Best Nutrition for Growing Muscle
You have been smashing the weights, hitting all the movements you need to attain those gains but you are still stalled out with your strength. You can’t figure out why your bench won’t go up. Your squat continues to suck, you can’t pack on muscle. Is there something you are missing? What is one of the most overlooked aspects behind training that most athletes fail to recognize? Is it nutrition? Is there a nutritional key to hitting those big numbers?
- There are a few major keys to comprehend regarding fallacies and misinformation with nutrition. Let’s get a few points of bullshit out of the way and then dive into the nuts and bolts to get freaking big!
- Muscle mass and weight gain stems from two aspects, total caloric intake and protein intake.
- Protein itself insulinemic, carbs don’t HAVE to be eaten post-workout, but then again, neither does protein!
- Carbs are key for fueling mass building training sessions. More glycogen = more energy = more extracellular water inside the fiber for mass gains! (For more information, check out the blog on Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy.)
- Protein does not tax the kidneys! The Brenner Hypothesis came from studying individuals with kidney failure and how they handled protein and much of his research has been brought into questioning.
- The type of protein does not matter, as long as the protein is COMPLETE, i.e. animal protein.
- Protein intake can happen in 1-2 large feedings or dispersed over numerous feedings.
- There is no maximum amount of protein the body can absorb in one sitting.
If we can let the above bullets sink in, we can understand that many of the traditional fallacies around nutrition, protein and carbohydrates tend to be false. In the most basic sense, nutrition for building muscle mass comes down to eating carbohydrates, eating 1-1.4g of protein per pound of bodyweight and then finishing the remainder of the macros off with healthy fat sources!
Basic Formula for Mass Gains
With the basic understanding of nutrition laid into place, we have to comprehend that total calories and total protein intake play the biggest role on weight gain and weight loss. If we choose healthy food sources, stimulate the body to adapt with proper resistance training and get optimal sleep, mass gains should not be overly difficult to come by!
As a few basic/general guidelines, we can establish some very basic formulas for mass gaining that will provide a pivotal set up for gaining muscle mass.
Individuals who want to lose weight should consume 14-15 calories PER POUND of their ideal body weight while consuming 1 gram of protein per lb of bodyweight.
Let’s use me as an example. I have bulked back up to 245lbs. I have been as heavy as 290lbs and as low as 223lbs in recent years. If my goal was to get back to 225lbs currently, I would take 225lbs and multiply it by 15 calories.
225 x 15 = 3,375 calories
If I consumed 3,375 calories, I need to also multiply 225 x 1 for my total protein consumption. Then 225 x 4 calories (per gram of protein) = 900 total calories coming from protein.
This is the basic formula based around weight loss. If I am looking for weight maintenance, I would keep protein intake about the same and I would increase total calorie consumption to 17-18 calories per pound of bodyweight.
But I want to Get HUGE AND FREAKY!
Inside our Mass Builder Program, we lay out the nutritional guideline very explicitly for mass gains. For the purpose of this blog, we will cover some of the basic information.
Let’s use hypothetical Johnny as an example. Johnny wants to bulk to 220lbs, he currently weighs 200lbs. We know he is smashing massive lifts on the Mass Builder Program and trying to get yoked AF. If Johnny wants to get to 220lbs, this is how we can set up a GENERAL formula for doing so.
220lbs x 20 calories = 4,400 total calories
We want his protein at 1.2 grams per pound, based on some of the research of Jose Antonio.
220lbs x 1.2 = 264 total grams
264 grams of protein x 4 calories/gram = 1,056 calories from protein
This number puts us almost at exactly 25% of total calories from protein. Now we can factor our other macros based off of our total protein count.
About 50% of calories should be coming from carbohydrates. This can be done by establishing that half of 4,400 calories is 2,200 total calories. When we divide 2,220/4 = 550 total grams of carbohydrates in a day.
I can sense it now, the Keto/Low Carb zealots are losing their gourds. Remember, the key to weight loss or gain is based around TOTAL CALORIES and protein intake!
The remaining calories would stem from fat. By taking 1,056 calories as 25% of total caloric intake, we can see that 9 calories per gram of fat would put us at 117 total grams of fat.
A note: My favorite numbers to alter are typically fats and protein. If I have a hard gainer training with me, I will slightly decrease fat and slightly increase protein. Some research points to an idea that the body can actually increase muscle protein synthesis if there is an abundance of protein in the gut and bloodstream. Again, the numbers I am providing are typically a generalized approach to macros and caloric intake.
What freaking food?!?!?!
Inside our Mass Builder Program I cover many of the foods we are looking for to optimize performance. You can also find some great examples here in our Nutrition for Muscle Mass video!
I tend to break everything down into protein/carbohydrates and fats. I prefer to analyze protein as complete (animal protein) and incomplete protein (collagen or vegetable based protein).
When covering fats, I prefer to move nut butters like almond butter and peanut butter into the fat category and focus almost entirely on animal fats and olive oil and coconut oil while avoiding refined oils such as corn oil and soybean oil.
For carbohydrates, I prefer to use starches and glucose and fructose while avoiding high fructose corn syrup. Starches typically are my favorite carbohydrates because of the positive impact that is found in microbiota accessible carbohydrates.
Basic food sources and recommendation can be seen below:
Protein: beef, fish, chicken, eggs (count as fat as well), turkey, lamb, whey protein
Carbohydrates: potato, rice, sweet potato, banana, oranges, apples, oatmeal, milk
Fats: butter, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, lard, animal fats from meats, some dairy
There is a very explicit daily breakdown inside our Mass Builder program. A simple day can be laid out as follows:
8am Breakfast: eggs, banana, milk and whey protein
10:30AM Snack: Beef jerky with fat
Lunch: Large salad, chicken, olive oil, side dish with strawberries and banana
Pre-Workout: Coconut oil with oatmeal and dark chocolate
Post-Workout/Dinner: Massive steak, whey protein, milk, large sweet potato, greens
Bedtime: Casein or whey protein with ZMA Advanced
Understanding the basics behind nutrition is key. After the basics are understood and implemented, each individual can alter and experiment with macros that best suit their body and their individual response. Some athletes gain better with higher carbs and higher protein, others do quite well with higher fat and higher protein and moderate carbs. By holding yourself accountable and setting up a routine that is easy to follow for 4-6 weeks, progress can be understood and analyzed to make the best improvements for each individual response!
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of elite athletes building comprehensive programs for strength and sports performance. Several times a year he leads a seminar for coaches, trainers, and athletes.
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