Is there a muscle building diet that is guaranteed to enable you to build muscle tissue? What to eat to gain muscle – a common question! What bodybuilding diet is used by professional bodybuilders and strength athletes? These common questions are not as easy to answer as most believe, and there is also a great deal of misunderstanding of human metabolism that could lead you down the wrong path.
If you search online, or in any of the bodybuilding magazines that most read, you will find a certain amount of conflicting advice. So what advice is correct, and what type of foods should be included in a muscle building diet that not only enables you to gain muscle, but also to maintain a good BFP (Body Fat Percentage) and good health?
Building Muscle Tissue
Let’s consider the part protein plays in muscle development, because one fact is certain: you cannot build muscle tissue without including protein in your diet. When you eat to gain muscle, dietary protein is the most important component in every meal (read High Protein Diet Plan). No bodybuilding diet is short of protein, and whether or not you also need separate carbohydrate components depends upon your dietary preferences and your current Body Fat Percentage (BFP).
This discussion is a general one on the concept of a muscle building diet, and not aimed at any particular sector: meaning that you can follow this advice to build muscle whether you are currently overweight and want to replace your fat with muscle, or are currently lean and mean, but want to further define your muscle groups. Whether you generate muscle tissue or fat tissue with your diet depends upon what is known as the ‘energy balance’.
The Energy Balance in a Bodybuilding Diet
Fundamentally, if you eat more calories than you lose in exercise, you will gain weight. If you use more calories than you eat, then you will lose weight. This a very loose generalization since a lot depends on thyroid activity, which controls your metabolic rate, and other factors that can combine to enable you to use more or less energy while resting.
Carbohydrates (fats, cereals, oils, sugars, etc) are broken down by your digestive system into glucose. Glucose and oxygen are metabolized, either aerobically in the Kreb’s Cycle or anaerobically without oxygen to generate ATP (adenosine triphosphate) energy. Most human energy generation is aerobic, hence the need for oxygen.
Any energy not used is stored in the form of fat. Fats are stored in fat cells – you are born with a certain number of such cells, and they can be full, partially full or empty. If you have a positive energy balance (more energy than you use) your fat cells begin to fill up. If your energy balance is negative (use more than you create), your fat reserves are used to provide the energy deficit and you lose fat.
Exclude carbs completely from your diet, and your body will break down your muscle protein to use its carbohydrate content – that’s why severe starvation makes people skeletal: they have used up all their fat reserves and also their muscle tissue for the energy needed to keep their heart beating and brain working.
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Muscle Building Diet
Proteins are large molecules consisting of carbohydrate tails and amino acid heads. If you have insufficient carbohydrate in your diet, your metabolism will use the protein in your diet for its carbohydrate content, thus releasing the amino acids.
If you exercise certain muscle groups while on a high-protein diet, these muscles will have a greater blood flow, and the free amino acids will be used to create new muscle fibers within them. In other words, by consuming a muscle building diet containing more protein, the carbohydrates needed to generate the energy you use when exercising will come from that protein, and the amino acids released will build muscle tissue.
What to eat to gain muscle would therefore appear to be mainly proteins. However, although a muscle building diet comprising solely of protein would therefore appear to be a sensible bodybuilding diet, there are other factors to consider in your metabolism.
A Balanced Muscle Building Diet is Essential
You must look after your thyroid, which controls your metabolic rate, and the other components of your endocrine (hormonal) system. What that means is that a balanced diet, containing simple and complex carbohydrates, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories from highly colored fruits and vegetables, and certain essential oils such as Omega-3 and Omega-6, are all components of a good healthy bodybuilding diet.
However, to gain weight in the form of muscle tissue, you should eat more calories than you use in exercise. Take these extra calories in the form of protein – chicken, fish, red meat, soya protein, whey and protein shakes – then the carbs in the protein will be converted to glucose and the amino acids converted to muscle fiber in those muscle groups you are exercising.
There is no ideal muscle building diet, but if you understand the above principles of weight loss, weight gain and making sure you gain muscle tissue rather than fat, then you will be able to work out what to eat to gain muscle. A good bodybuilding diet contains a combination of complex carbohydrates, healthy unsaturated Omega fats and high-protein foods.
How Many Calories?
That is not a question that can be answered without knowing your current body weight and BFP. In general, however, 3500 calories daily with about 1.5 – 1.7 grams protein for each pound you weight is about average. That equates to about 11 ounces protein/day if you weigh 200 pounds.
You should try that first, and if that seems too little then increase it, but 3/4 pound of protein should be enough for anybody – you might even be able to reduce that to a half-pound or less according to your gender and exercise program. The important factor is that that you consume fewer calories than you expend in exercise.
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Sample Bodybuilding Diet: A Day in the Life of Tom Venuto
Tom Venuto, the well-known bodybuilding champion, has published a number of his diets online. Tom subscribes to the view that eating six smaller meals each day is better that eating three large meals. This is because the nutrition is available when needed, and not just morning afternoon and evening. Here is a typical daily medium carbohydrate muscle building diet for Tom:
0645: A cup of oatmeal, a dozen eggs (whites only), a whole egg and a half grapefruit.
The oatmeal provides roughage, zinc and iron, the egg white protein, the whole egg offers fatty acids and minerals, and the grapefruit vitamin C and also acts as a diuretic.
0930: oatmeal, half grapefruit and protein powder
As above, but the high protein powder can be taken as a shake.
1230: 8 oz each of yam, chicken breast and broccoli
The yam is high in Vitamin A and beta carotene, and also in other minerals and vitamins. It also offers a healthy source of carbs. The chicken is protein and the broccoli offers a mixture of vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients such as antioxidants an anti-inflammatories.
1500: 8 oz each of lean sirloin and broccoli: the sirloin offers protein and iron, plus other meat-based nutrients such as Vitamin B complex (including B12 – rare in vegetarian diets).
1730: 8 oz each chicken breast and asparagus, and 1 tablespoon EFA oil.
Asparagus is a diuretic that also maintains healthy skin and arteries. EFA (essential fatty acids) offer many health benefits such as increased energy and stamina, and reduced recovery times.
2000: 8 oz tuna or salmon, spinach and lettuce salad with low calorie dressing and more EFA. The tuna and salmon offer protein, while the oil is as above, with the additional benefit of improving heart health, digestion and helping reduce weight. The salad offers roughage, vitamins and minerals and also antioxidants and anti-inflammatories to help recovery after exercise.
This is just one bodybuilding diet used by Tom Venuto to help him maintain a very low body fat index, and well-defined muscles. It has been carefully formulated to provide Tom with protein and just enough carbohydrate for his energy needs, but not so much that his body does not break down the protein into amino acids and carbohydrates. Tom uses this diet 3 days and then a high carbohydrate diet one day.
He exercises the muscles he wants to build so that the amino acids are preferentially used by these muscles sets rather than all his muscles equally. That’s one of the secrets of a good muscle building diet: lots of protein, small amount of carbs plus vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and roughage.
The antioxidants help to neutralize the harmful free radicals generated by cellular respiration, and anti-inflammatories reduce the inflammatory effect of sore joints and tissue damage after exercise.
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The Bottom Line on Muscle Building and How to Gain Muscle
The bottom line on a muscle building diet is that you must exercise. The more you exercise the more calories you use. The more calories you expend and the more protein you eat, the more muscle tissue you will develop – if you work these muscles in your exercise program. Also include essential fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and roughage in your diet and that is how to gain muscle while staying healthy.
It is possible to build muscle tissue by eating only protein, but you are advised to include healthy unsaturated fats, plenty colored fruits and vegetables and also complex carbohydrates for long-term energy creation (whole grains and other polysaccharides). Knowing what to eat to gain muscle (a healthy muscle building diet), and also how to exercise your muscles correctly, will enable you to use a healthy bodybuilding diet and exercise regime that will keep you feeling good as well as looking great.
PS: The information I cover above is merely a general guideline. Every person has different physiological responses when they consume food. So, to find out exactly what type of nutrient you really need to take, you should visit The Muscle Maximizer to customize your nutrition plan.