One of the most important aspects of physical training is nutrition and understanding what should you eat to build muscle. I have fallen victim many times of eating inconsistently and unhealthily, but trying to compensate by training extra hard. Believe me when I say this really doesn’t help you build muscle efficiently, nor does it help you get stronger.
Eating the right things provides your body with required nutrients to aid muscle growth and develop strength. A balanced diet will also help aid recovery, make you less tired and more motivated to continue with your training.
Most people find eating a balanced diet is hard enough to maintain at home and when travelling almost impossible. But, it doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, if you follow these 5 simple steps you will be able to build muscle more efficiently and you will be able to maintain a healthy diet whilst on the move.
Step 1: Water Is Key
OK, I appreciate this isn’t something you ‘eat’, but this is a crucial consideration when trying to build muscle. It’s amazing how many people neglect drinking the right amount of water per day. Dehydration can cause all sorts of negative health effects, especially when you throw strength training into the mix. Water is our number one life line when it comes to a balanced diet. It’s used for transporting nutrients around the body and pretty much every other bodily process you can think of.
Readily available drinking water can be found in most places you visit and even if there isn’t, a small bottle is easy to carry around with you…there is no excuse! I can’t emphasise enough this is the most important step to follow and you should try as hard as you can to drink the right amount of water. You will notice the benefits very quickly; concentration improves, feel less tired and skin becomes less spotty.
How much should you drink? Well, it’s as simple as multiplying your weight (kg) by 0.033. I weigh 80kg, so 80kg*0.033 = 2.64 litres. Please remember to drink additional water if you workout or if you’re in a hot climate.
Step 2: The Single Ingredient Rule
This rule is very simple to follow and hopefully very straightforward. When buying food in the supermarket, hold the item in your hand and ask yourself does this contain one ingredient? If it doesn’t then put it down and if it does then great, you can use it. The idea is to encourage you to buy natural food, because natural food will only contain one ingredient.
When food is processed it’s no longer natural and should therefore be avoided. Types of natural food are poultry, vegetables, meat, eggs, fruit, fish and nuts. Natural foods contain lots of nutrients and of a better quality than processed foods…more natural the better!
Eating a wide variety of natural foods is the best thing to do, providing you with a mix of nutrients. Protein can be sourced from eggs, fish, dairy and of course meat. Carbohydrates can be found in fruit and vegetables. Essential fasts can be sourced from nuts, seeds, meat and olive oil.
Step 3: To Get Big You Must Eat Big
There is a couple reasons why you might want to get bigger muscles, either for aesthetics or to make bodyweight exercises more manageable. It’s obvious that in order to get larger you need to consume more calories than you burn off. But, when it comes to a healthy diet and building muscle these need to be the ‘right’ calories.
In order for your body to repair itself, during strength training, nutrients and food need to be consumed in bulk quantities. Basically, the recommended daily intake of 2500 (men) or 2000 (women) calories is not enough for those undertaking strength training.
A disadvantage to eating a large quantity of food, even if it’s natural, is the potential to put on fat. This can’t be helped to some extent, but do not worry. Once you have built up your muscle mass, you can reduce the amount you eat and trim down the body fat.
Step 4: Protein The Number 1 Macro
There are three types of macronutrient to be aware of: protein, carbohydrates and fats. Protein is the principal macro for strength training. In order to grow muscles you need protein. Bear in mind it’s important to eat protein consistently; in order to keep your muscles once they have developed. There are plenty of natural products that contain protein: chicken, beef, fish, milk, eggs, nuts and seeds etc. I don’t tend to have any trouble absorbing enough protein on a daily basis because I keep my diet quite varied.
It’s worth noting that there are better types of protein for you. It has be found that animal protein contains a complete amino acid profile, compared to protein from vegetables. This means your muscles can repair torn fibres more easily, as you won’t be missing vital nutrients. That’s not to say you can’t perform strength training and be a vegetarian.
If you are a vegetarian you can source your protein from vegetables, such as legumes, nuts and seeds. The only downside is you may be missing some vital amino acids in your diet, but you can easily supplement these with replacement tablets.
People always ask me how much protein is enough and my answer is always the same; it’s very difficult to say. There are a number of factors at play: body size, genetics, workout frequency and intensity. A simple guide is to multiply your weight in kg by 2 grams of protein. For example, I weigh 80kg * 2g protein = 160g/day. Don’t stress about this number too much, because most people do consume enough protein per day. As long as you remember to eat some protein every meal.
Step 5: Say Goodbye To Refined Carbs
Refined carbohydrates are essentially empty calories and should be avoided at all cost. They include processed grains and lots of sugar. The biggest culprits are pasta, sugar, white bread, white flour and pastries. The main drawbacks of eating them are:
- Very Calorie Dense – 4 calories per gram
- Can Spike Blood Sugar – consequently leading to increased fat retention
- Can Cause Bloating – gluten can cause inflammation in the stomach
Hugh’s Example Diet Plan
Here’s one of my sample diet plans:
- Breakfast: 3 eggs scrambled with some milk, banana or apple, pint of water
- Morning Snack: Unprocessed nuts or seeds
- Lunch: Tuna salad or chicken salad or beef stew or roast chicken with veg
- Afternoon Snack: Same as morning snack
- Dinner: Chicken breast, sweat potato, broccoli, sweetcorn, asparagus, peas
I fully appreciate that sticking to a diet plan is difficult, because there are so many variables at play. Not only do you have to contend with eating the right nutrients in the correct amounts, you also want to eat something that’s varied and that you enjoy. If you follow my 5 simple steps you should be well on your way to eating a balanced healthy diet, that will aid in your muscle development and you can follow anywhere in the world.