Muscle building diet

Last updated on September 25th, 2018

There are many diets nowadays. At least half of modern diets are useless because those people, who invent them, are just trying to come up with something new to get people interested. You may see lots of different diets, but if they advise you to focus only on green vegetables, excluding everything that is not green, or for example, to eat only cheese and meat or something else – these diets are trash.

This article will describe some effective diet recommendations for young and professional bodybuilders. The following recommendations are based on a successful experience in diet and bodybuilding department. These diet tips were used in practice by many bodybuilders and simply people, who wanted to increase their muscle mass. Before starting any diet, people should increase or decrease the amount of food gradually. The body needs time to adjust to any changes.

The main principles of muscle building diet

If you are going to start building up muscles, you need to remember one important thing. Muscle will grow faster only if your calorie intake (food) exceeds the calorie expenditure. It means that you should consume more calories with food, than your body can lose throughout a day. You might need to increase the caloric value of your diet by 5% up to 30%, sometimes even more.

But people are different, so you should determine the amount (percentage) of calories exactly for your body. Try to increase your calorie intake gradually, until you start gaining 500-800g of weight a week. If you are not gaining, then increase your calorie intake more.

You might need to weigh yourself at least once in three days. This way you will find out what is normal for you. A gradual muscle gain is best (no more than 800 g per week), since you don’t want to gain fat tissue.

High calorie food

For a successful muscle building and normal metabolism, your daily diet must contain about 70% of high calorie food. Certainly, fruit and vegetables are good for daily diet, but if your diet contains a great amount of fiber (which is found in these products), it stimulates the contraction of intestines and greater part of caloric substances is not digested.

Consumption of 4-6 meals a day

Scientists found out that anabolic effect lasts about 3-4 hours, so those men who want to gain muscle mass should eat more often than usually. An optimal number of daily meals is 4-6. This amount of meals is enough not to overload your gastrointestinal system. Moreover, your body is consuming small amounts of nutrients and hence the energy throughout the day. This way your muscles get enough “fuel” to grow.

If a bodybuilder eats 3 times a day, instead of 5 or 6, then he will consume greater amount of food and his body will store it in fat deposits, but not as muscles.

Fats and fast carbohydrates

It is better to limit the consumption of foods high in animal fat and other types of saturated fat (bacon, butter, sausages, pork, fried food, etc.). It is a fact that human body uses carbs for energy in the first place; therefore, all the excess fat will be stored as fat tissue in the body.

However, men and women should avoid consuming too much of fast carbohydrates such as candies, pastry, sweet fruit, etc. The thing is that these products do provide energy, but it is just a burst of energy lasting a short period of time. Not mentioning that these types of carbs are digested very quickly thereby increasing the concentration of blood sugar. The excess blood sugar is later transformed into adipose tissue. Well, this doesn’t mean that you should refuse from all sweets once and for all. You can eat a candy bar (or fast carbs in any other form) after a physical training, since the production of insulin increases and the body transforms glucose into energy much faster after workouts.

Distribution of meals throughout a day

Daily meals plan is no rocket science. All portions should be of equal size, only the greatest part of your daily meals should be eaten before 4:00 p.m. (about 70%).

Needless to say that the later you eat at night, the slower your food is digested and hence the more excess calories are stored as fat. If you feel hungry at night, you should better eat a yogurt, egg or a small serving of chicken breast (protein).

Make sure you eat at least 2 hours before each workout. A pre-workout meal must contain proteins and slow carbohydrates, like low-fat meat, pasta, cereals, etc. Carbs are needed to provide energy, while proteins (amino acids) provoke anabolism.

After every workout, your body also needs some fuel. Bodybuilders say that the best meal for your body soon after an intense training is a good serving of gainer (carbs and proteins). Hour and a half after, make sure you have a full meal, containing proteins and slow carbs. During this time, your body is ready to digest a large amount of food to restore muscles and refill the energy reserves.

Water consumption

If you work on muscle building, your metabolism increases and your body needs more water than usually. So, make sure you are drinking at least 2 liters (plus water from food) of still water a day. You should drink water not only when you are in the gym, but also when you are thirsty.

Fat, carbs and proteins ratio

For best diet and best muscle gain, you should monitor and balance the amount of proteins, carbs and fat in food you eat every day.

The greatest part of an athlete or bodybuilder’s diet should consist of carbohydrates. It is about 50-60% of a total diet. Remember: only slow carbs.

Proteins must be 30-35% of total daily diet. No need to explain why proteins are so important for all the muscles in our body. About half of this amount should be obtained from food and the rest of it from sports nutrition.

Fat is also important for your muscle building and good metabolism. Total amount of fat should be no less than 10% (20% maximum) of your diet. Vegetable fats, seafood, olive oil and cod-liver oil are the best sources of healthy fats.

These numbers indicate the daily nutrients ratio of an average athlete or bodybuilder. The numbers may vary in different people. Depending on the results, you may change the amount of nutrients, according your preferences.

Menu for muscle building

Many people are busy or simply do not know what foods are best for muscle building. No matter what foods you choose, your daily diet should include fat, carbs and proteins. Make sure your diet is versatile so you don’t develop a disgust to certain foods. Here are some tips how to diversify your daily menu and how to balance the nutrients.

Proteins (meat, fish and seafood, eggs, dairy and beans).

Choose a low-fat or fat-free meat. Chicken and turkey (any poultry) are rich in protein and contain minimum fat. You can eat any kind of fish, even fatty fish, since it is perfectly digested. Dairy should be low-fat or fat-free (0%-2% fat cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir, skim milk, etc.). Eggs are a good source of protein and amino acids as well. If your blood cholesterol is normal, then you have nothing to worry about, you can eat 6-8 eggs daily.

Beans, peas, lentils, chick-pea and mung beans are rich in vegetable protein. It is known that lentils and chick-pea can give you an extra amount of BCAA. Nuts are full of proteins and fats, as well as vitamins and minerals, so make sure there is a little space for nuts in your diet as well.

Carbohydrates (cereals, vegetables, greens, fruits and mushrooms).

Porridge and other cereals are best sources of slow carbs for a bodybuilder. These products contain not only carbs, but also proteins, vitamins and minerals. For example: buckwheat, oatmeal, pearl barley, millet, cornmeal or wheat porridge. Pasta is also a good source of slow carbs (remember: only durum wheat pasta). Bran bread and muesli can diversify the daily menu.

Every bodybuilder needs fresh vegetables. If you want to build up muscles, avoid boiled carrots, beat, and especially potato. These veggies contain a lot of starch. Make sure you eat fresh or stewed vegetables with every serving of protein (as garnish). Fiber that is found in vegetables will help your digestive system to process all proteins easily. Mushrooms have no protein value for a human body, yet can add some nice flavor to your dishes.

Fruits and greens are full of vitamins and minerals, although some of sweet fruits contain fast carbs (banana, pear, grapes, etc.), so you should eat them in small amounts.

Fat (vegetable oils, seafood, Omega-3 supplements).

Sportsmen and bodybuilders should better eat foods that are enriched with vegetable oils mostly. These types of fats are better digested and are never stored as adipose tissue. If you don’t like olive or any other vegetable oil, you may use some dietary supplements, containing Omega-3.

In addition to a proper diet, a special system developed by specialists, can help you to build more muscles.

  • Calorie calculator. It will help you calculate an approximate amount of calories you should consume a day for your muscle gain. This calculator is an easy way to start your proper muscle building plan.
  • Defining your genetic possibilities in bodybuilding.
  • Choosing an individual sports nutrition for building muscles.
  • Body fat calculator. It will help you to calculate fat and lean muscle percentage precisely. You should use this calculator at least twice or three times a month. It will show you how much lean muscles you got and how much is fat tissue. If fat percentage increases, it means you will have to slow down your muscle gain process, or change the diet.
  • Calculation of protein.

Diet, sports nutrition and steroids

The muscle building diet can be combined with anabolic steroids and sports nutrition products. The main sports nutrition type for muscle building is proteins. Make sure you drink proteins shakes in the morning, between the main meals after training and before going to bed. Whey isolate and BCAA are also preferable to use after each workout.

Another sports nutrition product – gainer you may take only before workouts (at least an hour). Every bodybuilder should take vitamins and minerals (complex). Creatine should be used after the workout, along with gainer or protein supplement. Anabolic steroids do not change the muscle building diet much; except for the fact, you can eat more than usually to increase your muscle mass significantly.


  • McGee, Harold (2004). McGee on Food and Cooking. Hodder and Stoughton. p. 70.
  • Bohe J, Low JF, Wolfe RR, Rennie MJ: Latency and duration of stimulation of human muscle protein synthesis during continuous infusion of amino acids. J Physiol 2001, 532(Pt 2):575-9.
  • Atherton PJ, Etheridge T, Watt PW, Wilkinson D, Selby A, Rankin D, Smith K, Rennie MJ: Muscle full effect after oral protein: time-dependent concordance and discordance between human muscle protein synthesis and mTORC1 signaling. Am J Clin Nutr 2010, 92(5):1080-8.



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