First off, I cannot believe how many of you had not heard of Ibiza! On this side of the world, it’s like not having heard of Paris…haha. But I’m glad you liked my holiday recaps and now that summer holidays are over (for me), it’s time to get back into the good stuff!
Today I wanted to talk about what I consider the basic essentials to building muscle, which are often overlooked. Most of the information floating around regarding diet and training is purely focused on weight loss, so it’s difficult to know how to gain muscle without following the often misguided advice of broscientists. Here are my top five tips, based on what questions I get asked the most**:
1. Follow a 40/30/30 eating pattern at a minimum of 2000 calories per day
I do not think anyone should count calories every day, but it can be a good idea when you are just starting out purely to make sure you are eating enough. Men tend to underestimate their calories, while women overestimate. To build muscle, you need to eat a surplus of around 200 calories over maintenance levels. For most women, that’s close to 2500 calories, but no less than 2000. Men should be targeting a minimum of 3000 calories.
I typically recommend a macronutrient split of 35/35/30, where 35 per cent of your calories come from protein and carbohydrates separately, and 30 per cent come from fats. For those that perform more cardio, I recommend a higher percentage of carbohydrates. Again, this is for people who are trying to gain muscle – losing fat is a completely different ballgame.
Each gram of protein and carbohydrate contains 4 calories, while fat contains 9 calories per gram, but if doing the math is overwhelming I would recommend using MyPlate which does all the calculations for you. For example, a diet of 2500 calories would be broken into 219 grams of protein, 219 grams of carbohydrates and 83 grams of fat following a 35/35/30 split.
2. Consume two post workout meals
I use the word ‘meals’ lightly. Immediately following your workout, you should have a whey protein shake to repair your muscles. Within 30 to 45 minutes, you should eat again – this time having a meal that contains protein and carbohydrates. This meal should be your largest of the day.
All too often I see people drink a shake and then not eat again for three hours or so. The whey protein is designed to enter your muscles immediately, which means after 30 minutes of drinking a shake, your muscles will be starving for more nutrients. If I’m in a hurry, I will have a shake only – but I will make sure it is more substantial by adding fruit, oats and extra protein powder.
3. Eat the bulk of your carbs around your workoutOn a similar note, you should be eating most of your daily carbohydrates in your pre- and post-workout meals. It is extremely important to have carbs post-workout to replenish your glycogen stores. Protein cannot enter the muscle to begin the repair process unless there are also carbohydrates present, so you cannot build muscle by consuming mammoth amounts of protein alone. Your carbs can also come from quick-release sources, such as fruit or white rice, in your post-workout meal.
4. Always eat before bed
I am so passionate about this one, I wrote a whole post about it! When your body doesn’t receive fuel in the form of food, it starts breaking down its own muscles for energy. It you are trying to build muscle, or lose fat while maintaining a maximum amount of muscle, I cannot stress enough how important a bed-time snack is.
5. Treat every mouthful as a meal
Every time you put food in your mouth, it should be something substantial. Stop thinking of having three square meals and two snacks per day. So many people have this pattern of eating drilled into their heads, and it means that their ‘snacks’ are lacking. A handful of almonds or a piece of fruit is not going to cut it if you want to seriously build muscle.
You need to have a form of protein (meat, fish, eggs, yoghurt, cottage cheese, protein powder, etc) with every single meal. You should combine that protein with either a carbohydrate (oats, sweet potato, quinoa, rice, etc) or a healthy fat (oil, nuts or nut butters, avocado, etc) depending on what time of day it is (pre- or post-workout, before bed, etc).
**Note: This is how I approach my nutrition and what I recommend for most of my clients. There are other ways to achieve muscle gain via different methods such as intermittent fasting and so on, but these tips are just what work for me personally. I also eat every three hours like clockwork, but a lot of people are not a fan of that approach. There are so many more points I could have brought up, but I rambled long enough.
Do you have any muscle building tips to share?