realistic and incredible results!
Ready to make a change? 😊 Sign up for Online Coaching with me below👇🏼