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Nutrition to Gain Muscle

Gain Muscle with Nutrition

Read on to learn how to optimise your diet to build muscle. This is a blog on nutrition to gain muscle.



The Basics

If you want to gain muscle you are likely wanting to gain weight. To gain weight you need to be eating more energy than you are using. This means you need to be eating more calories than you are using. Calculating how many calories you need to eat everyday is actually very complicated. This is because so many things influence how many calories you need. Below you can see what energy is used for in your body. This can vary greatly between people and the energy needed for exercise varies greatly between people. Tour de France cyclists can be using up to 80% of their energy intake for physical activity!

What happens to nutrition when trying to gain muscle
What nutrition do I need to gain muscle

This is why calculating your calorie requirement is so complicated.

The simplest way to gauge if you are eating enough is to track your weight over a long period of time. Many things also influence weight such as eating, drinking, going to the toilet, not going to the toilet, eating a salty meals, eating lots of carbohydrates (these make you absorb water short term). But over a long time you can track your weight and, if you are losing or staying the same weight, you need to eat more to gain weight.

If you are not eating enough calories you will not gain weight. It is well known you need to eat protein to gain weight, but if you are not eating enough calories, the protein will be used for energy rather than building muscle.

I have explained why energy equations are often inaccurate, but a rough energy equation is as follows:

If you are training 6 hours a week and have a desk based job:

Your body weight (in Kg) x 25 (calories) x 2.0 (physical activity factor). = the energy you need to stay the same weight. Add 500 calories to begin gaining weight.

If you are trying to lose weight while conserve muscle mass minus 300 - 500 calories. Fat loss is a slow process. If you have a more aggressive diet than this you will lose muscle rather than fat.



Now possibly the most hyped nutrition in the world. There are so many supplements for protein. I have a blog in detail on the best proteins.

I have explained you need to get enough calories in first before you concentrate on protein. But if you are doing this, how much protein should you be having?

Again, this is relative to your body size. A rule of thumb is you need 2g of protein per kilo of body weight each day. For most healthy people a safe range is 1.6 to 2.4g of protein a day.

I recommend trying to eat this through normal foods first. This is because we have not identified all the nutrients our body needs to thrive and supplements will not contain all the nutrients we need. Having said this, some people, especially heavier taller people, may find it impossible to eat enough protein. A supplement may be beneficial in this case.

See my instagram on some good whole food protein sources. Others are light cheese, low fat meats.


Nutrition Timing

When you eat can also have an impact on your muscle gains.

While exercising, more blood flows to muscles. This means more nutrition can be delivered to muscles. This is why some people have protein or amino acid supplements before or during a workout.

After exercise, blood flow remains high to muscles and they are more permeable to nutrition than at rest. Muscles are also trying to rebuild stronger after a bout of exercise, especially resistance training. 20 minutes after training consuming at least 20g of protein is best practice.

Then regular intakes of protein throughout the day reduces muscle breakdown at rest. If your body is not supplied with enough energy it may begin to use your muscle as fuel.

I have meal plans with all these practices and more available for download in PDF.


Do Calories Exist?

This is a topical question currently and I'd like to start this brief summary by explaining science only ever has theories, nothing is ever proved to be 100% true. Calories are the current best theory to explain our energy systems.

However, sometimes our energy systems do not work in the exact way we expect. If the calorie system were 100% accurate if you ate too many calorie you would gain weight and if you ate too few calories you would lose weight.

However, there are situations when this does not seem to work. For example, there are many anecdotes of body builders gaining weight and muscle on a low calorie, high protein diets. For some reason the high protein led to weight gain despite not eating enough energy.

Similarly, if an individual has previously built a lot of muscle and lost it, they can regain it much more easily than someone building muscle for the first time. The best and biggest example of this is 'The Colorado Experiment' where a retired body builder gained 30kg in a month while in a calorie deficit!

There is the possibility these records are inaccurate, of course.

There are two more examples where the calorie theory breaks down.

Artificial sweeteners contain no calories, but swapping to them has not been shown to lead to weight loss. The World Health Organisation has in fact now issued a statement saying artificial sweeteners should not be recommended for weight loss. The cause of this anomaly is not clear, but it is possible your body expects sugar when you taste the sweetener and puts your body in a growth state by releasing hormones in response. This could prevent your body losing weight. Another idea is your gut microbiome is changed by the sweeteners. These are only ideas currently.

This brings me on to the final point regarding calories. Depending on your gut bacteria you are more or less likely to gain fat or lose weight. There is research in mice showing obese mice have lost weight with gut bacteria changes. This relationship is unclear, but is another mechanism for weight gain irrelevant of calorie intake.

To conclude this diversion, calories are still the best theory of our energy systems and the best way we have of initiating weight loss or weight gain, but there is much exciting research ongoing to understand some of the anomallies discussed in this section.


Summary of Nutrition to Gain Muscle

  1. Eat enough calories

  2. Eat enough protein

  3. Use as many whole foods as possible before using supplements

  4. Have protein straight after work outs.

  5. Have regular protein intakes through the day

If you are looking for an easy life and would like a meal plan with these methods and more incorporated navigate to my shop tab or contact me.

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