What to Eat to Build Muscle Mass
The Anabolic Diet
Wanting to build muscle mass is not just about what you do in the gym. It also requires attention to nutrition. Both types and quanity of nutrients you consume having a profound effect on your muscular gains. Basically, you must eat to grow. The following is an overview of each of these nutritional aspects relevant to muscle building.
CALORIES: Needed To Build Muscle Mass
No two ways about it. Caloric surplus is necessary if you want to build muscle mass. This is consistent with the first law of thermodynamics. Stating that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Only changed from one form to another.
But unless you aspire to look like a sumo wrestler, the key is to maintain calories in a range that promotes development of lean mass rather than body fat.
Depending on training experience, you can expect to gain a maximum of about one-half to one pound of muscle per week. Any increases in bodyweight over this amount will inevitably be in the form of unsightly fat.
To enhance lean muscle gains, aim to consume between 18 and 20 calories per pound of bodyweight. For example, if you weigh 175 pounds, you target caloric intake should be about 3,150 -3,500 calories a day. Understand, thought, that this figure simply provides an estimate of calories needed.
You must then experiment to find out what works best for you. Those who gain fat easily typically do better with a slightly lower caloric intake. While “hard gainers” who have difficulty packing on muscle may need to consume significantly more. Perhaps as much as 25 calories per pound of bodyweight.
Rule of 100
The best way to ensure that you’re consuming the proper amount of calories is to follow the “rule of 100”. Start off by consuming 18-20 calories per pound of bodyweight for a month. If you’re not gaining enough mass, increase intake by an additional 100 calories a day. If on the other hand, your gaining too much fat, cut back calorie intake by 100 calories a day.
Evaluate your progress after a few weeks. Continue tweaking in 100-calorie increments as necessary. Making these adjustments in a systematized fashion will allow you to fine-tune your diet so that gains in muscle/fat ratio are optimized.
You probably know that muscle, like all bodily tissues, is comprised of protein. In fact, muscle makes up more than 60 percent of the body’s protein mass. Protein status in the body is determined by nitrogen balance. (Nitrogen is the compound that makes protein unique).
A negative nitrogen balance means your body is breaking down proteins at a greater rate than it’s synthesizing them. A positive nitrogen balance means your body is creating new proteins faster than it is breaking them down.
A stable nitrogen balance means protein degradation and protein synthesis are in equilibrium. Based on this information, it should be apparent that a protein rich diet is essential for optimizing body composition.
If your intake of protein is not sufficient to make up for what is excreted, cellular function is comprised and your appearance, as well as overall health, inevitably suffers. Only by consuming protein in excess of losses (i.e., positive nitrogen balance) can you promote anabolism and enhance the quality of your physique.
Research clearly shows that serious lifters need substantially more protein than the average person. No surprise here. Additional protein is critical to repair and remodel muscle tissue damaged by resistance training. How much do you need? Studies indicate that an intake of .7 to .9 grams per pound is required to support anabolic processes in those who lift weights. This may be understanding protein requirements if you train hard and heavy as amino acids. Those are the building blocks of protein.
Suppyling up to 10 percent of the body’s energy needs during intense high volume exercise. Taking all factors into account, protein intake should correspond to approximately one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. This provides a margin of safety. Ensuring you never fall into negative nitrogen balance. There really is no downside to the approach. Taking in a little extra protein won’t hurt. But not getting enough surely will.
The branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) leucine, isoleucine and valive have been shown to drive anabolic processes. Leucine, in particular, is believed to be a key metabolic regulator of muscle protein synthesis. It is therefore important that your diet is rich in essential amino acids, especially BCAA’s.
The good news is that all animal based proteins (meats, dairy products, eggs, etc.) are complete proteins and contain ample amounts of BCAA’s. So assuming you eat a varity of animal based foods and consume the recommended amount of protein (1g. per lb), protein quality is not an issue. You’re assured of getting all the amino acids you need for optimal development.
If worried that consuming high levels of protein might damage your kidneys, rest easy. The belief that high protein diets are detrimental to kidney function is based on studies carried out on those with renal disease. In otherwise healthy individuals, protein intakes well in excess of one gram per pound have shown no adverse effects on kidney function.
Bottom line, unless you have existing kidney issues, a high protein intake should not pose any problems to your health.
There continues to be a prevailing sentiment that carbs are inherently detrimental to body composition. As such, many lifters continue to adopt a ketogenic approach to nutrition. Cutting carbs to a bare minimum. Don’t let carbophobia sabotage muscular development. If your goal is to pack on lean muscle, carbs can and should have a place in your diet.
Understand that glycogen availability is essential to resistance training performance. Particularly when training is carried out for the purposes of maximizing muscular development. Specifically, traning with low glycogen reduces the ability to train at high intensities and increase the perception of effort while decreasing power output.
Over 80 percent of energy demands during a 12 RM (12-repetition maximum) set to failure are derived from the breakdown of stored carbs. Studies show that a single set of biceps curls to muscular failure performed at 80 percent of 1 RM causes a 12 percent reduction in mixed muscle glycogen concentration. Three sets at this intensity doubles this decrease. So if glycogen depleted at the start of a workout, your capacity to train intensely will necessarily be severely compromised.
Glycogen levels also have been shown to play in important role in anabolic signaling. Protein synthesis, the driving force behind muscle growth, is dependent on a cascade of enzymes that communicate with one another inside the cell. When glycogen levels are low, activation of this process, blunted, therefore hampering muscle growth. Moreover, an inverse relationship exists between glycogen availability and muscle protein breakdown.
Lower glycogen levels causing greater protein degradation. In fact, nitrogen losses, a marker of muscle protein breakdown, have been found to more than double following a bout of exercise in glycogen depleted versus glycogen loaded state. All things considered, maintaining a high intramuscular glycogen content at the onset of training is important to muscle development.
Now this doesn’t mean you need to load up on carbs. Quite the contrary. Evidence shows that eating a high carb diet does not have any greater effects on strength or lean mass accretion compared to a moderate carb diet. From a muscle building standpoint, most people seem to do best consuming around two grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight.
At suggest caloric intakes, this equates to a diet consisting roughly 40 percent carbs. As with total calories, this amount should be tweaked based on individual response. Those who are insulin insensitive may require somewhat lower intake to avoid excess fat storage. Perhaps as low as one gram per pound. While hard gainers might need as much as three grams per pound. Experiment with different amounts to see what works best for you.
What Carbs to Consume
The type of carbs consumed is also of importance. Avoid the temptation to eat highly processed carbs. Processing removes valuable nutrients from the food so that you’re left with nothing but empty calories. Rather, focus on nutrient dense sources that are replete in vitamins, mineral and fiber.
Whole grains, fruits and veggies top the list here. Many of the vitamins and minerals in these foods, used as co-factors that enhance metabolic processes. Others serve as antioxidants that keep cells functioning optimally.
The “fat free” craze of the late 20th century has come and gone. Most people now realize the dietary fat is an important component in a diet. If nothing else, fats are an essential nutrient and play a vital role in many bodily functions. Involved in cushioning your internal organs for protection, aiding in the absorption of vitamins and facilitating the production of cell membranes. It would be almost impossible to survive without some kind of fats in your diet.
What is less known is that dietary fat helps to promote anabolism. Specifically, the fats you consume impact testosterone levels. Importance of testosterone is building muscle is incontrovertible. There is clear evidence that testosterone increases protein synthesis and attenuates protein breakdown. As well as potentiating the release of other anabolic factors such as growth hormone and IGF-1.
Studies shown that testosterone levels are suppressed with the consumption of low fat diets. Studies also show that saturated and monunsaturated fat consumption increase testosterone production best. Here’s the kicker: lifting weights appears to heighten these testosterone boosting effects. In other words, fat intake and resistance training have synergistic effects on anabolism.
All thing considered, at least 20 percent of your calories should be from dietary fat. Preferable from monounstaturaded fats. (olive oil and various nuts) Also omega-3 polyunsaturated fats derived from fatty fish.
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