Eat to Build Muscle – Foods and Diet Plan – Men’s Health

Posted: July 30, 2020 at 12:54 pm

You can crank out heavy squats and curls until your quads and biceps scream for mercy, and still you cant seem to build the muscle you want.

Whats going on?

If youre struggling to grow muscle despite your dedication in the gym, your problem most likely isnt your workout, but rather your diet and lifestyle.

Building muscle is a complex science. Its a coalescence of your lifting, your nutrition, your hormones, and your rest. So, lets assume youre doing everything right in the gymfollowing a good program and pushing yourself hard. Keep it up.

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But now lets focus on the other stuff. Are you getting enough protein and calories? Are you supporting your endocrine system properly? Are you getting quality sleep? Tweaking these crucial variables will result in the kind of muscle that fills out a T-shirtand then some.

Nutrition is the cornerstone in building lean muscle, says nutritionist and exercise physiologist Jim White, R.D. If the protein isnt there, its not going to help your muscles grow. If the carbs arent there, youre going to feel sluggish. If the fat isnt there, its going to affect energy levels and overall health.

In short, its time to master the soft art of building hard musclemeal time. Your diet needs to be strategically choreographed to accelerate the repair-and-grow process that follows that strenuous workout session youre so proud of.

White knows the right formula. A former skinny athlete, he was a self-described hard gainer, frustrated by his inability to grow bigger and stronger and run faster. Then he took a hard look at his crappy diet: He ate like a bird. Rarely touched fruits and vegetables. He gravitated toward sugary processed junk.

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His nutrition training opened his eyes to his problem, and he changed his body and his life. He started eating six meals a day, increasing his daily calories to 3,500 and began experimenting with different percentages of macronutrients until he found the sweet spot.

Suddenly, his energy skyrocketed, making his time in the gym more productive. Now hes jackedhe added 70 pounds of lean muscle and saw huge strength gains. The guy who struggled to bench 65 pounds can now press 295.

Best Meals for Muscle: A No-BS 3-Week Plan for Big Gains

White shares his story of total body transformation and the plan that got him there in the new book Mens Health Best Meals for Muscle. Here's a sample of Whites muscle building plan, below. To finesse your own massive growth spurt, grab a copy of Best Meals for Muscle; its full of Whites expert advice and tasty, easy-to-cook meals with the right macronutrient mix to fuel your transition.

The actual process of growing muscle, when cells rush in to rebuild your torn-down muscle fibers, happens not in the gym but after your workout, when you rest. And the composition of what you eat before and after you stress that muscle can mean the difference between building up the muscle or destroying it.

Making sure youre eating enough protein is of paramount importance for two reasons:

1. Proteins deliver the amino acids that form the building blocks of muscle. When intense weightlifting breaks down muscle protein synthesis provides the proteins needed to repair that muscle and spur it to grow bigger.

2. Your body also looks to proteins to supply amino acids for producing hormones like insulin and human growth hormone, which can further drain protein reserves. A higher protein diet ensures you have more than enough to go around and shifts your body into an anabolic mode, one that builds tissues rather than breaking them down.

While the recommended daily allowance for protein is less than half a gram per pound of bodyweight, you should double that to a gram per pound of bodyweight to build muscle. Thats the maximum amount your body can use in a day, according to a landmark study in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

So, for example, a 160-pound man should try to consume 160 grams of protein a day in order to fuel muscle growth. One hundred sixty grams of protein looks like this: 8 ounces of chicken breast, 1 cup of cottage cheese, a roast beef sandwich, two eggs, a glass of milk, and 2 ounces of peanuts.

If youre weight training to bulk up, dont eat like a guy whos trying to lose weight. Growing a pound of muscle requires about 2,800 calories. That means you may have to overeat to consume enough calories to build size.

In fact, in some studies, researchers found that lifters with the greatest gains in muscle were the men who were the biggest eaters. Whites plan calls for boosting your calories to 3,000 a day. Thats a lot of food to consume in three squares, so White recommends you . . .

By spreading your calories out over, say, six meals spaced about 3 hours apart, youll avoid that full-belly feeling that can make you sluggish, and youll ensure your muscles get consistently stoked with protein and carbs. Your body needs a constant supply of macronutrients and micronutrients to operate properly, especially when it is being taxed by intense exercise.

Shoot for about 30 grams of protein per meal. Thatll get most people into the proper range for muscle growth.

Protein is critical, but it shouldnt be a soloist when youre orchestrating a plan for building mass. The other macronutrients, namely carbohydrates and healthy fats, influence muscle growth, too. By getting your macro ratio right, you can expect to see your gains skyrocket and avoid adding body fat even with the increase in calories, says White. Best Meals for Muscle makes hitting that holy grail ratio of 50 percent carbs, 25 percent protein, and 25 percent fat easy by translating it into ideal meal examples (and recipes) you can use to fuel your day.

Exercise-induced dehydration slows your motor neurons. Not only will you feel fatigue sooner during a workout than you otherwise would, but your performance slips as well.

Whats more, a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that dehydrated weight lifters produced more of the stress hormone cortisol, while reducing the release of testosterone, the bodys best muscle builder.

Right after your workout, drink a whey protein shake that delivers about 25 grams of protein per serving. Whey digests more quickly than other types of protein, so it hits your muscles faster. Whey protein also has the highest concentration of the branched-chain amino acid leucine, which is required for protein synthesis.

Or some Greek yogurt. Or a low-sugar sports drink. All are rich in electrolytes, which help your muscles contract. Exercise depletes electrolytes fast. Be sure you dont run short and cramp up.

If youre serious about packing on more muscle, get serious about being more disciplined about when you eat. You can start by creating a meal plan and sticking to strict meal times. Begin refueling shortly after you wake up and stop eating three hours before going to bed. Remember, your body repairs and builds muscles as you sleep. Eating just before bed can disrupt your sleep and throw a monkey wrench into that crucial repair process.

Mens Health Best Meals for Muscle is full of ready-to-serve meal plans and recipes that take the guesswork out of feeding your muscles the right amounts at the right times. To learn more, click here.

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Eat to Build Muscle - Foods and Diet Plan - Men's Health

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