I want to talk today about some vital components that go into a good muscle building diet! Of course, we could go into immense detail on each little intricacy (and I will provide links that go into more detail if you want to learn more about certain components) but in the interest of keeping it simple for this article I’ve given a brief explanation of each point and why it is so important.
So, here is my Top 10 list of must haves in a muscle building diet!
Muscle Building Diet Must Have #1 – PROTEIN
‘Obviously!’, I hear you say but you’d be surprised to find out that this is an area where a lot of people fall down in their muscle building endeavours!
If you’re having trouble, pick up a tub of cheap whey protein and supplement your diet BUT remember that it is no substitute for whole food. Whey should make up no more than 30-40% (50% at an absolute stretch) of your daily protein intake.
You are aiming for a daily intake of at least a gram of protein per pound of your bodyweight. (unless you have a bodyfat of 20% or over, you may reduce your protein intake very slightly)
Muscle Building Diet Must Have #2 – CARBS
Carbs play an extremely important role in your muscle building diet. They will help with recovery, energy levels and intensity in the gym.
However, get the timing wrong and carbs will have a detrimental effect on the things just mentioned as well as increasing your body fat levels (A general rule of thumb is to consume ‘quick acting’ carbs during and after training and slower digesting carbs the rest of the day). Depending on your genetics, activity level and goals, Carbs should make up approximately 40-50% of your daily calories.
Muscle Building Diet Must Have #3 – GOOD FATS
Surprised? Don’t be, but understand that I am not advocating gorging on McDonalds and kebabs during your muscle building diet! Fats are required for optimal function of the body. Essential fatty acids from seeds and oily fish are your best bet.
Just keep fats at around 20% of your total calorie intake with minimal saturated fat. In simple terms, if excessively consumed, saturates are the bad stuff that clog your arteries. Your heart won’t be best pleased!
Muscle Building Diet Must Have #4 – HIGH TOTAL CALORIES
If you’re not taking in enough calories altogether then guess what? You’re not going to grow muscles. Unfortunately, just like protein, carbs and fats – Calories are not all created equally.
This means that you can’t drink 5 pints of beer and assume that you’ve had a good day because you’ve reached your calorie target! You’re looking for total calories to be in the region of 30-40% protein, 40-50% carbs, 20-30% fats.
These figures and the total amount of calories that you need for muscle building may vary depending on your activity level, genetics and your current lean bodyweight
Muscle Building Diet Must Have #5 – VITAMINS
Not the first thing we think of when it comes to muscle building right? Vitamins and minerals are responsible for thousands of reactions in the body, some of which are essential to building muscle. Being deficient in one or two vitamins can stop loads of these reactions needed to build muscle fast!
They become even more important for people training for muscle growth because of the stress we put our bodies under. Due to our intense training we deplete our vitamins more quickly than normal and release things called ‘free radicals’ that eat away at your hard earned muscle. Get yourself a quality multivitamin supplement!
Muscle Building Diet Must Have #6 – WATER
Helps with digestion, hydration, strength and energy levels.
The more water you drink, the more water you excrete too which helps give you that ‘ripped’ look rather than the soft puffy look. Get used to drinking a little more than the recommended 8 glasses a day as you will be losing plenty of water working out and recovering.
Muscle Building Diet Must Have #7 – VARIETY
Firstly for your own sanity! How many of us can stomach steamed chicken breasts 6 meals a day, 7 days a week? Not fun!
Secondly and more importantly for building muscle, different foods have different qualities. If you eat a variety of foods then you’re making sure that you are getting a good balance of amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals etc which you wouldn’t be getting if you stuck to the same food all the time.
Muscle Building Diet Must Have #8 – FREQUENT + REGULAR MEALS
How many times in a day do you eat?
A lot of people I talk to eat once to three times a day. Then they wonder why they’re not putting on any size/losing weight. Works both ways. If you’re not eating frequently enough then your metabolism will slow down to a crawl (It is the bodies way of surviving, it doesn’t think you’re going to feed it for a long time so preserves the little food that you do put in).
Similarly you won’t grow if you don’t eat frequently enough. Your muscles will feast on themselves if they’re not given enough fuel every 2 to 3 hours. So there’s your answer – Eat a balanced meal every 2 to 3 hours! (this is where protein shakes can be a gods end!)
Muscle Building Diet Must Have #9 – FRUIT AND VEG
Again, these may not seem like the most obvious choices for muscle growth because they may not directly contribute to muscle growth BUT they are very vitamin rich.
You need to eat enough fruit and veg to make sure you get the vitamins required throughout the day (even if you’re supplementing with a multivitamin).
Go for a broad variety of colours when choosing fruit and veg. They represent different qualities. The second thing fruit and veg are good for is fibre! Fibre helps with digestion and with the high amount of protein a muscle building diet requires it’ll help, how can I put this..keep your bowel movements healthy! 😉
Muscle Building Diet Must Have #10 – TWO SUPPLEMENTS
Ok, ok I feel like a bit of a cop-out for this! Some may not consider supplements a ‘must have’ BUT I do consider 2 supplements to be essential; Multivitamins and Whey Protein.
Hear me out… Multivitamins because, like I explained above, if we’re working out to the right intensity then we’ll be depleted of vitamins for sure. This can cause muscle breakdown so supplementing with multivitamins are a ‘must do’.
Whey protein is needed at the very least for your post-workout nutrition. Whey has the advantage of being liquid and having a very high bio availability which means the muscles can absorb them as quickly as possible when they need them the most. Post-workout nutrition is the most important meal of the day to get you on the muscle building path, so yes, I consider Whey a must have.
So there you have it! Remember, you don’t have to implement these all at once to begin with. You’ll probably find it being too much too soon if you’re not used to it. Set yourself a goal and take small steps forward. Once you’ve achieved that, you can take the next step and then the next etc.
Good Luck with your muscle building diet and journey!