build-muscle-burn-fat-bodybuilding-diet

If you’re plugging away in the gym with all of the ferocity of General Sherman during his march on Atlanta and you’re not seeing the results you want, then you need to check yourself. More specifically, you need to check your diet.

No matter how much we preach it, people seem to miss/marginalize/ignore the fact that your diet has everything to do with how good your physique can become through training. The good news is that it’s usually an easy fix. Add some more protein here, take out some bad carbs there, toss in an additional meal – stuff like that.

Here, one reader strives (not surprisingly) to build more muscle while burning more fat. Help is at hand.

Dear M&F: I weigh about 180 pounds and would like to put on some more muscle, but just muscle – not fat. In fact, I’d prefer to gain muscle and lose some body fat if that’s even possible. I try to get in ample protein, as you can see in my diet, but it seems that I’ve only been able to add body fat and maybe a little extra muscle. I’ve included my diet here. Can you suggest a diet that will allow me to put on just lean muscle without the fat and possible drop some fat?

Sincerely,
Joe Softy
Worcester, MA

6:00 am Breakfast
12 large egg whites scrambled
2 cups cooked oatmeal
2 cups orange juice

11:30 am Lunch
12 oz chicken breast
4 Tbsp barbeque sauce
2 cups cooked spaghetti
1/2 cup spaghetti sauce
1 cup mixed veggies

4:00 pm Preworkout snack
2 scoops whey protein
3 slices Ezekiel bread

6:00 pm Postworkout snack
3 scoops whey protein
32 oz. Gatorade
3 slices white bread

8:00 pm Dinner
12 oz chicken breast
4 Tbsp barbeque sauce
2 cups cooked white rice
1 cup mixed veggies

chicken-spaghetti

Our Expert Take

Dear Mr. Softy,

Yes, you can actually gain muscle while losing body fat. But it is difficult to optimize both. However, with a smart plan, it is possible.

Your plan, however, is not all that smart. For starters, your meal frequency is way too low. In other words, you’re not eating frequently enough. You’re only eating five meals per day – breakfast, lunch, dinner, as well as pre and post workout meals. The problem here is that going many hours between meals (such as the 5 1/2 hours between breakfast and lunch) is bad for growing muscle and worse for losing fat.

It’s bad for muscle because you go so many hours without protein for muscle growth and carbs to fuel your body, that your body will start to turn to your muscle and break it down for fuel. It’s bad for body fat, because every time you eat a meal it boosts your metabolic rate. Eating, bigger, fewer meals simply won’t stimulate your metabolism the same way.

In addition, when you eat too much carbs and protein at each meal, the body can’t use it all for muscle growth and fuel. That means a good portion of it may be stored as body fat! See the problem?

So the first fix we suggest is to add a few more meals to your day while reducing the size of the other meals. As you can see in our pimped out diet for you, we suggest a late morning snack at around 9:00 am, as well as a mid-afternoon snack and a late night snack before bed. The before bed snack is also important to protect your muscle while you sleep at night.

Let’s move on to calories next. We tallied your food numbers. You were getting in over 4000 calories, which for you at 180 pounds is over 22 calories per pound of body weight. You need to eat a minimum of about 18 calories per pound to gain lean mass and some guys need over 20 calories. But you apparently don’t need to be getting in over 20 calories per pound, as you wouldn’t be gaining fat if you did. So we dropped about 500 calories from your diet, giving you a diet plan that hits about 19 calories per pound for you.

Most of the excess calories were coming from carbs. You were getting in about 3 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight. While carbs are important for packing on mass, your experience with your current diet suggests that you are very sensitive to carb-induced fat gain. So we suggest you turn it back a few notches with the carbs. You should shoot for a maximum of 2 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight.

You should also reach for more slow-digesting carbs rather than regular pasta, choose whole-wheat and rather white rice, choose brown. The faster digesting carbs will spike insulin levels and cause fat gain, especially when you are consuming that many calories. The exception to this rule is your postworkout meal. That’s the time you want the insulin spike. It won’t cause fat storage at this time, but will enhance muscle recovery and growth.

Also, watch your use of sauces, such as barbeque sauce. These can add a lot of unwanted sugars to your meals, and the calories that come with them. Can’t stand plain chicken? If you’re eating it with pasta, dice it and add it to the pasta and sauce to punch it up.

The good news is that you are certainly eating enough protein. Maybe too much form a calorie standpoint. You were eating over 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, about 1500 calories worth. Be it far from M&F to suggest anyone cut back on their protein intake, but you can cut that back a little and keep your protein intake somewhere just above 1.5 grams per pound.

A major problem with your diet is the fat, or lack there of. Your currently diet is only 5% fat! That is way too low for someone trying to put on muscle. It’s also very unhealthy to eat that little fat. Fat is critical for numerous processes in your body and getting in adequate amounts of healthy fats, such as from nuts, peanut butter, olive oil, etc., can actually help you to lose fat. And don’t be afraid of getting some saturated fats such as from beef and in egg yolks. Research shows that athletes need a decent amount of saturated fat to maintain testosterone levels. Keeping testosterone levels optimal is critical for not only adding muscle, but for dropping fat. Our pimped out diet for you now has fat making up 25% of your total daily calories.

mixed-nuts

New Diet

6:00 am Breakfast
Scrambled eggs (3 whole large eggs, 4 large egg whites)
1 cup cooked oatmeal
8 oz. orange juice

9:00 Late Morning snack
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
6 whole-wheat crackers
2 Tbsp peanut butter

11:30 am Lunch
6 oz chicken breast
1 cup whole-wheat pasta
1/4 cup spaghetti/marinara sauce
1 cup mixed veggies

2:00 pm Midday snack
1 can tuna
1 Tbsp low-fat mayo
2 slices Ezekiel bread

4:00 pm Preworkout snack
1 scoop whey protein
2 slices Ezekiel bread

6:00 pm Postworkout snack
2 scoops whey protein
32 oz. Gatorade

7:00 pm Dinner
8 oz Top Sirloin
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
2 cups mixed green salad
2 Tbsp salad dressing (olive oil and vinegar)

10:00 pm Nighttime snack
1 oz mixed nuts
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese