Muscle Building Diet – Achieving The Right Balance

If you’re a bodybuilder or weight lifter and trying to put on muscle mass, you probably know it’s not good enough just to do the right exercises. You also need to eat right. Nutrition is equally, if not more important in helping you achieve your bodybuilding goals and getting the right nutrients essential.Developing a muscle building diet should not be based on trial and error, but on a solid foundation of information that’s right for you and you only.If you’re like most bodybuilders, you have many questions and very conflicting information. Questions such as these are all valid:

  • How many calories should I consume per day?
  • What foods will promote muscle gain?
  • Can I make healthy foods that taste good?

Nutrition is the most neglected part of a body building plan, yet it’s one of the most crucial parts. Eat the wrong things and you will not see great results. They key is to know the proportions of calories, protein, fats and carbohydrates that are right for you and your body.


Protein is the most commonly known nutrient for muscle building and this is for a reason. During weight lifting, muscle tissue is broken down and during rest, must be built back up. Protein serves as the catalyst to help build muscles and is an essential ingredient in any body builder’s diet.How much protein is needed?If you read food labels, one might come to the conclusion that the amount of protein needed is based on the number the USDA suggests. This number however, is for a normal, healthy, average individual – usually 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per pound of weight.If you’re weight training, constantly breaking down and building muscle, this number is not enough. Bodybuilders should aim for a protein intake of 1.0-1.5 grams per pound of body weight.

What Is your source of protein?

Protein in your diet can come from food sources or powder.Although protein powder digests rapidly, the better source comes from foods naturally high in protein, chicken, eggs, dairy, meats. Food sources are clearly better as they give you additional nutrients besides just protein.A good balance is to strive for 80% of your protein coming from food sources and 20% coming from powder.


Most people would agree that limiting carbohydrates is a good choice when eating for muscle growth. However, carbs are the body’s preferred source of calories and energy and everyone will consume a majority of their daily caloric intake in carbs.All carbohydrates however, are not created equal. It helps to know the difference.There are 2 types of carbohydrates, those than contain naturally occurring simple sugars (fructose) and those containing starchy sugars (glucose).What happens to fructose?When you eat foods high in fructose (fruits, soda, honey, anything with high fructose corn syrup), the sugars are converted to glycogen and stored mostly in the liver. The liver’s storage capacity is limited, so any excess will be stored as fat.The hidden danger is in “high fructose corn syrup.” This is an ingredient found in many foods today, often without being obvious. You can easily eat too much of this substance. Therefore, it’s best to limit your intake of fructose entirely for a lean muscle body.What happens to glucose?When you eat foods high in glucose (rice, pasta, potatoes, oatmeal), the sugars are also converted to glycogen but stored mostly in the muscles. The more you exercise those muscles, the more energy gets used and the less glycogen is left to convert to fat. Conversely, the less exercise, the more unused glycogen is turned to fat.This is why active people will tend to be thinner than sedentary individuals.Although any muscle building diet will limit carbohydrate intake, it is not necessary to eliminate them. Knowing your activity level and body type will help you determine how many you should eat.


Although fats could never be considered a vital component of a body building diet, some fat is necessary for proper body functioning. The key is eating the right type of “heart-healthy” unsaturated fats, and consuming them in moderation will need to overall health and therefore, a better you.


How many calories should I eat? This is a common question but not an easy one to answer. Each person’s needs are different. Even experts have their difference of opinions.Many do agree however, that a formula works best in determining a body builder’s nutritional needs. You’ll need to know the your sex, percent body fat, weight and average approximate daily activity level to complete the process.

Step #1 – Determining your BMR (Basic Metabolic Rate)Your BMR is the amount of calories you would burn if you were not active at all.To calculate this…For Men: 1 x body weight (kg) x 24 = _________For Women: .9 x body weight (kg) x 24 = _________(to convert pounds to kg, divide weight in pounds by 2.2)Multiply the above result by the multiplier below. using your percentage of body fat as the determining factor:

Men 10 to 14%, Women 14 to 18% / multiplier = 1.0
Men 14 to 20%, Women 18 to 28% / multiplier = .95
Men 20 to 28%, Women 28 to 38% / multiplier = .90
Men over 28%, Women over 38% / multiplier = .85

The result is your BMR – the amount of calories you would burn doing no activity at all.

Step #2 – Factor In Your Daily Activity Level

Multiply your BMR by the multiplier number below, indicating your daily activity level. The higher your activity, the more your caloric intake should be:

Average Couch Potato / multiplier = 1.40
Average Fitness Buff / multiplier = 1.60
Heavy activity / multiplier = 1.80 to 2.0

EXAMPLE:MALE / 200 LBS (90.9 KG) / 15% BODY FAT / Average Fitness Buff1 x 90.9 x 24 = 21822182 X .95 = 2073BMR = 2073 calories/day2073 x 1.60 = 3316 calories/day

The above example can be applied to your own caloric needs. Figure this out and you’ll be at a great starting point.

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