How To Eat Right For Bigger Muscles
I’m starting a series today on how you should eat in order to gain more muscle mass. This will be a 3-parter that I’ll finish throughout the month. Here’s the outline:
- Why your eating habits are more important than your lifting habits if you want to get bigger (naturally)
- Why skinny guys stay skinny – plus, the fastest way to gain muscle from your diet
- How to eat more to gain more muscle and actually lose fat at the same time – plus, I’ll also include some sample menus ( keep in mind that entire books are written on menus so I’m only offering some examples!)
Today let’s tackle the importance of eating habits compared to lifting habits. Next week we’ll dive into #2 and the week after that we’ll conclude with the third topic.
Why Eating Is More Important Than Lifting
You want to get bigger, huh? Join the crowd.
You might just be thinking “a little” bigger. Or maybe you are thinking “a lot bigger”. And maybe you just want bigger shoulders, or pecs, or glutes, or whatever.
The point is, we’re talking physique here and we all have different ideal images of what our target physique should be. If you are reading this, then chances are high that part of your desired physique means bigger muscles.
So weightlifting is the most important part of getting bigger muscles, right?
Now before you start writing me hate mail, I’m saying “most important”. That’s a relative term. Meaning, that of course lifting matters! If you want to get bigger muscles, instead of just a bigger gut, then you’ve gotta lift.
But I’m saying that a great eating plan with a mediocre lifting routine will do more for your physique than a great lifting routine and a mediocre eating plan.
(I’d like to write that previous sentence in all caps, but that would just annoy you, right?)
A Simple Example
Let’s walk through a very simplified analysis of 5 cases…
Muscles need stimulation, nutrients, and rest. That combination triggers growth. How much growth depends on the quality and quantity of the stimulation, nutrients, and rest.
No stimulation, no growth. Ditto for rest. And of course, no nutrients (food), no growth.
Since this article series is about how eating impacts muscle growth, let’s assume for now that you are on a pretty good lifting routine. It’s not the best, but it’s not the worst. (So, you can extrapolate from this and assume that results will be better/worse in relation to your lifting routine.)
Case 1: Let’s say you are doing your “adequate” lifting routine, but not eating at all. What would happen? Your body would go into starvation mode, burning muscle first, then fat, and then you’d die. Obviously, no muscle growth in this scenario.
Case 2: Now, instead of eating nothing, imagine you eat a small quantity of junk food. Let’s assume total calories are just enough to prevent starvation. But your muscles need protein (in the form of amino acids) to heal after you’ve stimulated them with your adequate workout. And so just junk food doesn’t give the muscles what they need to grow. Result: no muscle growth.
Case 3: Moving on, let’s assume you’re still eating the junk, but you add in some good food too. Enough so that you are taking in excess calories every day but most of your food is still junk. The good news is that you now have protein. What happens in a simple scenario of excess calories, including sufficient protein? Your muscles grow! Oh, and you also grow fat because of the high quantity of junk. So, overall, your physique probably isn’t much better (depends on the mix of junk vs good, exactly how many total calories, your age, what your workout is like, etc. etc.). Nonetheless, with enough protein and excess calories from carbs and fats, you achieve muscle growth from your lifting efforts.
Case 4: Next, let’s just cut out the junk. So you are eating some good healthy food, very little junk. But remember that junk is calorically dense – lots of calories per bite. Most healthy food isn’t so calorie-dense and so you have to take many more bites to get the same total calories. In this example, let’s assume you didn’t know that, so you are actually eating fewer calories than you need. Despite the fact that it’s healthy food, and despite your good lifting routine, you still won’t gain (much) muscle. [This is a good plan if you already have a lot of muscle but need to get rid of a layer of bodyfat.]
Case 5: To round out the simplified example, now imagine that you’ve reduced the junk and eat a lot more healthy food – protein, veggies, good carbs, etc. – and you have an excess of calories – enough extra calories to fuel your workouts, plus even more. What happens then? Your muscles grow! And depending on a ton of other factors, you might be able to avoid fat gains (that’s what we’ll explore in part 3 of this series).
Eating Before/After Your Workout
What you eat in the “workout window” of time is the most important for gaining muscle. I’ve written before about what to eat before and after your workout, so I won’t repeat all that here. Click that link to go reread it now. But the highlights are:
- Never train on an empty stomach
- Eat protein and carbs about 1 hour before your workout
- Eat protein and carbs about 1 hour after your workout
- Avoid high fiber meals before and after your workout
- Avoid high fat meals before and after your workout
- Concentrate most of your starchy carbs of the day to be near your workout
- And if you are skinny, you need to eat a lot more!
Why Skinny Guys Stay Skinny
Next week you’ll learn why skinny guys stay skinny, plus, how you can gain the most muscle from your diet!