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What to Eat In Order to Gain Muscle

By | Muscle, Nutrition

So you started working out and lowered your overall body fat.

First off, congratulations should be in order!

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight  despite life’s occasional curveballs is something that you should be proud of. The positive changes in your body composition is proof that your efforts have finally paid off!

So where do you go from here?

Your next goal may be one of the following:

I want a huge, action star physique.

I want to achieve a leaner, more athletic look.

I want to increase my functional strength and achieve new PR’s in my lifts

Whether your goal is gaining strength or sculpting your body to your desired physique, the approach boils down to same thing — gaining muscle.

Eating for Well-Defined Muscles

As previously discussed in an article published about how much muscle you can gain in a month, the three main pillars of muscle growth are: nutrition, exercise, and hormones.

In this article, we’ll put the spotlight on nutrition and address your most frequently asked questions about what to eat in order to build muscle.

Let’s get started!

People use lean body mass and muscle mass interchangeably. Are they similar or different from each other?

Yes, lean body mass and muscle mass are two different things.

Essentially, all muscle is “lean” meaning it is primarily composed of proteins, which are lean. However, things start to get more confusing when some folks use lean body mass and skeletal muscle mass interchangeably.

Lean body mass (LBM), also known as lean mass, refers to your total weight minus all the weight comprised of fat mass. This includes your organs, your skin, your bones, your body water, and your muscles.

On the other hand, skeletal muscle mass (SMM) is a part of your LBM, but it is the part that is referring to the specific muscles used that are controlled voluntarily to produce movement and maintain posture. When you’re thinking about gaining muscle, you are actually referring more specifically to your SMM. This is what we want to track and here’s why:

Apart from changes in your SMM, a gain in your LBM numbers can also be a result of water gain. Water gain can occur from bloating or eating salty foods but also from swelling from injury or disease. That’s why you cannot attribute a increase to LBM numbers completely to muscle gains.

You can learn more about the distinction between the two in Lean Body Mass and Muscle Mass: What’s the Difference?

Now that we cleared that up, let’s dig into the facts and findings about muscle gains through diet and nutrition.

Is the hype about protein justified when it comes to bigger muscle gains?

Yes, to an extent. It’s an established fact that eating high quality protein within close temporal proximity (immediately before and within 24 hours after) of resistance exercise is recommended to increase muscle gains.

The strain of repetition when you perform resistance exercise tears the muscle fibers, and the protein intake (although macronutrients like carbs and fat play a role, too) provides the resources to rebuild the newly torn muscles into something bigger and stronger.

It’s also worth noting that amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and as you most likely already know, your muscle is made up of these macronutrients. As we’ve emphasized in Why Everyone Needs Protein — Think of your muscles as the house itself while the amino acids that make up protein are the bricks.

The good news is that your body can manufacture a huge chunk of these amino acids. The not-so-good news is that some of them, also known as essential amino acids (EAA), can’t be made by the body. You have to get your EAAs from food sources.

In short, you need to follow a high protein meal plan that contains mixed amounts of these EAAs to help ensure increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS)

How do I know if I have enough protein intake to promote MPS?

As of June 2017, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends an overall daily protein intake in the range of 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d) for building and maintaining muscle mass. Remember, your specific dietary needs depend on the amount of muscle mass you have as well as the type and intensity of your physical activity

With these figures in mind, let’s say you weigh 125 pounds (57 kilos), and you’re working to increase your LBM.  You would need 57 x 1.4- 2.0, or 79.8 – 114 grams of protein a day.

This may sound like a lot but it’s not. A cup (140 grams) of chicken contains 43 grams of protein.   Meanwhile, a can of tuna can contain as much as 49 grams.  Eating a cup of chicken and a can of tuna, you’d almost entirely meet your protein needs.  If you add in a glass of 2% milk (another 9-10 grams of protein), you’ve already hit your goal.

Below is a rough dietary guideline based on activity level:

  • 0.8-1.2 g/kg for regular activity
  • 1.2-1.5 g/kg for endurance athletes
  • 1.5-1.8 g/kg for strength/power athletes

If counting grams of protein for the day is not your thing, researchers have recommend an intake of about 20-40 grams of whey protein following a heavy bout of whole body resistance exercise to promote greater muscle recovery. The results stressed that the traditional 20 grams of whey supplement after working out did not promote as much MPS as the 40 grams of protein.

Can I build more muscle from eating too much protein?

Not really.

Researchers found that eating five times the recommended daily allowance of protein has no effect on body composition in resistance-trained individuals who otherwise maintain the same training regimen. That means that doubling or tripling your protein intake doesn’t translate to greater muscle gain after exercise.

It’s also worth noting that this is one of the first interventional study to demonstrate that eating a high protein meals does not result in an increase in fat mass.

Will too much protein hurt my kidneys?

While protein restriction may be appropriate for treatment of existing kidney disease,  some research has shown high protein intake in healthy individuals to not be harmful to kidney function.  Unlike extra stores of fat that the body is so keen about in holding on, the amino acids in protein are more likely to be excreted via the urine when not in use.

With that in mind, there are certainly risks associated with consuming too much protein so it’s wise to keep your intake in check.

So what our conclusion here? Eating more protein makes you feel fuller longer, can help curb overeating, and is essential for recovery and growth but don’t forget equally important nutrients like carbohydrates and fats for proteins when hitting your daily caloric goals (we’ll address this issue later).

Meat is often considered an excellent source of protein. So should I eat more meat to gain muscle? What if I’m on a plant-based diet?

Good question!

Sure, meat provides complete sources of proteins that are rich in essential amino acids so it truly is an excellent source of protein.

In a small study comparing  the effects of resistance training-induced changes in body composition and skeletal muscle among two groups — older men with an omnivorous (meat-containing) diet and those with lacto-ovo vegetarian (meat-free) diet, the researchers found that the omnivorous diet resulted to greater gains in fat-free mass and skeletal muscle mass when combined with resistance training than the vegetarian-diet group.

Another study of 74 men and women who had type 2 diabetes — one half on a vegetarian diet and the other half on a conventional diabetic diet — were assessed at three and six months to measure how much weight they had lost. The study concluded that the vegetarian diet was almost twice as effective at reducing weight compared with the conventional diet.

But here’s the caveat — The greater weight loss seen in people on the vegetarian diet was also accompanied by greater muscle loss, particularly when maintaining their normal exercise routine. This might be an unwanted outcome and a disadvantage when compared with the omnivorous diet.

Finally, another research study examining the relationship between the type of protein intake and the level of muscle mass in healthy omnivorous and vegetarian Caucasian women found:

“A vegetarian diet is associated with a lower muscle mass index than is an omnivorous diet at the same protein intake. A good indicator of muscle mass index in women seems to be animal protein intake.”

Take note, however, that these findings do not automatically mean that animal protein is necessary to develop muscle mass.

As we mentioned in this in-depth article on whether or not you need to eat meat to gain muscle, the findings indicate that vegetarians might have a harder time getting adequate protein intake. As a result, they may not be receiving the same quality of amino acid variety to support muscle maintenance/growth as meat-eaters. This issue can be addressed by adding more variety in your diet or through supplementation.

So what about my intake of carbs and fat?

If you want to build muscle, increasing your dietary protein intake makes sense. However, this doesn’t mean that you should disregard carbs and fats.

For one, carbohydrates help replace glycogen and aids in enhancing the role of insulin when it comes to transporting nutrients into the cells, including your muscles. Combining protein and carbs also has the added advantage of limiting post- exercise breakdown and promoting growth.

In a nutshell, a diet balanced in protein, carbs, fats, and fiber is the most effective way to build muscle.

How about the ketogenic diet? Can it help me gain more muscle mass?

Most likely.  The main premise of a ketogenic diet is to opt for high fat, moderate protein, and a very low carb diet.

In an 11-week study of men who performed resistance training three times a week, the researchers found that lean body mass increased significantly in subjects who consumed a very low carb, ketogenic diet (VLCKD). Significant fat loss was also observed amongst the VLCKD subjects.

Does “when I eat” if I want to build muscle?

For decades, the idea of nutrient timing (eating certain macronutrients at specific times like before, during, or after exercise) and meal scheduling has sparked a lot of interest, excitement, and confusion.

A good example of nutrient timing is the idea of the anabolic window, also known as a period of time after exercise, where our body is supposedly primed for nutrients to help recovery and growth.

However, a review of related literature revealed that while protein intake after workout helps muscle growth, it may persist long after training.

If you’re going to ask the ISSN,  meeting the total daily intake of protein, preferably with evenly spaced protein feedings (approximately every 3 h during the day), should be given more emphasis for exercising individuals.

They also state that ingesting a 20–40 g protein dose (0.25–0.40 g/kg body mass/dose) of a high-quality source every 3 to 4 hours appears to favorably affect MPS rates over other dietary patterns, which allows for improved body composition and performance outcomes.

In short, it’s more important to focus on the total amount of protein and carbohydrate you eat over the course of the day than worry about nutrient timing strategies.

The Takeaway

In summary, here’s what you need to remember when it comes to eating in order to gain muscle:

  • Muscle gains are hard to come by if you don’t complement your exercise training with the right nutrition. Besides acting as fuel for physical activity, eating right helps in muscle recovery and development of new muscle tissue.
  • Pay special attention to your protein intake in order to build muscle. Helpful figures to remember are 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d) depending on your body composition, activity type, and activity intensity.
  • There’s been a lot of talk about a specific amino acids and anabolic (muscle-building) superpowers. However, it’s still important to consume different sources of protein when you can and not just focus on a single protein source. Plus, remember that your body needs carbs and fat too.
  • Do not worry about when is the best time to eat your steak. Eating a portion of lean protein with some fiber-rich carbs and fat every meal is a good way to help your body repair and rebuild muscle after resistance exercise. As much as possible, increase make sure to complement your exercise with the appropriate nutrients to promote muscle recovery and growth.
  • If you’re on a plant-based diet, make sure you’re incorporating a wide variety of protein-rich plants to ensure that you’re getting the full range of amino acids. You may have to consider plant-based protein powder supplementation.

Remember, people have different goals when it comes to working out and gaining muscle  — from aesthetics to improved sports performance to feeling better about yourself. That means there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Whatever your goal, it all begins with one small step at a time. What changes are you going to make today?

***

Kyjean Tomboc is a nurse turned freelance healthcare copywriter and UX researcher.  After experimenting with going paleo and vegetarian, she realized that it all boils down to eating real food.

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/what-to-eat-in-order-to-gain-muscle/

How Much Muscle Can You Gain in a Month?

By | Fitness, Muscle
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on April 26, 2018 for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on September 19, 2017.
by InBody USA

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight before, you may have heard that a 3,500 calorie deficit results in about one pound of fat loss. In other words, if your daily caloric requirement is 2,500 calories and you spend seven days eating just 2,000 calories, you’re likely to lose around one pound of fat.

But, there’s no rule of thumb explaining how to put on (or lose) a pound of muscle mass.

Why not?

Because it’s not a simple equation. Unlike losing fat, putting on muscle isn’t as easy  as causing a calorie surplus. You need to know how muscle building works so you can set realistic goals, especially if you’re participating in a fitness challenge. This article will lay out factors that go into your “gains” and will answer the question: “How much muscle can you realistically gain in one month?”

The Three Pillars of Muscle Growth

Building muscle comes down to three inputs: nutrition, exercise, and hormones. Understanding these factors is the first step toward understanding how much you can build in one month.

1. NUTRITION

The term nutrition is defined as “the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.” At a fundamental level, muscle growth starts with the nutrients you put into your body.

People trying to gain muscle generally eat a high protein diet. After all, the amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks of muscle. Your body can manufacture many of those amino acids, but nine are known as essential amino acids (EAA) because they can’t be made in the body. Instead, you have to consume EAAs from food sources like meat, beans, nuts, and soy. A diet containing mixed amino acids can help maximize muscle protein synthesis.

The amino acid, leucine is responsible for many of the anabolic (muscle-building) processes. This is known as the “leucine trigger concept,” since sufficient quantities of leucine trigger muscle protein synthesis.

Protein is not the only macronutrient responsible for muscle growth. In fact, there appears to be a limit to the amount of protein one can consume to maximize muscle gain. Additionally, it takes energy to build muscle, and this means you need a positive caloric balance in order to achieve hypertrophy.

If you want to build muscle, increase your dietary protein intake– but don’t exclude your carbs and your fats. Carbs and fats aren’t all bad for you! All three are important, thus a diet balanced in carbs, protein, and fats is effective for gaining muscle.

But remember, it’s not just the calories. Physical activity is also key to promoting muscle development.

2. RESISTANCE EXERCISE

Workouts that include resistance exercise stress the muscles, which results in muscle gain.

Your body adapts to resistance exercise by growing or changing to make them more capable of handling the workout.

The stress of resistance exercise causes the muscle fibers to tear at the cellular level. Then, special muscle cells called satellite cells jump into action to repair, rebuild, and grow the muscle.

The right types of exercises, like high-intensity workouts or compound exercises, can promote increased muscle growth.  A healthy balance between workouts and rest is necessary to support healthy hormone levels and maximize muscle gain.

3. HORMONES

Three primary hormones that stimulate muscle hypertrophy are insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), growth hormone (GH), and testosterone.

After weight training, increases in these hormones correspond with muscle protein synthesis, one of the key processes in muscle hypertrophy.

Essentially, these hormones signal to the muscle that it’s time to repair and build up after a session in the gym. GH is released in the greatest quantities during sleep, so remember that getting a good sleep helps you attain your body composition goals.

When nutrition, workouts, and hormonal effects combine, the muscle-building magic really happens. Figuring out the right balance is essential for reaching your goals.

How to Manage Your Muscle Gains

Your body’s individual response to nutrition, resistance exercise and hormones can vary. But other factors can impact how much muscle gain in a month.

Supplementing Muscle Growth

Muscles need the right fuel to grow. Protein supplements are long known to boost help muscle hypertrophy, and fueling your body with EAAs is important for providing the nutrients your body can’t synthesize.

After weight training, consuming protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis by supplying providing amino acid building blocks. Traditionally, 20 grams of protein has been considered enough. Researchers recently found that experienced lifters doing whole-body workouts may need about 40 grams. But consuming more than approximately 1.6 grams per kg of body weight per day has no additional benefit for building muscle. Excess protein is burned for energy like carbohydrates and fats, excreted in urine, or even stored as fat.

Timing could also be important: research shows intaking protein before bed during a resistance training program is especially helpful for building muscle mass.

Note: While supplements may be beneficial for promoting muscle recovery and growth, they are only effective when combined with a balanced diet and exercise plan. More on supplements and their effects can be found here.

So what should you expect?

Just like muscle can’t turn into fat, fat can’t turn into muscle.

It is unlikely that your body will be able to utilize all of the additional calories for muscle growth. Some of the caloric surplus needed to gain muscle is going to be stored as fat, and that’s OK.

Only the most stringent of diet and exercise protocols have been shown to result in simultaneous muscle gain and fat loss. Researchers have called this protocol “grueling and unsustainable”, so it’s probably not an ideal strategy.

If you want to gain muscle, you need to accept that you’ll probably have some slight fat mass gain. It’s just being realistic.

What if you’ve hit a plateau?

Gaining muscle mass is all about forcing the muscle to adapt to novel stress. It’s no surprise that gains come more readily to novices than experienced weightlifters. For novice lifters, the right weight training program should be enough novel stimulus in the gym. Recent research suggests hypertrophy can be measured in as little as one month. But, there seems to be an upper limit to muscle gain. Experienced lifters should be closer to that ceiling than novices, making their incremental gains smaller.

How can the experienced weight lifter overcome this challenge? By introducing different and new nutritional or resistance stimuli.

The principle is simple: change up your routine. Since trained muscles adapt to consistent stimuli, adding variation will challenge the muscles in a different way and promote further growth.

The muscles you train also dictate your potential to gain. Your arms have a much lower total potential to gain muscle than your hips and legs because they’re smaller muscle groups.

Don’t skip your upper body lifts just yet, though. Research shows that arm muscles may be quicker to hypertrophy than legs. The ceiling is lower, but the rate of gain relative to what’s already there is quicker.

What if you’re not as young as you used to be?

Older adults may have a harder time building muscle because the body’s response to weight training has diminished. The muscle building machinery is still there, but it may require more input to achieve desired results.

To overcome this hurdle, use ‘novel stimulus’ thinking from the previous section. Try consuming some extra protein or adding a few new exercises to your routine. The goal is to convince your body to adapt to what you’re throwing at it.

Building muscle may be harder than it was in your youth, but it can still be done.

So what’s a realistic expectation for muscle growth for men vs.women?

It’s time to estimate how much you can reasonably gain in one month. It can be very frustrating seeing a man have an easier time putting on muscle. Due to the different physiological makeup of men and women, we will discuss hypertrophy separately.

 THE FACTS FOR MEN

Remember that study we referenced earlier? The goal was simple: lose fat while packing on muscle. It worked – participants gained about 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg) of lean body mass and lost fat mass – but it was totally unsustainable. The cornerstone of this program was daily heavy circuit training, HIIT and sprint-interval workouts, and plyometric workouts, all while restricting calorie intake to just 60% of daily requirements and taking in high doses of protein supplements.

A word of caution: don’t try this program at home.

What you can take away is that those men, who had never lifted weights before, gained over 1 kg of lean body mass in just one month.

Another group of researchers decided to try a more sustainable program on a smaller scale, and guess what? The men gained 4 kg of skeletal muscle in 16 weeks. That means the rate of muscle gain was almost identical to the grueling, unsustainable program – about 1 kg per month.

This program, consisting of just five exercises (squat, knee extension, knee flexion, bench press, and lat pull-down), was certainly more realistic.

Based on the research, it’s reasonable to expect untrained men to be able to gain about 1 kg, or 2.2 lbs, of muscle per month at the beginning of an exercise program.

But what about experienced weightlifters? Because experienced lifters will likely have a slower rate of progression, the amount of gain will be generally lesser and depend on the level of training experience of the individual.

THE FACTS FOR WOMEN

Women tend to be less muscular than men, and most people believe it’s harder to build muscle as a female. There’s some truth to that statement. Muscle hypertrophies in proportion to the baseline quantity of muscle mass, so women gain less muscle mass than men because their baseline muscle mass tends to be lower.

How much muscle gain is typical for young women? One study says about 0.5 – 0.7 kg in the first month for novice weightlifters. This study involved just two lifts – the squat and the deadlift. You might be left wondering what happens when women undergo a whole-body weightlifting program.

Women’s arms gain muscle at about 3 times the rate as legs (an increase of 9.7% in arms vs. 3.3% in legs). According to the study, women can expect to increase their muscle mass by 1.5 kg during the 20 weeks of training, averaging out to 0.3 kg per month.

Since body composition wasn’t measured at any point during the 20 weeks of training, there’s no way of knowing whether the participants increased muscle mass faster in the first month or two.

So is that the end of the discussion? Not exactly. Remember, each individual is different and not everyone will be able to sustain a consistent diet and exercise routine to promote muscle development for extended periods of time. This is why research on this topic is more scarce than you might think. Many researchers measure muscle hypertrophy by looking at changes in the circumference around limbs or by imaging cross-sections of the body. This allows them to understand muscle growth in different body segments (arms, trunk, legs).

However, newer technology, such as Direct Segmental Multi-frequency Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (DSM-BIA), provides a quicker, less invasive way of measuring muscle mass in addition to other components of the body.

Conclusions

Altering your body composition is no easy feat. It takes patience, effort, and commitment, but it’s definitely within your reach.

Your body primarily needs three basic stimuli to build muscle: nutrition, resistance exercise, and hormones. You can and should manipulate nutritional and exercise stimuli to keep your body responding.

If your current daily protein intake is 0.8 g / kg of body weight, try bumping that up to 1.5 g / kg if your doctor says it’s okay. If you currently lift twice per week, try gradually increasing to three or four sessions per week. And if you don’t do resistance exercise at all, it’s time to start!

Some people will gain substantially moreand some will gain less muscle over the course of a month. But in general, the average is about 1 kg for males and 0.5 kg for females.

To have the best chance of building muscle, stick to a training, nutrition, and recovery plan. Make sure you get your body composition measured to set a baseline and track your progress to figure out whether your fitness regimen is working for you. If you don’t meet the average values mentioned above in the first month, use the next month as an opportunity to change your routine.

Armed with the tips and realistic expectations from this article, you’ll be on your way to a better body composition in no time.

**

Max Gaitán, MEd is an exercise physiologist and a USA Triathlon Certified Coach. When he’s not coaching, studying, or writing, Max spends most of his time outdoors training for triathlons.

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