Keeping hard-earned muscle on your frame is tough enough, but the process of building new muscle takes your efforts to a whole new level. Your training can be spot on, you can be getting your required 8 hours of shut-eye per night (maybe more) and you can be taking all the right supplements for the best results possible. But if your diet is off, inadequate or just plain pathetic then you have a serious problem.
Your muscle building diet is paramount toward your success in the gym. Not only will a proper diet help you pack on lean muscle outside of the gym while you get on with your life, it’s also instrumental regarding your performance in the gym as well. Good nutrition = more strength and better performance = better gains.
If your goal is to have the physique of a pro, then don’t make rookie mistakes when it comes to your diet. Below are 7 common faux pas every beginner (and sometimes advanced lifter) makes at some point on your lifting journey. Heed their warning and finally get to that coveted next level.
Good nutrition = more strength and better performance = better gains.
1. You Don’t Eat Enough Real Food
Supplements are great. They shore-up holes in our diets, they add calories and important muscle-building amino acids when we need them and are very convenient. But take a close look at your diet – your real-food diet. Is it pathetic? Are you relying a little too much on supplements?
This may not sound like earth-shattering advice but you must establish a real, whole food eating plan first and then you can see where you need supplements to fill in the gaps Supplements are just that: Additions to your diet, not replacements. Be sure you have plenty of proteins such as fish, chicken, turkey, some red meat, Greek yogurt, cheese and eggs along with complex carbohydrate such as rice, potatoes, pasta and oatmeal.
2. You Don’t Take In Enough Calories
Another huge no-no is the lack of overall calories in your diet. To build muscle it takes calories, and for the skinny framed guys out there it takes a lot of them. Not just one or two big meals per week, but a consistent surplus of calories so your body stays in muscle building mode.
If your diet looks more like a list of snacks full of fast food options then you are in need of an overhaul. But don’t go cold turkey. Start by focusing on one week at a time and change just one thing during that period. For the second week change one more thing and so forth. For example, you can change things like – eating 4 solid meals per day, or have protein with each meal, or eat more complex carbs each day. After each week passes you will have built solid habits that will just compound on one another. After some time, your new diet will emerge without the empty overnight fix.
3. You’re Not Consistent
Do you sometimes eat an epic, muscle-friendly meal and then find yourself struggling to repeat those times over and over? Does your physique reflect that inconsistency? Much like a house, your frame needs to be built brick by brick. It’s not some pre-fabricated home that is up in one day by sundown.
You might need consistency, and a lot of it. Scheduling your meals throughout the day and getting your required nutrients day after day and week after week is the only way to build that foundation of muscle and strength. Sporadic eating leads to little or even no gains at all. Much like point number 2, start with small changes each week and build slowly. For example, the first week focus on getting in 3 solid, nutrient dense meals. Afterward, add in a fourth meal and then focus on other aspects such as pre and post nutrition (more on that later).
4. You Don’t Eat Enough Protein
Check your whole food protein intake. Is it at least at 1 gram per pound of bodyweight? If you’re serious about gaining lean muscle then you should be keeping a close eye on protein – daily. If you are lacking, you can’t blame genetics, a crowded gym or lack of knowledge. You are deficient, period.
If you’re serious about gaining lean muscle then you should be keeping a close eye on protein – daily.
As said before, 1 gram per pound is the minimum. If you consider yourself a hard-gainer or stuck in a plateau 1.5 grams per pound would be recommended. Also, be sure the majority of that protein is coming from whole food sources. I’ll list them again: fish, chicken, turkey, some red meat, Greek yogurt, cheese and eggs.
5. You’re Not Eating Enough Carbs
Carbohydrates are not evil. Most diet marketing consists of programs that are aimed at helping people lose weight, and that’s it. You are not like most people. You want to build lean muscle not just “lose your gut.” You need carbs.
Carbohydrates are muscle-sparing, meaning it will help protect against the breakdown of proteins as fuel. Additionally, carbs offer the simple fuel source for your intense workouts. Without them, you will be spinning your wheels trying to figure out why you can’t gain muscle. Start with 2 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight to start. Ramp that number up to 3 grams per pound after a few weeks. If you are gaining lean weight at a slow pace (1 pound per week at the most) then you are on the right track.
6. You Avoid Fat
By now you’ve come across at least a few benefits of fat intake: hormone regulation, satiety, and a proven energy source. If you are still in the dark ages of avoiding fat at all costs, however, you will need to rethink your strategy if muscle is what you want. And I’m including the saturated kind too!
Bodybuilders were on to something in the 50s, 60s, and 70s when they included whole milk, whole eggs, and other fatty sources in their diets. They not only provided extra calories to help support their brutal training but they also helped with healthy testosterone levels, staying lean, and strength gains. Of course they had no choice since low-fat and fat-free options just weren’t available back then. Ironic, really. Shoot for .5 to .75 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight to start or 20% to 30% of overall calories.
7. You Don’t Pay Enough Attention To Pre And Post Workout Nutrition
The anabolic (muscle-building) “window” is a heavily debated subject these days. Supporters will tout its absolute necessity while naysayers simply scoff at even the mere thought of such a practice. Often, there seems to be a gap between science and practice with both sides having their pros and cons. Pre and post workout nutrition aren’t alone in these conversations.
Of course, the in-depth discussion of this subject is too large to fit into this article alone so I will keep it to the point. If your goal is to gain muscle and you are hitting roadblocks and are frustrated, you need to pay attention to pre and post workout nutrition. It is better to cover your bases than to risk not getting every ounce of benefit of your eating plan you can. For pre-workout go with 50 to 60 grams of a complex carbs such as fruit or oats and 20 to 30 grams of protein such as yogurt or whey protein. Post-training go with 50 grams of a simple carb such as a sports drink and around 40 grams of fast-acting protein such as whey.