SLFitness Diet Tips to Building Lean Muscle
Here’s some simple math that many people still can’t seem to grasp. You’re in the gym for only an hour or so each day, leaving another 22–23 hours in which muscle growth depends solely on what goes in—or stays out of—your pie hole. So why is the nutrition side of the mass-gaining equation often marginalised? It’s probably because a bench press is a lot sexier than a spinach salad.
But if you want to take your physique from string bean to Mr. Clean, certain dietary principles need your utmost attention. These get-big eating tips will help you build the body you’ve always yearned for without blowing up like the Pillsbury Doughboy.
1. Eat Real Food! – Whole foods like lean meats, nuts, seeds, and vegetables contain more of the nutrients muscles crave, and deliver a steadier supply of amino acids and blood glucose to muscles than the nutritional dreck found in the middle aisles of your local supermarket.
2. Rise and Dine! – When trying to gain mass, eat two breakfasts. To restock liver glycogen and put the brakes on the catabolism that chips away at your muscle overnight, down two scoops of whey protein along with a fast-digesting carb such bread immediately upon waking. One of my favourite morning shakes is two cups of coffee, two scoops of whey. About 60 minutes later, follow up with a whole foods breakfast that boasts quality protein—such as lean turkey mince or eggs—and slower burning carbs, such as oatmeal.
3. Track your Intake! – The only way you’ll know if you’re eating enough in the right proportions to grow muscle is to keep a detailed food diary, and tally your calories and macronutrients. The huge database of foods on the SLFitness App can help you crunch the numbers.
4. Whey Hey! – In a study published in the journal Amino Acids, Finnish scientists discovered that weightlifters who consumed whey protein before and immediately after workouts produced more of a compound called cyclin-dependent kinase 2, or CDK2, than those who didn’t take whey. CDK2 is believed to activate muscle stem cells involved in hypertrophy and recovery from intense training.
In addition, a 2009 study by Japanese researchers found that consuming whey and glucose prompted larger stores of post-training muscle glycogen (the main energy source for working muscles) than ingesting just glucose. Shoot for 20–30g of fast-digesting whey protein isolate or hydrolysate 30 minutes pre-workout and immediately post-workout.
5. Carbs before Marbs! – To gain mass, you must eat plenty of carbohydrates: 2-3g per pound of body weight. Carbs contain the calories required for growth, and glycogen to fuel intense lifting. Good options for most meals are brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, and sweet potatoes.
However, in your first meal of the day and your post-workout snack—when an insulin spike is needed to channel amino acids into muscles—you want fast-digesting carbs such as fruit, white potatoes, or white rice.
6. Prepare! – Coming home ravenous after a balls out training session and having nothing ready to eat can send you on a hunt for the nearest bag of Doritos. But having a stockpile of protein-packed foods that can be reheated easily guarantees you’ll make healthy choices and get the nutrients your muscles need.
Use the weekend to rustle up big batches of chicken, chilli, stews, hard-boiled eggs, and rice, which will keep in the fridge or freezer the whole week.
7. Face the Fats! – Fact: including the much-maligned saturated fat, is necessary for building a rock-solid physique. It revs up testosterone production, provides necessary calories, and helps your joints endure the heavy lifting needed to spur muscle gains. Aim for at least 0.5g of fat per pound of body weight (90g for a 180-pound man), or 30% of your total daily calories.
Divide that into equal thirds from saturated fats found in beef, coconut products, and dairy; monounsaturated fats from almonds, avocado, olive oil, and peanut butter; and fat-burning polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts. Avoid the trans-fatty acids found in fried foods.
8. Protein Power! – Protein provides the amino acids used to build muscle. Shoot for 1–1.5g of protein per pound of body weight, or 180–270g a day for a 180-pounder. Top protein picks include dairy, eggs, poultry, red meat, and seafood.
These foods offer a wealth of complete protein, providing your muscles with the aminos necessary for recovery and growth. You may supplement with whey, casein, and soy protein powders as well. And don’t overlook plant-based protein sources such as quinoa, beans, and hemp seeds.
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Have a great week!
– Spencer Lissamore