Nutrition for Muscle Growth

Are you eating for muscle?

Building muscle mass and definition is hard work and requires a proper diet to make it happen. Optimize your nutrition for muscle growth and avoid common mistakes, such as restricting calories.

Optimizing Nutrition For Muscle Growth

Woman drinking a smoothie

 

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When building muscle, it is necessary to eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods with the right blend of proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Dietary protein sources provide the body with essential amino acids for building new muscle tissue after vigorous exercise.

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

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

Each of these types of nutrients plays an important role in building muscle and none can be left out of a healthy diet.

Avoiding Common Nutrition Mistakes When Trying to Build Muscle

Mixed race woman looking at green vegetables in refrigerator

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When trying to build muscle, people often make the mistake of restricting caloric intake from a particular type of nutrient or restricting total calories. Make sure you are meeting all of the nutritional requirements for muscle growth.

Eat More Protein

Choose quality, high-protein sources that help build muscle before and after workouts. Select real food over protein powders and shakes, such as:

  • Eggs
  • Chicken and turkey breast
  • Salmon and tuna
  • Lean meats
  • Soybeans and tofu
  • Beans and legumes

Even more protein is needed in your diet when changing to an exercise routine designed to build muscle. When you are sedentary, you may only need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (or roughly 45 grams for women and 55 grams for men). If you are trying to grow muscle, increase your intake to 1.2 to 1.5 grams per kilogram, or from 50 percent to 60 percent of your daily calories.

Eat More Carbs

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

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Legumes
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Root vegetables
  • Winter squash

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 Fats

While it may help to cut the 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 25 percent to 30 percent 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:

  • Avocados
  • Greek yogurt
  • Nuts and chia seeds
  • Olives
  • Dark chocolate
  • Ghee
Eat More, Not Less

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.

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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