You’ve been lifting weights in the gym for weeks, but the muscle growth you were hoping for hasn’t happened yet? Then this is most likely due to your diet. Unfortunately, you will not grow muscle mountains through hard training alone. Only in combination with the right nutrition strategy can muscle growth be optimally pushed and even accelerated. But this requires a certain amount of know-how:

What and how often do I need to eat to promote muscle growth? Which foods contain particularly high amounts of protein? And how much protein do I need per day? These and many other questions we clarify here.

Do I need a muscle building nutrition plan?

The right sports nutrition plays a decisive role in building muscle. Because if you are active in sports and want to build up new muscles, you need the energy you need to do so. However, it is not only the quantity that is decisive, but also the quality of the energy suppliers. On the other hand, the body needs “building material” for the new muscle fibers, in the form of protein building blocks (amino acids).

To perfectly coordinate training and nutrition, it is recommended to follow a muscle building nutrition plan. This is not a must, but a nutrition plan makes your daily routine much easier.

Meals can be planned in advance and optimally coordinated with your daily training routine. Questions like “What am I going to eat tonight?” are no longer necessary and the danger of spontaneously buying the next best frozen pizza in the shopping basket is reduced. These 6 foods sabotage muscle building

What nutrients does my body need to build muscle?

To grow at all, your muscles need the right nutrients. The three macronutrients (main nutrients) are carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Protein has the highest priority in your muscle building nutrition plan. But carbohydrates and fats also play an important role in sports nutrition. While proteins are the basis for building new muscle fibers, carbs and fats provide the energy you need for your workout, which is how you get muscle growth going in the first place. A protein-rich diet alone, without the appropriate training stimuli, will not lead to the desired result. 

1. Proteins: The basis for muscle growth

Proteins (also called protein) are particularly important for muscle building, because your muscles are basically made up of protein building blocks, the so-called amino acids. If you eat too little protein or consume too much of it, your muscles will be attacked and even broken down. Even with minimal load, but also with (micro) injuries in the muscles, protein is needed for regeneration. Therefore, when building muscle, it is especially important to always eat enough protein-rich foods, such as fish, meat, legumes, milk and dairy products. 

Eat as varied as possible and combine animal and vegetable protein. This is an easy way to make sure you get all the amino acids you need. 

By the way: Your body can only utilize the proteins it receives if your carbohydrate and fat intake is correct. If, for example, too few carbohydrates and too much protein are eaten, the body also uses the proteins for energy production. And under these circumstances these are missing then however for the muscle structure.

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2. Fat: Oil, nuts and salmon for more muscles

First things first: fat does not automatically make you fat – this myth has long been disproved. Because without fat many important body functions would be paralyzed. But not all fats are the same, because there are saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids are considered “bad fats” and lurk, for example, in convenience foods, chips, sausage or French fries. No one needs them – especially not for muscle building.

Unsaturated fatty acids (whether single or multiple) are among the “good fats” and must not be missing in a healthy diet plan for muscle building. One finds unsaturated fatty acids z.B. in avocados, vegetable oils such as rapeseed oil, nuts or fatty fish such as salmon.

3. Carbohydrates: energy source for training

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our body. And without energy, almost nothing works in the “human machine”. This not only sounds good, it also tastes good, because pasta, rice and potatoes in particular contain a lot of carbohydrates. Unfortunately, there is a catch here: carbohydrates can be stored in depots, but these stores are relatively small and limited. If they are full, the body converts the excess carbohydrates into fat cells, and these can then be deposited unattractively on the abdomen and co. deposit. 

Means: Do not eat too many carbs and especially the right (complex!) carbohydrates. These “good” carbohydrates are found, for example, in whole grain products (pasta, bread), vegetables and legumes. “Bad” carbohydrates lurk in sweets, convenience foods and white flour products. They contain a lot of sugar, which causes blood sugar levels to ride a roller coaster. It’s best to ban sugar and white flour products from your diet, because they hinder muscle building more than they promote it.

4. Water: Optimal supply of the musculature

Drinking water also indirectly promotes muscle growth, as fluid not only transports nutrients to your hungry muscles, but also flushes waste products from the bloodstream that are produced during protein and fat metabolism. Drink at least 3 to 5 liters daily. You also need to compensate for fluid loss due to sweating during exercise.

Perfect for strength athletes is low-sodium mineral water. Sodium binds water in the cells, which swell up and cover their six-pack. When buying sparkling water, also pay attention to the calcium and magnesium content. A ratio of 2:1 is considered ideal. Such water provides the muscles with important minerals in the optimal composition. A high proportion of hydrogen carbonate (preferably over 1000 milligrams per liter) also neutralizes excess acids (such as lactate) in the muscles.

Do strength athletes need vitamins?

For the fine-tuning of the muscles and the energy supply, the body needs not only building materials and fuels, but also vitamins. Especially important are these four: 

  • Vitamin B1 serves as an enzyme in carbohydrate metabolism. If it is missing, the body produces more lactic acid (lactate) and exhausts more quickly. The more intense your workout, the more vitamin B1 you need. Top sources are sausage, meat, oatmeal, nuts and sunflower seeds. 
  • Vitamin B6 plays a similar role in protein metabolism as vitamin B1 does in carbohydrate metabolism. The more protein you eat, the more vitamin B6 you need. Good sources are soybeans, lentils, nuts, oatmeal, bananas, avocados. 
  • Vitamin C improves iron absorption (important for oxygen transport in the blood) and cartilage formation, accelerates wound healing and strengthens the immune system. In addition, it neutralizes harmful free radicals, which are formed during heavy exercise. 
  • Vitamin E is also important for the defense against free radicals and strengthens the immune system by helping to form antibodies. The best suppliers are vegetable oils, nuts, fish and whole grain products.

How much protein do I need daily to build muscle?

If you want to eat a balanced and healthy diet, the following principle applies: 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, if you want to gain a lot of muscle mass, you need to increase the amount of protein and can increase your protein consumption up to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight. This is approximately the maximum amount of protein that the body can utilize on a daily basis.

In the table we show you the optimal amount of protein per day for you:

This means in practice: A regularly training hobby athlete with 80 kilos can take up to 120 grams of protein daily. This is how much is distributed throughout the day, for example, in :

  • 2 eggs (14 grams)
  • 200 grams of chicken breast (48 grams)
  • 100 grams of tuna in its own juice (24 grams)
  • and a protein shake made from 300 ml milk and 30 Whey protein (32 grams)

Is too much protein dangerous?

Healthy kidneys can cope with a daily dose of up to 3 grams per kilo of body weight – provided you drink enough (at least 3 liters per day). A good indicator is the color of the urine: It should be colorless to light yellow at most. Yours is dark yellow? Then you have drunk too little. Immediately pour more water!

These foods belong in your diet

In order to optimally advance muscle building, you should focus especially on protein-rich foods. Pay attention not only to the quantity, but also to the quality of the proteins. Keyword: biological value. The indicates how well the body can utilize protein ingested from food, in order to convert it into the body’s own protein. The protein found in animal foods is more similar to the protein in the human body than that from plant foods, so it is of higher quality and accordingly has a higher biological value.

This does not mean, however, that vegetable protein is inferior in quality. Vegetable protein, such as that from nuts or legumes, cannot be optimally converted by the body, but these foods are cholesterol-free, high in fiber and usually contain many healthy fats.

Combine animal and vegetable protein on the plate calmly with each other to get the best out of both variants.

These top 5 protein sources can’t be missing from your diet plan

  1. Eggs: Eggs are THE muscle food par excellence. One egg alone provides 7 grams of protein. Best of all, the protein it contains is by far the highest quality you can feed your body. The biological value is 100 – it doesn’t get any better than that!
  2. Beef: Beef also provides your body with high-quality protein – the biological value here is 92. Along with protein in the luggage: a good portion of iron, which optimizes the oxygen uptake of the blood.
  3. Poultry: Lean poultry such as chicken and turkey are among the most popular sources of protein. No wonder, because a portion of chicken or turkey (125 g) provides around 30 grams of protein. Another advantage: The tasty birds provide only 1 gram of fat per 100 grams (without skin).
  4. Tuna: Tuna should have a fixed place in your diet. 100 g of fresh tuna provides an impressive 23 g of protein at only 144 kcal. And even canned fish does not have to hide, because it contains just as much healthy protein. Reach consciously for the variants “in own juice”, because the colleague in oil is usually about 30 percent fattier.
  5. Low-fat quark: Low-fat quark is an excellent source of protein and scores with 13 g of protein per 100 g. The only drawback is that it tastes rather pappy when pure. Pimp your low-fat quark with fruit or nuts. A hearty mix with mustard, tomato paste, spices and gherkins is also tasty.

How do vegetarians get enough protein?

Even if you abstain from meat, you are well supplied, especially if you eat dairy products. But plants also contain all the essential amino acids. When you combine legumes, grains or nuts, vegetables or fruits in a meal, the amino acids they contain complement each other perfectly. It is even enough to eat the components separately within 4 hours. Or you fall back on protein shakes. These are now even available on a vegan basis and in many flavors. Here you will find the best 20 veggie recipes for muscle building.

Positive or negative energy balance for muscle building?

It’s a fact: If you want to build muscle, you have to take in more calories than you consume. This is called positive energy balance and forms the optimal basis for successful muscle building. On the other hand, if you want to lose weight, you can only do so with the help of a negative energy balance, because you have to burn more calories than you take in. Logical, right? The ratio of energy supplied to energy consumed is therefore crucial for muscle building and a very important point to consider in your nutrition plan.

But beware: If you do not train effectively at the same time as a positive energy balance, you will not build muscles but swim rings.

Now you only have to determine your calorie requirement (total metabolic rate). Your individual total metabolic rate is made up of the basal metabolic rate and the performance metabolic rate. The basal metabolic rate indicates how many calories your body consumes at complete rest to maintain vital bodily functions, for example, during sleep. The basal metabolic rate varies from person to person and is determined by age, gender, height and weight. Muscles, for example, also ensure that the basal metabolic rate increases. This means that once you have built up more muscles, you also have to eat more. The energy expenditure is added to the basal metabolic rate, because here the calories are included, which are added for sports, job and lifestyle and also need energy. 

You now know your total metabolic rate. Perfectly. Then simply add 300 calories on top to adjust your calorie balance and optimally drive your muscle building.

What is the optimal nutrient distribution? 

A good nutrition plan for muscle building must provide all the essential macro and micronutrients your body needs. The following composition of the three main nutrients in relation to the total amount of calories per day is recommended for strength athletes:

Important: Consume the lion’s share of carbohydrates with the meal after training. Because only at this time they are cleanly metabolized. The fat cells go empty, you put on no superfluous weight. Before the workout these 10 snacks are suitable

How often should you eat as a strength athlete?

It is important to eat a protein-rich meal about every 2 to 3 hours. This way there is always enough protein in your blood. Frequent small meals also allow the body to better utilize nutrients than would be the case with two or three large meals. 

Do I need dietary supplements to build muscle?

Basically, you don’t need any special pills or supplements for muscle building, because a healthy and protein-rich diet provides the body with all the necessary nutrients, vitamins and Co. However, since it is not always easy to cover one’s protein needs, it is recommended to use protein powders or protein shakes.

The classics among the dietary supplements for muscle building have a decisive advantage: They provide your body with protein in its purest form, i.e. without undesirable substances such as cholesterol and purines (from meat). You also preserve your calorie balance, because through the targeted protein supply your body receives the muscle building material as compatible as possible.

Whey protein powder (Whey = English for whey) is ideal for muscle building, because it has a high biological value and contains all 9 essential amino acids. It enters the blood very quickly after ingestion and is directly available to the body as a building block for new tissue or to repair damaged muscle structures. Since it is important for your muscles to be supplied with nutrients as quickly as possible after exercise, Whey is particularly suitable when taken directly after strength training.

Drink the shake best directly after the workout. If you drink it before the workout, it would strain your stomach during the workout.

The best tips for buying protein powder

When buying, generally look for the highest possible protein or amino acid content (with all BCCAs). Ideally, it should be over 90 percent. Then the preparation automatically contains fewer undesirable substances. Behind the term BCAA stands the abbreviation “Branched Chain Amino Acids”. These include the vital amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are to push the body’s own protein production and the growth hormones released thereby support on the one hand the muscle build-up and reduce on the other hand the muscle breakdown.

Exemplary nutrition plan for muscle building

Plus: 1 protein shake (30 grams of powder) after training

Exemplary veggie nutrition plan for muscle building

Plus: 1 protein shake (30 grams of powder) after training

Conclusion: With nutrition plan faster to the goal

Anyone who wants to specifically build muscle should definitely create a nutrition plan. It’s not easy to do, but it’s worth the effort. The newly acquired nutritional knowledge, which you will automatically acquire over time, will also benefit you in the longer term. You do not yet dare to create a nutrition plan yourself? Then it’s best to leave it to the professionals at the Men’s Health Coaching Zone

Whether you’re aiming for “just” a six-pack, a wide cross or a muscular overall package: Our personal trainer team will create the right (individual) training and nutrition plans for you for every goal.