Eat sufficient amounts of protein.
The rule of thumb is that you need between 1 and 1.5 times your body weight in grams of protein. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should eat between 150 and 225 grams of protein per day if you want to consistently gain muscle. Full time bodybuilders can eat two to three times their body weight in grams of protein, and sometimes more, but for most of us that would be overkill. If you're overweight, substitute your ideal body weight and calculate in grams. Proteins that are great for building muscle
- Red meat like beef, pork, lamb, venison, bison, etc.
- Fish like tuna, salmon, swordfish, bass, trout, mackerel, etc.
- Poultry breast, from chicken, turkey, duck, etc.
- Eggs, especially egg whites. The yolk is high in cholesterol, but one or two a day isn't unhealthy.
- Dairy like milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, etc.
Learn the difference between complete and incomplete proteins. In order to build muscle, you need to consume complete proteins found in eggs, meat, fish, cheese, milk and most other animal products. Rule of thumb: If it bleeds or breathes, it's a complete protein. There are lots of non-animal complete proteins available, as well, meaning that you can still build muscle as a vegetarian.
Complete vegetarian proteins include:
- Beans or legumes with rice
Eat foods with a high Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS). This is a measure of how well different proteins are digested by the body, based on the solubility of the amino acids in the protein. Think of PDCAAS as grading the quality of protein, with 1 being the highest score and 0 the lowest. Here's a breakdown common proteins by their rounded PDCAAS score:
- 1.00: egg white, whey, casein, soy protein
- 0.9: beef, soybeans
- 0.7: chickpeas, fruits, black beans, vegetables, other legumes
- 0.5: cereals and derivatives, peanuts
- 0.4: whole wheat
Include carbohydrates in your diet. It is important to have carbohydrates so that your body can tap into glycogen (energy) stores within your muscles while you are working out. If you do not eat enough carbohydrates your body will not have energy reserves and will break down your muscles instead! To build muscle, your diet should consist of somewhere between 40% and 60% carbohydrates, or about 1500 calories per day.
- Carbs get an unfairly bad reputation from dieting guides. Because complex carbs are broken down slowly and have a low-glycemic index (not as much sugar), they are acceptable to eat after a workout, and especially in the morning at breakfast. Try to select carbohydrates low on the Glycemic Index, which are healthier and release their energy more slowly . Good examples are:
- Brown Basmati Rice
- Rolled Oats
- Sweet Potato
- Wholemeal Rye Bread
- Wholemeal Spaghetti
Eat healthy fats. Not all fats are created equal. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that eating healthy fats is actually good for you. You should get about 20% to 35% of your calories from fats. Eat monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These are the "good" fats. They include:
- Olive, peanut, sunflower, canola, and avocado oils.
- Flaxseed and pumpkin seeds.
- Soy products such as tofu or soymilk.
Stay away from saturated and trans fats. These are the "bad" fats. Make sure saturated fats make up no more than 10% of your caloric intake, and that trans fats make up no more than 1% of your caloric intake. Bad fats include:
- Ice cream, candy bars, and packaged snack foods.
- High-fat cuts of meat.
- Lard, stick margarine, and vegetable shortening.
- Fried foods.
Consume plenty of fiber. Remember it is important to include green vegetables in your diet such as spinach or broccoli to ensure that you receive an adequate amount of vitamins. As well, green leafy vegetables are high in fiber which is essential for removing waste from the body.
Monitor your salt intake. It may be true that excessive consumption of salt can lead to hypertension but you lose tremendous amounts of sodium when you sweat. Also, sodium (a key electrolyte) aids in muscle contraction, which is one reason why it is found in many sports drinks.