Bulking up and gaining muscle can be very challenging. If you’re currently on a bulking program or are interested in getting started on one then this guide is for you.
How to Build Muscle Mass
So you’re determined to make this year “The year” that you’re going to dedicate yourself 110% to finally build muscle mass by unconditionally sticking to your gym and diet plan?
If so: you can be sure that by the end of the year (or well before then) you are going to have a body that’s so distinctly different to what you see in the mirror today that you’ll hardly recognize yourself. But that will be a good thing!
Knowing the crucial principals and actions required to build muscle mass – and implementing them – is the only thing standing between the body you have now and the body you know you want.
Table of Contents
- Training and Muscle Hypertrophy
- Training for Your Body Type: Ectomorph, Mesomorph and Endomorph
- The Best Bodybuilding Exercises To Pack On More Muscle Fast
- Nutrition: Best Foods for Muscle Gain
- The Importance of Nutrition for Muscle Growth
- Nutrition Strategies (Rules) to Follow If You Want to Build Muscle
- Diet Changes You Need to Make to Build Muscle
- What to Eat to Build Muscle?
- Foods for Muscle Gain That Are High In Protein
- Foods to Avoid When Building Muscle
- What Foods Increase Testosterone?
- Superfoods That Will Boost Your Workout Performance To The Next Level
- It’s All About Proper Nutrition
- Protein for Muscle Building
- What Is Protein and Why Is It Important?
- What Are the Best Forms of Protein?
- How Much Protein is Needed to Gain Muscle?
- How Much Protein You Should Eat to Lose Weight?
- Protein Quality: Whey or Casein?
Training and Muscle Hypertrophy
You only get out what you put in: and when it comes to your training, this is the golden rule. Want to gain muscle? Then be prepared to work for it. Growing your muscle is all about activating the process of muscle hypertrophy.
About Muscle Hypertrophy
You may have heard the term Hypertrophy thrown around but still weren’t aware of just how critical it is. It’s the very core of muscle growth itself. Once you know what hypertrophy is all about, how do you go about making it happen?
Having a workout plan where you know which muscle groups you’re going to work out on what days, knowing exactly how many days per week you’re going to work out, planning how heavy the weights you’re lifting should be for maximum results – these are all vital aspects of your muscle growth journey.
This guide introduces you to hypertrophy and presents to you the latest facts and research about how to stimulate hypertrophy for ultimate muscle gains – you’ll also learn of some surprising research that could mean you may not have to lift as heavy as you think to reach your goals.
What is Hypertrophy?
Hypertrophy is complex, yet simple to understand at a basic level: it means the growth or enlargement of tissue. In your case, you want to force your muscles to undergo hypertrophy on a regular basis. Hypertrophy or muscle growth happens when your muscle tissue is damaged after being pushed to fatigue during intense resistance training.
This damage to the muscle fibers, essentially tiny tears, tells the muscles that they need to repair and adapt to this new load being put on them: and this is when your muscle grows every so slightly every time you workout (provided you’re providing the right fuel with your nutrition, and allow your muscles ample recovery time).
Sounds simple enough, right?
It is: in theory. But the extent of your results will depend on several factors with your training: how often you work out, how well you target the specific muscle groups you want to grow, and how successful you are at helping your muscles recover post-workout.
It’s too easy to make the mistake of over-working the muscles in your haste to get big, fast. However this is a recipe for failure, and while every person is different, the most common recommendation is to work out each muscle group no more than three times per week.
Then there’s the issue of how heavy you should be lifting. You might be surprised to learn that, despite what you see in the gym, science says that muscle hypertrophy can occur with both light or heavy weights: as long as you’re pushing your muscles to fatigue, lean muscle tissue growth can and will happen.
Without muscle hypertrophy, your muscles would never get bigger. That’s because hypertrophy is the process of the muscle growing in size.
The official definition of hypertrophy is an “increase in the volume of a tissue or organ produced entirely by enlargement of existing cells.” Of course, this doesn’t happen on its own. Unless the muscles are pushed to grow, through sustained and regular resistance training, the muscle tissue will not increase in size.
When you force your muscles to lift weights beyond their normal comfort level, the muscles receive a signal that they need to adapt to this increased demand.
The key to achieving long-lasting and continually increasing muscle hypertrophy of the muscles is to be consistently overloading the muscle with appropriately heavier weights as time goes on – although as you will read below, even using light weights to the point of muscle fatigue can bring about hypertrophy; it can just take longer to get to the point of fatigue.
Complex processes take place in the body during muscle hypertrophy, starting with the trauma that muscles experience after an intensive workout, which activates cells that eventually become new protein strands on the muscle – resulting in a thickening of the muscular cells and supplying the ingredients needed for the process of protein synthesis in the muscles.
This leads to the creation of more of the two primary protein filaments in the muscle – myosin, and actin. These are vital for muscle contraction during workouts. This process of protein synthesis is the very basis for building muscle. The more protein that your muscle fibers can synthesize: the more significant the hypertrophy will be.
Knowing how to stimulate hypertrophy, as well as learning about how heavy, and how often you should be lifting weights, is the key to maximizing your muscle growth. And as you’ll see from our research in this guide, following the stereotype of lifting those big massive weights is not necessarily the only way you’re going to get the most from muscle hypertrophy.
How to Stimulate Hypertrophy?
Muscle hypertrophy is stimulated when you push the muscles beyond what they’re used to lifting or resisting – on a constant and regular basis. So the first step to stimulating hypertrophy is to overload the muscle (or muscle group) that you’re targeting.
This forces the muscle to adapt to the new requirements being placed on it – this explains why people who undertake heavy lifting in their everyday work are physically buff (think of those builders and bricklayers); their muscles are being forced to adapt, through growth, to the loads being placed on them.
When the muscle is overloaded, minuscule tears are created in the fibers of the muscles. Once the body starts repairing itself during recovery, the muscle tissue grows a small amount as it attempts to adapt to the new pressure you’ve placed on it. It makes perfect sense then that, when you complete these actions on a regular basis over an extended period, the muscle can’t help but continue to grow. That’s what muscle hypertrophy is at its very core.
Although hypertrophy and muscle adaptation start happening right after your muscle mass building workout, you won’t see the physical results until several weeks or even months later – hence the great importance of maintaining a consistent long-term training program.
But that hypertrophy doesn’t come without some conditions. Simply damaging the muscle fibers during workouts won’t result in positive growth unless the muscles are provided with two other things they need for the process of hypertrophy to take place: nutrition and recovery properly.
Nutrition provides the vital building blocks that the muscle requires to grow. Nutrition for muscles is obtained from your food, and from any muscle building supplements, you’re taking. The critical nutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, while essential vitamins and minerals are considered micronutrients.
Recovery allows the muscle the time it needs to repair and grow. If a muscle group isn’t given enough time to recover and is instead overloaded again, it can have the opposite effect to what you want: instead of repairing the minuscule tears you’ve created during workouts so growth can occur, the muscle can instead lose size and strength. Recovery is therefore critical to hypertrophy.
How Frequently Should You Train a Muscle Group?
One of the most controversial – and most talked about – topics in bodybuilding centers around just how often you should be training a muscle group. Is there a black and white answer? In short: no.
There are several factors that come into play, and each needs to be considered as they relate to you as an individual: in particular, your current physique and health state, how long you’ve been working out for (are you a beginner or have you been lifting for many years?), and your goals.
A long-held belief by many people is that completely wearing out a muscle group once per week, and letting it fully recover afterward, is the best strategy for maximum muscle hypertrophy, or muscle growth.
But research shows that this is rarely, if ever, the ideal strategy. Virtually all modern research indicates that working for a muscle group up to three times per week is the most effective way to achieving maximum hypertrophy.
In a highly researched thesis completed by Alexander C. Boivin of the University of Central Florida, found that: “…resistance training each muscle group three times a week may enhance hypertrophy and strength adaptations even more compared to either once or twice a week. Recovery of the muscle may be reached in approximately 72 hours or 3 days.”
What this means is that if you’re only working for a muscle group once per week: you’re leaving gains on the table. The muscle group does not require a week to recover to a level where it’s ready to be worked on again.
Furthermore, the all-important process of protein synthesis is elevated after heavy training – but only for less than two days. After that time, protein synthesis reduces back to its regular level
A study on the time course for elevated muscle protein synthesis following heavy resistance exercise was based on the already proven knowledge that protein synthesis rises by 50% four hours after intense resistance exercise. At the 24 hour point after your muscle gain workout, protein synthesis is known to have increased by a whopping 109%.
The primary focus of this study, however, was to determine where protein synthesis is at after 36 hours post-workout: and the results are telling. By 36 hours after your heavy resistance workout, your protein synthesis has dropped right down to its most base level.
Your muscle group, therefore, receives no further benefit from protein synthesis after this period of approximately 36 hours post-workout. Based on the available evidence, working for a muscle group two to three times per week is considered the optimal strategy.
What Body Parts to Work on What Days?
Once you’ve decided on how many days each week you’re going to train each muscle group, your next decision is going to revolve around knowing exactly which muscles or areas of the body you’re going to train on any particular day.
Once you have a routine set up that you plan to stick to, you eliminate guesswork and procrastination, and instead can entirely focus on precisely what you have scheduled for each specific workout day. This lets you plan for very detailed goals and puts you in prime position to meticulously track your progress.
There is an infinite number of schedules you could create for your weekly workouts – but the fundamental concept to keep in mind when planning which body parts to work on what days is knowing which muscle groups you can combine on the same day. You might want to dedicate one day to doing leg workouts only. Another day you might focus on your biceps while leaving extra time to also work on your back that day.
If your gym time is limited, you’ll want to have your workouts planned so you know exactly what you’re going to do the second you walk in.
Successful hypertrophy is going to depend significantly on how well you can combine your muscle group workouts because there’s no doubt that specific muscle groups, when worked in combination, provide more activation of muscular fibers – leading to greater hypertrophy and faster, bigger gains. By combining muscle groups, you also benefit from the smaller muscles giving assistance and support to the larger muscle (and vice versa).
The order you work on each muscle group at each workout is also important: the most important exercise to your overall goal should be done first at a workout, as it’s highly likely you’ll be able to complete more reps during whichever muscle group exercises you work on first.
And it goes without saying – you should never train the same muscle group on consecutive days. Learn your rate of recovery, and plan your workouts accordingly. Most recent research shows that the muscles in the upper body recover quicker than those in the lower body. In practical terms, this often means working on your legs for a maximum of twice weekly.
Can You Build Muscle Without Lifting Weights?
Muscle hypertrophy (growth) happens when you push a muscle group into overload: in other words when you exhaust the muscles through resistance training. The muscles need to be overloaded continually for growth to occur, where you need to push them harder and harder each time to make progress and gain muscle fast.
Lifting weights, of course, is the most well known, most widely used method of gaining muscle: only because it works and it’s the best way to push a muscle group to fatigue.
But what if you want to grow muscle without relying on weight lifting equipment? Is it possible?
The short answer is: yes, you can build muscle without weights. This involves the use of your body weight. The upside is, you can gain muscle and strength this way. The downside? It won’t be as fast or as extreme as the gains you’d get lifting weights. That’s because you depend upon the limits of your body weight.
So what muscle exercises can you do to build muscle without weights? You’ve probably done many of them before:
There are a plethora of other exercises you can do for muscle gain without weights, and you can easily combine them into a routine. The critical aspect to remember (just like with lifting weights), is that your body weight exercises need to be progressed in intensity as time goes on for you to make gains. Staying stagnant does not encourage the body to adapt and get stronger.
While it’s certainly possible to gain some muscle without lifting weights, the rate of progress and the extent of your muscle gains are likely to be limited when using your body weight for resistance rather than weight lifting equipment.
And let’s not forget the use of the mind when it comes to gaining strength and muscle – you may be surprised to learn of several studies that have shown that just thinking about moving the muscles resulted in increased muscular strength.
While you won’t be looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger any time soon only by thinking about packing on muscle, these studies do reveal that there’s a definite link between how you feel and what effect it has on your body – and it may just be another small way you can improve your muscle strength without lifting weights.
Knowing how to build muscle at home without the use of gym equipment allows you to work out any time, anywhere and at no cost. Even if you prefer not to lift heavy weights (or don’t have access to them), keep reading below, because you’ll discover a surprising fact that many aren’t aware of when it comes to making superb muscle gains without necessarily using heavyweights.
Can You Build Muscle With Light Weights?
Bigger is better, isn’t it? Along with almost everyone else, you probably assume that the only way to make significant gains is through lifting the heaviest weights that you possibly can, right?
Well, you might be surprised to learn that lifting lighter weights can still result in satisfactory muscle gains. A study by Professor Stuart Phillips of the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Canada has shone a light on the age-old debate about just how heavy we should be lifting to get ultimate results.
His study found that it’s all about pushing the muscle to exhaustion – and not specifically about how much you’re lifting. While this doesn’t sound like anything you didn’t already know, the fact that Professor Phillips can state based on his study results that “it doesn’t matter whether the weights are heavy or light“, is truly eye-opening and has ramifications for you if you’ve felt pressured to lift as heavy as you can at every workout.
This revolutionary study measured the size of the muscle fiber and overall muscle mass of people who completed a twelve-week program. All participants had to lift the weights until they were fully fatigued, just as you do at the gym. In the end, muscle gains were measured to be virtually identical across both study groups.
Some fitness experts now advocate using lighter weights – if not all the time, then at least on occasions, mainly when you’ve been pushing yourself to the limits and are at risk of not recovering adequately. Or worse, at risk of burning out.
Overloading the muscle is what makes it grow – and the research is clear that you can achieve this both with light and heavier weights: provided the muscle group is pushed to exhaustion and that you are dedicated to a regular weekly routine that targets all essential muscle groups.
Is Heavy or Light Weightlifting Best for Hypertrophy?
Now that it’s been shown that you can indeed achieve hypertrophy by lifting light weights, the big question is: is it better to lift heavy or light for ultimate results?
If you’re keen on using light weights for any specific reason: you might want to start slowly, you might have a past injury or disability, or if you don’t feel ready to lift heavier weights – then doing high reps with low weight is a legitimate way to see muscle growth or hypertrophy.
The fundamental principle to achieving hypertrophy with light weights is that you unconditionally must lift those weights to the point of fatigue – just as the same as you would with heavier weights.
The difference is that you’re going to reach fatigue quicker when the weights are heavier – so if you want to lift light, you should be prepared to put in a longer session to cater to an increased number of reps.
Studies have shown that, when all other factors are equal, the difference between results achieved when lifting heavy vs. light weights can be identical.
So we know that overall hypertrophy can technically be equal whether heavy or lights weights are lifted to fatigue on a regular basis. When it comes to strength gains, the jury is still out, but studies indicate that heavier loads likely facilitate greater overall strength gains.
While there is no one specific method of achieving hypertrophy, research has been undertaken to determine how bodybuilders and powerlifters differ in their weightlifting approaches to achieve similar hypertrophy outcomes.
Powerlifters use maximum heavy loads with longer rests, while bodybuilders are considered to use moderately heavy loads with shorter rests between sets. The study found that moderate rest intervals are the ideal strategy for maximum hypertrophy.
Like many studies, this one did not conclude the ideal amount of weight to lift but rather on the importance of undertaking 6-12 reps for each set with between 1 and 1.5 minutes rest between each set – with some sets being carried out to the point of failure.
Whether you use light or heavy weights to get there is up to you. As long as you understand how to gain muscle and how hypertrophy works, you can make it happen with any equipment you have on hand.
Final Thoughts on Hypertrophy
Hypertrophy is central to everything you do when it comes to gaining muscle – without hypertrophy, your muscles will never grow nor will your strength increase.
This essential process is entirely within your control: you can make hypertrophy happen by undertaking an appropriate build muscle fast workout program and providing your body with the much-needed nutrition that is required for muscle hypertrophy to be successful.
Having a solid understanding of hypertrophy takes away the mystery of bodybuilding and turns it into an exact science. The more you know about hypertrophy and how to make it happen, the significantly better position you’re going to be in to achieve those impressive gains you’ve been wanting.
Now that you know you can even achieve those gains by lifting lighter weights or by not even lifting weights at all, you don’t need to feel pressured into lifting the heaviest possible weight and putting yourself at risk of injury.
Training for Your Body Type: Ectomorph, Mesomorph and Endomorph
Do you know what your body type is? If not: you could be wasting your time in the gym by training the wrong way! If you’re not seeing the results that you think you should be, the type of training that you’re doing might not be well matched to what your individual body needs.
By determining which of the three recognized body types you best fit in, you can tailor your workouts to give you the best results. What works for your training partner might be the total opposite of what works for your own body type.
Let’s look at the three body types (technically called somatypes) and how they differ from one another:
If you’re the tall, lanky, thin guy who can’t seem to put on much fat or muscle no matter what you do, you’re very likely an ectomorph. The good news about being an ectomorph is that you don’t have to worry about burning fat. You have a fast metabolism so you don’t have to rely on intense cardio workouts to trim fat – because you likely don’t have much fat there at all. Even eating more food than you feel like often doesn’t help an ectomorph to gain weight.
Because of your fast metabolism that naturally burns fat, as an ectomorph you will want to spend very little time doing cardio or aerobic work in the gym. So if you hate the treadmill, you’re in luck.
On the other hand, you’ll need to ramp up your weight training and pay very close attention to your diet; ensuring that you’re eating more calories than you need, and that it consists of plenty of good carbohydrate and protein sources. Good shakes are like gold to an ectomorph, so use them to your advantage.
At the other end of the scale are the bigger built endomorphs. As an endomorph you need to put a lot of focus into burning calories, so high intensity aerobic activity is going to be an important part of your workout routine.
Depending on what you prefer, this can be in the form of regular cardio exercises like jogging. Or alternatively you can incorporate more intense (although shorter) circuit activities into your workouts.
Resistance training is just as important: the more muscle you build, the more efficiently you’ll burn fat as your metabolism increases. It’s generally recommended that endomorphs undertake weight training by striking a balance between isolation exercises and total body workouts.
Importantly on the food intake side, watching your carbs is vital and avoiding carbohydrates for the most part after training is important because that’s the time you want to be burning up fat. Sticking to quality protein sources after a workout will help you considerably, but so will avoiding those unhealthy carbs at any time: they’ll go straight to your mid-section which is where endomorphs are so prone to storing fat.
As an endomorph you might not have trouble putting on muscle; but your propensity to store more fat means you might struggle with getting that toned look and achieving a really defined physique. That’s why consistent cardio activity is critical for an endomorph who wants to get a ripped look.
Know that guy with the perfect body? He’s probably a mesomorph. Or if you’re lucky, you’ve been blessed with this body type that seems to make it almost effortless to gain muscle and lose fat while being much more naturally lean and toned compared to the other two body types.
That doesn’t mean you don’t need to focus on quality workouts and eating well though. Consistency is key for the mesomorph and this includes both weight training and cardio work. Mesomorph’s shouldn’t do too much or too little cardio: a moderate amount is ideal (this will also depend on your overall goals as well).
The ideal workout session for a mesomorph is to lift moderate weights and include some moderate aerobic exercise. By correctly targeting the muscle areas that you want to build up, a mesomorph should be able to see pleasing results relatively quickly compared with other body types.
So there you have it: you are going to get considerably better results from your training and diet once you identify which body type you most closely fit into. Remember: regardless of what body type you happen to be, the more committed you are to your workout regime and your diet plan, the better chance you will have to break through those barriers and get the body you want; no matter what your genetics are.
The Best Bodybuilding Exercises To Pack On More Muscle Fast
Do you want to focus on the exercises that will help you pack on muscle mass fast? There’s nothing wrong with wanting quick results; you just need to remain super focused, maintain realistic expectations, stick to a disciplined diet, and of course put all your workout time into doing the exercises that will lead you to your goals sooner, while not wasting time on routines that won’t add substantially to your progress in the short term.
These bodybuilding exercises will have you seeing noticeable improvements within a period of one month. Most exercises have a clear focus on either upper, lower or mid body strength. This allows each area to be trained approximately twice per week, with ample recovery time.
1. Bench Press
No surprises here – you can’t escape bench press if you want upper body gains. To boost results, consider loading up the weights at a micro level as you focus on progressive overload – you’ll quickly find that those small micro weights will add up to a faster adaptation to heavier lifting in a short time frame and of course, faster and bigger gains.
You need deadlifts to build mass, but you also need to do them properly to avoid serious injury. Deadlifts work both upper and lower body as well as the core. To vary your workouts with deadlifts, incorporate different techniques like quadriceps deadlifts and sumo deadlifts.
3. Pull Ups
Back strength and tone improvements will be seen with consistent inclusion of pull ups in your workouts. If you’re already comfortable doing more than five pull ups, a significant extra boost can be had by doing weighted pull ups – but they must be done with caution and by starting with small weights – this provides a intensive shortcut to faster results and will eventually make your regular body weight pull ups feel light as a feather.
No doubt squats are already part of your routine, but for fast muscle growth you can ramp these up as squats are simply one of then most physically demanding lower body and core exercises you can do. Perfect form is so important when doing squats; both for your results and your health. Squats will boost muscle growth in multiple areas: quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, abs, lower back and buttocks.
5. Dumbbell Bicep Curls
This simple exercise can actually be done more than a few ways – making it possible to propel your results forward by trying different variations. There’s the classic standard grip, but to shake things up try a thumb offset grip by moving your hand to touch the edge of the dumbbell with your thumb; a small move that can have you working slightly harder to lift. A pinky offset grip works the same, but on the opposite side of the dumbbell. Other options include hammer grip and a reverse grip.
6. Leg Press
Some people prefer a leg press to squats as they focus purely on legs and unlike squats, you can and should do leg presses until exhaustion. For fastest results with the leg press, keep adding weight while you can get to 10 reps, at which point you start removing a weight and doing as many reps as possible with minimal rest, and where you’re down to one plate at each side while doing as many reps as possible until exhaustion.
7. Skull Crushers
A powerful arm builder, having perfect technique for your skull crushers is vital for fast and maximum results. Watch the placement of your elbows when lifting up with the barbell as good technique here will ensure you’re isolating your triceps to the max.
8. Cable Crossover
Targeting mainly your upper pectoral area, the cable crossover can be modified to also incorporate your lower pec muscles, giving a nice all over chest workout. For fastest results with cable crossover, the elbows should always be held below shoulder level and importantly: make sure you’re getting some resistance on the pull back as well (making it a full eccentric contraction).
9. Military Press
Triceps and deltoid muscles are the main targets here. Often called the overhead press, you do a military press standing up and the goal is to get the bar up to a lockout position. When that happens, you exhale and slowly lower the bar. Experimenting with different grip widths will mix things up and ultimately bring about faster results. A behind the neck variation is also possible for a greater challenge if you have good existing shoulder health and strength.
It’s hardly surprising that the best bodybuilding exercises for fast muscle growth are those tried and true staples; the key ingredient is boosting the intensity you perform them at.
Packing on muscle fast is possible with hard work and discipline, and choosing the right workouts combined with the right diet and of course: adequate rest time. While your fast gains won’t continue forever, it can be a good way to make some short term rapid progress which you can then build upon over the longer term.
Nutrition: Best Foods for Muscle Gain
Without the right foods for muscle gain, you might as well not waste your time lifting weights. That’s because knowing how to make muscles grow through the foods you eat is going to make or break your results.
Don’t sabotage your gains with poor nutrition. Put simply: you need the right foods to gain muscle while avoiding the food that will hamper your progress.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a nutritionist to figure out what to eat to gain muscle – it’s all about sticking to the basics while keeping an open mind to foods that can potentially help propel your workouts and your gains to the maximum possible output.
If you’re confused about all the conflicting information out there about the best foods for muscle gain, then this is the guide for you! Discover dietary changes you can make today, what to eat, how often to eat, what not to eat and even foods that can help boost your all-important testosterone levels.
The Importance of Nutrition for Muscle Growth
Nutrition is an equal part of the muscle growth equation as your workouts are. This side of things can so often be given not much more than an afterthought: as long as you’re eating something, you’ll gain muscle, right? Not exactly.
The best foods for muscle gain are not just two or three foods. Bodybuilding nutrition should be about variety. A wide range of foods that are rich in nutrients (not only protein), while avoiding the foods that do nothing but weigh you down, destroy your energy and metabolism and make you gain fat instead of muscle.
Science tells us that when you have a positive balance and synergy between the protein and nutrition you eat and the exercise you do, that’s when your protein synthesis is at its best. And it is protein synthesis that’s the underlying mechanism to your muscle growth.
What happens if you don’t provide your body enough energy, through your food calories, to maintain your muscle and build more?
A calorie and nutrient deficient diet leads to the muscle itself being used by your body for energy rather than energy being taken from your food (your body’s fuel) – resulting in a loss of muscle mass.
Thankfully, it’s easy to avoid that happening – by eating enough calories, enough protein and importantly: the right types of foods for muscle gain. Quality and quantity are equal sides of the equation when it comes to planning the best diet for building muscle.
Nutrition Strategies (Rules) to Follow If You Want to Build Muscle
While muscle can undoubtedly be successfully be built with more than one specific diet, there are some strategies or rules that you can live by with your food intake that will ensure that your diet is never the weakest link in your muscle growth plan.
In other words: if you stick to some tried and tested nutrition rules then you can spend the rest of your time focused on how you’re going to use that powerful fuel during your workouts to build massive muscle! Here are some easy nutritional rules to follow:
1. Eat smaller meals, more often
Don’t make the beginner’s mistake of sticking to the old three meal a day trick. That’s not how bodybuilders roll. The most commonly recommended number of meals per day for ultimate muscle growth is six. This allows the process of protein synthesis to be continually active, as the body needs a ready source of protein to activate synthesis.
Keeping up your protein throughout the day ensures you’re not running low on supply. Multiple smaller meals also guarantee that you’re not going burn up muscle as energy because you’re waiting too long to feed your body nutritional food. As far as what helps build muscle, your frequency of eating is just as important as what you’re eating.
2. Stay away from simple carbohydrates
Simple carbs are a disaster for health and muscle growth. This category of foods include all refined grains like white rice and white bread, as well as processed foods that contain too much sugar like cookies and soda drinks.
Complex carbs, on the other hand, are a vital muscle building diet addition and include whole grains and vegetables.
3. Include plenty of water
Sounds simple enough, but it’s also easy to forget about drinking water until you feel thirsty. However, your water intake will affect the quality of all your body tissues, including muscle. Expert advice states that to maximize your metabolic, mechanical and hormonal benefits during exercise, you should always begin your training fully hydrated.
4. Plan your post-workout nutrition
Don’t be spontaneous after a workout and eat or drink whatever comes along. Instead, have a quality plan. A post-workout meal and shake are vitally important as this is the time your muscles are literally broken after fatiguing them during your workout. The muscles need nutrients now, including a protein source and some complex carbs.
Many guys choose to use a shake at this time because it’s a fast way to deliver much-needed nutrients quickly. Follow this with a top quality meal within an hour of your workout finishing, and you’ll be on the road to faster muscle recovery and growth.
Diet Changes You Need to Make to Build Muscle
If you’re already on a perfect muscle building diet, then you’re in the minority. Almost all of us could do with some refinement of what we’re eating; while a lot of us need to start from scratch and completely overhaul food intake to optimize it for muscle growth!
If you’re currently on a very average diet, or if you’re looking for ways that you can tweak and improve what you’re eating – we’ve listed some essential diet changes you can start making right now that will result in only positive outcomes for your muscle building goals:
1. Increase your calorie intake
This one sounds obvious, but are you paying attention to how many calories you’re eating each day? There’s no set amount: it depends on your body type, your goals, and how often you workout.
But if you do not see the progress you expect then looking at your calorie intake is the first step. Without enough energy (calories) from your food, the shorter and less intense your workouts will be (and thus – slower and smaller muscle gains).
2. Eat more protein
The amino acids you get from the protein in your food (and protein supplements) is what drives muscle growth – and not only growth but the repair and recovery of muscle tissue as well. This all leads to faster gains and makes it a no-brainer that paying close attention to both how much and what protein you are consuming is critical.
When it comes to protein, quantity and quality matter. The standard recommendation is 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight for bodybuilders, but more recent research found that anything more than 0.73 grams of protein per pound of body weight (or 1.6g per kg of body weight) gave no further benefit for muscle gain.
3. Don’t forget the good carbs
Avoiding carbs for fear of putting on fat is a typical beginner’s mistake. But your body needs carbs to build muscle; that is, it needs GOOD carbs. Bad carbs must be avoided.
Good carbs like brown rice and other whole grains, virtually all vegetables (sweet potato is a particular stand out), nuts, seeds, and legumes will all help add healthy, useful calories that you need to build mass.
4. Eat protein and carbs 1-3 hours before working out
Your pre-workout meal should have a right balance of protein and carbs, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends experimenting with your pre-workout meal timing; some people are fine with eating an hour before, while others will need longer to digest the food for a period of up to 3 hours before you hit the gym.
These simple (and easy to implement) changes will have a drastic effect on your muscle building diet. It just takes a little planning and determination to make the necessary adjustments: and stick to them!
What to Eat to Build Muscle?
The age-old question when it comes to planning the right diet for muscle growth: what do you eat, how much of it, and how often?
Your calorie requirements will depend on several factors:
- Your body type
- Your metabolism
- How often and how hard you workout
- What your goals are
These variables mean that there’s no one size fits all answer to what builds muscle with a specific food plan.
But you can still follow the basic known principals – many which are outlined throughout this article – centering around the fact that you know you need to eat more than enough calories to sustain your workouts, muscle recovery, and growth, and that you also need the vital protein, carbs and healthy fats needed for building muscle tissue.
What to eat?
You need to cover all the essential areas throughout your entire muscle building diet. You don’t need to be a nutritionist or study each calorie and nutrient at the micro level, but you should have some idea of what you’re consuming and what benefits each food gives you.
Protein, carbohydrates, and fats will make up the bulk of your diet for muscle growth. Quality sources of these will contain all the nutrients and macronutrients you need, including vitamins and minerals.
Protein sources for muscle growth include quality meats like lean beef, chicken breast (preferably organic to avoid nasty toxic chemicals), and oily fish like salmon and tuna.
Your healthy carbohydrate meal portion can then include filling foods like brown rice and wholesome vegetables. Healthy fats can be taken care of with the inclusion of olive oil, avocado or a sprinkling of nuts such as walnuts (if you’re eating fish, it also contains an excellent source of healthy fats).
If you’re not familiar with healthy fat-rich foods, it’s easy to be frightened off by the word “fat.” But make no mistake: these foods are vital for your gains and your health, and this is proven by the science.
The fats to avoid are saturated fats which are likely to make you gain weight and zap your energy while providing next to no nutritional value.
How much should you eat?
Your goal when building muscle is to gain weight – this means you need to be eating slightly more calories than you’re burning up. Otherwise, a calorie deficiency will result in your muscles being burnt as energy. This means muscle loss: something you must avoid at all costs.
There are many calorie calculators available which can give you a basic idea, based on your current body weight, how many calories you should be eating each day. Use this as a starting point and adjust as necessary based on how hard you plan to push yourself during workouts, and how you feel during recovery.
How often should you eat?
How often to eat for muscle growth is still a hotly debated topic. Many people have their eating strategy for best results. However, there’s no doubt that consuming up to 6 smaller meals spread throughout the day is going to provide your body with a constant supply of fuel and nutrients and remove the risk of losing muscle tissue by going too long between consuming your meals.
Multiple smaller meals throughout the day are now the gold standard recommendation for muscle building. Up to 6 meals per day are advised, although you could reduce this to 4 meals depending on your circumstances – some people don’t have time for six meals each day.
Studies show that spreading your protein intake out throughout all the meals is more beneficial than loading up on protein during one or two meals. The study results showed that this strategy resulted in a higher amount of protein turning into muscle tissue.
Foods for Muscle Gain That Are High In Protein
With so many choices for protein-rich foods, which ones do you choose to include in your muscle building diet plan?
We know that a balanced diet is essential for muscle growth, and that protein sources play a critical role: but just eating any old protein can have you missing out on getting the absolute maximum from your workouts.
So which muscle building foods are high in protein and add the most benefit to your diet?
Salmon and Tuna
The health benefit of salmon are well known, and this extends to it being one of the highest quality protein sources for muscle growth. Besides containing an exceptional 20% of protein per serve, it’s also one of the best omega-3 fatty acid sources available.
Tuna provides another fish protein source. Like salmon, it’s considered a fatty fish, but these are good omega-3 fats. Keep in mind that some fish contains higher levels of mercury; therefore it’s recommended that fish protein is limited to 2-3 times per week.
Serious bodybuilders swear by eggs as being a muscle growth food they wouldn’t live without. There are many ways to eat eggs though, so how can you get the most out of these oval-shaped powerhouses?
Studies show that eating the whole egg is far more beneficial than just consuming the whites. Consumption of 18g of protein from whole eggs resulted in a 40% greater amount of protein synthesis than just eating the egg whites. There’s an average of 6g of protein in one boiled egg, so you’d need to eat three to achieve the 18g demonstrated in the study.
There’s beef, and there’s beef: and if you want to get the most from this protein source, you’ll need to look at the higher quality sources of beef which are leaner without the excess fat that can result in empty calories (small amounts of fat are however important). Besides being protein-rich, lean beef is also an excellent source of B vitamins.
If you prefer to minimize the amount of meat you consume or want another protein option, soybeans are a top plant-based protein source, and it’s no surprise that you’ll often see this ingredient used in bodybuilding supplements.
There are around 36 grams of protein in 100 grams of soybeans; they’re also rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin C. Many other types of beans are also excellent protein sources, including kidney beans and pinto beans. The best sources of beans are those that are cooked from raw, rather than canned products which can contain excessive added salt.
Foods to Avoid When Building Muscle
What’s just as important as knowing what to eat to optimize your muscle growth? Knowing what NOT to eat. The wrong foods can send your progress backward fast, so avoiding these foods is well worth making a habit in your diet and your lifestyle:
As already mentioned, refined or simple carbohydrates can be your worst enemy. They have little nutritional value as all the healthy nutrients have been stripped away; additionally, they are just sugar (which is what makes them addictive!).
White grains, corn syrup, fruit juices, cakes, soda, and packaged cereals are all examples of simple carbohydrates. Instead, consume wholesome complex carbohydrates which are amongst the absolute best foods for muscle gain and general health.
Top quality protein includes meats like oily fish and lean beef, but at the other end of the meat spectrum, you have processed meats like sausages, ham, hot dogs, corned beef and beef jerky. These are often dangerously high in salt and potential toxins and are linked to a wide range of serious diseases.
Avoid these unhealthy empty calories and instead rely on whole, healthy lean meats for muscle growth.
It’s easy to dismiss the effects of alcohol since it’s not food. But make no mistake, not taking alcohol consumption into account can have a real negative impact on your muscle gain progress.
It can slow down your recovery and potentially lower your testosterone levels – something you need to avoid if you’re serious about making gains. A drink here and there is unlikely to do any harm to your avoided, but forget making substantial progress if you plan to drink heavily every weekend.
Anything you’d class as junk food, processed, high in sugar or salt or otherwise not in its natural state – is not going to be something that positively contributes to your muscle growth.
What Foods Increase Testosterone?
Boosting testosterone is probably on your agenda – at least, it should be if you’re serious about muscle growth for the long term. While there are many testosterone boosting supplements out there if you can give your T levels a boost through nutrition, why not go for it? Are there any foods that help increase your testosterone production?
These are often recommended for men with erectile dysfunction, and they’re also superb for muscle growth thanks to the way they can increase nitric oxide levels which delivers more blood to your muscles.
This includes familiar foods like broccoli and kale which are often considered to be “anti-estrogen” foods that men can benefit from. It’s thought these vegetables can help rid your body of excess estrogen, allowing more testosterone to be produced instead.
Any foods that contain zinc, magnesium, and vitamin D: these nutrients have a direct link to testosterone production so any foods containing them will provide benefits.
Consider garlic, chickpeas, and seafood for zinc.
Magnesium can be found in spinach, almonds, avocado, bananas, and yogurt.
Vitamin D foods include oily fish like salmon, egg yolk, beef liver, mushrooms, and of course by spending time in the sun!
Although no food is going to skyrocket your testosterone levels, every little bit counts and each of these foods have immense benefits for your overall health: so it’s well worth including them in your diet plan.
Superfoods That Will Boost Your Workout Performance To The Next Level
You can hardly go a week without hearing about the latest and greatest superfood; but what exactly is a superfood and how can they benefit your workouts and results?
There are no rules as to what determines if a food should be designated as “super”. But the term is normally used for foods that particularly powerful properties thanks to either the large number of different nutrients they contain, or even just an unusually high level of one or two nutrients. Usually this is in the form of vitamins.
Some of the most well known superfoods you’ve probably heard about include:
- Dark leafy greens like kale
- Sweet Potato
- Acai berries
But which superfoods can specifically benefit people wanting to put on muscle mass? Are there any superfoods that will help supercharge your workouts so you can reach your goals quicker?
There certainly are foods that can contribute in one or more ways to boosting your performance during workouts; ultimately helping you get the absolute most from every minute you’re in the gym.
Let’s take a look at some of the very best superfoods to include in your pre-workout meals to maximize your workout performance, and what makes each one so powerful:
1. Chia Seeds: these tiny seeds pack a serious punch in the nutrition stakes. The use of these seeds goes back to ancient times, and their potential to boost endurance is what has made them so popular over time. Chia is packed full of almost every nutrient you can think of: omega 3, tons of vitamins and minerals and lots of fiber and protein. Improved endurance and mental function are two of the big benefits of consuming chia seeds and these areas are clearly vital to your workout performance.
2. Salmon: we know that salmon is packed full of omega-3 fatty acids and is a great lean protein source. So while it’s a good source of energy pre-workout, salmon is also highly useful for your post workout health as it helps reduce inflammation, aids recovery of the muscles and as a result, helps your muscle tissue to grow.
3. Walnuts: these oily nuts are another good omega-3 source and are also high in protein. Walnuts make an ideal snack when you need a protein boost, which aids in muscle performance and post workout recovery.
4. Quinoa: you might have written off quinoa as a trendy hipster fad food – but this is a food that has super properties and is worth our attention. The high protein content of quinoa speaks for itself. It can provide over 15% of your daily protein requirements in just one serving. Quinoa is also a wholegrain making it a superb source of energy for your workouts.
5. Kale: probably the most familiar superfood of modern times, kale is called super for a reason. It’s full of protein, fiber, minerals and vitamins and is particularly useful in your workout diet thanks to its ability to help ward off inflammation and promote bone health. So it can not only fuel your workout, but also aid in your recovery.
6. Sweet Potato: a much better source of carbohydrates than white potatoes thanks to their lower glycemic index which does not spike your blood sugar levels, and due to their higher level of vitamins and fiber.
7. Beetroot Juice: Maybe not the most well known superfood around, but don’t write it off because beetroot and its juice have some unique benefits for athletes, including the way it can help build up your oxygen capacity – and that can make all the difference with lifting those few extra reps at the end of a workout.
8. Blueberries: perhaps the original superfood, the humble blueberry is still highly recommended for its potent antioxidants (more than any other fruit). But in addition, blueberries are also an excellent source of carbohydrates which, unlike unhealthy carbs, won’t have your insulin levels spiking so you’ll retain your energy for longer throughout your workout.
9. Avocado: with its healthy fats that can act as precursors to testosterone, avocado has obvious benefits to your workouts and muscle growth. This contributes to both the rebuilding of the muscle post-workout, and muscle gains.
10. Eggs: a staple in the diet of most bodybuilders thanks to the protein punch it packs. That’s not all though – eggs are also rich in amino acids, choline and vitamin D and these are vitally important to muscle growth. By eating eggs before a workout the protein will help you improve both your performance and your muscle recovery afterwards.
And there we have it: ten of the most powerful superfoods that will supercharge your workout performance to the next level!
It’s All About Proper Nutrition
Carefully planning what foods to eat to build muscle will pay off in both the short and long terms as you provide your body with the right types and quantities of fuel to be used as energy and for protein synthesis.
Feeling confident with your knowledge of the types of foods for muscle gain you should be eating, the foods you should be avoiding, how much you should be eating and when will allow you to quickly formulate an eating plan that not only compliments your workout and muscle growth goals; but helps you reach them faster than ever.
Protein for Muscle Building
This section is all about protein for muscle building and how it relates to your goal to get muscles. You know you need it, but do you know how much protein you need, what the best sources are, and even when you should be eating it? These are all questions that anyone remotely serious about muscle growth needs to know the answer to.
So how can you get the most out of protein to build muscle? It’s not as complicated as you might think. Find out why protein is so essential, what the ideal foods are for quality protein, what protein sources are available for vegetarians, how much you need for significant muscles growth, and what happens if you overeat protein. Finally, we cover which type of protein is best to take in a supplement.
What Is Protein and Why Is It Important?
Protein is the most critical nutrient for building muscle; as well as for virtually all other aspects of the human body. That’s because your cells require protein to grow and function, including those that make up the muscles.
Our bodies need protein to make everything from nails and hair to muscles and even bone. Put simply: without protein, we could not exist!
When we think about protein for muscle growth, we think about the protein consumed with food. It’s in your control how much protein your body gets, and your decisions will contribute significantly to your success or failure in reaching your muscle building goals.
The function of the protein in the body is highly involved at the biological level, but you don’t need to be a scientist to understand just how vital protein is when you want to put on muscle. Protein is used for primarily every process that you aim to improve: the building, repair, and maintenance of your lean muscle.
The 20 amino acids in protein include nine essential amino acids which you must consume via your diet, while only four amino acids are produced within your body. Why is this important to know? Making sure you consume all nine essential amino acids to form a complete protein source is vital. Thankfully, this is easy.
All meats, as well as eggs, are complete proteins. Vegetables, legumes, and nuts are not complete proteins and need to be paired with other protein sources to make them whole.
Repairing the muscle tissue damage that happens when you do a workout is a critical role of protein. It’s this process that indicates the early stage of muscle growth; remember, muscle grows as the tissue repairs itself after being fatigued following intensive weightlifting.
What Are the Best Forms of Protein?
To build muscle efficiently and without putting on fat, you’ll want to choose the best protein sources you can get your hands on. Thankfully, this is relatively easy and includes a lot of staple foods that you might already be eating:
- Fish (especially salmon and tuna)
- Lean white meat such as turkey and chicken
- Nuts and seeds: mainly hemp, pumpkin, sunflower and flax seeds, and peanuts, almonds and pistachio nuts
If you’re looking for the absolute most protein-rich foods you can eat in various food categories, you’ll find these near the top of the chart (protein amount is listed per average serving):
- Chicken (28g protein)
- Beefsteak (26g protein)
- Turkey (25g protein)
- Salmon and Tuna (22 grams protein)
- Greek yogurt (18g protein)
- Cottage cheese (14g protein)
- Soy nuts (12g protein)
- Pinto beans (11g protein)
Can you get enough protein without eating meat?
Don’t think you can’t put on muscle if you choose not to eat meat, but you’ll need to pay particular attention to your protein sources to ensure you’re getting enough.
Because plant-based proteins may be lacking in one or more of the nine essential amino acids to form a complete protein, vegetarians may need to eat several protein sources every day to receive all the required amino acids.
You’ll be pleased to know that studies have found that plant-based protein can build muscle just as well as meat sourced protein. Top plant protein sources include quinoa, lentils, low-sugar Greek yogurt, seitan, tempeh, chickpeas, peanut butter and of course: eggs (unless you’re a vegan).
Meat eaters can also benefit significantly by adding some of these plant-based protein sources to the diet, as they all contain additional nutrients and provide other options to you when you don’t feel like another piece of salmon or chicken today.
Knowing the best forms of protein to include in your diet, whatever your dietary preferences are, means you’ll be spending less time thinking about what to eat, and dedicating more time planning when to eat and how much.
What Happens When You Eat Protein?
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and it’s these that make up what we call protein. Essentially, protein consists of chains of amino acids.
Unlike fats and carbohydrates, your body can not store the protein you eat. It means that you need to be consuming protein regularly – and even more so when you’re lifting weights and wanting to build muscle. You need to be eating protein sources every day to maintain an adequate supply.
After eating a protein source, your body starts putting the nutrients to work, and the first step is digestion in the intestines. Here, protein is broken down into amino acids by enzymes, which travel to the muscle cells (and other cells in the body) through your bloodstream.
One of the most important digestive enzymes is pepsin (you might even see this included in some of the best steroid alternatives as a way to help speed up the digestion of other ingredients).
Pepsin helps explicitly to digest protein and its this enzyme that breaks the protein right down to its purest form by literally tearing down the peptide bonds which holds a protein molecule together – this is when chains of amino acids can form.
The amino acids then join up together in different combinations into chains, and it’s here that they become different types of proteins for use throughout the body.
One type of protein formed by amino acids is the one you’re working to create: muscle proteins. Other proteins created with your broken down amino acids are hormones and antibodies; this shows just how vital your protein consumption is to the functioning of your entire body.
And if you’ve wondered whether it makes a difference if you chew your foods: yes it does, because well chewed protein-rich foods are digested faster thanks to the higher surface area of food that you’ve done an excellent job of breaking down in your mouth before swallowing; essentially giving your digestive process a helping hand!
What Happens When You Overeat Protein?
You might be tempted to eat as much protein as you can fit in your stomach. But is there any benefit to doing this? The scientifically proven answer is: no. Too much protein is not only a waste of food and your money, but it can also have a detrimental effect on your health.
Eating more protein than you need have no benefit on building muscle, and can lead to actually gaining fat instead of muscle as your body stores the extra protein it can’t use. Even more concerning is that various studies have shown a possible link between excessive protein intake and kidney disease, prostate cancer and possibly diabetes, amongst other health risks.
All three of these reasons are enough to have full confidence that eating more protein-rich foods than you need for your muscle building goals is a waste of time.
One way that bodybuilders can end up consuming much more protein than required is of course by using protein supplements like powders and shakes. These supplements are extremely protein heavy and can make up a significant bulk of your daily intake.
Does that mean you have to stress about consuming too much protein? Not in the short term, and only if you think you’re going over the top for an extended period. Moderately excessive protein intake (that is, taking in more than you require) means the extra amino acids you’ve consumed will be excreted as urine.
But if you continue piling up the extra protein, which can also result in too many calories being eaten (even a bodybuilder has a limit as to how many calories can be burned off), you may see weight gain – and not of the muscle variety.
It’s not difficult to be smart and sensible with your protein intake, as with all aspects of your muscle growth diet: eat what you need, and don’t go overboard as the science is clear that you’ll see no further benefit.
How Much Protein is Needed to Gain Muscle?
Now that you know overeating protein is not beneficial to your muscle building goals, the question remains: how much protein SHOULD you be eating to gain muscle mass fast?
You might have read the old advice that the ultimate amount of protein consumption for muscle growth is “1 gram of protein per pound of body weight” – but that should be taken with a grain of salt these days because science has moved on. A highly respected study found that the optimal amount of protein per pound of your body weight is 0.73 grams. This equals around 1.6g per kilogram.
This study shattered some of the myths out there that eating large amounts of protein is vital for muscle growth. The researchers found that you can only make use of a certain amount of protein within a period, and any more than that has no benefit to muscle growth, which is why excessive protein can lead to some of the risks mentioned previously in this guide.
That doesn’t mean you don’t require more protein than the average person if you’re working to gain muscle; you do, but eating it excessively will not benefit you.
The minimum recommendation for an average sedentary man’s daily protein intake sits at around 56 grams per day per pound of body weight. Increasing that to the 0.73 grams recommended in the study focused on resistance training and muscle growth means that you’re eating considerably more protein than the average person, and you need to be if you’re serious about muscle growth.
This is all sounds well and good: but how can you calculate your daily protein intake? Should you become obsessed with the numbers? There’s no need to carry an estimate to every meal, and once you have a meal plan schedule underway, you should have an accurate idea of your daily protein intake.
Making use of a protein calculator takes the guesswork away, and lets you plan your meals accordingly. A useful calculator will also include your fats and carbohydrates, resulting in a thorough understanding of what you’re consuming each day and exposing any areas that you can improve upon to maximize your gains and fat loss.
How Much Protein You Should Eat to Lose Weight?
If you want to burn fat but still build muscle, you need to be extra conscious of what you’re eating: and how much of it. The last thing you want happening is a loss of muscle mass, so maintaining enough calories and protein for muscle growth and maintenance is vital. And to do that, you need to consume protein while minimizing fat intake.
As a bonus to help you reduce the risk of overeating the wrong foods, studies have shown that a diet high in protein can help to reduce your appetite by activating a hormone that suppresses hunger. This is why you feel fuller for longer after eating a quality protein-rich meal.
Mainly, your existing high-protein muscle building diet is going to contribute to fat loss likely with little modification – unless you’re also consuming high-fat or high-carbohydrate foods which WILL result in a fat gain or at the very least, make it increasingly difficult for you to lose fat.
Protein heavy weight loss diet fads have come and gone over the years, but scientists know that when done correctly and sensibly, a diet richer in protein can contribute to losing weight. Particularly, aiming for a protein-rich breakfast has shown to be a key strategy when you want to burn off fat.
And one of the big reasons for that relates again to the way protein-rich foods help keep you fuller: a substantial breakfast consisting in part of the quality protein is more likely to help you control your food intake for the rest of the day. Permanently, protein can help manage your hunger.
Someone like you who wants to gain muscle and who burns a substantial number of calories each day working out is going to take a different approach to use protein to lose fat compared with someone who does only moderate exercise.
Put simply: you still want to eat enough to supply fuel for your workouts and fuel for your muscles to grow, rather than creating a calorie deficit as is often the goal of general weight loss plans. For a bodybuilder, that can cause muscle catabolism: the breaking down of muscle tissue – the direct opposite of the anabolic state you want to be in.
It’s always recommended that you eat a protein and carbohydrate-rich meal after a workout. Why? You need to replenish your protein supplies, and if you don’t do this within a suitable timeframe (say, 30 minutes after working out), your body might start converting proteins from your muscles into energy – reducing the proteins available for muscle growth.
Protein Quality: Whey or Casein?
Thinking about how to build muscle fast often leads guys to go crazy with supplements, particularly protein supplements. But before you go overboard, you should learn how they work and why more is not necessarily better.
If you only ever take one supplement, it’s like to be a protein supplement, and it’s one that you want to get right from the very start. Two of the most common types of protein supplements you’ll come across are those based on either casein or whey protein.
So which is the better choice of the two, and why?
Both whey and casein proteins are considered high biological value (HBV) proteins, which means they’re both have high nutritional value.
When looking at whey protein supplements, be aware that there are several forms of whey. These are whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, and less commonly; whey protein hydrolysate (also called hydrolyzed whey).
Whey protein isolate has a substantial protein ratio: around 90%, and low amounts of fat and carbohydrates.
Whey protein concentrate has a lower protein content – between 70% to 80%, also contains lactose and fat. This form of whey protein is cheaper than the isolate form and is usually used in lower cost supplements.
Hydrolyzed whey has had the protein broken down through the process of hydrolysis, with the goal of it being metabolized and absorbed by your body faster. Due to the costs involved in this process, you won’t find hydrolyzed whey as widely available as whey isolate or concentrate.
When it comes to whey versus casein protein, the differences point to either form of whey being superior to casein. Why?
Casein is digested slower, and it takes longer for the amino acids from casein protein to be delivered throughout the body; this means slower protein synthesis.
Whey protein, on the other hand, is digested by your body faster, meaning your muscles can put it to use sooner than if you were consuming casein protein. Here’s a quick summary of whey vs. casein protein:
- Both are derived from cow’s milk
- Whey is fast digesting; casein is slow digesting
- Some studies have shown that supplementing both types together can have benefits
- Whey is considered to have higher anabolic qualities due to its faster delivery of amino acids
- You can digest whey protein in just 20 minutes, while casein can take up to 4 hours to fully work
While it’s effortless to load up on proteins through supplements, powders, and shakes: this will cause more harm than good. A protein supplement is just that: a supplement to your regular diet of healthy diverse foods that also contain other essential components like fats and carbs.
Too much protein supplementation can bring about stomach upset and could see you missing out on other key nutrients simply because you don’t have the appetite to eat enough food if you’re loaded up on protein products. At the most end of the spectrum, continual overconsumption of protein supplements can result in liver and kidney problems.
Treat whey supplements (and any other form of protein) as a supplemental addition to your diet, not as a substitute for food, and you’ll be able to avoid complications.
Final Thoughts on Protein
The biology of protein may be complicated, but getting the maximum benefit from it on your muscle growth journey is relatively simple. As long as you’re aware of the highest quality protein forms, and how much you should be eating it each day (by your personal goals), then you’re on track to fulfilling your body’s protein needs, so you’re always in an optimal position for muscle gain and muscle recovery.
While there is no one single best protein for muscle building, best results in both gains and health are achieved when consuming a variety of quality proteins each day – in addition to healthy fats and complex carbohydrate foods.
Protein supplements like those based on whey or casein provide an additional boost, particularly when used post-workout when you want to be increasing protein synthesis to the maximum level as your muscle tissue begins repairing and growing.