How to Gain Weight: 6 Proven Ways to Build Muscle Through Diet

Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD
     
Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD
Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD

If you're looking to bulk, gain healthy weight, or put on some serious muscle, you've come to the right place. Welcome to Gainesville

Muscle is precious tissue that we should all strive to maintain for our entire lives - men, women, old and young, should all look to create and keep a solid muscle foundation. It is not just the root of our strength, but lean mass also plays a role in reducing injuries, and aches and pains later in life. And it is the tissue behind that lean, shredded look many of us strive for in the gym, powering our metabolism and ability to utilize our food for energy like a well oiled machine. 

Many people tend to believe that dropping body fat is going to reveal a chiseled, toned figure and get you that six pack you've always wanted. But in actuality, you can only reveal what you've already got. Meaning you wont look shredded or ripped unless you've built up some muscle to begin with.

And while maintaining your existing muscle is one thing, what about adding some additional mass and strength? Are there special diet tricks or do you just need to lift heavy? And how can you ensure you gain more muscle than fat? 

How to Gain Muscle and Get Shredded

shawn roden mr olympia 2018-1

The amount of muscle you can actually gain and how quickly is determined by a number of factors including genetics, diet, training, and hormones. And your starting body composition may also be an important factor to consider. But regardless, any gain in muscle typically requires weight gain in general. 

Does Muscle Weigh More Than Fat?

You might have heard the common saying that muscle weighs more than fat, but this would defy the laws of physics, since one pound of anything still weighs a pound. Where this idea really comes from is the amount of volume muscle takes up compared to fat. Muscle is much more dense and takes up less space - up to 18% less. Meaning you can weigh quite a bit more with a large amount of lean mass and not look as "large". In addition, muscle tends to be more smooth than fat, helping you look more toned and lean overall. 

So no, gaining muscle will not make you weigh less. Often times it makes you weigh more than your starting weight. But your clothes may fit better, you will feel healthier and the gym will start to become a little more enjoyable. So maybe it's time to toss the scale and start measuring your success by something else, like your body fat percentage or progress photos to keep you motivated. 

How to Gain Weight Fast

In reality there is only so much food your body can process and turn into body mass. And gaining multiple pounds of muscle a week is not realistic for a lot of us. Similar to losing weight, gaining weight takes time and consistency - and patience. 

Also the type of weight you are looking to increase is important to consider - you probably want to gain muscle not fat or excess fluids. And the faster you are gaining, the more likely you are going to see the scale creep up from water retention and fat, not just muscle. Not to mention, rapid weight gain also causes stretch marks. 

Lean Bulk vs. Dirty Bulk

There are two main types of muscle building diets - a lean bulk and a dirty bulk. A dirty bulk refers to a large surplus of calories to promote quick weight gain, whereas a lean bulk or "clean bulk" uses a moderate increase in calories in addition to a healthier food approach.  

In one study looking at athletes, those that aimed to gain weight more quickly with a dirty bulk, gained slightly more muscle, but significantly more fat mass overall than those who did so at a slower pace (1). Meaning you may end up gaining muscle faster, but end up having to diet down some of the excess fat you accumulated as well. 

dirty bulk vs lean bulk fat gain

*Bargraph illustrates total body weight (weight gain) and % gain of lean body mass/muscle (LBM) and fat mass (FM) between a lean bulk (NCG) and dirty bulk (ALG) group. Reference

For most gaining 0.5 to 1 pound of weight a week represents a fairly quick rate of HEALTHY weight gain. And for some, especially women the rate of muscle gain may be even slower (2).

How to Gain Healthy Weight

The thing about weight gain or weight loss is that it is always a combination of lean tissue and fatty tissue - never one exclusively. Which means you will always gain some additional body fat when trying to gain muscle and lose some muscle when trying to lose body fat. 

Depending on a number of factors, for each pound you gain, anywhere from two-thirds to one-third will result in fat, with the remaining as lean tissue (3).

Your rate of weight gain, genetics, training schedule and type of food you choose are all important factors for promoting healthy weight gain in the form of more muscle over body fat. But the biggest determining factor might be your starting body composition. 

Studies suggest that naturally lean individuals are more likely to put on weight in the form of muscle over fat. And similarly, those with a higher starting body fat percentage as more likely to add more body fat than muscle (4,5,6,7,8,9)

But this has really only been evidenced in people who are naturally lean, not necessarily those that have dieted down to a lower body fat percentage.

Dieting results in a temporary metabolic adaption where your metabolism and rate of fat oxidation slows - meaning you are prone to store more fat when calories are increased again (10,11). If you have recently gone through a cut to have a lower starting body fat, you might want to consider maintaining your lower weight for a few weeks first to allow your metabolism  to stabilize before trying to bulk.

Cycling through cutting and bulking phases is another way to approach this and get your desired results. Since the body composition effect works the same in reverse. In other words those with higher body fat percentages tend to lose fat  more easily and maintain muscle better than naturally lean individuals.  

And good news for newbies, research suggests that beginners tend to gain muscle more efficiently than those that are highly trained (12).  Of course this rate starts to decrease as you become more fit over time and some of this mass gain might be skewed due to increased water retention in newer lifters (13).  

The Importance of Muscle Building Workouts

While theoretically you can put on muscle in a calorie surplus, even without lifting weights, adding some muscle building workouts to your plan is going to a be a huge factor in how much lean mass you can build. Training is also a great way to keep body fat in check. 

When you strength train, you create micro tears in your muscles. And because your body is smart, it tends to repair these areas of your muscle to be even stronger, cutting down on any future "injuries". And research suggests that the strength of your muscles is positively correlated to their size - meaning getting stronger is the same thing as getting bigger (14).  

Heavier weight means increased strength and more strength means more muscle building potential. But you can't lift heavy without a solid foundation. Learning proper lifting technique and how to get started with weight training is key for beginners. If you're a beginner, start by finding a certified strength training coach who can show you the ropes. This will not only allow to lift heavier in the long run, but can also cut down on your risk of injury. 

Don’t Forget the Importance of Rest

Finding the right training frequency for you and getting enough sleep is key. Because exercise causes your muscles to breakdown, you aren't building muscles while you are lifting weights or using them - the building part comes during the repair and recovery phase.... when you are resting. 

So even though you are training and getting your diet on point, don't forget to sleep and listen to your body. It is the combo of targeted exercise, sufficient rest and nutrition that gives you the perfect muscle building trifecta, not just one exclusively. 

Your Top Nutrition Strategies for Natural Lean Bulking 

brooke ence diet-1

So you've decided to dedicate yourself to putting on some serious muscle and getting the biceps of your dreams. You may be in for a long journey, but the results will surely be worth it. 

Genetics and individual factors aside, there are a few things you can control when it comes to promoting more muscle mass than fat, and mastering your fitness and nutrition like a pro. Use these science backed tips below as your ultimate guide for the best muscle building diet. 

1. Eat More Calories

The easiest way to start putting on some muscle mass is to up your calorie intake. I know what you are thinking - I am going to eat a ton of food and put on weight as quickly as possibleBut don't go overboard just yet, the amount of calories you actually need for healthy weight gain might surprise you.  

How Many Calories Do I need to Gain Weight?

You'll need to start by figuring out how many calories you need to eat a day to maintain your current weight and then look at increasing your intake from there. You can quickly estimate your total daily energy needs using an online calorie calculatorAnd be sure to include any planned training in your estimated daily calorie needs for maintenance. 

The amount of calories you should add to your estimated daily intake is not a large amount. And the amount you need to add can depend on your starting fitness level and body composition. 

For most advanced lifters, increasing calories by 5 to 10% (or roughly 100 to 300 calories a day) is enough to support additional lean muscle growth.  

For a 2,500 calorie diet this would mean an increase of 125 to 250 calories a day - leading to 0.25 to 0.5 pounds of weight gain a week. 

Professional bodybuilders, those looking to add some serious mass, or those maintaining a heavier weight, could easily need to eat a very high calorie diet. But even at 300 pounds, many will top out around 6,000 calories per day. And their additional calorie needs for lean gains is still relatively small comparatively. Keep in mind even pregnant women only need an additional 300 to 500 calories a day and they are growing a tiny human being. 

For beginners a higher increase, up to 300 to 500 calories a day might be more appropriate. And this additional increase would lead to 0.5 to 1 pound of weight gain per week. 

But of course all of this can still depend on individual differences. If weight gain is particularly hard for you or you aren't gaining any weight after 3 to 4 weeks using a moderate calorie increase, you can up this amount. An additional 1,000 calories a day would put you at a rapid weight gain of 2 pound per week, but this isn't recommended for everyone. 

What 300 Calories of Healthy Foods Looks Like: 

300 calorie snacks oatmeal berry almonds bread

Using Trifecta a la carte options, the following options will grab you an extra 300 calories of nutrient dense foods: 

  • 8 oz oatmeal with raisins
  • 2 bison burgers
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 oz sweet potatoes + 4 oz salmon
  • 4 oz basa, 4 oz brown rice and veggies (classic meal)

How to Count Calories

Tracking your daily food intake is the single most effective way to count calories and ensure you are sticking to your diet.  You can easily do this using a food tracking app, like Trifecta

And because the daily calorie increase needed for muscle gain is not massive, accuracy is really key. Be as precise as possible when logging your food by avoiding estimating whenever possible. Here are some easy tips you can use to get the most out of your calorie counting app: 

  • Measuring the amount you are actually consuming using measuring cups and spoons
  • Consider weighing your food for even more accuracy 
  • Include ALL ingredients used, including oils, seasonings, sauces, dressings and toppings
  • Track every food and beverage you eat or drink, even small bites and sips count
  • Be specific about brands when searching in the app or use bar-code scanning

Quantity vs. Quality

The amount of food you eat is going to be the most important factor for weight gain, but the quality of your choices is also worth paying attention to. 

Eating a crappy diet is not only going to make you feel a little run down, but can also effect your workouts, promote more fat gain than muscle and cause potential health problems down the road. 

Instead of eating whatever you want, aim to eat clean by opting for more foods made with simple ingredients you recognize and cut down on heavily processed foods. Whole foods tend to be higher in key nutrients you need to thrive and support your muscle gaining capabilities. They can also help you recover from workouts faster and promote a better mood, energy level and overall health in general. 

However, this doesn't mean you have to eat perfect 100% of the time - it's about consistency and overall balance. Not to mention, when calorie needs are really high, it can be difficult to stick to only filling, whole foods. In this case, adding more refined carbs and quick sources of energy can help. This is also where high fat and energy dense foods come into play.  

Foods High in Calories

For most, eating a diet stacked with high calorie foods isn't always necessary when it comes to weight gain. But for those that have trouble gaining weight or need a significant amount of calories to support their needs (3,500 calories or more a day), getting more energy in a smaller package is going to be much easier than trying to live off salads. This also doesn't mean you have to eat junk to hit your calorie goals. 

Extracting different components from foods, like oils, proteins and sugars from whole foods, is an easy way to get concentrated macros that can provide a significant amount of calories without taking up too much space. It also allows you to fine tune your nutrition by choosing the type of macros that work best for your health and your needs.

High calorie foods you can add to your diet include:

Fats -

  • Plant based oils, 1 tablespoon = 120 calories
  • Olives and avocado, 10 olives or 1/2 cup avocado = 120 calories
  • Nuts, seeds and nut butters, 1/4 cup nuts or 2 tablespoons nut butter = 170 calories
  • Full fat cream and cheese, 2 tablespoons cream or 1 oz cheese = 100 calories

Carbs

  • Natural sugars like maple syrup, honey, agave, and molasses, 1 tablespoon = 60 calories
  • Whole grain muffins, pancakes, and waffles,  1 large = 175 to 200 calories

Proteins

  • Whole milk yogurt and milk, 1 cup = 150 calories
  • Protein powders, 1 scoop = 120 calories

2. Up Your Protein Intake

Increasing your calories is key in gaining weight, but the amount of protein you eat is also crucial to your muscle building efforts. Considering protein is the building block for most of your entire body - especially your lean mass, upping your intake of this macro is usually necessary to grow your muscles. 

Protein is so important, that your body prioritizes this nutrient for building and maintaining your cells, hormones, enzymes, etc. over using it for fuel. So when you aren't getting enough protein from your diet, you have to find a new source - and that usually means breaking down your muscle. 

To protect lean mass from being broken down, the goal is to have at least a zero "protein" balance (scientifically speaking this is also called a nitrogen balance) - in other words, you are eating just enough protein to repair and maintain existing muscle along with other bodily functions. A negative balance means you are not getting enough protein coming in and start to break down muscle for amino acids. And a positive balance means there is excess protein that can be used to build even more muscle, given the right conditions.

In addition to it's role in building muscle, high protein intakes may also support less fat gain during a calorie surplus - making it a lean bulk essential. 

A month-long study looking at 1,000 calorie overfeeding with 20% of calories coming from protein, compared to 10 to 14% calories from protein, resulted in roughly half the amount of fat gain with higher protein intakes - the the high protein group gained 2.5 pounds of fat compared to the lower protein group who gained 4.5 pounds (14). 

How Much Protein Do I need?

The amount of protein you need to influence increases in muscle is directly related to your current fitness level, training, and existing muscle mass. The more muscle you have and the harder you train, the more protein you need.

Your total calorie intake may also be a factor, with some research suggesting that your macro diet ratio may have an impact on body composition (% body fat and % lean mass) when looking at a surplus or deficit of calories in particular.

For athletes, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends an intake of 0.54 to 0.9 grams of protein a day per pound of body weight, which would translate to 81 to 136 grams for a 150 pound adult. But this amount is geared towards muscle maintenance and does not necessarily consider the increased need for weight gain. 

Additional research suggests that higher protein intakes between 1 to 1.5 grams of protein a day, per pound of body weight during a large calorie surplus (to promote weight gain) results in lower gains in body fat - promoting more muscle overall (15,16). Which would equal 150 to 225 grams for a 150 pound adult.

High Protein Foods

While all sources of protein are going to benefit your lean bulk, some sources are better than others. 

Including more high protein foods is going to help you hit your daily needs.

In addition, studies suggests that complete proteins from animal sources may support muscle growth more efficiently than plant based proteins because of how they are absorbed (17). However, choosing complementary proteins is thought to improve overall absorption of plant based sources (18). 

Some of the best high protein foods and pairings for muscle building include:

  • Meat, poultry and seafood
  • Milk, yogurt, and cheese 
  • Eggs
  • Beans and lentils paired with brown rice or quinoa
  • Soy and tofu
  • Protein bars
  • Protein powders: whey, casein, collagen, soy, pea/rice blends 

3. Get Your Macros in Check

Protein is directly related to muscle building, but your other macros - carbs and fat, can also play a role in how efficiently you are fueling your body and how much overall fat you accumulate. 

Eat Enough Carbs

While the argument over how many carbs you need to eat to lose weight continues, there is at least one type of diet where carbs are still celebrated - bulking! 

Carbs are an important fuel for your muscles, helping to power you through heavy lifting and intense training. And they also have a positive impact on your recovery after training, including the prevention of muscle breakdown (20). You even store carbs in your muscle as a source of immediate fuel. This means the bigger muscles you have, the more carbs you can accommodate. Not to mention, eating carbs stimulate insulin release - an important hormone in building muscle. 

A high carb, low fat diet may also be optimal for lean bulking with research suggesting that excess carbs may not be as easily stored as fat, compared to dietary fat. Most people can tolerate 100g to 500g of carbohydrates daily without contributing significantly to fat storage. And even large intake of carbohydrates beyond this has not been shown to translate into additional fat storage (21).

In one study, a 2,000 calorie diet was doubled to 4,000 calories per day with whopping 86% of calories from carbs. Even after 7 days of overfeeding, carb oxidation for energy spiked and only 50% of the additional carb calories were stored as fat (22). Compared to a study looking at a small increase of 40g of fat overfeeding on a normal diet, where just about all additional fat intake was stored as fatty tissue (23).

You can estimate how many carbs you need a day by calculating you protein and fat need first, then dividing the remaining calories by four to get your carb grams for the day. Learn more here

Simple vs Complex Carbs

But this doesn't mean you should load up on sugary foods either. There may be a difference between the type of carbs consumed. In one study, sugar promoted more fat storage than complex carbohydrates from whole foods (24).

This is not surprising, considering simple carbs - like added sugars, refined grains and sugary beverages, are quickly absorbed into your bloodstream. Giving you less time to process these calories and store them efficiency. Compared to more complex carbs from whole grains, starchy vegetables and high fiber foods, that are absorbed more slowly, helping you control your energy and feel fuller longer. 

Nutrient Timing

The timing of your carbohydrate intake should also be considered. Since carbs serve as a source of energy, it might make more sense to eat the bulk of your carbs when you are using them the most - such as around the time you workout or when you are up, moving around during the day. 

A more targeted approach to carb intake, called carb cycling, can even involve changing up your carbs based on your day's workout, by eating more carbs on days you have a higher output and less carbs on rest days or moderate training. 

Keep Fat Under Control

Fat has a complex role when it comes to muscle building. On one hand it can supply a significant amount of calories in a small volume helping to promote weight gain. It can influence the production of key hormones including testosterone (25). And fat can slow the absorption of carbs and fat post training, resulting in more long term recovery.

On the other hand, when calories are in abundance (like during a bulk), and carb intake is adequate, excess fat in your diet is easily stored as body fat. Perhaps more so than any other macro (26). Fat does not directly contribute to fuel replenishment and muscle recovery the same way carbs and protein do. And overall body composition and calorie intake might be a stronger factor in influencing testosterone levels that fat intake (27).

But the research looking at body fat gain from fat intake on a mixed diet is not conclusive by any means. A review of three studies on overfeeding comparing fats and carbs suggested there is not a clear difference between fat mass accumulation, and that both diets lead to roughly to 60-70% of total weight gain as fat on average (28). 

The type of fats you eat also matters. Not only do many plant based sources of fat and omega-3s from seafood have potential health benefits, but some research suggests that saturated fat may be more easily stored as body fat compared to unsaturated fats (24). 

In addition it is thought that extremely low carb diets like keto, can force your body to use more fat for energy and might offer a different approach. But more research is definitely needed on this approach to determine how efficiently one can build muscle and maintain a lean physique on a high calorie, high fat, and low carb diet. 

So how much fat should you shoot for? 

While fat may or may not cause more body fat gain than carbs, it is probably still important to pay attention to the types you are consuming and the amount as it relates to your overall diet. 

For general purposes, aim to keep your fat intake at 20 to 30% of your daily calories to get the potential health benefits, but not overdo it. And opt for more healthy fats from plants and seafood where possible. 

How to Eat Lean

The easiest way to control fat intake is by cutting back on sources of added fats from oils, butters, sauces and added toppings. Look for more food options that are baked, grilled, roasted or steamed and less options that are breaded, fried, or sauteed. 

And opt for more naturally lean proteins like egg whites, chicken, turkey, fish, seafood and grass-fed meats. These two things can easily eliminate hundreds of calories from fat, giving you more room in your diet to increase protein and maintain a better overall macro balance. 

4. Fuel Your Workouts Properly

Gaining mass and fueling your workouts go hand in hand. Not eating before the gym means your body has to rely on stored sources of energy - which can also include lean mass. In other words, missing an opportunity to eat before training could cause you to tear down more muscle if you aren't paying attention.

Skipping meals is also a missed opportunity to keep your calorie intake adequate during the day. Forcing your body to use more stored energy and can tip the calorie balance in favor of weight loss if you don’t eat enough later.

Not to mention, having available energy from a pre workout meal gives the potential for more reps, harder training and better results overall.

Pre Workout Meals

It's no surprise that research suggests that eating a mixture of carbs and protein prior to strength training and can promote more muscle growth and protect lean mass (27,28,29,30,31,32). 

Carbs are your body’s preferred source of energy and crucial to your performance if you are lifting heavy weights, doing any high intensity or quick movement exercises (think burpees, sprints, kettlebell swings, etc). And adding a little bit of protein is thought to help protect lean mass and fuel your strength training even more efficiently.

However, timing is important for the types of carbs and protein you choose.

Quick carbs from juice, sports drinks, gels, and high sugar foods are going to give you immediate energy and should be taken about 30 minutes before your workout. Similar to quick digesting protein powders and drinks.

More starchy carbs - think whole grains, potatoes, and pasta, and whole foods proteins, may help give more long lasting energy and should be eaten 1 to 3 hours before your workout. Including a small to moderate amount of healthy fat, like peanut butter, nuts, avocado, etc., can also help power long, slow duration like jogging, flat road cycling and swimming.

A balanced meal containing whole grains or starchy foods, paired with a source of protein, and fruits or veggies is also a great way supply optimal nutrition your body needs in a pre-workout meal if you're not up for eating right before the gym. 

Depending on when you are planning to workout, here are some of the best pre workout food options:

Meals (1 to 3 hours before) -

  • Greek yogurt with granola and fruit.
  • Chicken, sweet potatoes and veggies
  • Pasta with marinara and ground turkey
  • Stir-fried tofu and veggies over rice

Snacks (1 hour before) -

  • Peanut butter and jelly toast
  • Whole grain crackers with deli meat and cheese
  • AA piece of fruit and handful of nuts
  • Trail mix granola bar
  • Bowl of cereal

Quick carbs (30 min to 1 hour before) -

  • Protein Shake or low fat smoothie
  • Fruit juice or sports drink
  • Low fat muffins
  • A piece of fruit

Pre Workout Supplements

Supplements can feel like an easy solution to your muscle building efforts - especially with good marketing. But keep in mind that these options don't override a balanced diet and general nutrition needs (in other words, you still need calories and macro balance to be successful).

It can also be a challenge to find quality supplements because they are not well regulated. A lot of pre-workout blends are loaded with either unnecessary or potentially unsafe ingredients. And while some brands do have superior quality control and provide valuable products, it can be difficult for customers to filter through the noise from less reputable brands.

If you are tuning to supplements for a potential pre workout boost, choose products with ingredients that are clearly listed (no proprietary blends) and look for ingredients you recognize, as well as a third party certification.

You can also do your own research and see what is actually giving you a potential benefit in various mixes and powders. Here are some common ingredients you can find as single supplements or in pre-workout blends and some highlights about their potential benefits:

Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine helps you produce more carnosine, which acts as a hydrogen buffer in your muscles - essentially helping to control PH balance and prevent acid build up that leads to loss of strength and stamina. In other words, beta-alanine might help you get a few more reps in and potentially improve endurance and performance (33).

Creatine

Creatine also works as a PH buffer to help you grab a few more reps. And it is thought enhance performance in short burst, high-intensity activities like weight lifting (<30 sec bouts), but it does not improve overall endurance (34).  

Caffeine 

Caffeine will not give you any extra physical endurance but may make you feel more energetic and ready to take on your workout. Because of its mental effects, caffeine might help improve stamina (35).

L-Arginine

L-Arginine, often marketed as nitric oxide, has limited research but may act as an ergogenic aid, by boosting feelings of endurance and improve stamina and helping to deliver nutrients to muscles (36).

5. Recover with Amino Acids and Carbs

Just as eating before a workout can be beneficial to your bulking efforts, what you eat afterwards can also have an impact. In fact, well executed post workout nutrition can positively impact muscle soreness, recovery time, immune function, muscle building capabilities and potential fat loss. And of course, it's another opportunity to hit your calorie and protein goals for the day. 

Post Workout Foods

There are three main goals of post workout nutrition:

  1. Replenish lost energy 
  2. Prevent further destruction of muscle
  3. Promote more muscle repair and growth 

After a workout, your energy stores are somewhat depleted and your body is primed to absorb carbs pretty efficiently. In addition, your muscles have suffered micro tears and are in need of amino acids for repair. Some of this nutritional need can be mediated through pre workout meals (if you have enough leftover), but it depends on how hard you are training and your overall nutrition goals. And when looking at trying to gain muscle, every opportunity to replenish and repair is valuable.

It is also theorized that faster absorption results in better recovery and utilization of nutrients. This can be achieved by choosing lower fat recovery foods within 20 minutes to up to an hour after working out when your blood flow to muscles is increased. You might have heard this timing referred to as the “anabolic window of opportunity”. But the argument for how soon after training you should consume carbs and protein is highly debatable and no definitive answer exists (20). 

Regardless, having more nutrients around that support protein synthesis (amino acids and carbs) is thought to encourage more muscle building overall. So one would assume that delivering these nutrients quickly and efficiently post workout is a positive approach to gaining more lean tissue. 

Thus the best food options should include a mix of protein and carbs with little fat to slow their absorption. Including nutrient dense foods high in antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables, might also have a positive effect on recovery. 

Depending on level on intensity and duration, the recommended intakes for carbs and protein are:

  • 1.0-1.5 g/kg carbohydrate 
  • 0.3-0.5 g/kg protein 

For a 150 pound adult this would equal 68 to 102 grams of carbs and 20 to 35 grams of protein. 

Examples of Good Post Workout Foods

  • Jerky and dried fruit
  • Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and honey
  • Sweet potato and chicken
  • Protein powder shake with fruit 
  • Low fat protein bar
  • Chocolate milk

Post Workout Supplements

It may be more beneficial for some to choose protein and carbs in their liquid form or partially broken down, depending on personal preference for whole foods after training. This is where supplements can be beneficial in delivering quick post workout nutrients without much volume. 

Protein Powders

For quick acting protein that is absorbed and used quickly, whey, soy, and rice/pea blends are all great options to add to a fruit based drink or carb heavy recovery.

Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

There are also a number of studies suggesting that including branch chain amino acids in post workout nutrition might support more muscle growth because of the immediate availability of key amino acids used in muscle repair and protein synthesis (37,38,39).

Creatine

Creatine acts to draw more water into your muscles and thus acts as a potentially beneficial post workout supplement for muscle building. Research does suggest that creatine supplementation might lead to increases muscular strength and muscle fiber size, but the mechanism for this is not well understood (40). 

Should You Take Casein Protein Before Bed?

Casein is gaining a lot of popularity in the fitness industry because of it’s believed ability to promote muscle growth and better recovery. Casein, unlike whey, is a long acting protein – meaning it is absorbed more slowly over time. This effect can help extend you post-workout nutrient absorption but is most notably important during sleep. When you go to bed, your body releases human growth hormone, which is important for building lean mass, but this process requires available protein for synthesis. Taking casein at night before bed is thought to support this mechanism throughout the night and result in more muscle growth overall. It is also thought to promote more fat loss.

Research does suggest that casein may be pretty effective in promoting muscle growth when taken before bed. And it has long been used as a recovery protein for athletes from foods like low-fat dairy. But when it comes to fat loss, the science is not quite there – your overall calorie intake and diet still has a much greater impact on body composition than any powder could (41).

If you are looking to gain more muscle or just trying to recover from intense strength training, adding casein to your post-workout recovery and/or taking it before bed may be beneficial.

6. Be Consistent

And finally, there is no such thing as progress, growth or change without consistency. Results don't just happen overnight and building muscle isn't something you can just put a few weeks of worth into and expect lasting results from. 

Staying consistent is probably the most important and yet the hardest part of building muscle or sticking to any nutrition plan. No surprise that research continues to suggest that consistency is one of the most important factors for success (42).  That's why it is key to choose a diet that you know you can stick to! 

Build your foundation, keep training regularly, focus on getting your diet right most of the time. Then try to be patient. Your results will come! 

Can You Lose Fat and Gain Muscle at the Same Time? 

This concept has longed seemed unrealistic since it is technically physiological impossible to gain and lose weight at the same time. And what most may actually be seeking is a change in body composition - getting more shredded by burning up body fat and getting stronger while maintaining your weight or losing a little bit of weight. 

However, it is technically possible and there have been studies suggesting that with high protein intake and strategic strength training, you may be able to increase lean mass while simultaneously losing body fat (43). The holy grail of muscle building!

How exactly is muscle mass and strength increased in a calorie deficit?

Researchers are finding that as long as protein intakes remain high (up to three times the RDA in the most recent study), and you use your muscles with regular strength training, you may not only preserve lean mass but help increase it slightly. Although this approach is likely not efficient long-term. In addition, these gains are difficult to achieve and may not be as significant as ones you would see on a traditional bulking diet. 

This phenomenon may also be more easily achieved in untrained individuals with a higher starting body fat percentage - since they are prone to lose fat more efficiently.

Could this be the answer for these individuals instead of traditional bulking diets? 

Perhaps, but there is certainly much more research needed to provide any definite solutions for this unique approach. 

Bodybuilding Diet Meal Plan

Looking to get jacked with a high protein meal plan but not a clue how to prep the right kind of foods? Consider using a meal prep delivery company, like Trifecta, to make mastering your muscle building diet that much easier. 

Trifecta's a la carte options allow you the flexibility to stack your protein and tailor your macros strategically, making sure you hit your goals with ease. The food is already cooked and delivered weekly, meaning you get your Sundays back! Not to mention the options are prepared with the simplest, ingredients - no added fats and minimal seasoning to keep your nutrition tightly controlled. 

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