Nutrition for Muscle Mass

25 Jun 2013

They key to building muscle mass is a well-designed strength training routine coupled with eating the right nutrients, at the right times and creating a calorie surplus (consuming more calories than you burn) to create an environment within your body that is capable of bulking up. Here we look at how exactly you do this as well as possible meal suggestions you can try.

Nutrients for Muscle Mass

The most important nutrient for mass is protein and the most important time to consume enough of it is immediately after a workout. This is because while training provides the necessary stimulus for us to grow bigger, our muscles also need the necessary nutrients for repair and regrowth and this is where protein comes in. See whenever you exercise and send the muscle cell into training induced micro trauma causing tiny 'tears,' your body responds by sending nutrients to the damaged myofibrils to help them recover. This is why it's so important to have a sufficient protein supply after a heavy strength based workout since research shows after a workout your muscles are starved and possess a 'sponge like' property that experts believe is responsible for your body's ability to absorb more protein than any other time of the day (R.R. Wolfe et al, 1995.) In fact research shows your muscles can absorb almost 50% more protein than you can at a regular meal.

Also on the topic of protein and regarding your daily intake, The International Olympic Committee Consensus on Sports Nutrition states 'strength or speed athletes require 1.7grams of protein per kg of bodyweight per day.' For a 100kg bodybuilder this equates to 170 grams of protein per day (usually broken down into 6 meals spaced roughly 2 hours apart throughout the day, each containing 28.33 grams of protein each.) But as mentioned before, many bodybuilding experts recommend more than this and actually recommend between 2-3 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight. This is why it's so important to include many different forms of protein in the diet, such as salmon, tuna, chicken, beef, pork, nuts, lentils, eggs, whey protein, casein protein and many more.

Next carbohydrates are needed when looking to bulk up for 2 reasons; firstly they're needed to fuel your workouts and without them you wouldn't have the energy to complete a rigorous strength training routine. This is why it's recommended to have plenty of low glyceamic index carbohydrates before training in the form of oats, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, brown bread and vegetables.

Secondly carbohydrates are also needed immediately following training to replenish muscle glycogen levels and also create an insulin spike which in turn kick starts the recovery process and shuttles protein and amino acids to the muscles. This is why al bodybuilders when looking to bulk up will include rapidly absorbed, high glyceamic index carbohydrates (like dextrose, maltodextrin or even fruit) with their protein source after a workout, since it's this that signals to the body to repair and grow bigger.

Lastly although there are a lot of misconceptions about fats they absolutely have to be included in your diet when looking to bulk up, but you just have to ensure they are the good and healthy, unsaturated fats. These have been shown to not only add quality calories to your diet since they contain 9 calories per gram (therefore helping you to create a calorie surplus) but they've also been shown to help regulate testosterone levels too. Therefore try and include more oily fish, avocados, nuts and flaxseed oil in your diet.

Quantities of Nutrients for Muscle Mass

After learning about the nutrients needed for mass next you have to learn about the quantities in which they should be eaten within your diet and whilst this will vary from person to person, a good, basic diet plan for bulking should probably consist of 50% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 20% fat. Next in order to determine roughly how many calories you need, a good equation is to take your weight in lbs and multiply it by 17 to 20. For example, a 174lb man would do the calculation of: 174lb X 17 = 2958 calories per day for a bulk. Based on the percentages mentioned before this would break down into roughly 370g of Carbohydrates, 220g of Protein and 67g of Fat. Now this is only an estimate and the number of calories and carbohydrates you need will fluctuate depending how active you are and you will need to adjust it accordingly.

Sample Meal Plan for Muscle Mass

So based on all of the guidelines above, below is a sample meal plan of how a days nutrition could look like for you. Obviously tailor the measurements and types of foods to meet your personal needs, but it's a good example of how a muscle building nutrition plan should look.

Meal 1:

  • 40g whey protein
  • 100g oats
  • 10g flaxseed oil or peanut butter

Meal 2:

  • 4-6 Scrambled Eggs
  • Whole-wheat bagel
  • 1 Bowl of bran
  • 1 apple or pear

Meal 3:

  • Chicken breast
  • Cous Cous or brown rice
  • Large portion of vegetables
  • 1 banana
  • 1 handful of nuts

Meal 4:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 can of tuna
  • Handful of nuts
  • 1 Banana

Pre Workout:

  • 20g whey protein
  • 60g of oats
  • 200mg of caffeine
  • 2g of beta alanine
  • 2g of arginine

Post workout:

  • 35g whey protein
  • 30g dextrose
  • 30g maltodextrin
  • 5g glutamine
  • 3g leucine

Meal 6:

  • A large portion of fish
  • A big portion of vegetables
  • 1 apple
  • A handful of prunes

Before Bed:

  • Cottage cheese
  • 1 banana
  • 30g of casein protein
  • 10g of flaxseed oil