How To Plan Your Muscle Building Diet

This article shows you how to easily plan your diet and work out how much protein, carbs and fats you need based on your bodyweight.

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 Components 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.

  1. Protein
    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)
  2. Carbohydrates
      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!).
  3. Fats
      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.

The basic amounts of protein, fat and carbs.

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.

So what does this mean in calories?

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 should be eating.

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).

For guys with a thin build.

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.

Easy, isn’t it!

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. If you’ve got any other questions about diet and nutrition head over to our forum, there’s always someone there to help you out.

About The Author
M&S writers is a collection of all the other writers that have published content on Muscle and Strength.

105 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Mon, 05/25/2015 - 05:51
Abdul Haseeb

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...?

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Posted Thu, 06/12/2014 - 02:25

i m 20 n my weight is 50 what should i do to gain my weight n give my body a perfect shape???

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Posted Sun, 05/24/2015 - 10:00

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.

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Posted Fri, 01/24/2014 - 21:45

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?

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Posted Sat, 05/04/2013 - 12:55
arsen velaj

i am 18 years old iam 6ft 5 inc but only 160ibs how can i get weight

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Posted Sat, 05/04/2013 - 12:48
arsen velaj

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

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Posted Sun, 04/14/2013 - 21:15

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..

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Posted Sat, 03/23/2013 - 14:58
Zohaib Zaman

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...

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Posted Tue, 03/12/2013 - 17:11

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...?

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Posted Sun, 03/10/2013 - 16:11
dave dray

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

mnsjason's picture
Posted Fri, 03/15/2013 - 18:38

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.

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Posted Thu, 03/07/2013 - 11:07
palwinder singh

my body weight is 85 kilos . How much calories, protien and carbohydrates i should take per day?

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Posted Thu, 01/17/2013 - 14:21

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.

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Posted Fri, 11/02/2012 - 21:30
john graham

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.

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Posted Wed, 10/24/2012 - 20:44

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.

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Posted Mon, 08/06/2012 - 18:55


how much protein and carbs and fat 257 lb man?

can calculate it for me?

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Posted Mon, 08/06/2012 - 18:30
Patrik tjosavik

hey how much carbs and protein and fat a 257lb man
Can anyone help me figure it out .:)

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Posted Mon, 08/06/2012 - 01:19

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?

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Posted Sat, 07/14/2012 - 00:16

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.

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Posted Sat, 06/23/2012 - 05:51

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.

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Posted Wed, 06/13/2012 - 22:26
Ranjan Cheema

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

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Posted Wed, 06/13/2012 - 15:39

could you giving me a muscle building diet im 5 foot 8 weighing 10st 2?????

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Posted Thu, 05/24/2012 - 13:29

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,

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Posted Fri, 05/18/2012 - 13:23
curry man 123

can i still eat curry, my weight is 155kg i am a bit over weight but i love curry

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Posted Tue, 05/08/2012 - 05:16
Trey Barker

Hey Im a 15 year ol boy i weigh 45 kilos and i want to gain mucle CAN U PLEASE HELP

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Posted Sun, 04/22/2012 - 03:27

Hi Steve,

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.

thank you!


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Posted Sun, 02/19/2012 - 07:42

Hi,does this muscle building plan and protein,carb and fat formula work for women as well?thanks

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Posted Sat, 02/18/2012 - 15:33

Hey Steve,

Im going to be turning 15 in a few months and Im going to high school next year and I really need to gain lean muscle. I only weigh 105 and have a very fast metabolism. Ive been working out for the last 4 months and see gains in strenght but not in size. I really need your help i want to try to put on 15-25lbs of muscle by the start of next year. If you have any diets/workout plans that would help I would be thankful. Hope to hear from you soon.

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Posted Fri, 02/17/2012 - 15:32

I'm 200 pounds 18 years old an looking to start working out so got and idea or a plan I can go by protain shakes anything, I would like to start going to the gym but im not sure what kind of equipment I should start with and endwith?
Thank Jonathan

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Posted Wed, 02/01/2012 - 02:36

Thanks for posting this! I've tried to lose weight before only to gain it all back do I am going to try building more muscle first to help keep it off this time. Thanks again!

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Posted Wed, 01/25/2012 - 13:26

i am 22 years in sri lanka.i workout gym evryday.but careless in good foods.i dont get 90kilos.i need good muscle ans strength and 6 pack.what i want to do.

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Posted Mon, 01/23/2012 - 06:57

Hi guys any help would be appreciated.Im a 38yr old male weighing 200lb standing 5ft 9in.Want to build muscle and lose the fat.What ratio of C/P/Fats should i consume and finally what amount of calories should i be aiming for.

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Posted Thu, 01/19/2012 - 17:03

I have made out a few things to eat throughout a day meeting the requirements for Protien, Carbs, and Calories but i am having trouble keeping it under 100 grams of fat let alone around 50g.If you could just give me a few examples of things high in protien and carbs and low in fat.

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Posted Thu, 01/12/2012 - 02:45

Hey man just wanted to let you know your units are wrong. You should consume 1-1.5g of protein per kilo not per pound.
500g of carbs is 2000 calories and that is all it takes to maintain a 200lb male.
500*4=2000. Each gram of carbohydrate is 4 calories. Please update your site with better info

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Posted Sat, 01/07/2012 - 11:48

I'm turning 16 in 2 weeks so I'm interested in putting some muscle on.
I'm about 5ft8 and weight about 56kg - nearly 9 stone
I'm a skinny guy but have a bit of muscle too as i do weights at home. I also play football which means i train 3 times a week and lose calories and weight while playing football.
Any suggestions on what food I should eat? Does it matter if i eat stuff like chocolate and sweets?

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Posted Sat, 12/10/2011 - 17:18

Hi Guys ive been working out for past few months and been taking protein shakes to try and build muscle , i can see a few differences but there's not much different.

im wondering if anyone can help me to do a diet plan ?

im 17, weighing 70kg 180 cm tall , and my body fat percentage is 13%

my goal is to bulk up and build serious muscle

if anyone could help it would be much appreciated

Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 12/21/2011 - 11:53

Do you workout at home, or at a gym?

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Posted Thu, 12/01/2011 - 10:39

Hi steve
I am 20 years old and been hitting the gym now for about a year and I have had sum great gains but iv never really ate correctly!! I am 6'1 and 92 kg/202 lbs. I am Naturally quite big and strong but I would like to get bigger but not with the fat!! As I already have a bit of a podge. Should I still do this diet as my aim is to still get bigger but muscle wise without all the excess fat. Any suggestions would be great thanks.

Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 12/16/2011 - 13:28

You want to focus on two things to maximize results:

1) Pushing yourself in the gym. Using good form, always push yourself on every set. When you can perform the recommended number of reps for a set, add weight.

2) Eating to maximize muscle retention while cutting fat. Here are two articles that can help:

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Posted Sun, 10/30/2011 - 18:33

Well, I'm only 14 years old, I Weigh 120, I'm pretty skinny on the arms, My chest is pretty 'BUFF'. I have 'ABS'. But for some reason my arms are really skinny.
Please help me out, tell me how much calories I have to eat & what exercises I have to do to get my arms BIG.
I would really appreciate your help!

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 14:46

You want to focus on two things to maximize results:

1) Pushing yourself in the gym. Using good form, always push yourself on every set. When you can perform the recommended number of reps for a set, add weight.

2) Eat to maximize muscle gains. Here are some articles that can help:

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Posted Sat, 10/22/2011 - 20:46

Hi I've been lifting for a while now and never really paid attention to calories, fats or carbs, just focused on getting 1-1.5g protein/lb of bodyweight.

I currently weigh 200lbs, so I will be following your 200lb example and report back with results in 4 months. I hope to get up to 220-225lbs.

Thanks for the info.

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Posted Mon, 09/19/2011 - 16:32

hey i wanted to start gaining weight and muscle because right now im at a measly 115 lbs and a height of about 170cm. I wanted to start eating more of things i never used to eat but i just can't get over to eating eggs are there any alternatives to eggs out there. Thank you.

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 10/03/2011 - 16:48

Hi Mohammed,

You could eat chicken, beef, seafood, pork, milk, cheese and even protein powders.

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Posted Sat, 08/20/2011 - 21:38

please am called Michael, am a boy of 24yrs of age, and i want to start to build my body by gyming but am locked up with the right food nutrition and the right exercises to start with so thought i can be help.
thank you.

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 08/29/2011 - 15:24

Hi Michael,

Pick a beginner workout from the site that motivates you to train. You want to focus on two things to maximize results:

1) Pushing yourself in the gym. Using good form, always push yourself on every set. When you can perform the recommended number of reps for a set, add weight.

2) Eat to maximize muscle gains. Here is an article that can help:

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Posted Mon, 08/15/2011 - 18:37

Hi, question about gaining muscle and not fat. I am 31, 5ft 10, 160 lbs. I have lost a lot of weight...a few years ago I weighed 330...with little muscle. I lift 5 times each week and have built a lot of strength but I want size/definition. I average 1800 calories per day, 150 grams of protein. I am weary about eating too much for fear of adding fat. Am I under eating currently? Thank you!

Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 08/19/2011 - 13:49

1800 is fairly low. Most likely you are not eating enough.

Check out these 2 articles:

You might add a few pounds of fat while muscle building, but it's not going to be much if you plan your diet correctly.

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Posted Wed, 07/20/2011 - 05:39

hi first of all thanks for this very simple yet very imformative article. i have been lurking in this site for quite some time and been applying some of the tips here. anyway, im a 27 year old guy and i have been really fat for most of my years, i have been trying to loose weight since last year through weight lifting and a little cardio. after 18 months i have lost 28 kilos. but the problem is that i dont think im contented with my physique even if my shirt size has decreased from extra large to medium, i now am aiming for a little ripped look. last month i started on eating more protein and increased my meals to 6 to 7 times per day. i consume around 2500 calories. im expecting to gain muscle and was surprized that after a month, i only gained 0.5kg muscle. whats worse is i also gained 0.9kg of fat. is this acceptable or too much fat gain. i currently weigh 71 kg, 161cm, 25% fat. sorry for the long post but maybe you could enlighten me. thanks in advance.

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Posted Fri, 07/15/2011 - 04:50

hey, this is ganesh...i got little bit confident after reading this article.i came to know that i am ectomorph.i am now 51kg at the age of 20.i feel i am determine to gain weight and i am a vegeterian.what kind of food i should take before and after workout