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.
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.
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.