When most people get into fitness they just want to look better.
They think that in order to do this they need to go low calorie and lean out.
They think that it requires less food and more activity to get the body they want.
While eating less and moving more may be something you have to do for periods of time throughout your fitness journey, doing it all of the time will hurt your progress long term.
You see, when people want to improve how they look, the biggest thing they overlook is putting on muscle.
In order to put on muscle you can’t just eat low calorie and restrict yourself all the time.
Again, some people need to go through a period of time lowering their body fat levels to improve their look, but doing this all of the time is not the way to go for most. It sucks and isn’t sustainable.
The other part of the equation that is important to building muscle is your training performance.
When you diet for fat loss you can just eat less (you must be in a calorie deficit) and you will see your bodyweight trend down over time.
But if your goal is to build muscle you cant just eat more and see muscle growth.
You must lift weights in combination. Without that signal to build muscle there is no other way you can build muscle, even if you just eat all of the protein in the world.
When you first get started lifting you can get away with having less than ideal nutrition habits and you will see muscle growth.
But over time the newbie gains wear off and must get more serious about the nutrition side of things.
In this blog I want to go over the nutrition commandments you must follow to build muscle and how you can maximize your performance to help you build more muscle.
You must consume enough calories.
Like I mentioned earlier, always trying to lean out (a calorie deficit is required for this) will hurt your gym performance and will stunt your muscle growth over time.
Working out in a calorie deficit sucks.
Your pumps suck, you are tired, you don’t want to train.
When you are in a calorie deficit your body is getting the signal to break down, not build.
Therefore we want to make sure we are getting enough calories in. When you do this your workouts improve, you get better pumps in the gym, and you just feel better overall.
Simple way to know you are eating enough?
Check where your bodyweight is trending over time.
If it’s trending down, you are in a deficit.
If it’s staying around the same you are at maintenance (this is OK for building muscle).
If it’s slowly increasing then you are in a surplus.
Again by getting more calories in you are giving your body the energy it needs to perform, recover, and build.
Too many people spend way too long of a time in a deficit and ultimately they are hurting themselves in the long run.
Spend no more than 8-16 weeks at a time trying to lean out. Get in and get out.
Stop having this aimless goal of “I just want to lean out”.
You must get enough protein.
Another common mistake people make when trying to build more muscle and improve performance is not eating enough protein.
Getting in plenty of calories is a great start, but if most of them are from carbohydrates and fats then you may be putting on a little more body fat than you would like.
Your recovery may not be as great either.
Good sources of lean protein:
- Chicken Breast
- Lean Steak Cuts
- Turkey Breast
- Ground Turkey
- Pork Tenderloin
- Low-Fat & Non-Fat Dairy
- Egg Whites
- Greek yogurt (my favorite is the oikos triple zero)
- Tuna packets
Aim for around .8-1g per pound of bodyweight.
You must eat enough carbs each day.
Carbs get a bad reputation. However it just comes down to misunderstanding and the fact that many “experts” equate carbs to getting fat.
So people stay away from them, even if they want to build muscle and improve their aesthetics.
Too much of anything can lead to fat gain, even protein.
The reality is carbohydrates play an essential role in muscle growth and overall bodily function.
Most of the energy you use during weight training comes from carbohydrates.
The storage form of carbohydrates in the body is glycogen, and low glycogen stores have been shown to reduce the number of repetitions in 3 sets of squats at 80% of 1RM.
Carbs from whole-food sources will improve your performance in the gym, give you more energy, and speed up your recovery from training. Plus, carbs are your body’s preferred fuel source. To build the leanest, strongest version of yourself, proper fuel is a must.
They also do a great job of sparing protein so you ensure that protein is being used for building/repairing and not for energy.
Higher glycogen stores help the body stay in an anabolic state (building up).
With online clients, if they want to build muscle and increase performance, we make sure they eat an adequate amount of carbohydrates.
Aim for around 1-2g per pound of bodyweight (you can go higher) per day.
Eat Like an Adult 80-90% of the Time
You must have a good foundation of whole foods.
You can enjoy tasty foods and alcohol from time to time, but most of the time you need to eat whole foods.
Too many people hear more calories and automatically think they can just eat everything they want.
In saying that if your weight is not trending up and you are having trouble getting in enough calories read this. Sometimes eating too many “clean” foods makes it tough to get in enough calories that you need.
While some people might need to add more calorie dense foods in to help them get enough calories for their goal, eating crap most of the time will surely hurt your chances of building muscle and increasing performance.
Here is a list of foods that should make up the foundation of your diet:
Eat Around Your Workouts/Spread Your Protein Intake Out
Too many people don’t eat enough around their workouts, and ultimately their performance suffers, which can hurt muscle growth over time.
Overall protein intake for the day is most important, but evenly spreading out that protein intake throughout the day is very important for building muscle.
So it would be better to do this:
Meal 1: 40g protein
Meal 2: 40g protein
Meal 3: 40g protein
Meal 4: 40g protein
Rather than this:
Meal 1: 70g protein
Meal 2: 5g protein
Meal 3: 60g protein
Meal 4: 15g protein
When in a building phase, online clients aim to go no more than 5-6 hours without getting a lean protein source in.
Ideally you would have a meal either within 2-3 hours before your workout or 1-2 hours post workout.
Ideally the meals around your workouts would be moderate protein, higher carbs, and low to almost no fats.
It’s a good idea to make your meals around your workouts higher carb/lower fat. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy and are digested/absorbed rather quickly whereas fats take a little longer.
So if you eat a meal higher in fats you may feel bloated/full during your lift, which is not great.
With your carb choices, this is a good time to select foods like:
- White rice
- Rice cakes
Basically you want something low in fiber and that will get into your bloodstream quickly. These do the job.
What you want to avoid is going hours upon hours without eating before and after your workout.
Being slightly dehydrated can negatively affect your performance.
Also, your muscles are made up of mostly water. So you and they (your muscles) must stay hydrated.
Our body is good at regulating this so the best thing to do here is to drink when you are thirsty and pay attention to your pee color.
Clear and light color is fine, but once it start to get darker then its a sign you should probably start drinking more.
With online clients I tell them to start each day with a glass of water. This seems to help you feel more wake in the morning and it starts your day off with hydration which will make it easier to maintain throughout the day.
Have a Plan
This doesn’t have to be complex.
But it’s important to know where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and how long it may take. Wandering aimlessly will all but ensure you will stay in the same place.
With online clients we focus on long term goals and long term plans. We don’t ever wander aimlessly.
You don’t have to have every little thing planned out, but having a general direction is important.
If you are taking a cross country road trip you may not need to follow the GPS every second, but its probably a good idea to check it every once in a while to ensure you are heading the right direction.
Read here on nutritional periodization.
Has been proven to increase strength and muscle mass, improve recovery from training and injury, and potentially improves brain function.
Creatine is a great supplement for anyone (kids, the elderly, females, etc.). If you eat a lot of meat (as creatine is naturally in meats) then there is less of a need for it, however, its still a great idea to take it because it has a ton of benefits and its CHEAP.
Some of the potential benefits of creatine supplementation:
- Increased strength, therefore increased muscle mass
- Helps with recovery (great for you since you are active and lifting weights)
- Can help with recovery from injury and help with the prevention of injury
- New research is showing improvements in cognitive function with creatine supplementation.
Some people can be nonresponders to creatine, but since it is so cheap and has so many benefits its a no brainer to add in. It will also give your muscles a fuller look.
With creatine we tell online clients to get “Creatine monohydrate”. If you go to the supplement stores the guys will try to get you to buy the fancier and more expensive versions of creatine. DON’T DO IT.
As far as everything else goes you would:
- Take about 5-10g per day
- You can take it anytime (there is no research that shows a specific time being better than others). Just pick a time you know you will take it each day.
The main thing is that you consistently take it. It isn’t a supplement that you take once and feel the effects (like a preworkout drink).
A no brainer supplement.
If you are ready to dial in your nutrition and training hit the link here to apply for Online Coaching, and let’s get to work.
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