Diet is the single most important part of muscle building. Yes, there are many other important factors to consider but none of them are as important at the correct diet and nutrition plan. Your training may be perfect, but without the correct fuel to feed your muscles to grow you will have little progress.
Most people that are new to weight training and bulking up get very confused when confronted with all the information that’s available in magazines, at the gym and online. In this article I am really going to simplify things for you. A good nutrition and diet plan for muscle building is not rocket science and it definitely does not have to be complicated.
Editor update: You can now calculate how many calories you need using our BMR Calculator!
3 Main Macronutrients That Make Up Your Diet:
Ok, so I’ll get started by showing you the 3 main components of a good muscle building diet and what role they play in helping you bulk up.
Ah protein, what would we do without it? We wouldn’t grow that’s for sure! Apart from water, protein is the most plentiful substance in the body. Protein is responsible for building, repairing and maintaining muscle tissue. Protein is also the body’s second resource for energy after carbohydrates. Put simply, without protein we would wither away to skin and bone. When it comes to muscle building, your body requires an increased about of protein to repair the muscle your break down at the gym. (more info on protein supplements)
Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of energy. There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Simple carbs are found in foods like sugar and fruit and will give you a quick burst of energy by raising blood sugar levels. Complex carbs are found in whole grains like brown bread, rice and potatoes. Complex carbs are important because they provide the long lasting fuel you need to train hard. If you don’t eat enough complex carbs in your muscle building diet your body will turn to its next source of energy, protein (which you don’t want!).
Fats are also a vital part of your diet, but must be consumed in the correct amounts. The most important fact you need to know about fats is there are two types. First, there are “good fats”. These fats are found in foods like olive oil, fish and nuts. Second, there are “bad fats”. These fats are saturated fats and trans fats. These fats are mainly from foods like meat, eggs and vegetable oil. You should aim to cut down bad fats in your diet and focus on eating the right amount of good fats.
So now you know the 3 main components that your muscle building diet will comprise of, now we need to look at how much you need to get on a daily basis for optimum muscle growth. A couple of points that need to be noted before we continue.
First, the best way to calculate the amount of protein, carbs and fat you need in your diet is to use your body weight. For the purpose of this article I am going to use a 200 pound man. Second, these figures are only a guide and intended to be used if muscle building is your goal. Like I say in all my articles, you will get the best results from experimenting with what works for you and your body type.
Daily Macronutrient Requirements
Like many aspects of training to build muscle, these figures are arguable. Some may agree, other may disagree, but these figures are good for a guide and have worked for me. So here is a basic guide on what you should be aiming for on a daily basis:
- Protein: 1 – 1.6 grams per pound of bodyweight
- Carbs: 2.5 grams per pound of bodyweight
- Fats: 0.25 grams per pound of bodyweight
So let’s take my example of a 200 pound man looking to build muscle. Using the figures above, he would have to eat 200-300 grams of protein, 500 grams of carbohydrates and 50 grams of fat per day.
Here are the conversions of grams to calories for protein, carbs and fats.
- Protein – 4 calories per gram
- Carbohydrates – 4 calories per gram
- Fat – 9 calories per gram
So back to my 200 pound man, he would have a daily intake of 3650 calories. This figure is just about spot on for a man of this size looking to bulk up.
When you eat is as important as what you eat. It’s important to get out of the “3 meals per day” mentality. Preferably you would eat 5-8 meals per day at 2 to 3 hour intervals. I know this is not possible for most people because of work, school etc but you should try to eat as many small meals as possible. If bodybuilding king Ronnie Coleman can work a full time job and eat a good muscle building diet then so can you!
Ideally, every one of your small meals should contain the right amount of protein, carbs and fat. It’s easy to work out how much you need from each meal. Just work out the totals and divide it by the number of meals you eat per day. So let’s say my 200 pound man has time in the day for 6 meals. Each meal would need to contain about 33-50 grams of protein, 80-85 grams of carbs and 8 grams of fat.
You should try to eat 1 meal about 1 hour prior to training (energy for your workout) and 1 meal after training (nutrients for muscle repair).
If you’ve got a naturally thin build and fast metabolism I would advise you to add more carbohydrates to your diet for extra calories. I am naturally a true ectomorph with a thin build and rocketing metabolism. While this has its good points (like burning fat), it means I have to eat more calories in build muscle. If you have this body type you should literally eat as much carbs as you can.
So that’s basically it. That is how you plan your muscle building diet, the simple way. There are also other aspects of diet and nutrition that I didn’t touch on in this article (like supplements), but the aim was to keep it simple.
I am very confused on how to get the amount of carbs I need,it doesn’t sound real,325 grams of carbs is all I need though,any help I’d appreciate.
What is confusing you, Andrew? Are you not sure what food sources to use, or how to plan them into your meals?
Hi guys any help would be appreciated.
I am in the process of building muscle when I have my weekly weigh in and I Notice I put on muscle do I need to eat more calories protein etc then when I started to build muscle further or do I just stay the same. Thank you
Hey Paul - if what you're doing now is working, stick with it.
Hi I'm a 136 pound Vegetarian/Vegan man wanting to gain muscle mass. How much protein do I need to eat daily from minimum to maximum? Please any help will be appreciated Thank you so much.
Hey Paul - check out this article: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-much-protein-should-i-eat...
I’m 6’4 205 trying to put in muscle and weight I’m naturally skinny
Way too much protein and not nearly enough fat. You only need .6-.8 g of protein per lb of bodyweight. And "eggs, meat are bad for you?" Come on, typical broscience article.
Eggs and meat ARE bad for you, though...
Then so is existence as a whole
I am currently 5”9, naturally skinny & I weigh 160 right now. Which is a good for me BUT I still do look skinny but I’m at 17% body fat. I want to know how to maintain my weight from 160-165 but to gain more lean muscle. How should my macros look like
I'm Jayden and I'm 12 and this guide is helpful with building muscle I'm currently on 25 kilo on the bench press and I've been doing it for a weak.
I'm 140lb, 5,6 and have been tracking for over a year now. My goal is to gain muscle (165lb) my current macro are 160 protein, 325carbs, and 80g fat. What should I adjust if I want to stay lean but gain weight? Should my protein be set to my current BW?
Our Muscle Building Expert guide has a great section on how to determine your macros. Here's the link: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/expert-guides/muscle-building
You'll want to scroll down to "STEP 2: PLAN YOUR MUSCLE BUILDING DIET"
Hope this helps!
If anyone can help me out i will try to give as much details as i can so i can get some progress going.
I'm a 20 year old male 5'10 and i now weigh 165lbs to 170lbs. I have a belly somewhat and some man boobs and i have asthma so exercise kinda gets to me i wanna be fit and have a six pack by 6 to 8 months. Can someone help me?
I'm 22 I use to way 165 avg 155. I'm currently 6ft 143lbs . I avg via fit bit durning work . 3000 - 3500 Calories a day 7 miles of Of walking per day 5 days a week . I'm trying to build back up and over 165 to posibly 175 . I have a very high metabolism. How do I manage this situation ?
I am 5'3 125 lbs workout 6-7 days a week strength 3-4 ,30 minutes of cardio 3-4 out of those, looking to gain muscle lose fat what are my macros?
I am 5 5" weigh 179 61 years old workout 3 days a week weights and 30 minutes cardio 4 days
Want to lose 20 lbs how do I figure Macro's?
BMR with moderately active (mod exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) = 2,487 calories per day. To maintain you'd have to eat 2,487 calories a day and typically want to +- 4-500 calories depending on goal so if you're looking to cut then i'd shoot around 2,187 /day.
I'm a serious ectomorph (taken almost 3 years to gain 10 pounds on a clean 3,000 calorie diet). I find going over 30% of calories from carbs leaves me sleepy and bloated. I feel much more normal at 50% fat and 20% protein and 30% carbs. Odd. I cannot explain why.
in week one day cheat day how much extra calories is recommended?
How do You adjust on your off days ?
Hi, I am 32 n my weight is 44, I have a poor diet I want my weight what should I do for my body, diet and weight...?
i m 20 n my weight is 50 what should i do to gain my weight n give my body a perfect shape???
I use this calculator to work out how much calories I needed to gain muscle and it was pretty much dead on. Just use the basic calculation then add 300 calories and train hard.
Hey I noticed you didn't mention people of the fatter variety. I'm 6'2" and about 240-50lbs and haven't worked out in a few months. Would you recommend someone that is overweight to lean out before building muscle or continuing to gain muscle then cutting down the fat later?
lean down first. In my personal opinion, it's a lot easier to build muscle while leaner. Plus if you're already big then there's no need to bulk.
i am 18 years old iam 6ft 5 inc but only 160ibs how can i get weight
i am 18 years old and 198cm i am only 73 kilos i dont know how to gain weight i need some really good tips to increase my weight
Hi Damien. I really liked your posts. I am in India. My age is 22, Height 5ft. 2 In. and Weight only 100 lbs. I really look like a kid and everyone make fun of me. Now is there any way to improve my health because I really want to build some physique. Can you recommend me good diet plan along with some good and genuine supplements that actually works. I tried some but did not get any result. It would be great if you could help me in that, I really need good guidance for me. Hope you will reply..
Dear steve,,, i hv 57kg weight and i want to improve and gain muscle size.. please can you tell me the diet and supplement that i should use...
Is scrambled egg on brown bread gd breakfast?
And pasta for lunch
And fish or steak with salads for supper a good meal plan?
I can only have 3 a day so...?
hi, can u tell me if I'm to have a calorie excess every day or just the 3 days a week I weight train on? also on the days I go for a run (cardio) do I need to eat more calories to maintain an excess as I would burn 500 cals during my run or would you advise not to do cardio if I'm trying to gain muscle. lots of question I hope you can help with. I'm 43 now and have been trying off and on for many years to gain muscle with minimum results which kills my enthusiasm ii now know its due to my diet thanks for the post
If you're doing cardio on your off days, then I'd recommend that you maintain a calorie surplus throughout the week. Cardio shouldn't interfere with muscle gains as long as your diet is adequate.
my body weight is 85 kilos . How much calories, protien and carbohydrates i should take per day?
Hi I have been training for about 6 month now and don't seem to be building any real muscle I k ow this is down to diet, just want to if you have a basic and simple diet plan I could stick to any I do would be great thanks.
Hi Steve, Great article
I've been working out since the 1st of the yr, I'm 32 yrrs old and had a run in with psiatica a few yrs ago, was not fun, I've dropped 60 pounds, started at 233, and now at 173, feeling much better, and the definition is starting, I've got about 10 more to lose, my question is, I've got some loose skin to take care of since dropping the weight, as a letter carrier who works 6 days a week, 10+ miles a day, and I do free weights 3-4 times a week, and cardio and stretching the off days, what would an ideal plan be to tone up more, with more definition, and I would like to gain about 10 pounds of muscle, any ideas??? My metabolism since changing my diet has sped up and I do tend to eat every 2-3 hours.
Hi i am 18 and currently weigh 13.8 stone i have been lifting weights 3 times a week for 4 months, i have also been on a diet for about 4 months when i first started to diet i weighed 15.10 stone and i cant seem to lose any more weight i am 6ft tall and just needed some tips on how i could burn more fat as my goal is to have flat abs.
how much protein and carbs and fat 257 lb man?
can calculate it for me?
hey how much carbs and protein and fat a 257lb man
Can anyone help me figure it out .:)
Hi everyone. I need advice on a good diet and exercise plan. I'm 20 years old, 6 foot and I weigh 220 lb. About a year to 2 years ago I weighed 185 and was in great shape. I could bench about 275, but now that I've let myself go I can't figure out a good diet and exercise plan. Is there anyone who can give me tips and or advice to get back to my previous weight and maybe to gain even more muscle?
Hi great info, Im 5'10 180 and have been on a toning diet that limits the amount of carbs I can eat to work on my abs coming out. I am about done with this cycle and it seems to have worked for me. I am now wanting to put on some mass and get bigger, but during my life I have had a weight struggle and tend to put on fat rather quickly. Would it be possible to put on muscle mass without putting on the fat, by still eating rather low carb? I did not start losing fat until I went low carb.
Hi steve, I am a 20 year old who is 5'11" and weighs around 135lbs. I try to work out as much as possible, and eat as much protien as possible, and yet, I see almost no muscle gain.. I have a decent physic thanks to going to the gym almost everyday for about 4 monthes, but I have fallen from that schedule thanks to work.. I am currently working out at home, but I would love to hear your suggestion to have me bulk up a bit. I have tone, and some muscle, but want to fill out and have more muscle. Thanks.
I used to weigh 195 pounds in Sept. 2011. Since then I have been running religiously and cutting calories in my diet. As a result I lost 50 pounds in 9 months(May 2012).
Now my problem is that I have lost a lot of muscle mass and people around me have started saying that I look like I am sick. I want to gain muscle mass but I don't know how to do that without gaining fat again. And mind you I have been fat my entire life and don't ever want that again. I have recently joined a gym and am lifting weights for the first time in my life.
My question is how much and what should I eat to gain mass and not fat?
My weight before weight loss was 195 pounds. Waist 38 inches
Now my weight is 145 pounds and waist 33 inches. I still need to lose fat off my belly as it is still bloated and hangs. My height is 5'8". Again how many calories do I eat every day? Do I still try a calorie deficit as I still need to lose my belly fat.And my upper body is very skinny now. Any comments will be greatly appreciated
could you giving me a muscle building diet im 5 foot 8 weighing 10st 2?????
Hey, thanks for the information.
I was just wondering what would be the best way to grow muscle fast?
I am 16, 5'11" and weigh about 140. I lack raw muscle and fat.
I plan on doing High Intensity Training for summer (June July and august) so that when I go back to school I will be pretty big. What would you recommend I eat each day and for how long should I train? I am thin and have a pretty fast metabolism.
Go raibh math agat,
can i still eat curry, my weight is 155kg i am a bit over weight but i love curry
Hey Im a 15 year ol boy i weigh 45 kilos and i want to gain mucle CAN U PLEASE HELP
I am a 36 yr old male and I weigh 195 pds. I want to bulk up and have been reading lots of articles However, I am having a hard time knowing how to set up a diet plan. I go to the gym 6 days a week and do free weights for about an hour and have been cutting back on my cardio work which usually lasted about 35 to 40 mins.
I need to consume about 4000 calories according to calculators and my protein intake should be about 200 grams.
Pre workout---I hit the gym at 6am. I have a shake with 30 grams of protein mixed with water, along with fish oil tablet and my creatine tablets.
Post working out== I have 6 egg whites with 3/4 cup of oatmeal and another shake with 30 grams of protein mixed in water and my creatine tablets.
All the online suggested diets are for people that work out in the afternoons or evenings. If you could suggest a meal plan to help me, it would be greatly appreciated.
If what I am doing is wrong please dont hesitate to tell me. I am committed to gaining muscle weight.
Hi,does this muscle building plan and protein,carb and fat formula work for women as well?thanks