If you’re looking to build muscle you should know that exercise and diet go hand in hand. Exercise without the proper diet won’t lead you anywhere. Quite the contrary, exercising – especially lifting and doing strength training without a proper diet can lead to the loss of muscle.
Apart from that, if you don’t have adequate nutrition you will lack the energy to do workouts that build muscle. We need a lot of energy to boost our muscle growth. So, how do we get that energy?
That’s right. It all depends on the diet. But before you start looking for a diet that best suits you, let’s see why muscle is so important.
What is a muscle and why is it important?
Muscle is a contractile tissue that produces force and we should all strive to create a solid muscle foundation. Apart from creating a muscle foundation, we should also try to keep our muscle mass.
Muscle is important for strength, less chance of injury, less risk of chronic diseases and problems with pain later in life. In addition to that, more lean muscle means you can eat more calories and your fitness will improve.
It’s also important to know the difference between muscle mass and quality. For example, obese people have more have a large amount of muscle without having strength and composition. They have more muscle but that muscle is of poor quality due to their poor diet and lack of exercise.
This is why gaining muscle mass without a healthy diet and strength training is not a good idea. Focus on a healthy lifestyle, gain healthy weight and build better body composition and good quality muscle.
So, let’s discover what kind of diet you should have, in addition to regularly working out and doing strength training.
Let’s start with the first meal of the day – breakfast. If you’re looking to gain muscle mass the key is to start your day with a good breakfast. And not just any breakfast with a bowl of cereal and whatnot.
Quite the contrary, your breakfast should be packed with protein. You must refill your body with amino acids after the overnight fast. Amino acids are an important ingredient that helps our body build muscle.
Some of the foods that contain all the important stuff such as protein, amino acids are eggs, salmon, avocado, sweet potato, bacon, all kinds of nuts, and so on.
And if you want to go a step further, try adding energy shakes to your breakfast. That would mean that you’ll have two breakfasts – which is not a bad thing either. Drink a shake and then 60 minutes later eat your protein-packed breakfast.
It’s safe to say that if you’re looking to gain more muscle mass toast, bagels or cereal is no longer your ideal breakfast. What we can take from this is that breakfast is highly important if we want to have enough strength to build muscle.
Ditch the fast food and quick fixes
Fast food is the worst possible kind of food you should be eating if you’re looking to gain quality muscle. Instead, try eating whole foods that can be found in cooked meals.
Eating whole foods means eating meat, vegetables, seeds, nuts to name a few. All these foods contain nutrients important for the muscles. They provide muscles with a supply of amino acids and blood glucose.
Fast foods and quick fixes compared to whole foods are a big fat zero. They provide you with “empty” calories that don’t make you feel full. Additionally, fast food is high in sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, and eating too much of it can cause serious health problems.
This means that you should ditch fast food and start eating healthy whole foods because they will help you build muscle.
Eat muscle-building meats
Building lean muscle apart from hitting the gym regularly also includes eating foods high in protein. The protein can help you keep the strength when working out and it can also help you quickly repair all the muscle damage done during the workout sessions.
The question here is which foods are the best sources of protein? The answer is easy – meat. Getting enough protein is super easy with meat. Now, let’s see which meats are the best muscle-building meats.
Chicken is the easiest choice, obviously. It’s lean, versatile, and pretty cost-effective, so it’s no wonder that for many people it’s the first choice. There are also many ways to prepare chicken to keep all the nutritional benefits – it can be boiled, grilled, or baked.
Turkey is another meat that is in the same rank as chicken. It’s easy to prepare and if you avoid eating the skin, you can rest assured that you’ll get enough protein.
Venison and bison meats – both red types of meat – are a lean source of protein and are super effective ways of getting protein. Moreover, both of these types of meat are fat-free and low in cholesterol compared to chicken meat. Both venison and bison are rich in iron, and bison is also rich in selenium, and zinc.
All grass-fed beef is a highly concentrated source of nutrients and full of B12, B3, and B6 vitamins. The great thing about steak, for example, is that it’s slower to digest and it will keep protein synthesis elevated even hours after you ate it.
Supplements that help gain muscle
Eating a proper diet in combination with regular exercise can help you gain muscle and strength. However, it doesn’t work equally for everyone. Some people may have to up their game with dietary supplements.
Some of those supplements include protein supplements, creatine, beta-alanine, HMB, glutamine, and many more.
As we already concluded, getting enough protein is crucial for gaining muscle. In most cases, you can get enough protein from protein-rich foods, but some people still struggle to get it through food. This is where protein supplements come in handy.
There are different kinds of protein supplements but some of the best include whey, soy, and casein protein. If you aren’t getting enough protein in your regular diet, the best solution would be to start using protein supplements.
This by no means implies that you should stop eating protein-rich foods, just that you should add supplements to increase your protein intake.
Beta-Alanine is a supplement that can increase exercise performance and it may help increase muscle mass. Beta-hydroxy beta methyl butyrate or better known as HMB is a molecule that is important for reducing the breakdown of muscle protein. Our bodies produce it naturally, but when taking a supplement you can increase its levels and your muscles will benefit.
Glutamine is an amino acid found in our bodies that can help us endure intense exercise and training. You can significantly benefit from supplementing with glutamine if you aim to build muscle.
Consuming enough calories
Don’t be afraid of calories. We’ve all heard, at some point in our lives, that we should watch out for calories. The truth is getting the right amount of calories is crucial for muscle gain.
Your goal should be to increase lean mass and not gain body fat. Eating more calories than what you burn is necessary because it supplies energy to muscles when we do any sort of activity. The number of calories needed to gain muscle varies from person to person, but as a general guideline, try to consume 20 calories per pound of your body weight.
Calories can come from protein, carbs, and fat. The quality of calories also matters, so try to eat calories that come from higher-quality foods.
Fat and building muscle
It’s fat that supplies your muscle with energy. Thus eating fat is necessary for building lean muscle. However, don’t just eat any type of fat, try eating heart-healthy fats.
Heart-healthy fats can help you with muscle strength and with overall health. Healthy fats include various types of vegetable oils, fatty fish that contain omega-3 acids such as salmon, herring, trout, and sardines. Nuts and chia seeds are also good examples of foods that contain protein and omega-3.
Avocado is loaded with fats and that’s why it’s recommended to eat avocados for breakfast. They are a great source of fiber and are high in calories.
Another important ingredient on your list of foods that help muscle growth – carbohydrates. Unlike what you’ve probably heard, carbohydrates and protein go hand in hand when you’re trying to build muscle. They are not mutually exclusive.
We require energy to build muscles, we need the energy to endure workouts and training. So where do we get that energy? From carbs, most of the time.
Apart from fat, carbs are another source of energy for our bodies. In addition to giving us energy, carbs help regulate muscle glycogen repletion, they prevent muscle degradation and they help our muscles recover from exercise.
So, next time you hear that only the increase of protein will help muscle growth – don’t believe it!
When it comes to meal frequency, eating small and often is the key. Try eating small amounts of protein regularly throughout the day instead of higher amounts in two servings.
Synthesis of the protein is better when you have three regular meals plus snacks than just three large meals. This is because our bodies can absorb a certain amount of protein each hour.
In addition to that, eating more frequently will keep you satiated and you won’t have to reach for unhealthy snacks to keep you full. Eat plenty of healthy snacks throughout the day and don’t forget the pre and post-workout snacks, too.
Before bed supplements and snacks
30 minutes before you hit-the-hay try taking a supplement of casein. Casein is a slow-digesting protein that slowly releases amino acids and helps recovery and muscle breakdown. This is why casein should be taken before bed so that it can help us overnight. Apart from that, casein boost muscle growth and it has many other benefits.
There are other before-bed foods that can boost muscle growth. Those foods include eggs, fish and seafood, poultry, legumes, peas, tofu, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and so on. All of these foods can help your muscles rebuild and repair during the night.
Track your daily consumption of food
Planning your calorie intake can help you a lot on your muscle-building journey. Just like you need to know which foods you need to consume to boost your muscle growth, you also need to know when to eat and when to replenish.
For example, it’s recommended to eat a snack at least two to three hours before your workout. Eating right before the workout can result in a stomachache and other problems.
Pre-workout snacks are important because they give you the much-needed energy that you’ll easily burn off during the workout. This is where we come to the post-workout snacks as well. You’ll need to replenish the energy spent working out. Plus, your muscles will need rebuilding and repairing energy and nutrients, that’s why post-workout meals are highly important.
Also, don’t forget to factor in your daily calorie intake in both pre and post-workout meals!
If you’re having trouble keeping up with calories, food consumption, and other important things, think about installing an app that can help you keep track of your daily food consumption.
It’s important to know if you’re eating enough food and that the portions and meals are enough to boost the growth of muscle. It’s also quite significant to know which foods you’ve eaten and when.
As you can see, eating a proper diet and exercising go together. You can’t expect to build muscle with just exercise, you need to eat properly as well. Similarly, just eating to build muscle without exercise is a lost cause.
Building muscle means using up the energy you consumed through exercise, it means stressing and damaging muscle and letting it rebuild again.
Muscle building is a process that requires a good exercise program and a good and balanced diet. It also requires a lot of patience and tracking of calories!