How to Eat to Fuel Muscle Growth
Of the people I coach and train with at LiftOff, a common goal is to change body shape, build strength and maximise lean muscle tissue. Muscle growth is a slow process, and like most things in fitness, requires consistency. There is no ‘quick fix’. It also requires a level of understanding behind the science of how to eat to fuel muscle growth. This is what I hope this blog can accomplish.
How do we achieve muscle growth?
To achieve muscle growth, adequate nutrition needs to go hand-in-hand with a periodised, progressive training programme. In short, we must be eating sufficiently to fuel muscle growth. We must also create damage in the muscle by progressively overloading it. This is to allow protein, our main source of recovery and repair, to do its work and encourage the muscle to rebuild, bigger and stronger.
Building new muscle is an extremely energy dense process. It therefore requires us to take in extra calories. Achieving muscle growth without being in a small calorie surplus is extremely difficult. This is particularly so for women, for whom it’s twice as hard to build lean muscle tissue as it is for men.
It’s worth questioning at the outset whether you’re ready to take on the commitment of eating a lot of food. This is both from a mental perspective, due to the need to increase your calorie intake, but also practically – do you have time to fit meal planning around your lifestyle?
If you’re completely new to fitness, coupling resistance training with an increase in your overall protein intake should be enough to achieve noticeable changes in your body composition. For those who have been training a bit longer, slightly more science is required.
The calorie surplus required to build lean muscle tissue means we need to accept that we will put on a small amount of fat. This should be monitored by a coach, and can be managed through small ‘mini-diets’ after phases of muscle building.
The Next Steps
If you can cope with this psychologically and still want to build some muscle mass then I would recommend doing the following:
- Calculate your calorie requirements needed to gain muscle based on your activity levels, height and body weight.
- Aim for this calorie amount to be made up of 1.6-2.2g of protein per kg of body weight. This is a scientifically proven figure which is said to have the most beneficial effect on muscle growth.
- Spread this intake out evenly throughout the day. Muscle Protein Synthesis (the creation of new muscle and the reasons we need the extra energy from the calories) returns to base line levels in the body after approximately three hours post consumption. Also bear in mind that anything between 20-40g of protein needs to be ingested in one meal to have a beneficial effect.
Sources of Protein
Not sure where to get your protein from? Lean animal sources, dairy, beans and legumes, some grains, as well as supplemental protein shakes and bars if you’re stuck for time. Lastly, get some good quality sleep, stay hydrated and keep up the resistance training!
Muscle Growth In a Nutshell
So, simply put:
- Eat in a small calorie surplus relevant to your height and weight.
- Eat between 3-5 meals a day each containing between 20-40g of protein.
- Couple this with a periodised training programme of anything between 8-16 weeks to monitor your progress.
- Take progress pictures, keep a training diary, and most of all stick with it!
If you would like help or advice with your nutrition or training goals then contact me at LiftOff Gym. Contact details below.