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Nutrition Guide For Gaining Muscle

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This article is a guest post from MNU Certified Nutritionist Vikki Hurley. If you would like to get in touch, her contact details can be found below.

Resistance training will be key to building muscle, but nutrition can also play a huge part as I will explain in this blog. This information is mainly geared towards people who have their body fat under control and are mainly focusing on gaining mass. My next guest post will be about losing body fat.

To build muscle, we need to be eating above maintenance calories, (maintenance calories are the number of calories you can eat without gaining or losing weight). A surplus of 10-15% above maintenance can support maximal muscle gain by improving training quality and potentially reducing muscle protein breakdown. This surplus is large enough to likely see biweekly body weight increases on the scales but is small enough not to promote excessive fat gain.

There are a number of ways to calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (this is the number of calories you burn in a day, if you consume the same amount then you will be at maintenance calories). A simple way to get you started would be using the following calculation, this will give you an estimate and can be altered as needed;

(Body weight in kg x 22) x PAL + EEE


PAL (Physical Activity Levels) 
Use the table below to estimate your daily PAL

Category Description Physical Activity Level (PAL)
Sedentary Minimal exercise e.g. desk job 1.2
Light Activity Light exercise/sports 1-3 times a week 1.3 – 1.4
Moderate Activity Moderate exercise/sports 3-5 times a week 1.5 – 1.6
Very Active Hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week 1.7 – 1.8
Extremely Active Very hard daily exercise/sports and physical job- training twice a day 1.9 – 2.0

EEE (Exercise Energy Expenditure)
It can be difficult to accurately quantify EEE from weight training due to large variances in styles of resistance training, rest periods and level of intensity. An approximate value of 200kcals/hour could be used as a starting point.

Example- Alex weighs 77kg, works in an office, does 3 Fit For Golf weight sessions a week

((77 x 22) x 1.4 PAL) x 7 weekdays (to get weekly total) + 600cals (3 x 200cals per exercise session)

17,201cals/week

2,457cals a day

In order to gain muscle then Alex should increase his daily calorie goal to 2,650-2,850cals/day.

Protein per meal–  It is essential to consume meals that contain sufficient leucine to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. It is important to remember that vegetarian sources of high protein foods are typically lower in leucine than animal sources so you may need to increase the amount of protein per meal if the protein is only coming from a plant source. It’s also worth researching the amino acid profile of your plant protein sources, as this is very important.

Protein Timing- In addition to consuming an adequate amount of protein per meal, this process should be repeated multiple times per day for maximal muscle gain. 

Depending on your own personal circumstances, 4-6 protein feedings per day would be recommended with a key focus on the following protein feedings:

  1. Post-training: Post-training protein augments the anabolic response to training and so it is an important feeding opportunity.
  2. Pre-Bed: Prior to an ~8hour fast, a slightly larger bolus of protein should be consumed to try and minimize muscle protein breakdown and promote protein accretion. 

Protein Recommendation:

You want to aim for somewhere between 1.8g- 2.4g per kg in bodyweight or 0.8g-1.1g per lb in bodyweight e.g. Alex weighs 77kg/ 170lb so he should aim for between 139g-185g of protein per day.

This may seem like a lot, especially if you haven’t monitored your protein intake before but here is an example of what a typical day might look like for Alex who is aiming to consume ~2,700cals and 185g of protein.

Description Protein Total Calories
Meal 1 2 slices of toast & 2 eggs 22 400
Meal 2 Greek yogurt, strawberries & almonds 25 310
Meal 3 Salmon and Quinoa Salad 50 550
Meal 4 Tuna wrap & banana 18 405
Meal 5 Whey protein shake made with whole milk 32 270
Meal 6 Beef chili with pasta 42 730
Total 189 2665

Supplements:

There are a few supplements that can be used to enhance your muscle gain journey;

Creatine Monohydrate
This will help optimize muscle gain by facilitating increases in strength, power and recovery.

See a more detailed explanation of creation on my Instagram Post

Creatine Monohydrate is available in both capsules and powder form so I would recommend whichever form you are more likely to take consistently.
It was previously believed that you need to load creatine but that is no longer necessary, and you can just begin with taking 5g/day.

Caffeine
This can be used as a pre workout to improve performance by increasing alertness, strength & reducing RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion).  Dosage: 2-6mg/kg taken 45-60 minutes before training.

Be careful not to consume caffeine too late in the day as you don’t want to disturb your sleep and hinder recovery.

Beta Alanine
As an intracellular buffer, Beta Alanine supplementation may improve anaerobic performance and overall training quality. Improved training quality will facilitate optimal increases in muscle mass. Dosage: Loading phases (4 weeks) 4x daily dose of 20mg/kg. Maintenance dose therefore: 2 x daily doses of 20mg/kg. 


A few other points to keep me mind would be ;

Hydration
Water is the most abundant substance in the body. Almost every physiological process in the body requires water. Your body needs water to help distribute nutrients, remove waste products, aid in digestion, and regulate body temperature. Muscles also need water to function properly, especially during physical activity. Find ways to consume enough water throughout your day. Try carrying a reusable water bottle with you and monitoring your intake.

Sleep
Many critical restorative functions occur in the body while you sleep. Sleep is vital for the body and mind to recover and perform. Develop good sleep habits to help support length and quality of sleep. Consistent sleep & wake times, cool, dark room and limited screen time before bed are some good habits to form.

Cardio
Some cardio can increase blood flow to the muscles, thus speeding nutrient delivery, thus speeding recovery but too much cardio can hinder your progress by burning up calories, cutting into recovery, and interfering with anabolic signaling pathways.


If you have any questions on this topic or need some guidance on building muscle, please reach out to me.

E-mail: coach.vikspiration@gmail.com
Instagram: @vikspiration
Twitter: @VikkiHurley3