What you do in the gym is only part of the equation for building a better body. What you eat, how much, and when, is just as significant to the development of a great physique, to both newbies and finely tuned athletes alike.


Nutrition can be an overwhelming topic, evidenced
by the abundance of diet
books available today. To
simplify things, we boiled
it down to the 10 most
critical “rules” of nutrition
that, when followed, will provide you with the fuel you need for the body you
want. Most beginners entering the weight room for the first time are looking to build muscle size and strength, with little interest in getting ripped, which is why our rules focus on mass-building. But if you’re a beginner who wants to lose some body fat while building muscle, then these same rules apply, only with a few tweaks to some of the rules.

Calories Count

The first thing you need to focus on is consuming adequate calories. Building muscle is a calorie-intensive process. If you’re not getting enough calories for daily bodily processes and repair, your body won’t expend energy on muscle growth. On workout days, most guys will need about 18 calories per pound of body weight just to maintain their muscle mass. To increase that mass, you’ll want to shoot for around 20–22 calories per pound, which equates to 3,000-3,300 calories for the 150-pound guy. On rest days, since you won’t be expending as many calories, you can pull back your calorie intake to about 18 calories per pound (2,700 calories for the 150-pounder); this is mainly achieved by not consuming your pre- and post-workout meals. This will help to keep your mass gain on the lean side and avoid storing fat.

Protein is Potent

Muscle is made of protein, so to grow lean mass you need to eat protein. Ample protein. Research now confirms that those who train with weights need at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day to build adequate muscle. And several studies show that bumping protein
up to 1.5 grams per pound
is very effective for gaining muscle when you’re following a weight-training program. This is especially true when a good portion of that extra protein comes from whey (for more on whey protein, see the starter’s supplement section).

At M&F, we’ve seen major gains in lean muscle mass in thousands and thousands of guys when they bump their protein up to 1.5 grams per pound on rest days and 2 grams per calories from protein. For the 150-pound guy that means consuming 225–300 grams
of protein per day. As far as sources go, you’ll need plenty of whey and casein protein (for more on whey and casein protein, see the starter’s supplement section), but also lots of whole-food protein sources like eggs, lean beef, chicken, fish, and dairy.

Carbs Are Critical Too

While carbohydrates may not be as critical as protein for muscle growth, they’re still of vital importance. As we’ve discussed, your body needs to know it has an energy surplus to grow muscle most effectively. One signal your body uses to determine your energy status is through glycogen, the storage form of carbs in muscles and the liver. Glycogen pulls water into the muscles; the more glycogen you have stored in your muscles, the more
water it pulls in, making your
muscles fuller. This, in turn,
places a stretch on the cell
membranes, which instigates
processes that increase
muscle protein synthesis
and can lead to long-term
growth. On workout days you should be shooting for a minimum of around 2 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. That’s at least 300 grams for a 150-pound person. On rest days, to keep fat gains at bay, drop carbs down to about 1.5 grams per pound; foregoing pre- and post-workout meals (because you’re not working out) should account for this decrease in carbs.

Don’t Forget the Fat

Fat is not the demon it was once thought to be. Men need a good amount of fat, even saturated fat, to maximize natural levels of testosterone. Monounsaturated fat is also critical for maintaining testosterone levels as well as enhancing overall health. And the essential omega-3 fats, such as those found in salmon and other fatty fish, encourage better muscle growth and joint recovery,
not to mention all the health benefits it offers. You should shoot for at least half of your body weight in grams of fat. That’s at least 75 grams of fat per day for the 150-pound guy. About 1⁄3 of that should be saturated fat, another 1⁄3 monounsaturated fat, and the other 1⁄3 polyunsaturated fat, with emphasis on omega-3 polyunsaturated fats.

Frequent Meals

Eat Frequently

We’ve long recommended frequent meals throughout the day for building muscle. Our sample meal plan is composed of seven meals on rest days and up to nine meals on workout days, with most meals spaced 2–3 hours apart. This strategy works well for building muscle, as we’ve seen in hundreds of thousands of guys, if not millions, over the years. This is also how we’ve evolved to eat as infants when our whole purpose in life is to increase mass as rapidly as possible. And one new study supports this concept. Researchers in Australia had subjects perform a leg workout and then fed them a total of 80 grams of whey protein over the next 12 hours in three different methods—either by consuming eight 10-gram doses every 1.5 hours; four 20-gram doses every three hours; or two 40-gram doses every six hours. They reported in a 2012 issue of the journal Nutrition & Metabolism that protein retention (the amount
of protein retained from the whey in the muscle fibers) increased significantly more when subjects consumed the four 20-gram doses every three hours. The take-home point here: Consume a minimum of 20 grams of protein per meal and don’t go any longer than three hours between meals to maximize muscle growth.

Break the Fast

The 6–8-hour fast while you sleep bloodstream with signals your body to break down glucose; rather, it muscle protein for fuel, which is the takes a direct trip last thing you want when trying to build to the liver where muscle. Your body is very protective of it is converted to the brain and central nervous system, glycogen and is which run on glucose (carbs). When you slowly released sleep, the majority of that glucose is as glucose. Eat a supplied by the liver, which stocks up piece of fruit with on stored carbs in the form of glycogen. When the glycogen levels of the and 5 grams of liver reach a certain low point during BCAAs to restock the night, the liver signals the body to the liver and stop break down more muscle protein to muscle protein convert the amino acids into glucose. The first thing you should do when you wake up is stop this process by delivering a quick dose of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and whey. You also want to restock liver glycogen. For this, we recommend fruit. Most fruit is low glycemic and made up of half or more fructose, so it doesn’t flood your breakdown. About 30–60 minutes later, eat a second breakfast of whole foods like eggs and oatmeal.


Be an Egghead

When it comes to protein, there are certain ones you should try to include in your diet on most days, if not every day. For starters, there’s dairy protein, as discussed above. But another one that you should highly consider is eggs. We suggest you eat at least three whole eggs per day. Research has shown that men who eat three egg yolks daily while weight training gain twice as much muscle mass and strength as those not eating the yolks. This is likely due to the saturated fat and cholesterol in eggs aiding testosterone production. If you’re worried about the cholesterol, don’t. Research from the University of Connecticut shows that the cholesterol from egg yolks won’t raise levels of bad cholesterol (LDL).

Slow Your Roll Before Bed

As discussed in
Rule No. 6, you need to minimize the amount of muscle-protein breakdown that occurs while you sleep. Some bodybuilders have been so adamant about stopping this process that they actually set an alarm to wake up in the middle of the night and eat. Rest assured, you shouldn’t need to go to such extremes if you prep before bed properly. Slow-digesting protein is your friend here. Anything that’s rich in the milk protein casein will provide a steady supply of amino acids for up to seven hours while you sleep, as casein is a very slow-digesting protein that provides your body a steady stream of aminos to help keep muscles intact. Good sources of casein include casein and milk protein powders, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and regular cheese such as string, American, and cheddar. Immediately before you go to bed, have one or two scoops of a casein-rich protein powder, a cup or so of cottage cheese or Greek yogurt, or 3-4 ounces of cheese.


Beef Up

Another source of protein you’ll want to be sure to eat is beef. In addition to the quality protein it provides, the saturated fat and cholesterol will enhance testosterone levels for maximizing muscle growth. Plus, beef is rich in B vitamins, zinc, and iron, all of which are critical for growing muscle and maintaining energy levels during workouts. They’ll also help to keep your immune system strong, fighting off colds and other viruses that may force you to skip workouts and lose muscle.

Eat Your Veggies

When it comes to building muscle, a mistake that many make is to focus solely on macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat). Yes, these should be high on your priority list, but you don’t want to miss out on beneficial micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and phytochemicals that vegetables are rich sources of. Not only do these micronutrients help to promote better overall health, but they can also help your body produce more testosterone, growth hormone, and nitric oxide (NO) to better promote gains in lean muscle.

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