Read more about training for muscle gain in this article.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Why is the diet important for muscle building?
2. How many calories should i eat for muscle building?
3. What nutrients do I need to build muscle?
4. What supplements are good for muscle building?
1. WHY IS DIET IMPORTANT FOR MUSCLE BUILDING?
It’s not without reason that they say “Abs are made in the kitchen”. What applies to the abdominal muscles also applies to all other muscle groups: You lay the foundation for muscle building in the kitchen. Nutrition plays a crucial role if you want to shape your body.
Time and again you see athletes in the gym who lift weights four or five times a week and still don’t make much progress. Why is that? Because they don’t adapt their nutrition to their training. Successful muscle building can only happen if you eat a targeted diet.
What does that mean in concrete terms? Before, during and after training, your body needs one thing above all: energy! It is measured in kilocalories (kcal) and is found in all three macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, protein), which you should consume in a healthy ratio in your diet. Proteins play a special role. Protein is the building material of all cells, without which no muscle building is possible. In addition, you need sufficient vitamins, minerals and fiber for digestion, the nervous system and all other vital processes in the body. By the way, this applies to all fitness goals!
In the following sections we will go into more detail about the importance of nutrients for muscle building. Remember at this point: For muscle building to work, your body needs energy and a balanced supply of all three macronutrients. Only in interaction can the body get the maximum out of the ingested food.
2. 2. HOW MANY CALORIES SHOULD I EAT FOR MUSCLE GAIN?
There are basically two nutritional phases in muscle building:
1- Mass building: In the mass phase you build muscle mass.
2- Fat loss: In the definition phase you burn fat to make your muscles more visible.
Professional bodybuilders strictly adhere to these two phases. Of course, this is not required of you. Always orient yourself to your individual goal. Nevertheless, you should know the difference to better understand how nutrition affects your muscle building.
When talking about muscle building, the terms mass building or mass phase often come up. Bodybuilders also speak of “bulk”. This means that you gain muscle mass and thus weight. To do this, you need to consume more calories than your body uses. This means that your goal is a calorie surplus.
For muscle gain (about 0.5 to 1 kilogram per week) we recommend a calorie surplus of 300 to 500 calories per day.
How exactly you calculate your individual calorie requirement, we explain in this guide: Calorie requirement: How many calories should I eat for my goals?
It is important that it is not only the quantity that matters, but above all the quality of the food and a balanced distribution of nutrients. In addition to carbohydrates, your muscles also need healthy fats and, above all, the building material protein to repair the muscle fibers and build new ones.(1)
It is hardly avoidable that your body not only builds up muscles but also stores fat due to the daily calorie surplus in the mass phase. In order to get rid of these deposits, it is recommended to regularly take a definition phase. Now you should eat fewer calories than your body consumes. It is important to build up a healthy calorie deficit.
Healthy means: You should never consume less than your basal metabolic rate, i.e. the amount of energy your body consumes at absolute rest. Our recommendation for the goal of fat loss is a daily calorie deficit of 300 to a maximum of 500 calories.
If you reduce your energy intake too much, your metabolism will slow down. As a result, you may experience more frequent deficiencies and cravings as your body tries to compensate for the large deficit.
3. WHAT NUTRIENTS DO I NEED TO BUILD MUSCLE?
Regardless of whether it’s a mass build-up or a definition phase: the distribution of the three macronutrients is crucial for optimal nutrition during muscle build-up training. Especially for building muscle mass, the energy suppliers carbohydrates and fat are important. Proteins are additionally essential, because protein not only provides energy, but also serves as a building material for the muscle fibers.
Of course, you should still remember to continuously provide training stimuli and to allow sufficient time for regeneration. Because the actual muscle growth does not take place during training, but during recovery.
We recommend the following distribution of the so-called “macros” if muscle building is your goal. The figures in parentheses indicate what percentage of your daily calorie intake the respective nutrient should make up.
3.1 Carbohydrates (50 to 65 percent)
Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy and essential if you want to build muscle. Although the so-called “carbs” with 4 kcal per 1 gram contain fewer kilocalories than fat, the body can convert the supplied energy immediately. This means that the absorbed power is immediately available to your muscles. According to studies, the best effects are achieved when you eat a meal rich in protein and carbohydrates after strength training.(2)
If you don’t eat enough carbohydrates, you won’t be able to successfully build mass. One reason: In a calorie deficit, the body automatically draws on its own fat and protein reserves. This means that in order to cover the calorie requirement, the muscles are tapped: Muscle loss instead of muscle gain is the result in extreme cases. Then all the hard training would be completely pointless.
As part of a healthy diet, you should always make sure to eat carbohydrates with a low to medium glycemic index. If your goal is to gain mass, however, you should also eat high-glycemic foods, especially after training.(3) For background: The glycemic index (GI) indicates how strong the blood sugar-increasing effect of carbohydrate-containing foods is in percent. Foods with a low GI are digested more slowly. They provide more sustained satiety and supply the body with energy over a longer period of time – perfect for breakfast. Foods with a high GI, on the other hand, provide immediate power and replenish your energy reserves immediately after exercise. We recommend a healthy mix of low- and high-glycemic foods for your sports diet.
Recommended carbohydrate sources:
- Whole grain bread
- Durum wheat pasta
- Wild rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Bananas, oranges, apples, pears
- carrots, beet, peppers
- Dairy products
3.2 Proteins (15 to 25 percent)
With 4 kcal per 1 gram, protein is also an energy carrier. The decisive function, however, is a different one: Proteins are the basic building blocks of all body cells, including muscles. If you give everything in training, small injuries to the muscle cells occur. During regeneration, protein is needed for repair work. The proteins are deposited in the injured cells and your muscle fibers increase in size. Only when the cells’ needs are met, excess protein is used as an energy reserve.
The body forms proteins from 20 different amino acids, eight of which are essential. These essential amino acids (EAAs) must be taken in with food. The EAAs also include the BCAAs, which are indispensable for athletes. Because the amino acids leucine, valine and isoleucine go directly into the muscle tissue and help here directly in building and repair processes.
Because protein is so important for building muscle, you should optimally cover your protein requirements. According to the German Nutrition Society, adults should consume 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.(4) During the mass phase, however, you need more: 1.2 to 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight are optimal.
Make sure you have a balanced ratio of plant as well as animal sources of protein. Good sources are:
- lean meat
- Curd cheese or skyr
- Or our delicious protein bars
3.3 Fats (20 to 30 percent)
When it comes to fat, it’s all about quality. Fat is not just fat. Avoid trans fats and saturated fatty acids, which are often found in pastries, potato chips, chips, sausages and in too much butter and sunflower oil.
Instead, focus on unsaturated fatty acids and especially polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6. Both. They are essential, meaning the body can’t make them on its own.
Recommended fat sources:
- Linseed oil
- Olive oil
- Nuts (especially almonds and walnuts)
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Good to know: If you make sure to eat the right protein-rich and carbohydrate-rich foods, you’ll usually have your daily requirement of fats covered.
3.4 Micro nutrients
In addition to macros, your body needs a sufficient amount of micronutrients. These include vitamins and minerals, which are mainly found in fruits and vegetables. For a healthy diet, the German Nutrition Society recommends a daily consumption of 250 grams of fruit and 400 grams of vegetables.(5)
Here are the most important micronutrients you need for the goal of building muscle:
- Vitamins C, A and E support regeneration and healthy cell function. For example, contained in: Lemons, strawberries, watermelon, arugula, apples, oils, grains, nuts, carrots, spinach, tomatoes, red peppers, apricots.
- Vitamin B6 plays a key role in protein and fat metabolism. For example, contained in: Chicken meat, liver, beef fillet, mackerel, whole grain products, potatoes, legumes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, lamb’s lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, bananas, walnuts, peanuts.
- Vitamin K, together with vitamin D, is important for bones. For example, contained in: Sauerkraut, kimchi, liver, green vegetables.
- Iron is responsible for the transport of oxygen to the cells and supports energy production in the muscle cells. For example, contained in: Amaranth, lentils, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, millet, wheat bran, soybeans, pork liver, black currants, elderberries, carrots.
- Magnesium contributes to healthy functioning of muscle and nerve cells. For example, contained in: Bananas, potatoes, legumes, nuts, whole grains.
- Calcium regulates muscle contraction, among other things, and can prevent muscle cramps. For example, contained in: Almonds, hazelnuts, kale, dairy products.
- Potassium and sodium regulate fluid balance in the body. For example, contained in: Kohlrabi, carrots, pumpkin, fennel, legumes, cabbage, apricots, bananas, raspberries, honeydew melon, currants, kiwi.
- Zinc supports energy metabolism. For example, contained in: red meat, eggs, cheese, green vegetables, whole grain products.
Good to know: Especially during sweaty workouts, your body not only loses a lot of fluid, but also minerals. To balance the electrolyte balance, simply use our Hydration Tabs. They contain exactly the concentration of minerals that you leave on the track during a training session.
4. WHAT SUPPLEMENTS ARE GOOD FOR MUSCLE BUILDING?
Theoretically, you can get all the important macro- and micronutrients that support your muscle growth through a healthy diet. But for athletes in particular, the daily requirement increases due to the training workload. If you’re pursuing a specific fitness goal like muscle building, nutrition makes a real difference. In order not to miss any chance, dietary supplements are a useful support for your balanced diet.
To meet your protein needs, protein powders are ideal. We recommend a balanced distribution of protein intake throughout the day, ideally as a component in all your meals. For maximum success in muscle building, you can drink your Whey protein shake right after your workout. But also before the workout, directly in the morning, as a snack and on non-training days a protein shake fits.
As an athlete, you’ve probably heard of BCAAs. The abbreviation stands for the three amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. They have a catabolic effect. This means that they are not first metabolized by the liver, but immediately go into the muscles. They are a useful dietary supplement, especially during and after training, to replenish your energy reserves.
It is important that the supplement of your choice contains the ideal ratio (2:1:1) of BCAAs. Only then will the amino acids show the desired effect. For example, try our BCAA Drinbks in the convenient redy-to-drink can with the concentrated amino power for your training success.
- Training and nutrition are the cornerstones of successful muscle building.
- In order for your strength training to be successful, your body needs sufficient energy, which you must supply to it through food.
- Proteins play a key role in muscle building. They are the building materials of the cells and significantly support the growth of muscle fibers.
- Basically, a diet rich in protein and carbohydrates is recommended for the goal of muscle building. However, healthy fats should also be part of the diet plan.
- Make sure you cover all three macros with your meals.
- Important micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, which are found especially in fruits and vegetables, round out a healthy sports diet.
- To build muscle mass, a calorie surplus must be built up in phases. For the goal of muscle definition and fat loss, calorie intake should be reduced to a healthy level.
- To meet the daily needs of macro and micronutrients, supplements such as protein powders and BCAAs can be useful.
(1) P Makovický et al.: Short review of some properties of muscular proteins, über https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18630139/, Zugriff am 21.06.2022
(3) Shiou-Liang Wee et al.: Ingestion of a high-glycemic index meal increases muscle glycogen storage at rest but augments its utilization during subsequent exercise, über https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15831796/, Zugriff am 21.06.2022
(4) Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e.V.: Protein, über https://www.dge.de/wissenschaft/referenzwerte/protein/, Zugriff am 21.06.2022
(5) Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e.V.: 5 am Tag, über https://www.dge.de/ernaehrungspraxis/vollwertige-ernaehrung/5-am-tag/, Zugriff am 21.06.2022