A huge part of the muscle-building process is making sure that you’re getting the right amount of calories. Getting into a discussion on proper nutrition could take an entire book, but we’ll just hit a few highlights here.
Many people believe that to build a lot of muscle you need to be in a major calorie surplus. (Calorie surplus simply means daily caloric intake > daily caloric expenditure). However, studies have shown that a caloric surplus of 100 calories will build almost the same amount of muscle mass as a 500+ caloric surplus. The big difference between a slight caloric surplus and a large one? The amount of body fat gained is significantly higher with the larger surplus.
We’ve determined that efficient muscle building only takes a slight caloric surplus now, it’s time to talk about the types of calories you consume. There are three types of nutrients that make up the calories in your diet. These macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Let’s take a closer look at the role each one plays in the muscle-building process.
If you’ve read anything about muscle building before, then you know that protein is essential for the muscle-building process. Your body needs protein to build and repair tissue. Without protein, your body will begin to breakdown and stop functioning the way it should. The number of grams of protein you eat per day can vary, but experts typically agree that the ideal range is about .75 – 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight for optimal muscle growth.
Carbohydrates are another essential nutrient your body needs both to function, as well as to build muscle. Unfortunately, Carbs have been made out by many food companies and fitness individuals to be the bad guy. How many times have you heard that carbs will make you fat? This is not the case! You absolutely need carbohydrates to build muscle and stay healthy.
Carbohydrates can be broken down into two major categories:
- Complex Carbs
- Simple/Sugary Carbs
Simple carbohydrates are likely the source of the bad reputation that all carbs have. Simple carbs come in forms like sugars found in soda, fruit juice concentrate, most breakfast cereals, and packaged cookies, which the body quickly burns and then needs more fuel to continue functioning. This quick burning of simple carbs leads you to continuously eat more and more which in turn spikes your calorie count for the day. However, if you focus on eating slower-burning complex carbohydrates like whole grains, nuts, vegetables, and beans, your body will be able to sustain itself on fewer calories.
The reason carbohydrates are needed to optimize muscle building is that your body uses carbohydrates as fuel for performance. You will likely notice better performance in the gym after eating a meal containing carbohydrates and, when you can work out at a higher intensity, you will notice increased muscle and strength gain.
Fat is probably the most misunderstood of all the macronutrients. The name itself implies that it will make you fat when, in actuality, this is very far from the truth. Over the years many bodybuilding programs have promoted a low-fat diet. This isn’t because the fat in and of itself is a bad nutrient; the reason for cutting down on fat in a diet is that it is the most calorie-dense of the macronutrients.
Both carbohydrates and protein contain four calories per gram. However, fat contains more than double that amount at nine calories per gram. Because of this, diets that contain a lot of fat will also contain a lot more calories. Unfortunately, cutting fat out of your diet can be extremely unhealthy as it is one of the most important nutrients for proper brain function, good digestion, and healthy testosterone levels (all vital in the muscle-building process).
Because fats are so much more calorie-dense than carbs and proteins, the number of grams you should eat will be significantly fewer. However, you should aim to take about 35% of your daily calories from fat. With the proper intake of calories from fat, you will look and feel healthier and build muscle at a good pace.
There is so much more when it comes to getting the proper nutrients. This is just meant to get you started and introduce you to the importance of proper nutrition in the muscle-building process. Hopefully, this article helps you optimize your diet to get the results you’re looking for in the gym!
If you’re looking to optimize your time in the gym with some professional personal training, or you need to stock your in-home gym with high-quality equipment, Balance Fitness can help you with all your fitness goals! Give us a call or contact us online to talk with an expert about how we can help you today!