1. Eat enough calories
Most people that train to gain muscle will know to some extent that eating protein is essential to gain muscle. However many people don’t realise that just eating high protein is not enough to put your body in an anabolic state (muscle building state), and that calories from all macro nutrients are important. For someone to gain considerable amounts of muscle, they must be eating more calories per day than they are burning. Now that does not mean that you can eat as much calories as you want every single day. You should be eating around 200 – 400 calories per day more than you are burning to get maximal muscle gain with minimal fat gain. Without the aid of performance enhancing drugs the average person will be able to gain around a quarter lb of lean muscle a week, with perfect training, nutrition and rest. So don’t think that you need to be gaining 1lb every week or whatever to gain muscle, if you are doing that, soon you will just need to start dieting to lose your unwanted fat. If your strength is increasing and you are gradually looking better, then you are doing alright. Natural muscle gain is a marathon, not a sprint.
For calorie calculations a good rule of thumb is to take your body weight in lbs and multiply this by 10 or 12 depending on how in shape you are. Then add on 1000-1500 calories per day.
2: Eat enough good fats
A mistake that a lot of people trying to gain muscle will make is to avoid eating all types of fat. It is true that high levels of saturated fats are not good for you and can lead to health risks etc but many fats are beneficial to one’s health. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats have a direct link to testosterone levels in the body. If your fat intake is very low, then your testosterone levels will likely suffer. Testosterone is the muscle building hormone and is essential in the development of muscle tissue. Foods that are high in good fats are salmon, nuts and olive oil.
3: Eat a good pre workout meal
Having a good pre workout meal that is high in complex carbohydrates such as rice or oats will have very positive effects on energy levels during the workout. Eating slow release complex carbohydrates ensures that the food is slowly and steadily digested into glucose, which will give u a consistent supply of energy for the duration of the workout. This is much more beneficial than eating simple carbohydrates such as fruit or a Lucozade which will give you a quick burst of energy, but the energy won’t last long and you will likely have a energy ‘crash’ during your workout.
4: Have a good post workout meal
Your post workout meal should be your biggest of the day. The protein levels of your meals should stay consistent throughout the day but your carbohydrate levels should be higher before and after your workout. Generally try to eat around 60% of your daily carbohydrates during your pre and post workout meal. Around 60-100g of carbohydrates is what the average person would benefit from post workout, depending on their metabolism. Now a lot of people say that you need to eat simple sugary carbohydrates straight after a workout so you can create a big insulin spike which will transport the nutrients to the muscle quicker, this is not entirely correct. I do think that getting some simple carbohydrates in to restore your energy quickly is important but eating over 50g sugar in one meal surely is a little too much. I read a study on this by Layne Norton who has a PHD in Nutritional Science, and he tested this theory and came to the conclusion that the body cannot naturally produce enough insulin to make the insulin spike big enough for it to make and difference to protein absorption speed. He eats brown rice or oats after his workout, some of the slowest digesting carbohydrates there is, but he definitely still gets some good muscle gains. He is a professional natural bodybuilder.
5. Drink plenty of water
One of the most overlooked factors in exercise is adequate water consumption. This should be a no-brainer since water comprises up to 70% of the body and if you’re dehydrated, your muscle size suffers as well. One pound of muscle can hold up to three pounds of water. Now if you add it all up, that’s a lot of size.
6. Eat enough Protein
As i said at the start, most people know that eating protein is an important part of building muscle. When you workout you are literally tearing your muscle fibres, and they need the right nutrition to repair themselves bigger and stronger than they were before. Protein is broken down into amino acids, which is passed through the blood and into the muscles. Think of the amino acids as the building blocks of muscle, or the cement of a house. You can have all the bricks in the world, all the builders in the world but if you have no cement, then the bricks will not stay in place and the house want be built. The same is true for muscle growth, no matter what you do, if you’re not getting in enough protein then you will not gain muscle. A good amount of protein to aim for is 1 gram per lb of bodyweight. You could increase this to 1.3 grams per lbs to be safe but various studies have shown that a 1 gram per lb is ample no matter how intense the training is.
As i said above, when working out you are tearing your muscle fibres. In order for them to fully repair themselves they will need between 48 to 72 hours in between workouts to recover. Now that’s not to say you can only workouts every three days but make sure you train different muscle if your training back to back days. I would recommend weight training three to four times a week for a novice lifter and anything up to five for a more advanced lifter.