Whether you are just starting out or have started yet another bulk, we are all looking for the same thing; build muscle with little to no fat gain. This is often thought has a difficult task because a higher calorie intake scares people into thinking that they will immediately gain fat. This is not the case, and before you jump into macro calculators, you first need to get your dietary priorities in check.

Essentials of muscle building

There are three basic ideas to follow in order to build muscle; eat quality food, increase protein and calories, and train hard.


Muscle building is a simple process, there is no need for fancy tactics or diets because simplicity is the most effective way. Keeping it simple also enables you to follow everything much easier, which keeps you from falling off the bus. Another thing to remember is that the order of these matters. Eating quality food is the most important aspect of any muscle building program, and even a high-calorie intake can keep you lean because the more muscle you have, the more you need to feed.

Again, before we delve into the nitty-gritty macro calculations, focus on prioritising your macros when it comes to making your food. First up, always centre your meals around quality lean protein such as chicken, fish, and even lean mince. After this, include nutrient rich and Low GI carbs such as brown rice or sweet potato (a tasty suggestion is basmati rice as well). Finally, include some healthy fats. This last step is often neglected or overlooked because fats are seen as unhealthy but they are a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle (so long as they are healthy fats).

Protein: the muscle builder

Protein is thought of the stuff your muscle is made from. Not exactly. Protein is comprised of 20 different amino acids, together these amino acids provide the building block for muscle building. Each amino has a specific function to increase muscle size so when we consume protein, your body breaks it down into the various amino’s which then get to work repairing your muscle tissue. This is what’s known as the anabolic process.


The general aim is to consume roughly 1.5g of protein per pound of bodyweight, or 3g per kg of bodyweight. Then you need to decide how many meals you will be eating throughout the day, and divide your total protein amount between them. When it comes to optimal digestion and nutrient absorption, the popular belief is to eat between 4-6 meals a day depending on your job demands, and how often you are hungry.

Whey protein is a great way of adding in extra protein if you cannot get to food or if you are looking for a little extra protein.

Carbs: the energy

Carbs are just as important as your protein, they provide your body with the necessary energy to sustain muscle mass as well as provide energy for protein synthesis to occur and fuel the repair and rebuild process. Another common misconception is that you need to eat low amounts of carbs to stay lean or get lean. Your body won’t build muscle as effectively without carbs because they are directly responsible for supplying the energy needed to build.


With the right quality carbohydrates, you will probably end up eating equal amounts of carbs to proteins, if not a slightly higher amount. Once quality is done, look at the amount, around 2g of carbs per pound of bodyweight is more than enough to fuel the fire. This is just a general idea, you need to experiment a little and find the right amount for you. At the end of the day, don’t be afraid to push the carb amount a little high, if you gain some fat then you know to dial back and where your limit is, otherwise you could be unnecessarily losing out on muscle growth.

A lack of carbs in your diet will just leave you feeling tired and apathetic, impacting negatively on your training sessions because you won’t have energy or protection from using high volume training and possibly injure yourself. Carbs cause a spike in your insulin production, which is necessary to open cells and shuttle nutrients in and drive other anabolic compounds such as creatine in as well. As long as you are eating good quality carbs, staying away from fried foods and sugars, you will see clean and lean muscle development.

 

Healthy fats won’t make you fat

That’s not actually true, in excessive amounts they will be stored as adipose tissue. But you do need them as part of a healthy lifestyle, and even more so when trying to build muscle. As said earlier, these are often overlooked because they are misunderstood. They not only provide an abundance of calories to fuel muscle growth but they are largely influential in the regulation of hormones such as testosterone.


This doesn’t mean you can start deep frying stuff, but there are four sources of fats that are not just good for you, but enjoyable as well; avocados, fish, nuts and nut butter’s, and olives/olive oil. You also don’t need to have small amounts of these either but your fats amounts will be substantially lower than your other macros, and shouldn’t go much higher than 20% of your daily calories. This is because they provide more than double the number of calories per gramme (9 calories per gramme of fat vs 4 calories per gramme of carbs/protein).

Fats provide a spectrum of health benefits on top of making your food taste better. They provide lubrication to joints and connective tissue keeping them healthy, decrease inflammation on joints and muscle, improve cognitive function, as well as an increase in collagen production. Nut butters are a delicious and convenient way of adding extra fats

Train hard

Nutrition is the most important, that is where most of your muscle growth will come from because your body needs nutrients to grow. However, without stimulating that muscle growth through weight resistance training, you are just going to store those extra nutrients as fat. How hard you train will also determine the results you get, it is as simple as ‘what you put in is what you get out’, so if you slack off in the gym but eat right you still are not going to fully reap the benefits. One more aspect to pay attention to is the amount of rest you are getting. Try and opt for an 8-hour sleep every night (which is tough in today’s age) but this is where your body will do most of the repairing, as well as take two or three days off from the gym each week to grow.


Combine hard work every day in the gym, eating plenty of lean nutrient-dense foods, and get plenty of rest, you will have a recipe for success that will have everyone drooling over you.

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