Let’s say you wanted to become a successful financial investor but unfortunately you had no money to invest.
On the other hand, you do have access to a very successful financial investor who is ready and willing to teach you the ins and outs.
What would you ask him/her?
I’ll tell you what most people would ask…
“What are the best types of businesses to invest in?”
“How do I know when I have a winner?”
“What are things to look out for when making an investment?”
Perhaps you’re a little more educated than I am in the field. Maybe you would ask different (better) questions about how to become a successful investor.
But my point remains…
You’re putting the cart before the horse.
Here’s what I mean.
You’ve racked up all of this knowledge and have all the tools necessary to become a successful investor.
But you’re missing one thing.
You need money and you have no clue how you’re going to go about earning enough money to invest.
So would it (or would it not) make more sense to first ask questions like…
“How much money will I need to start?”
“What kind of saving strategies did you use to put together enough money to invest?”
You get the idea.
The same thing happens when I get an email from a subscriber who wants to know “what’s the best supplement for gaining size?” before they even know how much protein they should be consuming per day.
Another person might ask “how many meals should I eat if I want to build muscle?” yet they have no clue how many calories they need.
And although I do think those are fair questions, 9 times out of 10, they’re being asked much too early.
Too much time is spent google searching “best post workout meal” and not enough time is spent learning about the role of food in general.
Look at the chart below:
Now tell me…
What do you want to know in regards to nutrition?
Is it about energy balance? Or is it about the best supplement for gym performance?
Today I am going to give you a very simple, 5 step formula for creating a muscle building nutrition plan that is 100% personalized and fail-proof.
So if your goal is to build muscle mass as fast as possible and nutrition is the one thing holding you back, then fear not. Once you read and implement these steps, you’ll never have to doubt your nutrition again.
If you’re confused as to whether you should enter a lean mass phase or focus on decreasing your current body-fat, read this first: Should I Bulk or Cut?
Step #1 – Achieve a Positive Energy Balance
Energy Balance: is defined by the laws of thermodynamics and dictates whether weight is lost, gained, or remains the same.
Energy In: Food calories taken into the body through food and drink.
Energy Out: Calories being used in the body for our daily energy requirements.
If your goal is to put on lean muscle tissue, the only way to ensure that you are providing our body with enough nutrients to perform, recover, and grow, is to eat in a positive energy balance or caloric surplus. This simply means that we should consume more (energy in) calories than we burn (energy out).
In order to ensure that we are in a positive energy balance, we must first determine our maintenance level. Being in a caloric maintenance level simply means that we are expending just as much energy as we are consuming and thus maintaining the same bodyweight. Once we can determine our maintenance level, creating a caloric surplus then becomes extremely simple.
If you are a male with a healthy metabolism who exercises regularly then the numbers 14- 16 are a great place to start and will be spot on for most people.
Where does this number (14-16) come from?
• Resting Metabolic Rate
• Thermic Effect of Activity
• Thermic Effect of Food
Calculating your maintenance calories
Bodyweight (in lbs) x 16 = Starting Caloric Intake
170 lbs x 16 = 2,720
Use the weight tracking strategy here to determine whether the starting caloric intake puts you in a surplus, at maintenance, or in a deficit.
Step #2 – Distribute Your Macros
Now although energy balance is the main focus when attempting to pack on, maintain, or lose weight, the sources in which create this positive (or neutral or negative) energy balance are what will determine performance and body composition (the type of weight gained or lost).
What are macronutrients: Nutrients that the body uses in relatively large amounts – proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. This is as opposed to micronutrients, which the body requires in smaller amounts, such as vitamins and minerals.
If you ignore macronutrient breakdown and focus only on energy balance you will, more than likely…
• Not synthesize enough protein to build muscle
• Not recover efficiently from the training stimulus
• Not perform with enough power to stimulate new growth
Now although there are a number of ways to distribute your macronutrients, I’ll give you my recommendation.
Protein: 1 x Bodyweight = Protein in grams
Fats: 0.25-0.5 x Bodyweight = Fats in grams
Carbs: The remaining calories.
For example: 170 lbs with a starting caloric intake of 2,720
170 lbs x 1 = 170g of Protein
4 x 170 = 680 Calories
170 lbs x 0.4 = 68g of Fats
9 x 68 = 612 Calories
680 + 612 = 1,292
2,720 – 1,292 = 1,428 Calories Remaining
1,428/4 = 357g of Carbohydrates
Macronutrient Ratio: 170P/68F/357C
Note: There are plenty of ways to distribute the macronutrients and they are all effective. I urge that you do not get too caught up in which formula to use as they will all provide a solid starting point.
For a list of foods you can consume to reach these macronutrient rations, please read: The Truth About Muscle Building Nutrition
Step #3 – Ensure Overall Health
Steps 1 and 2 are responsible for about 95% of your fitness results (in terms of nutrition) and should come first and foremost. However, with step 3 we are ensuring overall health.
I am a huge believer that a healthier body is a more efficient body. And thus ensuring you’re consuming enough vitamins, minerals, and fiber does play a role in your ability to build muscle optimally.
What is fiber?
Fiber: The indigestible portion of food derived from plants and waste of animals that eat dietary fiber.
What does this mean to you?
Well, probably nothing at all. The only thing you should be concerned with is the amount of fiber you take in on a daily basis.
Calculating Daily Fiber Intake
Like the macronutrients we discussed before, there is a very simple formula you can use in order to calculate the amount of daily fiber that is required for you. As a general rule of thumb, we should be consuming about 10-15 grams of fiber for every 1000 calories.
Daily Calories / 1000 = a (x) 15 = Daily Fiber Intake
2,270 / 1000 = 2.27 x 15 = 34g of fiber per day
What are micronutrients?
Micronutrients: Vitamins and minerals that are essential in minute amounts for the proper growth and metabolism of a living organism.
Similar to everything else we have discussed in this article, there is a very basic strategy for ensuring you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet.
As of now you should know exactly how many servings of fruits and veggies you’ll need in order to ensure your vitamin and minerals for the day.
You should also know exactly how many grams of fiber you should be consuming daily based on your intake.
The only thing left is finding out what foods we can consume in order to achieve these numbers.
Step #4 – Schedule Your Meals*
So here’s the deal…
In the past we were led to believe that if we wanted to build muscle, we HAD to:
• Eat 6 meals per day
• Chug a protein shake 15 minutes after training
• And eat ONLY the “cleanest” foods
Over the years, the science of nutrition has evolved and so have our stances on the topic.
But although we KNOW that we don’t NEED6 meals per day, and we don’t NEED to chug protein shakes…and we KNOW that a flexible diet will produce better long-term results.
We still have one question…
Does Meal Frequency Matter?
Or more commonly asked as “how many meals per day should I eat for muscle gains?”
Some say it doesn’t matter. They say it can be 1 meal or it can be 10 meals and it’s all the same.
Others are still stuck in the past and are “certain” that 6 meals is the way to go.
The logic behind the first group is that the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) is the same for someone eating 2000kcals in 1 sitting or in 10 sittings…
This is 100% accurate.
The logic behind the second group is, all the pros eat 6 meals per day and it works.
Which is (for the most part) also true.
But we are missing one HUGE piece to the puzzle.
What about more frequently elevated protein synthesis?
Studies have shown that consuming 20 grams of protein 4x per day with 3 hours in between meals produced the greatest elevations in protein synthesis.
It worked better than 8 meals with 10 grams of protein per and it worked better than 2 meals with 40 grams of protein per.
So does meal frequency actually matter?
“How Many Meals per Day to Maximize Muscle Mass?”
My suggestion would be 3-5 meals per day, with 3 hours in between sittings, and at least 20 grams of protein per meal.
Things to consider…
• If you are extremely busy and cannot manage to eat every 2-3 hours…then don’t.
• If you need structure and must follow a schedule, then create one that fits perfectly in your day.
• If you like structure and must follow a schedule but are limited on time, then precook your meals.
• If you have the luxury of cooking and consuming as you see fit from day to day, then do so.
• If you require a meal plan, then create one.
Pre-Workout Nutrition: Most (including myself) have once said that consuming adequate carbs prior to an intense workout is best for optimal performance and muscle preservation.
However, while in a growth phase, most individuals are equipped with sufficient energy and protein to both perform and preserve muscle mass without having to consume any carbs or protein prior to a workout.
On the other hand, most trainees cannot function 100% in the gym without having a pre-workout meal. Either way, this is totally optional.
What I recommend is, consider your schedule and consider how you feel with or without one (pre-workout meal).
Post-Workout Nutrition: Most (including myself) have also talked about the post workout anabolic window. This theory suggests that one must consume adequate amounts of protein and fast acting carbs in order to avoid a catabolic state immediately following our workout.
The truth is, staying fasted more than 15-30 minutes following your workout has no negative effects as long as you are consistently meeting your nutrient requirements.
Now, this is not to say that it is a bad idea to consume a meal following your workout (which I still recommend you do), it simply suggests that there is no need to speed through traffic on your way home from the gym to beat the window.
Another point I would like to make is concerning the immediate carb intake.
In the past we were told that an intense workout session would completely deplete us of glycogen and therefore feed from your protein or muscle tissue in order to produce more energy.
However, recent research has shown that following an intense anaerobic training session we are nowhere near complete glycogen depletion.
In fact, the amount of glycogen used from an hour or two of heavy lifting is quite minimal.
Should you consume a pre workout meal or shake?
If you have the time and feel more primed in the gym, then yes.
If you prefer to train fasted, then do so. Just make sure you get a nice meal in shortly thereafter.
Should you consume a post workout meal or shake?
But don’t worry about filling it with simple sugars and chugging it immediately after.
If you had a pre-workout meal, you have a good 3-4 hours before you MUST* get your post workout protein in.
If you fasted, then that window is much smaller. Aim to get it in within an hour or so.
Step #5 – Choose Your Supplements*
Let me start off by saying that this is the last step for a reason. It has little importance in comparison to the first 4 steps and in a nut shell, unlike the first 3 levels, is not necessary. However, this is not to say that the supplements I am going to mention are not beneficial…simply they are not a necessity. I also would like to mention that none of these supplements will matter much if you are not following the first 3 steps along with a practical training program.
Health and Recovery
EFA (EDA/PHA): Although our diet can essentially provide enough EFAs, in a lot of cases it is hard to be 100% sure. Essential fatty acids serve as an anti-inflammatory and do a great deal in terms of effective recovery. Not to mention a number of other misc. benefits such as overall skin health, disease prevention, etc. (2-3grams per day)
Creatine Monohydrate: When it comes to performance, there is no other supplement that has been more researched or proven to work. Creatine monohydrate ensures 100% saturation of the muscle tissue and has been shown to increase strength, muscle fullness, and power output. (5grams per day)
Beta Alanine: The muscle endurance version of creatine monohydrate (in a sense). As a bodybuilder who trains both for strength and/or hypertrophy (anaerobic exercise) can always benefit from increased muscle endurance. (3grams per day)
Calcium: This is something to consider if you are lactose intolerant and/or are avoiding the foods that typically make up one’s calcium intake (dairy). (1gram per day)
Caffeine: This is a safe, tried and true, healthy choice for a pre-workout stimulant. However, like any other stimulant, the more consistently you take it, the less effective it becomes. This is probably a good idea to take only on days where you need that extra push to get you into the gym. (200-400mg)
BCAA: Not needed if your protein intake is where it needs to be but can be beneficial for trainees who are glycogen depleted and have a high intensity session lined up. (10 pre-workout)
Jump on The Gain Train!
At this point you should know exactly how many calories you should be consuming and in what macronutrient ratio. This is the biggest factor in whether or not your build muscle.
Although tracking the macronutrient intake will typically take care of step 3, it’s good to ensure you’re meeting your vitamins, minerals, and fiber for overall health. What’s the point of being jacked and tan if you feel like shit, right?
You should also have an idea of how many meals you’re going to be consuming based on what your life (schedule) allows. After all, the best diet is the one we can adhere to.
Lastly, you should have an idea of what supplements (if any) you think will give you an edge. If you can afford it, buy it. If not, then don’t. It’s that simple.
Have any questions regarding this post?
Please leave them in the comment section below and I’ll surely get back to you!
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