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July 27, 2022 6 min read

Muscle is made in the kitchen. You’ve heard it a million times right? What you may not have heard is exactly what in the kitchen helps you build muscle. Bodybuilding is a sport that requires time, dedication, and a strict diet to achieve those Herculean features.

Knowing how many calories to eat, and the right amount of proteins, fats, and carbs is essential for muscle growth. If all you know is chicken breast and rice equals muscle, you may not be totally wrong, but there are plenty of other foods you’ll want to add to your meal plan.

Count Your Macros

Whether you’re bulking up or looking for weight loss, counting macronutrients can play an important role in reaching your goals. 

Counting your macros means keeping track of how many grams of protein, fat, and carbohydrates you consume daily.

Macro counting is a lifestyle diet that’s not as restrictive and can be more sustainable compared to diet plans like Keto. All foods are made up of macronutrients, and each macronutrient has a certain amount of calories, so you will calculate your total number of macros by your daily calorie intake.

It may seem confusing at first, but once you break it down, it’s less intimidating, and if you’re serious about your bodybuilding diet, then this is key to gaining muscle mass.

Determine Your Calorie Intake

The first step in counting your macros is determining your total caloric intake. Building lean muscle will mean creating a high-calorie diet plan, where the calories are healthy and intentional. 

Adding between 300-500 more calories to your current diet can help boost muscle hypertrophy. 

After determining your calories, it’s time to divide them into macros.

Determine Your Protein

Protein is important for muscle growth and repair after exercise, and it can also be used as energy if no carbs or fats are readily available. 

The general rule is to consume between 1g-1.5g of protein per pound of bodyweight depending on your activity level, so if you weigh 200 lbs, you’ll be consuming ~200 grams of protein. 

Four calories are in one gram of protein, so to figure out your calories from protein, all you have to do is multiply it by four.

Determine Your Fat

You might cringe at the word “fat”, but it is important for energy, cell function, nutrient absorption, and hormone production. Although essential, there are nine calories in one gram of fat, so it’s a nutrient that you’ll need the smallest amount of. 

To maintain a healthy amount of body fat, consuming between 20-35% of calories from fat is recommended. This means if you’re on a 2,000 calorie diet, 400 of those calories should come from fat.

Determine Your Carbs

The main function of carbohydrates is to provide energy for your body. Eating a healthy amount of carbs can aid in fat loss, despite low-carb diets claiming to be the staple of weight loss. 

Consuming between 45-65% of calories from carbs is recommended, meaning a 2,000 calorie diet would consume ~900-1,300 calories from carbs.

What to Eat and When

Tracking your macros and being mindful of the foods you put into your body is important for gaining muscle, but when you consume your calories matters too. Hitting the gym for a heavy leg day or high volume upper body will require enough to fuel to help last you through the workout. 

Taking a pre-workout like Pumped-AF can help provide more stamina to your workout and visible fullness to your muscles.

Unless you’re doing fasted cardio, fueling up before your workout can help give your body the energy it needs to get through the most grueling of sweat sessions, but it can prepare your body to recover afterwards.

Your pre-workout meal should consist of high-carb, moderate protein, and lower fat. You should aim to eat about one to two hours before you hit the weights.

A few sample pre-workout meals may look something like:

  • Whole wheat toast with almond butter and egg whites - this is a great and easy meal to whip up for breakfast. The protein comes from the almond butter and egg whites, which are fast-digesting, the whole wheat toast gives you a good amount of carbs.
  • Overnight oats with milk and peanut butter - if you’re an early riser who hits the gym at 5am, making breakfast in the morning can mean getting up even earlier. Having overnight oats prepared helps save you time and hassle while giving you a good amount of carbs and protein.
  • Chicken and sweet potatoes - this is an easy meal prep option, so if you’re heading to the gym after work, you can pop it into some Tupperware and eat it an hour or two before you head out. The protein in the chicken makes this a good meal pre and post-workout.
  • Salmon and brown rice - this one may take a little more prep time, but it’s another good meal prep option before your workout. Salmon contains omega-3, which can help lower blood pressure and promote bone health. You can substitute the salmon with any type of low-fat fish and can use white rice for your carbs, but brown rice tends to be healthier.

Some workouts are longer than others and may need a snack or protein shake to get you through. You obviously don’t want to take a break to scarf down a meal, but replenishing amino acids with our BCAA/EAAS can be beneficial.

You should never skip a meal after your workout because that’s how your body can repair and ultimately build more muscle.

After exercise, your glycogen stores are depleted, so your post-workout meal should consist of simple carbs and protein.

You’ll want to avoid too much fat after your workout because it can slow down digestion and limit the absorption of necessary carbs and protein. Your post-workout meal should be consumed within one to two hours after the gym.

A few sample post-workout meals may look something like:

  • Ground turkey with carrots and green beans - ground turkey contains a good amount of protein to help contribute to muscle repair. Vegetables like carrots and green beans can be beneficial post-workout since they contain simple carbs and plenty of vitamins.
  • Sirloin steak with red potatoes - sirloin steak compared to some other cuts are typically leaner and is packed with plenty of protein, making it great after your workout. Red potatoes not only pair perfectly with steak, but they’re high-carb and ideal for bodybuilding.
  • Chicken breast with whole grain pasta and tomatoes - yes, you can still eat pasta. But making a conscious choice to switch to whole grain pasta can help replenish lost glycogen and boost recovery time. Substituting processed sauces for homemade sauce or cooked tomatoes can help you cut unhealthy calories.

Grocery List for Muscle Gain

Wandering aimlessly down the grocery store aisles can become overwhelming, especially if you’re unsure of where to start. Just like having a workout program in the gym, constructing a grocery list can help you stay on track and plan your meals ahead of time.

Proteins:

  • Eggs - 6g of protein/ one large egg
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast - 25g of protein/ 4oz
  • Lean red meat (sirloin steak, ground beef, bison) - 90-95% lean ~25-40g of protein/ 4oz
  • Lean ground turkey - 22g of protein/ 4oz
  • Turkey bacon - 8g of protein/ 1oz
  • Salmon - 17g of protein/ 3oz
  • Canned tuna - 45g of protein/ one can
  • Greek yogurt - 17g of protein/ container
  • Cottage cheese - 25g of protein/ one cup
  • Quinoa - 8g of protein/ one cup
  • Protein powders like Whey-PRO - 20g of pure whey protein per scoop

Carbs:

  • Veggies (green beans, peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc.) - ~12g of carbs/ 0.5 cup
  • Fruits (bananas, apples, blueberries, dates, etc.) - ~10-30g of carbs/ one cup
  • Brown rice - 45g of carbs/ one cup
  • Oatmeal - 27g of carbs/ one cup
  • Whole wheat bread - 12g of carbs/ one slice

Fats:

  • Natural peanut butter - 16g of fat/ two tablespoons
  • Olive oil - 14g of fat/ one tablespoon
  • Almonds - 14g of fat/ 1oz
  • Pecans - 20g of fat/ 1oz
  • Walnuts - 18g of fat/ 1oz
  • Avocados - 21g of fat/ one cup

Build Muscle in No Time

The foods that you put in your body can determine how fast you can reach those gains goals. Although it won’t happen overnight, making the right decisions everyday can help maximize muscle growth. Hitting the gym isn’t always easy, but healthy eating is arguably the hardest part of weight loss or gaining muscle mass. 

Aside from having the best body on the beach, choosing the right foods for your body can improve your overall health and help you live a longer, more energetic life.

It’s important to understand that everyone’s body is different, and genetics can play a big role in body composition, so comparing yourself to the person lifting next to you shouldn’t be on your mind. If you find yourself still struggling with your diet, reach out to a registered dietician or nutritionist.

When it comes to gaining muscle, patience and perseverance is key. As the old saying goes, there’s no better time to start than now.

If you've got your macros dialed in and are looking to pack on even more lean muscle, you can find exactly what you're looking for here.