A quality diet that is conducive to building muscle and strength is often the most neglected part of any weight training regime.
Often forgotten, nutrition is one half of the muscle building equation that will ensure complete success.
I’ll be honest with you, building quality muscle mass requires the right nutrition. More importantly, it requires the right knowledge and information – This is the key.
Make not mistake, nutrition is an essential part of any fitness program and if you want to achieve any type of success, you have to get it down to a science.
To build muscle, you need to consume high powered calories from quality protein, carbohydrate, and fat sources.
How many calories do you need to build muscle and strength?
The simple answer is this:
“You need to consume more total calories in your daily diet than your body uses each day”
It is very important to understand that the human body is constantly working, using and storing energy day and night.
It is also very important to understand that in order to keep the machine rolling, you need to know what and how much to feed it. This is the single most important element in the muscle building process.
You need to feed the correct balance of calories, protein, carbohydrates and fat that is best for your body type. Complete nutrition is the key . If you can find this key, I’ll guarantee you that your efforts will sky rocket.
Complete nutrition leads to optimal nutrition. Over supplementation of certain nutrients will lead to imbalances in your overall nutrition plan and can be more detrimental to your weight training program and more importantly, your health. It’s important to understand that a well balanced diet, that’s conducive to building muscle is always the best choice.
See our unique macronutrient intake calculator to figure out how many calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat you need on a daily basis to gain or lose weight. No need to try and figure anything out, it’s all done automatically!
Prepare a well balanced diet that is rich in quality calories. Most people who start out looking to build muscle and gain strength, usually overlook the importance of a well balanced diet. Nutrition can be very confusing, especially if you have absolutely no idea where to begin.
The sooner you understand that you need an optimal diet, the sooner you’ll achieve your goals and objectives
So, how so you put a solid nutritional plan in place? Well, the first thing you need to understand is that you need a starting point – Very important. The starting point is what you will base all your nutritional information on.
On this page, I’m going to ouline to you how to put together a true, muscle building diet that will get you on the road to muscle growth.
Firtsly, I’m going to quickly outline what each of the macronurtients does and how it affects your body. Macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that you eat each and every day. This is very important because you need to understand what it is your putting into your body and why. Secondly, we’re going to calculate a sample diet and meal plan that shows you how much calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fats you need in order to grow.
Ok, let’s build your optimal diet and nutritional plan to get you on the road to building muscle.
Protein builds muscle. Without an adequate supply of protein, your body will not support any kind of muscle growth. If you supply your body with the optimum amount of protein, you ensure optimal growth, it’s as simple as that.
After all, you want to build muscle and to do that, you need a steady supply of high quality protein. You must include an optimal amount of protein in your weight lifting diet in order to build and sustain muscle growth.
So how much protein should you include in your diet for maximum performance and muscle gain? Each of us have very different body types and the amount of protein will differ from individual to individual.
Protein intake will also depend on the amount of activity involved and how frequently you do it.
Your diet should be comprised of 20% to 30% protein. That roughly translates to .8 to 1.3 grams of protein per pound of body weight. If you weight 145 pounds, your daily protein intake should be anywhere from 102 grams to 189 grams of protein per day.
You will have to do a bit of experimenting at the beginning to find out your optimal protein intake.
I suggest you eat 6 times a day spread out over 2 to 3 hour intervals. This way, you are constantly feeding your body the nutrients it needs. For example, if you are consuming 145 grams of protein per day, each meal will have 145/6 = 24 grams of protein per meal.
Here is a partial list of high quality protein sources:
For a list of the different kinds of proteins and their sources, click here to visit Building Muscle101’s high protein foods page
To find out how protein builds muscle, please click here.
If you want to build muscle, your going to have to take in a lot of quality, complex carbohydrates. No question about it. You are going to have to fuel your body to handle heavy weight lifting.
You must include an optimal amount of carbohydrates in your nutritional plan in order to fuel heavy weight training sessions.
Carbohydrates are a very important source of fuel for the muscles as well as the leading source of energy for your body. When you have a hard workout, your body draws on carbohydrates, which is stored as glycogen in the muscles.
Glycogen is the product of glucose which comes from the breakdown of carbohydrates after the digestion of food. Glycogen is stored in the liver and muscle.
During a long intense weight lifting session, you can easily deplete your glycogen reserves. When your muscles cannot get enough glycogen, fatigue sets in and your body begins to lose endurance and performance drastically reduces.
I’m sure all of you have experienced this drastic drop in strength and endurance at one time or another during a long intense weight lifting session.
However, there is a way to delay the onset of muscle fatigue. By taking enough carbohydrates each day, you are ensuring that the amount of glycogen stored in the muscles is being constantly replenished.
Every meal must have sufficient carbohydrates to sustain your hard intense workouts. I like to think of my muscle cells as mini fuel tanks. If you want to keep going hard, you are going to have to keep the fuel tanks filled with top notch fuel. Always include high quality carbohydrates in your nutritional plan.
Your diet should consist of 55% to 65% carbohydrates.
What if you don’t get enough carbohydrates? Your body will resort to other fuel sources such as protein. As active weight trainers looking to build lean hard muscle mass, we never, ever want this. We don’t want our own bodies to start canabalising it’s own muscle tissue.
Protein is a second rate energy source. Protein’s primary job is to build muscle, not fuel it so you definitely don’t want this, you want carbodyrates to fuel your muscle building sessions.
Therefore, keep your body filled with grade A fuel to support and maximize your hard, intense, muscle building workouts.
For additional information on how carbohydrates help build muscle, please click here.
The REAL Secret To Building Huge Muscles! Carbohydrates And Protein Together In Your Weight Lifting Diet
I strongly suggest that after your workouts, you ingest carbohydrates with protein. Why carbohydrates and protein? When carbohydrates is taken with protein, there’s a blast of insulin. Insulin kicks the body’s glycogen making machine into high gear.
Glycogen is considered the principal storage form of glucose and is found mainly in liver and muscle.
Glucose supplies the bodies active tissues with energy. Therefore, insulin will speed up the movement of glucose and amino acids into cells which is what you definitely want. Think of this process as a muscle delivery business.
Insulin is the name of the company and they deliver energy and muscle builders to your customers which are your muscle cells. The most effective hours of operation are right after your workouts and delivery is very fast, with the proper vehicles in place. The most effective vehicles are are fast acting carbohydrates sources such as simple carbs and fast acting protein sources such as whey isolate.
Always remember this – The sooner you get the proper amount of nutrients into your body after a workout, the faster you can start to build muscle.
Also, recent research has shown that ingesting a protein/carbohydrate supplement after exercise triggers the release of growth hormone. You simply cannot ignore the muscle building effects of a potent carbodyrate and protein drink after your workouts. Remember – You need fast acting carbohydrates with this drink, not just protein.
Always consume a power drink that is rich in protein and carbohydrates after your workouts.
Try using the following drink for your post workout meal:
One Day Muscle Mass Menu
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Includes: 590 calories, 45 grams of protein, 93 grams of carbohydrates, and 6 grams of fat.
Remember to adjust the ingredients to match that of your own nutritional needs and to follow up with a full muscle building meal 1 to 2 hours afterwards.
For more great protein, smoothie recipes, click here.
Here is a partial list of quality carbohydrates:
Over the years, we’ve all heard how bad fats are for your diet and body. I hear it everyday, “If you want to be healty you need a low fat this and a low fat that”. Despite what we all hear, fat is not the enemy – It’s the way that fats have been used that makes it our enemy.
In order to build maximum muscle and be in a healty state we need fat, there is not question about it. We need fat in our daily diets to provide all sorts of normal body functions and without fats, we’d all be dead. The trick is to keep fats in balace with the rest of our intake of nutrients.
You see, in order for your diet to be effective, you need a certain level of fat. There are numerous vital roles that fats play in your muscle building diet. Fat provides your body with:
Of course, unnatural occuring fats such as trans fats are very, very bad and you should stay away from these fats at all costs. These fats are more plastic in nature than foods so stay awar from these bad boys. Naturally occuring fats are what you should be aiming for. Fats coming from natural sources are the ones you should be consuming EI: polyunstaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. I suggest you keep your fat intake to 15% to 25% of your diet. You don’t want to cut fat out of your weight lifting diet.
If you slash fat or cut fat out all together, you risk an essential fat deficiency. When this happens, the body has trouble absorbing the fat soluble vitamins A, E, D, and K. Not good.
This will jeopardize the health of cell membranes because low fat diets are low in vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps maintain and protect cell membranes. Very important.
Get rid of all vegetable oils and start using olive oil for all your cooking. For more vitamin information, please click here to go vitamins and minerals section of building muscle 101.
A quality diet will consist of 20% to 30% protein, 55% to 65% carbohydrates and 15% to 25% fat. It should look something like this:
Just remember that everyone is different and you will have to do a little experimenting to find your optimal amount of nutrients to include in your diet. Different people have different goals and therefore, different eating habits.
If you are gaining weight, think about putting on ½ to 1 pound of body weight per 100 pounds of body weight each week for two to three weeks.
After 5 weeks, gain an average of ½ pound of body weight per 100 pounds of body weight each week. You will need to monitor your progress and make any adjustments. If you have trouble gaining, add an additional 300 to 500 calories per day to your diet. You may need more depending on your metabolism. If you have a super high metabolism, you may need an extra 500 to 1,000 calories per day more.
Just remember that you will need to experiment a little to find out your optimal caloric intake. Everyone is different and will need different nutritional needs.
The thinking is quite simple. Hard, heavy and smart training followed by rest and consuming quality calories in the form of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Remember that Protein, carbohydrates, and fat need to be structured in a balanced combination to support optimal muscle growth while maintaining overall good health.
Also remember to record any changes to your diet in your diet log.
Remember the following points when putting together a balanced diet.
First, determine the amount of calories you need in order to achieve your goals. There are a number of ways you can do this (or use our calorie calculator here). Here are three simple ways to determine your caloric intake for your diet.
Multiply your bodyweight by 17
The easiest way to determine your base caloric intake is to multiply your bodyweight by 17. For example, if you weight 165 pounds, multipy 165 by 17 and you get a base caloric intake of 2,805. This will be your starting caloric intake to start your program.
This is a quick way to find your base caloric intake but remember that it is not 100% accurate.
Metabolic Rate Method
This method is also a relatively easy way to figure out your caloric intake. More accurate than the first method.
Finding your base daily caloric intake
#1 – Bodyweight Needs
1 x body weight (kg) x 24 =
.9 x body weight (kg) x 24 =
*1 Kg = 2.2 lbs
For example, Let’s say you weight 145 pounds, your base metabolic rate is 1 x 145 lbs/2.2 x 24 = 1581
#2 The Body Weight Multiplier
Multiply results from step one by the coefficient under the multiplier which corresponds to your body fat level. That is, multiply the above figure with the figure beside your body fat percentage.
Men 10 to 14%,
Women 14 to 18% Mulitplier= 1.0
Men 14 to 20%,
Women 18 to 28% Multiplier= .95
Men 20 to 28%,
Women 28 to 38% Multiplier= .90
Men over 28%,
Women over 38% Multiplier= .85
Base metabolic rate x multiplier = multiplier coefficient
For example, let’s say that you weight 145 pounds and you have a body fat percentage of 10%. The equation is as follows: 1581 x 1.0 = 1581
#3 Add in Physical Activity
The above steps calculated your base metabolic rate. Now, we will factor in physical activity to get a more accurate picture of your caloric expenditure. Find the best descriptions that will apply to your current life style.
Daily Activity Ranges
1.30 (130%) = sitting, talking, light walking
1.55 (155%) = light work, walking
1.55 (155%) = light work, walking
1.66 (166%) = Moderate, light jogging, swimming or Building-muscle101 beginner Program
1.80 (180%) = Heavy, hockey, football or Building-muscle101 advanced program
2.00 (200%) = Very heavy, two or more hours of intense weight training per day
Daily activity range x multiplier coefficient = daily base caloric intake
Take the results from step two and times the multiplier for which your body fat percentage corresponds to. This equation will give your you base calorie intake for your activity level.
For example, let’s say you weight 145 pounds, have a body fat percentage of 10% and you are quite active including weight training, your equationis as follows:
1.80 x 1581 = 2845 calories per day
In order for you to maintain your current bodyweight, you will need 2845 calories per day.
This method is a little more detailed but it is fairly accurate. You will need to find out your body fat percentage for this one. See the methods mentioned below.
Keep a written record of everything you are eating and take an average at the end of the week. Add up all of your daily calories and divide it by 7 (days in a week).
Once you find out how much calories you consume on a daily basis, determine how many more additional calories you need to achieve your goals. You may have to add more calories depending how active you are.
Remember that in order to gain one pound of body weight per week, you need an additional 3,500 calories per week. That means you need to add 500 extra calories per day to your nutritional plan.
I suggest putting on ½ to 1 pound of body weight per 100 pounds of body weight each week for two to three weeks. After 5 weeks, gain an average of ½ to 1 pound of body weight per 100 pounds of body weight each week.
You will need to monitor your progress and make any adjustments as needed. If you have trouble gaining, add an additional 300 to 500 calories a day to your diet. If you have a super high metabolism, you may need an additional 500 to 1,000 calories per day.
A word of caution. You don’t want to gain weight too fast because you will be gaining fat as opposed to muscle. Muscle takes time to build and with fat, it takes not time at all. Remember to monitor your diet on a regular basis and keep your body composition in check at all times.
Ideally, healthy ranges of body fat are 18 to 25 percent for women and 15 to 20 percent for men.
There are numerous methods to determine your body fat levels but by far the easiest and one of the most accurate ways is to use the Accu-Measure Body Fat Caliper. You simply take three easy measurements on your abdomen in the comfort of your own room and presto, you have your body fat percentage. It doesn’t take any more than 2 minutes.
With the Accu-Measure body fat calipers, you don’t need the assistance of other people and you don’t have to take 10 different measurements on 10 different parts of your body. The measurement is very accurate
If on the other hand you don’t want to use body fat calipers, you can use a quick and easy manual measurement. Although the numbers will not be as accurate as using the Accu-Measure body fat calipers. You will need a weight scale and measuring tape for this one.
1. Lean body weight = 94.42 + 1.082 (body weight) – 4.15 (waist in inches)
2. Body fat percentage = body weight – lean body weight x 100/body weight
1. Lean body weight = 8.987 + .732 (weight in kilograms) + 3.786 (wrist diameter in centimetres) + .434 (forearm circumference in centimetres)
2. Body fat percentage = body weight – lean body weight x 100/body weight
Remember to record your body weight, body fat and lean body mass figures. Always remember to monitor these three indicators on a weekly or bi weekly basis.
As an example, let’s say you want to add another 10 pounds of body weight. You currently weight 145 pounds and consume 2,500 calories per day.
You will need to add an additional 500 calories per day to gain an additional pound of body weight per week. Your new daily caloric intake will be 3,000 calories per day.
You’ve identified that you will be eating 6 times a day. Therefore, you will need 3,000 / 6 = 500 calories per meal.
An ideal diet for gaining weight will contain 20% to 30% protein. I recommend 25% of your diet be made up of protein. Remember that one gram of protein is equal to 4 calories.
To find out how much protein you need, simply take your desired caloric intake that you figured out above and multiply that number by your desired protein percentage (25%).
Use that number and divide it by 4 which will give you your new daily protein requirement in grams.
For example, if you need 3,000 calories to gain an extra pound of body weight per week, you will need the following protein requirements:
3,000 x .25 = 750 / 4 = 188 grams of protein per day.
If you are eating 6 times a day, you will need 188 / 6 = 31 grams of protein per meal.
An ideal weight lifting diet will contain 55% to 65% carbohydrates. I recommend that 55% of your diet be made up of carbohydrates. Remember that one gram of carbohydrate is equal to 4 calories.
To find out how much carbohydrates you need in your nutritional plan, simply take your desired caloric intake (as above) and multiply that number by your desired carbohydrate percentage (55%). Use that number and divide it by 4 which will give you your new daily carbohydrate requirements in grams.
For example, if you need 3,000 calories to gain an extra pound of body weight per week, you will need the following carbohydrate requirements: 3,000 x .55 = 1,650 / 4 = 413 grams of carbohydrates per day If you are eating 6 times a day, you will need 413 / 6 = 69 grams of carbohydrates per meal.
When it comes to fat, I suggest your diet contain anywhere between 15% to 25% of fat. Remember that one gram of fat is equal to 9 calories.
To find out how much fat you need simply take your desired caloric intake that you figured out above and multiply that number by your desired fat percentage (20%).
Use that number and divide it by 9 which will give you your new daily fat requirement in grams. For example, if you need 3,000 calories to gain an extra pound of body weight per week, you will need the following fat requirements: 3,000 x .20 = 600 / 9 = 67 grams of fat per day. If you are eating 6 times a day, you will need 67 / 6 = 11 grams of fat per meal.
You will need to find out what recipes you will need to achieve your desired goals. I highly recommend “Anabolic Cooking” by Dave Ruel for muscle building menus and recipes. It has great tasting recipes that are a snap to make. You also get meal plans for 1,200 calories, and up to 4,000 calorie menus. These recipes are structured for muscle building. You can read my personal review of this book at:
You can also use some of the menus that are outlined in the recipes section of Building Muscle101. See these pages here:
Just remember to adjust the ingredients and nutritional content to match that of your desired nutritional percentages in your nutritional program. When you are planning your diet, I strongly suggest you plan your meals in advance. By planning your meals in advance, you have no excuse to go to the restaurant.
Break your meals down into breakfast, mid morning, lunch, mid afternoon, post workout and dinner. Remember to pack your meals in convenient containers and take them to work with you.
Cooler bags are perfect for this. Plan Ahead!
Once you have planned your diet and meals, prepare a grocery list and go out and do some shopping. I usually prepare all my meals and grocery list on Sunday mornings. I usually hit the grocery store in the morning when nobody’s there because I can’t stand waiting around in a grocery line:(
When you plan your meals and groceries, you will A) Eat what you buy; And B) Save a whack of money on items you will never eat or use.
However, try and hit the grocery stores when it is convenient for your schedule. Also, get into the habit of going to the grocery stores on a consistent basis. This way, it gets much easier to do over time.
This is very important as it will help you evaluate your nutritional program. I suggest you evaluate you training and diet every week. Sit down on a day where you’re not so busy and evaluate your progress. A good time to do this is on Sunday when your planning your week’s meal plan.
You should be able to identify weak and strong points in your program. By monitoring your training and diet you will also identify if you are on target with your goals. If you need sample logs, go to this page here.
Alright, now that we know how to figure out our diet ratios we need to practice. Let’s go through the whole process with a fictional character. Here is a sample menu for a person who weighs 145 pounds and wants to gain additional weight and muscle. Let’s assume that this person needs the following nutritional requirements to achieve his goals:
Nutritional needs on a daily basis to reach goals:
3,220 per day
3,220 x .25 = 805/4 = 201 grams of protein per day
3,220 x .55 = 1,771/4 = 443 grams of carbohydrates per day
3,220 x .20 = 644/9 = 72 grams of fat per day
Nutritional needs per meal:
3,220/6 = 537 calories per meal
201/6 = 34 grams of protein per meal
443/6 = 74 grams of carbohydrates per meal
72/6 = 12 grams of fat per meal.
The following schedule has been identified in order to achieve his goals:
Yields 529 calories, 30 grams of protein, 77 grams of carbohydrates, and 12 grams of fat.
Yields 487 calories, 35 grams of protein, 73 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fat
Yields 502 calories, 43 grams of protein, 47 grams of carbohydrates, and 16 grams of fat
Yields 549 calories, 38 grams of protein, 69 grams of carbohydrates, and 13 grams of fat. Cooking instructions here.
Yields 528 calories, 19 grams of protein, 90 grams of carbohydrates, and 10 grams of fat
As you can see, the actual numbers are pretty close to his daily allowances. Don’t worry too much if your numbers don’t exactly add up.
Also, you have to drink enough water in order to keep your muscles working at they’re optimal level.
Did you know that a slight water dehydration can drastically decrease your performance in the weight room? I’m going to tell you right now, drink a lot of water because it will definitely improve your performance.
For more information about water and your muscles, click here.
Okay, this is how you want to structure your nutritional plan for building muscle. Identify your goals and plan your menu around those goals.
Remember to keep track of what you eat in a diet log and remember to evaluate your diet and progress on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
If there is one thing that is probably the most important element to building muscle is consitency. Your body loves and strives to be consistent. If you can be consistent with your diet, I can gaurantee you that you will build muscle, and lots of it. Think of it as this – Follow a consistent diet and you’ll get consistent results – Follow an inconsistent diet and you’ll get inconsistent results.
Building muscle is a slow and enduring process. In order to constantly improve your performance, you need to be consistent with your diet. Strive to stick to your diet year round. This way, you are never that far off from your desired peak performance state.
I highly recommend you take a look at Kyle Leon’s program “Somanabolic Muscle Maximizer”. This program is the first of its kind that customizes a complete nutrition plan for your specific body type including:
This is a great program that will tell you exactly how much calories, protein, carbohydrates, fat, and water you need to build the absolute best body in the shortest time possible. This is a 9 week system that includes the custom software and weight training program. I’ve actually purchased this system and all I can say is that it’s pretty amazing. It calculated all my nutritional percentages based on my body type with a complete menu. You can check out my review of this program at:
If your serious about building a body that turns heads, you have to check this program out. Click here to see this program.
Remember to follow a healty diet consisting of whole foods, eat on a consistent basis, and cut out all junk foor. Doing this will ensure your success.
All the best,
Blake has been weight lifting for about 28 years now. He's 45 years of age and started seriously training when he was 18 years old.
Blake is the founder of Building-Muscle101.com, a successful fitness website that has been around for more than 15 years.