Nutrition for Your Muscle Growth

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Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

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Building muscle mass and definition is hard work and requires the proper diet to make it happen. When building muscle, it is necessary to eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods with the right blend of proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Eat More, Not Less

When trying to build muscle, people often make the mistake of restricting caloric intake from a particular type of nutrient or restricting total calories. But muscle is the fuel your body will turn to when your calories are low. When you don't eat enough to sustain muscle growth, your body will go into starvation mode and increase rather than decrease fat stores.

If you are exercising to build muscle, there is no need to simultaneously restrict calories to lose weight. Maintain a balanced diet of requisite proteins, carbs, and fats, and your body composition will improve over time.

Eat More Protein

Dietary protein provides the body with essential amino acids for building new muscle tissue after vigorous exercise. Instead of getting a quick fix from protein powders and shakes, choose these post-workout real food alternatives:

You need even more protein when changing to an exercise routine designed to build muscle. For instance, if you're sedentary, you may only need 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight (That's equal to roughly 54 grams for a 150-pound woman and 72 grams for a 200-pound man). If you are trying to grow muscle, however, you'll want to increase your intake to 0.55 to 0.77 grams of protein per pound.

Eat More Carbs

Dietary carbohydrates provide the body with energy for tough workouts and replenish energy stores in muscles in the form of glycogen.

Opt for nutrient-dense sources that sustain the glycogen stores necessary for you to be able to exercise longer and more effectively, such as:

As popular as low-carb diets may be, they may diminish your athletic performance and leave your muscles aching for nutrients necessary for muscle protein synthesis.

Eat More Fat

While it may help to cut down on saturated and trans fats, you still need an appropriate amount of healthy fats to boost metabolism and maintain hormonal function. A fat-free diet can impede muscle growth in a person who vigorously exercises. Keep fats in the ballpark of roughly 15% to 20% of your daily caloric intake.

Healthy fats include more than just olive oil. There are a number of other sources, both for cooking and for eating, including:

Dietary fats supply at least 70% of the body's energy at rest, aid in the metabolism of vitamins A, D, E, and K, and help maintain testosterone levels for increased muscle mass.

A Word From Verywell

Restrictive dietary fads go in and out of style and are often not the best choice for building muscle. If you need help in putting together an appropriate diet plan for muscle growth, speak to a registered dietitian or qualified sports nutritionist.

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