Fitness expert and trainer Kris Gethin is here to help you pack on solid, lean muscle for a powerhouse body!
If putting on lean mass was easy, you'd see a lot more hulking people walking around. Putting on quality muscle requires consistency, dedication, and a lot of nutrient dense food. Working hard in the gym is not enough; you must also work hard in the kitchen. Meal planning and preparation is essential for forging a muscular physique. The old adage "you are what you eat", holds true when building lean muscle. To pack on serious muscle, you need to consume more calories than you burn throughout the day. Consuming healthy calories, eaten at the right frequency is also crucial.
The example meals below are based on a 3000 calories per day muscle building diet. You may need to adjust the amounts of foods to meet your individual caloric needs.
|1.5 cups uncooked rolled oats||19g||81g||7.5g||461|
|4 egg whites||14.4g||0g||0.2g||68|
|2 whole eggs||12.6g||0.8g||10g||147|
|3 tbsp almond butter||12g||9g||24g||292|
|2 pieces wheat bread||8g||46g||4g||260|
|1 large banana||1g||27g||0.4g||105|
|4oz lean meat||35g||0g||4g||186|
|2 cup cooked brown rice||10g||90g||3.6g||432|
|1 cup cooked broccoli||3g||11g||0.5g||55|
|0.5 tbsp olive oil||0g||0g||7g||60|
|12-13oz sweet potato||7g||75g||0.7g||324|
If you want to transform your physique, build lean muscle and design a sculpted body you've got to commit to your nutrition plan 100%. Since you're trying to build lean muscle mass, your main focus will be taking in more calories than you burn off over the course of the day. Having that small calorie surplus is vital, because your body needs the energy to build new lean muscle. We'll show you how to keep it healthy, so you stay lean as you shape and chisel your new physique!
Your new muscle building nutrition plan is going to be based on three things:
- The Right Fuel - whole foods and high quality protein sources
- Timing - eating 5-6 times a day
- Calorie Surplus - eating 300-500 calories above your caloric maintenance level
If you follow these three simple principles, we guarantee you will succeed. All the resources you need to build a fool-proof muscle building nutrition program can be found on Bodybuilding.com. By eating the right foods in 5-6 meals spaced throughout the day, it'll be easier to get in those extra calories through whole foods; you'll feed your muscles a constant stream of nutrients to boost lean muscle growth and reshape your body.
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Eating 5-6 Meals Throughout The Day Will
Help You Get The Extra Calories You Need.
We've built an example meal plan that you can use as a template for your meals. Our example meal plan won't necessarily meet your caloric needs, so the amounts of foods will be different for you depending on what you need. But the individual meals are designed with the best foods in the best ratio for gaining strong, lean muscle.
This is a suggested meal plan that you can follow every day if you want, but you can change up the foods to add variety or slowly cut calories/add calories depending on your results and how you feel. Tracking progress and adjusting your nutrition plan is a critical component to seeing results - your body will be changing and so will your dietary needs. All the information to help you adjust your meal plan can be found on this page.
Rule #1 Frequent and Consistent Meals
When it comes to packing on sculpted pounds of new muscle mass, you need to make sure that your body is primed for growth by giving it the fuel it needs throughout the day. This means that you'll be eating every 2-3 hours. It might sound scary at first, but it's the best way to take in the large amount of calories you need each day from healthy, whole foods.
For your best body, toss out the traditional notion of 3 meals a day. To build maximum mass, you'll be eating 5-6 quality meals throughout the day.
Constantly eating small, nutrient-rich meals will get your body primed for muscle growth and make it much easier to take in the calories you need. Eating frequently also ramps up your metabolism, which helps keep you lean while you're sculpting your new physique.
Don't Skip Meals
If you're the kind of person who skips breakfast or lunch, or both, and then eats a large dinner, that type of eating will not work for you on a muscle building meal-plan. If you feel hungry, eat something - and remember to make it the right foods that are described on this page.
Rule #2 Calorie Surplus
To add lean muscle mass, you need to be consuming more calories than you're burning - in other words, you need to stay at a caloric surplus ever day. It's difficult to pack in all of those muscle-building meals, but it's definitely possible.
To find out how many calories you need to gain muscle mass, you must first calculate your maintenance calories. Your maintenance calorie level is how many calories you need to consume to stay the same weight.
Put Calories to Work for You - The Muscle Building Ratio
Your meal plan for building muscle is going to be broken down into a specific calorie ratio: 55/25/20. You should get 55% of your calories from complex and fibrous carbohydrate sources (including vegetables and fruit), 25% from high quality protein sources, and 20% from natural and healthy fats.
Don't worry - we'll break this ratio down in terms of real foods when we talk about what foods you'll be eating for your muscle building meal plan.
By splitting your calories in the proper ratio between carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats you'll support muscle growth and development while fueling your body for maximum recovery and muscle gains.
Don't I need more protein than carbs to gain muscle? Actually no, as long as you are getting a constant stream of amino acids from the protein in your meals, your body doesn't need an excess amount of protein to grow, but it does need excess energy to make sure it never dips into your protein reserves.
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With The Proper Ratio Of Protein, Carbohydrates, And Fats
You'll Be Able To Maximize Your Recovery And Muscle Gain.
Rule #3 The Right Fuel - Foods and Portions
To sculpt the body of your dreams, you have to start putting high quality fuel in your body. Use the best fuel to operate at your optimal ability both in and outside of the gym! Transforming your body means putting 100% effort into each and every workout, and to fuel those workouts you need the best foods. Let's talk about macro and micronutrients.
Your macronutrients are the major players in your diet that you need to function properly, including carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Micronutrients are things like vitamins and minerals that are necessary for your overall health and wellness and are scattered throughout the foods we eat. Fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are great sources of micronutrients.
Foods for Building Muscle
Although Carbohydrates have a bad rap in today's society, they are actually your body's preferred energy source. That means you need carbs for energy throughout the day and to fuel your workouts. If you eat the right kind of carbs, you'll add toned muscle to your body without excess fat gain.
There are two types of carbs you want to focus on:
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Eating The Right Carbs Throughout The Day Will
Provide You With Energy And Fuel To Workout.
Fruits are not only tasty but full of vitamins and minerals that are essential for general health and wellness. But fruits are generally high in sugar and calories. The key to eating fruit on a muscle building diet is to eat them in moderation. Stick to fresh fruit instead of sugar-packed smoothies or canned fruit.
Protein is responsible for muscle tissue growth and repair. On your muscle building meal plan, it's important to keep your lean protein intake at the proper amount to support muscle growth, development and strength gains. Your goal should be to get about 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight as a minimum.
You'll be eating high quality protein sources on your muscle building nutrition program. Things like chicken, lean turkey, egg whites, whole eggs, soy products, tilapia or other whitefish are great sources.
Protein supplements - protein powders, protein bars, ready-to-drink shakes and meal replacements can be easy, convenient additions to your daily protein intake. Remember though, supplements should be additions to a diet of whole, unprocessed, lean foods.
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You Should Be Eating High Quality Protein
Sources When Attempting To Build Muscle.
Not all fats are created equal, and to sculpt a new body with lean muscle you need healthy fat in your diet. Healthy fats and essential fatty acids like Omega 3s found in cold water fish, flax seed, and the fats found in olive oil and avocado play a major role in hormone production, skin tone, and brain function. Fats will help keep your energy levels constant and supply the body with essential nutrients. Make sure you don't overdo fats as they are calorie dense, but small to moderate amounts added to your meals will be very beneficial to your muscle building nutrition plan.
Essential Fatty Acid or Omega 3 supplements - fish oil capsules, flax seed oil capsules, and omega 3 capsules are becoming increasingly popular supplements to help maintain healthy levels of essential fatty acids. If you don't have a problem eating foods like fish, seeds, nuts and avocado you shouldn't have a problem getting healthy fats from whole foods. But EFA and Omega 3 supplements are a great addition to your diet for additional support.
A Note On "Bad Fats"
If there are good fats then what are "bad fats?" Bad fats are fats that, if taken in high amounts, may cause health problems. Stay away from foods high in saturated fats that are found in animal products and some plant oils (coconut and palm oil); choose low fat or non-fat dairy products and cut visible fat from your meat. Trans fats and hydrogenated oils are chemically produced to help increase the shelf life of processed foods like candy bars, margarine, fast food, and many packaged foods - stay far away from trans fats.
"Wait, I'm A Vegetarian Or Vegan So How Can I Follow The Plan?"
If you don't eat meat or animal products, you can still transform your body and add lean muscle mass. Your meal plan will require some creativity to make sure you get a high quality source of protein with every meal. If you eat dairy products then low fat or fat free cottage cheese and fat free yogurt are great options to help boost your protein intake.
Other vegetarian options include soy products, which are sold in most big chain grocery stores and are often convenient sources of protein. And you may also want to try "fake meat" products, which are made from plant proteins like soy, mushroom and more, but these products are flavored and formed into meat-like substitutes like fake chicken patties, fake burger patties, and even meatless taco meat. These products can help make meals convenient and tasty, but always read nutrition labels to avoid foods that are high in sodium, high fructose corn syrup, or saturated fats and hydrogenated oils.
Check out the list of fitness friendly foods on this page to see options for mixing and matching to create meals. Many vegetarian and vegan diets combine foods like beans and brown rice or natural nut butters and wheat bread to create filling, nutritious meals. Remember to follow the basic principles of a muscle building nutrition plan: eat 5-6 small meals a day, choose whole foods, and maintain a slight calorie surplus to build muscle.
What should I drink on this diet?
It might go without saying, but you need to drink lots of water throughout the day. If you're not sufficiently hydrated, you can interrupt important muscle building processes, plus your health and performance can suffer. About a gallon of water throughout the day is perfect. Just because you are on a calorie surplus diet doesn't mean you can drink ice-cream shakes, sugary juices, and whole chocolate milk whenever and however much you want to. The key is moderation. Read nutrition labels and try to stay in your calorie range every day.
Your portion sizes will mostly go along with how many calories you want to take in every day. But if you think it sounds like a lot of work to measure your foods, don't worry! There's an easy trick to keeping yourself on track with foods. For every meal you should have:
- A palm-size portion of protein
- Two palm-size portions of complex carbohydrates
Add in a few servings of healthy fats in 2 or 3 meals throughout the day. You can measure this easily by putting 1 teaspoon of flax seed oil or olive oil in 2 of your meals and throw in some natural peanut or almond butter as a snack! Take in 1 or 2 servings of fruit per day, and remember to get plenty of vegetables! Vegetables won't make much of an impact on your diet but they supply healthy vitamins, minerals and fiber!
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A Quick And Easy Way To Ensure Your Getting The Right
Amount Of Food Is Compare It To The Size Of Your Hand.
Foods To Avoid
Avoid refined "white" carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, cakes, cookies, pastries or sweets that are high in calories and low in nutrients.
Stay away from most packaged and processed foods, fast food, and microwaveable meals. These foods are packed with preservatives and bad fats that will ruin your fitness goal.
Avoid soda and high sugar fruit juices!
If you're of legal age, drink alcohol in moderation or not at all. Alcoholic drinks contain empty calories, usually all the calories come from sugars. But not all alcoholic drinks contain the same ingredients or the same amount of sugars. Stay away from mixed drinks that contain sugary additives like juices or are heavy in cream. You can make better choices like red wine or a mixed drink with soda water and lime - having a drink or two on a special occasion is fine but try to alternate water between drinks.
Note On Eating At Restaurants
It can be tough to eat well when you go out with friends, forget your meals at home, or when you suddenly realize that it's feeding time without a healthy snack nearby.
If you end up stuck without food or go out to eat, just make smart ordering choices. Grab a grilled chicken sandwich without the mayo, grilled chicken breast, steamed veggies or a baked potato. Avoid fried foods, processed or "white" carbohydrates, and creamy or cheese-based sauces. Get your salad dressing on the side. Also skip the sugar-laden soda and for a drink just grab water. Asking for a wedge of lemon is a great way to add some flavor to a boring glass of water.
Another trick is to split your meal with someone or just box half the meal and enjoy it later. These simple rules will help you have fun without ruining your hard work.
Rule #4 Tools And Meal Preparation
The way you cook your food will have an impact on how many calories you're eating. Always choose to grill, steam or bake your food over frying it. If you're worried about foods sticking, use a non-stick spray instead of liquid oil. Spices, herbs and hot sauces can add a lot of taste with zero calories, but putting butter, cheese or cream into your meals will up your chances of gaining fat with your new muscle mass. Always read the nutrition labels on any condiments you like to use, and cook with olive oil when necessary.
To eat every few hours, you'll need to be prepared. You'll probably want to invest in the following:
- A small cooler or lunch box
- Plastic storage containers in different sizes for meals and snacks
- Ice packs
- A shaker bottle to mix protein shakes
- A water bottle that holds at least 36oz of water
Control your environment. From here on out, you'll be preparing meals ahead of time. Making time in your daily routine to prepare meals for the day will keep stress away and help you achieve your dream body.
Choose one day or two days a week to cook all your meals. For example, on Sunday evening, cook up a huge batch of chicken, fish, brown rice, and veggies. Separate all your meals out into correct portions in individual storage containers. You can keep half of your meals in the fridge and half in the freezer until Wednesday. You can easily cook sweet potatoes and oatmeal in a microwave for convenience. With a little bit of time management and preparation, you'll be able to fully commit to your muscle building nutrition program.
Keep yourself on the right path by loading your work refrigerator or desk with portable fuel like home-made trail mix, beef jerky, ready to drink protein shakes, protein powder, and protein bars from Bodybuilding.com. Having these meals on hand will prevent you from loading up on office junk food, vending machine meals, or last-minute fast-food solutions.
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Preparing Your Food Ahead Of Time And Keeping
Healthy Snacks On Hand Will Keep You On Track.
Rule #5 Pre And Post Workout Nutrition
On days when you're in the gym, you'll need to pay added attention to two specific meals: pre and post workout. Around your workouts, you need the right fuel to get results. About 1-1.5 hours before you lift, you need to have a meal that contains complex carbohydrates and a lean source of protein. This will give you sustained energy to get through intense training sessions.
If you don't have time to eat a whole meal, make yourself a protein shake with oats. This will be the perfect combo to fuel your body to hit the weights hard, and can easily be taken with you to work for convenience. Otherwise, have a shake with yogurt, a high-protein sandwich, or something like chicken and brown rice. This will provide you with the fuel you need to blast through your workout and kick your body into muscle-building mode.
Immediately after your workout your body will need extra nutrients to start repair and recovery. A protein shake and a carbohydrate, like whey protein and a fast digesting carbohydrate powder, is the fastest way to kick-start muscle repair and replenish used energy.
Pros And Cons Of Dirty Bulking
What is "dirty bulking?" First, the word bulking means you're trying to put on muscle. When the words dirty and bulking are put together it means eating mountains of unhealthy, fatty, processed foods to put on muscle - think fast food for lunch every day, ice cream and brownies for desert every night. If you're training with high intensity, you will put on muscle. But you will also put on a lot of fat at the same time.
The "Cons," or negative consequences, of dirty bulking are fat gain, poor overall general health, unstable energy levels, and poor conditioning. Are you wondering how there could be positives?
There aren't positives to a completely unhealthy diet, but the positive of being on a muscle building diet rather than a fat loss diet is that you don't have to be as strict with your meal plan. If you're one of the few who has a tremendously difficult time adding weight of any kind - be it muscle or fat - then you might be a hardgainer. To add lean muscle, you have to eat a huge amount of calories, so, if you don't mind adding a little more fat on with your muscle, you can eat traditional "cheat foods" more often.
For the rest of us, trying to put on muscle still means eating clean most of the time. But if you want to indulge once a week in a special desert, a delicious burger, a moderate portion of your favorite comfort food, or something similar, it won't ruin your muscle building goals. Just make sure it isn't over 600-700 calories and that you still practice moderation.
But if you eat everything in sight, screaming "I'm bulking!" and you don't train properly - then yes, sadly, you will turn into the tubby buddy. To make sure those extra calories are sculpting pure muscle, check your progress on the scale, in the mirror, or by having your body fat to lean muscle mass ratio measured through caliper testing.
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On A Muscle Building Diet You Can Be Less Strict In What You Eat,
But It Doesn't Give You Free Reign To Eat Whatever You Want.
If you don't feel like eating the same foods every day of the week, then here's where you can get creative while staying responsible to your fitness goals. Check out the list of fitness-friendly foods we've put together for you to mix and match. Apply the same rules you would to your normal meals, but you can use this list to pick different high quality protein sources, complex carbs, vegetables, and fruits, and condiments that won't ruin your progress.
Your muscle building nutrition plan can be full of delicious, muscle-friendly foods by simply exploring all your food options!
Keeping your routine up to par is essential, but be aware that you will always have to make minor adjustments when trying to add toned muscle to your body. Track your progress to stay motivated and maintain your pace on the road to results.
Quite simply, if you aren't gaining weight, then eat more food. Instead of adding an additional meal, try adding a little bit of food to each meal throughout the day. Extra protein, olive oil, or almonds with a few meals will bump up your calories and push that scale in the right direction.
The best way to make sure you are on the path for muscle gains is to write down your diet. Keep a journal of your entire transformation. In this journal record your diet, workouts, and thoughts day by day. But remember, when you are adding muscle mass you will add a bit of fat to your body, period. Once you get to the size you want, then you can worry about trimming off the fat to show your six pack abs.
On the same note, if you're adding weight in the wrong spot, that means you need to adjust where you're getting your calories from. If you start to see weight on your stomach, then reduce your carbs and bump up protein as a replacement. Protein is extremely hard to convert to fat, so it will be a great adjustment.
Achieve Success: Things To Remember
- Aim to eat a high quality protein source and complex carbohydrate with each meal
- Keep protein-filled snacks with you for quick meals on the go
- Have 5-6 small meals (or 3 meals and 3 snacks) every single day, eating every 2-3 hours
- Add a moderate amount of healthy fat to your meals like natural peanut butter, nuts, olive oil, flaxseed oil, or avocado
- Avoid cooking your food with butter, vegetable oil, cream or creamy sauces. Stick to grilling, baking, and steaming your foods - stay away from fat-filled toppings, dressings and sauces!
- Eliminate alcohol consumption
- Create your favorite protein shake to drink after your workout session
- Drink at least eight glasses of water a day, which includes herbal teas, and low-calorie drink mixes such as Crystal Light