Without proper nutrition, a “getting bigger muscles” plan would never be complete. You can spend hours in the gym, but without the raw materials, building muscles after you’ve broken them down just isn’t gonna work.
To build bigger muscles, you’ll need a calorie surplus and the right division of carbs, proteins, and fats. Add some smart meal timing to accelerate the rate of growth, and you’ll have yourself a killer program.
Here’s the simple equation – More Carbs = More Mass. If you want to get bigger, you need to eat more. Most active men need 15-to-17 calories per pound of body weight for maintenance. To build one pound of muscle mass per week, you’ll want to add 3,500 total calories into your weekly diet. (Why? 3,500 calories = 1 pound)
Eating after a tough workout ensures that your muscles never ‘go hungry.’ Because your protein intake probably won’t vary much between bulking and maintenance diets, most of these extra calories are going to come from carbs. Some additional healthy fats are fine, but keep them out of your post-workout meals.
Your macronutrient split won’t take too much tweaking. Your protein intake should be set relatively constant, at one gram per pound of body weight, regardless of your goal. You can up it to 1.2-1.5 grams per pound on your training days, but you won’t need significantly more protein than that.
It’s better to up your carbohydrate intake for optimal growth. You don’t need to go overboard, or start eating a cinnamon roll every day, but sufficient carbs will keep your body in an anabolic state and provide energy to fuel and refuel your intense workout sessions.
If you aren’t eating sufficient carbs, you may feel drained and sluggish during your workouts. That means you won’t be able to give the right amount of effort for optimal muscle growth.
There’s no hard and fast rule for carbohydrate and dietary fat intake, but most looking to build mass and strength will do well with 150 or more grams of carbs per day. On those tough workout days, you can even increase your carb intake to 200 grams. Those who are already taking in some serious calories can further increase their carb intake to 250-to-300 grams per day. Not everyone has the exact same body, so not everyone will have the exact same diet.
15 percent of your total calorie intake should be healthy fat. Fats are vital to keeping your muscle-building hormones optimized to ensure that your workouts pay off. If you start to reduce your dietary fat intake too much, it could cause your testosterone levels to plummet, inhibiting muscle growth and recovery. (Healthy fats provide a number of other benefits, too, so don’t be afraid of them!)
Don’t let the fact that you’re ‘bulking’ make you think you can fill your diet with whatever you want. If you consistently put highly-processed, sugary foods into your body, you’re not going to feel well and you will gain more fat than muscle. Choose lean protein sources like chicken, lean beef, fish, egg whites and whey protein. Your carbs should be complex and come from brown rice, sweet potatoes, barley and oatmeal. You’ll still need fruits and veggies. To get good fats, consume plenty of flaxseeds, fish oil, avocado, nuts and natural nut butter.
Avoid foods with trans fats or excessive saturated fat. They don’t support lean body composition. Some saturated fat is okay to include and even beneficial for testosterone levels, but it shouldn’t overtake your unsaturated fat intake.
By Neale Cranwell