It’s a lot easier to gain muscle and fat than it is to gain quality lean muscle. You see a lot of guys at the gym who look muscular but who also look fat. The guys who are lean and muscular are a rare bread.
The lean muscular guys are not a rare breed because they have an amazing set of genetics but instead because they took the time to learn about quality nutrition and they have the discipline to apply that knowledge day in and day out and build that shredded muscular physique. You can also be one of those guys. It’s simply a matter of consistent planning, discipline and dedication.
To build quality lean muscle, the most basic factor to know are calories. You have to know how many calories you need to consume. To determine your daily calories use an online BMR calculator and input your age, height, weight and activity level. You’ll get your daily BMR calorie number. Once you get your BMR calorie number, which is the number of calories your body needs when at rest, add an additional 500 calories.
After you have your daily calories down, you need to know what food sources your calories should come from. There are three major food sources, also known as macronutrients; they are proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The manner in which you divide up your daily calories into these three macronutrients will determine whether you build lean muscle or not.
The macronutrients you want to increase are your proteins and fats. You want to consume more quality lean proteins and more healthy fats. The macronutrients that you want to decrease is your carbohydrates. You want to consume fewer calories than you normally do from carbohydrates. Almost all the carbohydrates that you do consume should be from complex, low glycemic carbohydrate sources and they should be timed around when you’ll be more active (e.g., consume more quality complex carbs in your pre-workout meal).
The primary component of each of your meals will be a quality source of protein (chicken, salmon, turkey, beef, whole eggs, whey etc) along with a high number of healthy fats (from salmon, eggs, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, etc) and some nutrient rich low glycemic complex carbohydrates (brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain pasta, vegetables, sweet potatoes, etc).
PROTEIN: YOUR MUSCLE BUILDING BLOCK
The amino acids found in the protein sources that you consume are the building blocks of your muscle, as well as your bones, connective tissues and really, all of your body. So, getting your protein intake right is essential. Protein is what helps you repair, rebuild and recover after those hard and intense training sessions.
Aim to consume 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. So, if you weigh 180, 200 grams of protein a day is a good number to shoot for. Evenly divide your daily total protein number across 4-6 meals a day. The key is to eat quality lean proteins prepared in a quality manner. So think lean chicken breast lightly sauteed, baked or grilled, and not deep fried.
Protein advantage: Not only are proteins vital to repairing and rebuilding muscle, they are also a great source of calories because they do not raise your blood insulin levels like carbohydrates do. You want to keep your blood insulin levels in check because when your insulin rises to non-optimal levels it promotes more fat storage in your body. So, when you eat less carbohydrates and more lean proteins and healthy fats you reduce fat storage caused by spikes in your blood insulin.
CARBOHYDRATES: YOUR FUEL SOURCE
While you should eat less carbohydrates than usual, carbohydrates cannot be vilified. Quality complex carbohydrates play a vital role in your bodybuilding nutrition. Carbohydrates provide your body with the energy to fuel the activities of your day.
Without sufficient carbohydrates in your system you will not be able to complete a heavy high intensity training session to build lean muscle. The key with carbohydrates is both quality and to consume them strategically. If you have an intense training session coming up, eat more carbs. If it’s a rest day and you will generally be inactive on a given day, then don’t eat as many carbs.
HEALTHY FATS: YOUR TESTOSTERONE BOOSTER
Healthy fats, such as Omega 3, mono-saturated and poly-saturated fats found in wild salmon, avocados, walnuts, almonds, eggs, olive oil etc contribute greatly to maintaining a consistently high level of testosterone. Fats also contain a high number of calories per gram. This means that healthy fats not only supply you with essential nutrients, but also pack your meals quality muscle building calories.
Healthy fats not only increase your testosterone, they also decrease inflammation, lubricate joints and connective tissues, improve mental function as well as keep your skin, hair and nails healthy. So, get your healthy fats from the above listed food sources as well as from a quality omega-3 fish oil supplement. But remember, keep your fats healthy. Avoid processed and trans fats found in junk foods and snacks.
SAMPLE MEAL PLAN
Meal 1 (breakfast): 3 whole egg omelette with a cup of oats and blueberries
Meal 2 (lunch): 8 oz chicken breast with 10 oz sweet potatoes and mixed vegetables
Meal 3 (pre-workout meal): 8 oz wild salmon with 1.5 cups of brown rice with broccoli
Meal 4 (post-workout protein shake): 50 grams of 100% whey protein.
Meal 5 (post-workout meal): 8 oz lean steak with sweet potatoes and mixed vegetables
Mea 6 (optional pre-bed snack): Cottage cheese with walnuts.