Are You Eating for Muscle?

How you eat determines muscle growth

When it comes to eating for muscle there are a few things often misunderstood in the process. Creating muscle definition is hard work and requires excellent nutrition to make it happen. It will be important to know the common mistakes made and move right into solution mode to avoid the pitfalls and get you on the road to right nutrition and results. 

The Problem:

Woman pouring salad dressing over salad
Milos Ljubicic/Stocksy United

Going on a diet: Dieting is probably the worst mistake made when trying to build lean mass (muscle). In fact, the body will seek out energy sources to consume when calories are restricted. Guess what, muscle equals fuel to your body and ripe for the feasting when caloric intake is deprived. In addition, survival mode will spark fat stores and leave you wondering what the heck happened.   

Not eating enough protein: Protein is an essential macronutrient needed for muscle growth and repair, and not supplying enough will leave lean mass (muscle) screaming for attention. 

Restricting carbs: Carbohydrates are important macronutrients providing energy for those tough workouts and also recovery of glycogen (energy stores). Taking carbs out of your daily food intake will diminish your athletic performance and leave your muscles struggling for nutrients. 

Not eating fats: Healthy fats help boost metabolism and regulate hormone function. Keeping healthy fats from your nutrition is robbing your body of peak performing to grow muscle and lose fat. The old saying “eating fat makes you fat” is a myth and definitely not any friend to improved muscle definition.

The Solution:

Eat for Muscle
Proper Nutrition Feeds the Muscles for Work and Growth. Cultura RM Exclusive/Core/Getty Images

Toss the diet and eat for muscle. Our bodies need food to function efficiently, and when the demands of weight training and cardio are added to the program, this is no time to consider some sort of diet leaving your muscles flat and energy tanked. With all the “quick fix” diets handed to us daily, it will be important not to get caught up in that ugly temptation. Eating like a bird and following fads is not going to get you the muscle definition you seek. Lean mass gains come from quality lean proteins, healthy carbs, good fats, and lots of water consumed throughout the day to achieve your best body. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) indicates eating too little metabolizes (eats away) muscle while storing fat.   

Eat protein to support your muscle mass. Protein is made up of amino acids that help with cellular function and muscle repair. Amino acids need to be available for muscle metabolism (energy) and for ongoing anabolism (muscle growth). It will be the sufficient amount of protein intake that will keep our bodies in a positive amino acid balance to build muscle. A decline in the balance will mean a breakdown in muscle tissue. The American College of Sports Medicine has addressed protein requirements for optimal muscle growth and maintenance in addition to a complete physical activity program guideline.

Eat carbs to fuel your muscle building workouts and keep blood sugar levels stable all day. Consuming quality carbs like veggies, fruits, and grains in proper portions doesn’t promote fat gain as the mainstream person may think, but provides superior fuel for hard workouts and well-defined muscle. There is a difference between “good and bad” carbohydrates and it will be in the nutrient dense carbs that your body scores the good stuff. As exercise demands increase so does the need for carbohydrates (CHO) and they have a very important job of restoring muscle glycogen (stored form of energy) after exhausting workouts. The American College of Sports Medicine provides a complete Basic Nutrition Guide for Athletes that includes the carb requirements for maintaining lean mass (muscle).

Eat healthy fats to help hormonal function, especially testosterone for growing muscle. Did you know fat supplies 70 percent of our energy at rest? Also, essential fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are obtained by eating healthy fat. Fat should not get a bad rap and has an important function of padding and protecting our vital organs. Our bodies do not run efficiently without adequate fat intake and similar to carbs, when physical demands from workouts increase so does our need for more fat. Eating healthy fat in proper portion does not make you fat but is an important macronutrient the body requires to build beautiful muscle. The American College of Sports Medicine provides a complete Basic Nutrition Guide for Athletes that includes the fat requirements for maintaining lean mass (muscle).

More on how to eat for muscle: 

Calculate Your Caloric Requirements in “A 3500 Calorie Deficit Burns a Pound of Fat, Right?”

When We Cause Metabolic Damage and How to Fix It

Taking Your Fitness to the Next Level? Complete Nutrition Contest Preparation Recommendations

How to Build Muscle on a Budget

Feeding Your Muscles: When You Eat Matters as Much as What You Eat

How to Time My Nutrients for Lean Mass

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