The Muscle Building Diet You Need to Follow in 2019
If you're looking to build muscle, it takes much more than just pumping iron in the gym. In addition to regular exercise, many experienced and successful weightlifters maintain a diet of muscle-building foods and vitamins.
There is no single diet that works for everyone. People's habits differ and what works for your friend will not always work for you.
Choosing a diet that supports your lifestyle will be the easiest to follow and will ultimately deliver the best results if you are following it with discipline.
SUMMARYThis guide shows the best diet strategy to build muscle and improve overall health. We share not only insightful but actionable information to you help achieve your fitness goals.
What is a diet for building muscle?
This is a diet that is designed to maximize muscle gains and promote fat loss. Diets are essentially food rules or routines that fuel our body with sufficient means to grow. When a nutrient-rich diet is paired with resistance training, our bodies develop new muscle to their best ability.
There are two parts of a muscle-building diet that help aid muscle protein synthesis:
- Protein – All bodybuilding diets are high in protein because protein is the key building block in muscle. Protein comes from a handful of different food groups and each type has slightly different effects when taken. Additional details featured in section 1 of this guide.
- Amino acids, vitamins, and minerals - Without proper micronutrients, all bodily functions will be less effective including lean muscle gain. Vitamins and minerals are often overlooked but are very important in helping the body function at its peak performance.
This guide is for anyone who wants to optimize their diet to build more lean body mass. It's important that you are eating a sufficient amount of calories to put yourself in a slight calorie surplus. This is called lean bulking and allows your body to build muscle and gain weight.
SUMMARYIn addition to proper resistance training, your muscle-building diet must be high in protein, vitamins, and certain micronutrients for optimal muscle gain.
Four components of a muscle building diet plan
Follow these four steps to maximize muscle gain after resistance training. After exercise, our muscles are weak and broken down. Each of these four steps allows our body to optimally replenish and recover.
Each section is equally as important. We encourage you to check out the additional reading articles for each category.
1) Daily protein consumption
Protein is one of the three macronutrients that your body breaks down for energy. When trying building muscle, your body needs much more protein than normal.
Include protein in each meal. If you are unable to reach your daily protein goal from whole foods then consider using protein shakes. These work great as a post-workout snack!
- Protein Rich Foods Guide
- The Best Tasting Protein Powder
- 5 High Protein Breakfast Ideas For Bodybuilders
- 10 Ingredients You Can Add To Oatmeal (Coming Soon)
A meta-analysis of 49 different trials across 1863 participants showed that 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight (1.6 g/kg) is the optimal daily protein amount for building lean muscle (study, morton).
Formula: Multiply your body weight (lbs) by 0.7.
This is how many grams of protein you need to consume every day. So a 100 lb individual should consume 70 grams of protein each day (100lb * 0.7 = 70g per day).
Incorporate a variety of protein sources from our list of foods below. Different protein sources contain different vitamins and minerals so it's beneficial to mix things up. Maintaining a high protein intake is important since your body uses protein for muscle building.
Chicken breast is the most popular source of protein for non-vegan diets. However, there are so many other protein-rich food choices such as cottage cheese, greek yogurt, and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Our Protein Rich Foods Guide covers each food group in detail and breaks down the best protein sources and how to shop for them.
SUMMARYYou need to consume a ton of protein every day to gain muscle. To find your daily protein goal in grams, multiply your body weight (lbs) by 0.7.
2) Importance of food diversity
Find ways to include multiple food groups into your diet. Different types of food are nutritious in their own unique ways.
For example, dairy contains vitamin B12 which stimulates muscle growth while sweet potatoes contain potassium which helps deliver nutrients to your muscles.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies hinder your body's ability to construct new muscle. A nutrition-rich diet plan is just as important as proper resistance training and should not be overlooked. Better yet, doing so will also benefit your overall health.
- Use the 80/20 rule to keep your diet in check
- Our Favorite Snacks For Bodybuilders
- Which Vitamins Relate To Muscle Building (Coming Soon)
- How To Incorporate Staple Foods Into Your Diet (Coming Soon)
The following vitamins are important for testosterone, muscle growth, and carb metabolization.
- Vitamin D - boosts testosterone
- Vitamin B12 - creates red blood cells to stimulate muscle growth
- Vitamin C - metabolize carbs for fuel
We like using the 80/20 rule to incorporate healthy veggies. This strategy allows for 80 percent healthy foods with a 20 percent allowance for unhealthier foods.
The following minerals are very important for muscle recovery:
- Calcium - muscle contraction and energy metabolism
- Potassium - muscle nutrient delivery
- Iron - high energy levels, immune system
- Magnesium - muscle relaxation
- Zinc - muscle protein synthesis
Foods that contain healthy fats such as olive oils, avocados, and nuts are often high in minerals and healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
SUMMARYCertain vitamins and minerals play a key role in muscle development and should not be overlooked. Use our simple strategies to help avoid vitamin deficiencies.
3) Amino acids and workout supplements
Certain amino acids can help enhance performance when resistance training. Consider adding creatine, citrulline, BCAAs, and beta-alanine to your post-workout meals to supercharge your recovery if you train regularly.
Here are some of the best amino acids for working out:
- BCAA - Reduces soreness & fatigue during working out
- Citrulline - stimulates muscle protein synthesis and reduces amino acid breakdown
- Betaine - Improves athletic endurance in multiple sports
- Creatine - Increases energy while working out
- Beta Alanine - Reduces lactic acid build up. Synergistic effect with creatine.
Most of these can be found in high-quality proteins including animal protein, dairy, and soy. However, amino acid supplements are widely sought by bodybuilders because they can be taken before/after a workout without having to eat.
These supplements enhance performance during and after training and can be found in certain pre-workout and whey protein supplements.
- 5 Supplements You Do Not Need (Coming Soon)
- Best Supplements Before A Workout (Coming Soon)
- Which Amino Acids Relate To Muscle Building? (Coming Soon)
SUMMARYCertain amino acids enhance workout performance and speed up recovery. Many of the important amino acids can be found in high quality protein sources and workout supplements.
4) Resistance training frequency
Resistance training, also known as weight training or weight lifting, is a key component of muscle building and is absolutely required to gain muscle.
You must incorporate some type of resistance training in order to build new muscle. We suggest aiming for three workouts a week and to not to neglect any of the major muscle groups: legs, back, chest, and core.
Different types of strength training include:
- Free weights - dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells
- Weight machines - any machine at a gym that works out specific muscle groups
- Resistance bands - rubber bands that provide resistance when stretched
- Body weight exercises - push-ups, pull-ups, etc
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT) - workout plan of high intensity and low-intensity exercise
- Weight Training vs. HIIT - Which is Better? (Coming Soon)
- Female Bodybuilding (Coming Soon)
- Best Workout Machines For Beginners (Coming Soon)
Aim for a minimum of 3 workout sessions a week. If possible, give yourself a day's rest in between each workout. This will ensure you have sufficient energy to get the most out of your training sessions.
Pro tip: Make sure you're getting enough carbs from whole grain sources like brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and oatmeal. These carbohydrates will keep you full and provide you with the energy you need to power through your workouts. Eating extra calories on workout days will give you more energy!
It's important to get high quality sleep each night after working out. Sleep deprivation can encourage the loss of muscle mass and lessen muscle recovery (study, Dattilo).
SUMMARYAim for three resistance training sessions per week. It's best if you can target all major muscle groups each week. Try to get sufficient sleep on days you workout.
Building muscle consists of resistance training and recovery
Building muscle can be broken down into two stages: resistance training and recovery.
Resistance training is a form of exercise that increases muscle and lean body mass. It works by forcing the muscles to contract against an external resistance such as a dumbbell.
This training commonly takes the form of weight lifting including exercises such as squatting, lifting dumbbells, doing pull ups, etc.
We perform resistance training to purposely break down muscle fibers so they can grow back bigger.
It's important to note that resistance training is intended to be difficult. If the exercise is not difficult enough then your muscle fibers will not break down. Aim to always increase the weights you lift and always challenge your muscle's limits. Here are two examples of resistance training:
- Pull-ups - A pull-up primarily uses your upper back muscles, or latissimus dorsi, to pull the body upwards while gravity is pulling the body down. In this case, your body weight is the external resistance. As strength increases, more pull-ups can be done in a working set to scale the difficulty accordingly.
- Dumbbell Curls - A dumbbell curl causes the bicep muscle to contract with the dumbbell acting as the external resistance. As strength improves, the dumbbell size is increased to scale the difficulty accordingly.
During resistance training, muscle fibers are constantly being broken down. For a few days after exercise, the body works at repairing and growing these muscles.
Eating a proper diet and getting adequate rest is important to allow for proper recovery.
Heavy resistance training creates micro tears in our muscles. The human body, a natural defense mechanism, repairs these tears and makes the muscle stronger in a process called muscle protein synthesis.
This is our body's way of adapting to external stress. It becomes stronger to better handle future occurrences of heavy resistance.
Male and female muscle growth
Both men and women build muscles the same way regardless of gender. Muscle protein synthesis happens in all human bodies and our diets are no different. However, one big difference is that men physically have a higher ceiling in muscle potential than women.
Men are able to gain more muscle than women because:
- Naturally higher levels of testosterone, a key hormone in muscle development
- On average, more skeletal muscle mass than women
- More fast twitch muscle fibers which are important for power
Alternatively, women have more slow twitch muscle fibers than men which are important for endurance and conditioning. This means that women on average are more fatigue resistant while men are usually stronger.
Regardless of gender, it's important to perform resistance training and follow a healthy high-protein diet if you want to add muscle mass. Muscles in men and women respond to resistance training the same way (study, Ivey).
SUMMARYMuscle development and recovery is the SAME in both men and women. The only difference is that men have a higher ceiling in muscle potential than women.
Finding the best muscle building foods
If you've made it this far then congrats. You've just digested tons of useful information that you'll need to begin making a difference in your life.
To recap, here is what your body needs for healthy weight gain and muscle development:
- A high amount of protein from protein-rich foods
- Certain vitamins like vitamin D, B12, and C
- Calcium, potassium, Iron, Magnesium, and Zinc
- A sufficient amount of calories from the key macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
We also have a dedicated article to muscle building foods.
Contact us if you have any questions about starting a proper diet. The hardest part of it all is getting started. You'll be surprised how easy dieting becomes when you get in a rhythm.