What’s The Best Nutrition Plan for Muscle Growth?
Similar to what I said in my article about the nutrition plan for fat loss, a lot of muscle growth happens in the kitchen (and in bed). While many believe that bulking up is much easier than getting cut, bulking up the right way is just as much of a challenge. You need to follow the right nutrition plan for muscle growth.
I remember when I was doing my first bulk during the last winter months. Everyone would always joke, “You can have my extra pounds.” This relates to the biggest challenge of bulking – gaining muscle and not just gaining weight. It’s easy to gain weight. It’s not so easy to gain muscle. This article will talk about how to maximize your muscle growth while limiting body fat.
The Scoop on Muscle Growth
I’d like to quickly talk about what actually needs to happen in order for muscles to grow. Muscle growth occurs when the muscle fibers are damaged from intense exercise, leading to satellite cells coming to the damaged area, fusing to each other and to the fibers, which then results in an increase in cross sectional area of the muscle.
Contrary to what most people believe, men and women generally build muscle in the same way. The difference between men and women lies in their hormones. Men have significantly more testosterone than women, which is the primary reason men can bulk up so much more. Another important difference is the shape in which our muscles grow and our fat is stored. Again, thanks to hormones, men and women will naturally build the shape of their muscles differently. This is why women who take anabolic steroids develop more of a masculine shape than women who lift weights, but don’t supplement with steroids. If you’re a women interested in weight lifting or if you’re nervous you’re going to look like a man if you lift weights, read my article about weight lifting for women.
The Nutrition Plan for Muscle Growth
Your nutrition plan for muscle growth needs to be just as precise as your nutrition plan for fat loss. In fact, bulking can be even more challenging than fat loss because you’re trying to build muscle WHILE you maintain/lose body fat. Like the body fat nutrition plan, this is a great place to start, but it will probably require some tweaking to be just right for you.
During my bulking phase, I used a macronutrient ratio as follows for my nutrition plan for muscle growth. I always ate 1.2g of protein per pound of bodyweight, 20% fat and the rest carbs. At the start of my bulk, I was about 170 pounds, and after three months, I finished at 193lbs with the same body fat percentage. While it is possible to bulk much faster, you’ll end up gaining more body fat. I focused on keeping my body fat the same so I wouldn’t have have to cut more body fat later ( I HATE CARDIO).
It’s also important to monitor your calories during your bulk phase. If you aren’t eating enough, you simply won’t grow as much, even if your ratio is good. When Bradley Cooper was preparing for American Sniper, he was eating around 9,000 calories per day! While that is probably excessive for most of you, he was able to bulk up a TON. However, if you’ve seen the movie, you probably noticed his body fat increased as well.
To calculate your total calories, multiply your bodyweight by 17 to start (it could go as high as 20). You can also use IIFYM.com to calculate your nutrition plan for muscle growth. I’ve tried both and I don’t have much of a preference. I found myself making little tweaks with both methods. Once you have your total calories, break it down using the macronutrient ratios above to get your daily grams of carbs, protein and fat. For example, when I started at 170lbs, I was eating 204g protein, 65g fat, and 373g carbs. If you’re sticking to your macros and getting your calories in but still not seeing gains after 14 days, eat more! Always reassess just like you would on the nutrition plan for fat loss.
The protein can be basically any kind of protein your body can tolerate. Whey protein is my preferred option. For some people, Whey concentrate can be harder on the stomach, so Whey isolate should be substituted. If you’re trying to avoid dairy, Egg or pea protein is a great option. I would strongly recommend investing in protein powder, as getting this much protein strictly through food will be a challenge (plus it’s expensive!). Protein powder is cheap, effective and makes reaching your protein goals simple.
When it comes to the 20% Fat, I make sure to incorporate a lot of mono- and saturated fats because these have been found to increase testosterone. I also include polyunsaturated fat. If you’re a women, testosterone is obviously less important for you, so you can stick to leaner meats with less saturated fat. Trans fat should be avoided at all costs.
The carbs were tough for me. I felt like I was eating brown rice and pasta all day, every day but you have to get them in somehow. It’s super important to get a lot of high glycemic carbs before and directly after your workout. Dextrose is a great post-workout carb to supplement with during a bulk phase. You’ll want to avoid a lot of low calorie foods like vegetables. If you’re wondering why a Personal Trainer is telling you to avoid vegetables, try eating 350g carbs worth of broccoli and cauliflower. These foods are great for losing or maintaining weight, but they just don’t have enough calories. Once you’ve gotten your post-workout, high-glycemic carbs in, you’ll still want to stick to lower glycemic, healthier carbs the rest of the day. Some great options are quinoa, sweet potatoes, brown rice and whole wheat pasta.
What To Do If This Ratio Doesn’t Work?
If this ratio doesn’t work right away, you’ll want to increase your calories before altering the ratio. Start at 17 x your bodyweight, then increase it as high as 20 x your bodyweight if you’re not seeing growth. Like I said, everyone is different and you’ll probably have to make adjustments. Make little tweaks until you find success, but this is a great start to your ideal nutrition plan for muscle growth.
Comment below and let me know what works for you! I’d love to hear about your own personal nutrition plan for muscle growth, whether you’ve experienced success yet or not!