What does it take to really make headway on a muscle-building plan?
First off, I think it’s extremely important to know how to eat to build muscle. Most of my ideas on exercise circle around building just the right amount of muscle for your frame—so you don’t look undersized, nor over-blown. The only real way your results shine through is from your diet.
Nobody wants to end up with a bulging belly when they’re after a ripped six-pack.
When you’ve got the right meal plan in place you’ll feel it. Your body will be able to recover much faster in between training, which is awesome. Especially when you need to dig deep during a session. You’ll see quicker results…who doesn’t want that?
A quick tip to get yourself on the right track with your meals is to aim for foods that have the shortest life span in the fridge—or on the kitchen counter. This typically means I, or my wife the super-shopper, loads up the cart with awesome produce like veggies (the more colors the better) and fruit. The usually works for my wife, since she’s a vegetarian. But for me…when it comes to actually eating animal-sourced proteins I have to fend for myself.
Yup—I get to play Hunter-and-Gatherer in the grocery store.
How To Manage Building Muscle With Your Meals
There are a lot of supplements around to get you “jacked”. The reason why they’re supposed to work is because they’re simply loading you up on protein. And in most cases it’s way more than your body will ever be able to process.
If that’s the case then: How much protein do you need to eat to spark muscle growth?
I had to chance to speak with Jon-Erik Kawamoto, of JKConditioning, and he had a few mighty suggestions.
“Have 20 grams of protein at every meal,” Kawamoto said.
And this makes sense, whether you opt for the traditional 5-6 small meals per day, or go with my personal favorite Intermittent Fasting (IF).
When you’re aiming to put on mass there are a whole mess of formulas to hunker down with and start eating.
But I’m a simple guy who like a simple plan of attack.
And that’s why I opt for fasting, instead of trying to manage a how line of lunch bags when I head to work.
I can eat a Peanut Butter Sandwich (no Jelly) and get around 100 calories and 5 grams of protein per slice of bread, and 2 Tablespoons of Peanut Butter will result in 200 calories and 8 grams worth of protein.
So if I chow down on two sandwiches I’d get 12 grams of with just this simple meal.
One of the reasons why I like Peanut Butter (Almond Butter is also an excellent choice) is because the carbs from the bread help to spike my insulin, and this in turn fills in the muscles.
And this is in-line with Kawamoto’s recommendation to “carb cycle and eat most of your carbs (starches) following your workout.”
He also suggests to ”consume a protein shake with fruit before and after your workouts,” to help get things moving in your muscle-building favor.
I’ll often have a banana that hasn’t ripened yet, and occasionally sip on a protein shake before starting up a routine.
There’s a lot of complicated theories floating around. I try my best to push that all aside and really just stick to the basics.
Kawamoto offers a simple and effective eating strategy.
“Eat a meat and veggie combo for your meal furthest away from your workout,” he said.
An example of his is if you work out in A.M., opt for eating your proteins and veggies for dinner. This is a pretty plain and bare-bone’s method to help you discover what works for your personal needs.
The Best Type Of Proteins To Eat
For building muscles this is a tricky bit of terrain to navigate.
It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the hype supplement companies promote. Take a look at any of the leading muscle-building and notice how much they’re going to hook you up with tons of protein, essential amino-acids and tons of other ingredients engineered to support protein synthesis and muscle growth.
But, doesn’t real food offer just as much of an advantage?
I feel it does.
Trainer Curtis Mitchell, of Get Fit With Curtis, has some pretty solid suggestions on what are some of the best proteins for building muscle.
“Chicken, turkey, fish, tilapia or salmon,” Mitchell suggested.
The often go-to in a meal plan…whether it be for increasing mass of losing fat…is to stick with the ultra-lean meat Chicken Breast.
But, it’s often a pretty bland food. So, you’re going to need to break out some herbs and spices to keep you interested.
One trick that Roger Law features in the video below is tendering your meat before cooking it. (You can also check out his complete guide here)
Turkey is a very tasty alternative to Chicken. Whey else is this big ol’ bird the main attraction for most Holiday dinners? But, with taste comes with a small “Con”—it’s just a little higher in fat than what comes with Chicken.
So, giving Turkey a chance to make it on your plate every once in a while isn’t such a bad idea. It’ll make your tummy and taste buds happy. But make sure it’s not an everyday splurge.
Besides the Poultry solution, Fish is another source that’s good to add to your shopping cart.
“Tuna is a really good source of protein,” Mitchell also noted.
I, myself, love canned tuna. But you’d actually be surprised at how hard it is to find a brand that only sells the fish, and not a load of preservatives.
Why is there Soy in my Tuna?
So, even if you can’t find a good can of plain tuna, make sure you know what your eating, and try to reduce how much you those preservatives to ingest everyday. Truthfully speaking, I’ve had better luck with finding canned Salmon that’s nothing but the fish and water.
One last food I ‘d like to look at is one that only so-often manages to make it on my plate. It’s a shame though, since there are so many kinds, and you can add it into anything for soups to salads…even dips.
If that last one wasn’t a dead-giveaway hint, here’s another clue: My favorite is the Black variety, but grew up eating the Pinto kind—a lot.
Yup…”Beans,” as Mitchell said, “are good source of protein as well.”
This is one source of protein I don’t often include in my diet. Not that I’m not a fan…it’s usually just the prep time that keeps me for enjoying beans more than I do.
But simply slow-boiling them with a pinch of salt and a couple of cloves of garlic will get you a pretty power-house supply of protein. The average serving of my favorite Black beans, which is 1 cup, will give you 15 grams of pure muscle-building protein.
It’s true you can rely on canned beans, when in a pinch this is a helpful solution, but never my first choice.
Does Red Meat Play A Role In Gaining Muscle?
Of course it does!
I love chowing down on a perfectly cooked medium-rare steak.
When you’re in “Muscle-Building” mode, red meat is a solid option. However, there are a couple things you should note when wanting to gorge on a plate of steak and potatoes.
If we compare the portion sizes of red meat to those of, let’s say, Chicken or Turkey, we don’t the same amount of protein per serving.
The average 3.5 oz Chicken Breast will come in around 30-grams-ish of protein. Turkey Breast waddles in at around the same.
Now if we look at that same serving size for a lean cut of sirloin, we’d end up with 25-26 grams. I know that’s nothing to scoff at. It’s right in line with Kawamoto’s suggestion of protein per meal.
Another thing to note is red meat tends to have more fat. Again, this typically isn’t someone concern when they’re looking to add calories to a muscle-building goal. Calories are good. But not at the cost of you just putting on weight instead of muscle.
So keep in mind that red meat works well at promoting muscle growth, but it can also promote fat gains, too.
Now That You’re Eating Right, How To Train To Get Bigger
A huge myth that most beginners get confused with is they need to bulk with a huge amount of calories to add size. And it’s true. You’ll definitely get bigger
…but it’ll be your waistline doing the growing.
A simple solution: Eat your heaviest meals on the days you’re training (this is when your body needs the fuel), and scale back on your meals when you’re on a rest day.
Kawamoto’s suggests: “A 12-16-hr fast on non-workout days. With an 8-10 hr eating window.”
This is usually my format, too.
Here’s an example of my eating schedule:
I have dinner (the night before) at around 7 p.m., and head to bed around 10 p.m. or Midnight. This gives me a nice amount of time to buffer my last meal of the day to when I hit the hay.
If I wake up around 6 a.m. I’m already 11 hours into my fast. Not too and a grueling effort there.
The also works out for me because I’m not a big breakfast eater. Typically I don’t wake up with a grumbling stomach. So, I can get by with waiting a few hours extra hours to eat.
One thing to keep in mind to do “on non-workout days,” as Kawamoto mentioned, “add in low intensity cardio.”
The best example of Low-Intensity Steady State (LISS) cardio is going for a 30 minute walk to help
Now, It’s Your Turn…
I’d love to hear what makes it to your plate when you’re putting on size.
So: What are your favorite foods you like to eat when gaining muscle mass?
Leave your answer in the comment section below.