When you are trying to build muscle, your diet is probably one of the most integral parts of your regime. Apart from the fact that you have to do the actual work to build muscle, you also have to ensure that you are getting the right nutrients for muscle gain. Obvious to state, the amount of protein is important, however, protein isn’t the only thing that your body needs. We have some tips on cooking for weight lifters, that would help you better design your meals in order to reap the most benefits from your workouts.
Apart from meal plans, we’ll look into the specificities of breakfast, lunch and dinner. What are the foods that you should include in your diet, even if you are on a budget. We will also highlight briefly the type of food that you should avoid. This way, you would have a good overall idea with regards to how you should go about cooking to reap the best results from weight training.
Planning Meals for Muscle Gain: Food to Focus On
When you consider the various meals that you would be eating throughout the day, there are certain things that you should remember when trying to bulk up or cut muscle. The only difference in diet between bulking up and cutting is the amount of food that you would intake.
If you are looking to bulk up, you would simply have to eat a portion larger than you normally would. While if you are looking to chisel your muscles or cut them, you would require a smaller portion.
However, when it comes to meal planning, there are certain foods that you should focus on and include in your diet in good proportions. These foods that you should focus on include,
- Meat, fish and poultry: Protein is the essential building block of muscles, hence a good amount of meat, fish or poultry should be included in your diet as a reliable protein source. This would include pork tenderloin, sirloin steak, ground beef, salmon and cod to cite a few.
- Dairy: A reliable healthy fat source is another requirement for bodybuilders. Not just that, but dairy contains a wholesome amount of calcium which is important for strong bones. Never underestimate the importance of strong bones in building muscle; your bones have to be strong enough to lift the heavy weights. Incorporate cheese, yoghurt and low-fat milk into your meals.
- Grains: Carbohydrates are not your foe when you are trying to build muscle. This is because you need a reliable energy source that you can rely upon for both exertion and the prevention of exhaustion. Weight training can be exhausting and if you don’t have enough energy, you will find yourself weak during your reps. Try to include bread, rice or cereal into your diet. You would also benefit from eating oatmeal. Read our article on ‘Is Oatmeal Better Pre-Workout or Post-Workout? The Truth About Oatmeal and Your Workouts.’
- Vegetables: You should look to include a good amount of starchy vegetables into your diet. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn and green peas are an excellent source of clean energy, which will ensure your energy levels stay at optimum levels. Further to starchy vegetables, try to include other vegetables into your diet such as broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, green beans and cucumber. A good amount of vegetables in your diet will ensure that you have a good amount of fibre intake, which is important for muscle maintenance and of course digestion.
- Fruits: Fibre is important for your overall wellbeing and a healthy gut. Don’t just focus on the protein. In fact, a high protein diet is more prone to constipation, which is why you require a good amount of fibre in your diet to prevent that. Add plenty of fruit into your diet for fibre, antioxidants and vitamins; bananas, grapes, peaches, oranges and apples all work well.
- Seeds and Nuts: If you are looking to snack between meals, don’t reach for junk food, instead opt for healthy snacks such as seeds and nuts. Flax seeds and chia seeds are great additions to breakfast meal plans and walnuts, almonds and peanuts all provide your body with essential nutrients, all of which are important in maintaining optimum muscle health.
- Beans and Legumes: Beans are an excellent source of carbohydrates. Much like starchy vegetables, beans and legumes provide your body with the necessary energy to burn through those reps. So be sure to add kidney beans, black beans, lentils and chickpeas into the mix.
- Oils: If you are a bodybuilder, then sore muscles are a common thing. This is why oils such as avocado oil, olive oil and flaxseed oil are so important. These oils help reduce muscle soreness and can help aid muscle strength. Hence, be sure to sprinkle some oil on your dishes as you plan your meals.
When planning meals for muscle gain, you have to ensure that you are getting a well-rounded, balanced diet incorporating all these elements that we have set out on this list. You should focus on all the various components of the list and not just on protein. This way, you would find your meals more enjoyable, since they include more components and you are less likely to get bored since you won’t be eating the same thing again and again.
Now that we know the types of food to include in your meal plans, let’s dive a little deeper and look at what is considered a good meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner for muscle building.
What is a Good Breakfast for Muscle Building?
A good breakfast for muscle building will include a mix of carbohydrates, protein, fibre and fat. This will ensure that your muscles are sufficiently fueled for the day’s workout. Meals such as eggs and avocado toast, peanut butter and raisin oatmeal or bacon, eggs and sourdough toast are all considered good breakfast ideas for muscle building.
Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. Whether you choose to workout on an empty stomach in the morning or a few hours after breakfast, it is the most important meal of the day. With protein being a necessary component of a bodybuilding diet, you should try to include some protein into your breakfast. However, what is more important is the carbohydrate source of your breakfast.
A breakfast containing a good amount of healthy carbohydrates will give you the energy that you need to tackle the day. If you are looking to add an intense workout session or even go for a run, you would need those carbohydrates. This is why we don’t recommend that you simply eat a steak for breakfast. Now, I know, there are people who only eat eggs in the morning. That being the case, if you are serious about muscle building, you would opt to add some fruit in there, maybe a banana, or some avocado toast.
A protein smoothie also works really well for mornings and provides your body with a healthy amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Hence, if you are short on time in the morning and are looking for easy breakfast ideas, it doesn’t really get easier than a protein smoothie.
What is a Good Lunch for Muscle Building?
A good lunch for bodybuilders will typically include a staple protein source. Tuna, chicken, ground beef, turkey, salmon are all great sources of protein. You could also complement the primary protein in your lunch with a carbohydrate such as bread or rice. Shrimp and chickpea salad, turkey parmesan burgers or tuna salad sandwiches are all great ideas for lunch.
If you workout during the morning, then you would have probably caused your muscles to tear and wear, which is why for lunch, you have to rely on a staple protein source. A good amount of protein will enable you to rebuild those muscles. That being the case, do not underestimate the importance of carbohydrates. Your body would require energy to repair the muscles, which is why a portion of carbohydrates should be included in the meal.
Though lunch can be a busy time for many people, making a tuna sandwich really doesn’t take much time. Either that or you could mop up a nice shrimp salad, both of which would provide you with the necessary protein and some carbohydrates to replenish your energy levels.
As a word of warning, we do not recommend that you overdo the carbohydrates unless of course, you include a whole lot of cardio into your workout. Carb loading can have detrimental effects on your body when you are trying to build muscle, hence be wary of the amount of carbohydrates you intake. That being the case, lunch is a great time to get a good amount of carbohydrates from rice, bread or even starchy vegetables. Hence be sure to add a reliable carbohydrate source to your lunch meal plan.
Lunch is also a great time to enjoy some nuts and fruits. So if you can, finish off your meal with an apple or some grapes and a few almonds. These tiny additions will work to provide your body with essential nutrients, which do wonders when it comes to recovery, furtherance and motivation.
What is a Good Dinner For Muscle Building?
To build muscle, you would have to ensure that you have a good protein source for dinner. Poultry, meat and fish should be a primary portion for dinner, complemented by a serving of fat (oil, yoghurt, nuts) and fibre. You can also include healthy carbohydrates such as vegetables. Rice, bread and other complex carbohydrates are best left for breakfast and lunch and are better left out from dinner.
Regardless of whether you are looking to bulk up or shred muscle, dinner is a good time to eat protein. This is because it is towards the end of the day and you don’t actually require unnecessary carbohydrates. On the contrary, when it comes to building muscle, as mentioned, you would require a good amount of protein to repair the muscles and build them from the day’s workout.
Hence, ensuring that you get a good amount of protein before bed will ensure that your body has the necessary nutrients to heal and recover in terms of muscle. Beans are also a good source of protein and quite easily supplement a whole portion of meat, fish or poultry.
As an addition to the perfect dinner, you could add some fruits and nuts into the mix. As mentioned prior, fruits and nuts contain essential vitamins and minerals, that are all important in maintaining overall wellbeing. Hence don’t overlook this element of a perfect meal.
Cheap Body Building Meal Plan
Eggs, ground beef, milk, potatoes, bananas and oats would be the most affordable foods to include in your meal plan for gaining muscle. Muscle building doesn’t have to be expensive. All you need is reliable protein sources, some healthy fats and starchy vegetables.
First and foremost, source reliable protein sources that you can afford. You don’t have to spend money on expensive seafood, you can opt for ground beef which is an excellent source of protein. In fact, if you are looking to build muscle on a budget, think of the various ways you can cook and prepare ground beef. This would work well for dinner and even lunch sometimes.
Let’s look at this systematically. What would you eat for breakfast? Well, you can try a tuna sandwich, oatmeal or even eggs and bananas. These all provide your body with a healthy amount of both protein and carbohydrates, which are necessary to jumpstart your day. If you feel like you don’t have time to cook, then remember whey protein and milk work really well together to mop up a healthy smoothie.
When it comes to lunch, opt for something a little heavier, such as potatoes or rice and combine it with a good protein source such as tuna or ground beef. You don’t have to opt for turkey and can instead rely on affordable chicken. Opt for vegetables such as tomatoes and spinach, anything on the more affordable end, and combine it with a protein source for a healthy lunch.
Lastly, when it comes to dinner, you have to make protein your primary ingredient, hence opt for a reliable protein source, such as ground beef or chicken and pair it with a salad and some fruit. This way, you get a good amount of protein and a healthy amount of fibre.
Bodybuilding can be expensive considering the amount of protein you would be eating. However, if you stick to more affordable types of meat such as ground beef and chicken, you should be able to eat well on a budget.
Muscle Building Foods
After reading this word to word, you should now have a good idea about what foods are good for muscle building. However, we thought it would be beneficial to expand on the types of food that are considered best for building muscle. We will also look at the types of food to avoid, next. First however, what are the foods that are best for muscle building?
When it comes to building muscle, you need sources of high-protein, which is where your primary intentions may be. However, your diet should include a good amount of protein as well as carbohydrates, fats and fibre. Again, don’t underestimate carbohydrates and fats, as they are integral energy sources. However, remember the importance of protein in your diet to ensure that you repair and build muscle.
There are certain foods that are considered the best when it comes to gaining muscle. They are all mostly high-protein sources. Eggs, chicken breast, salmon, tuna, lean beef, shrimp, turkey breast and tilapia are all reliable sources of protein for your diet. Hence if you are looking to build muscle, include as many of these sources as you can into your diet.
Remember we said that carbohydrates and fats should not be underestimated, well this is true. You should remember to add healthy fat sources such as milk, cottage cheese and soybeans, all of which contains a wholesome amount of proteins in combination with essential fats.
When it comes to carbohydrates, include starchy vegetables such as potatoes and beans. Beans are an excellent source of both carbohydrates and protein, hence should not be forgotten.
Food to Avoid When Building Muscle
Alcohol and added sugars are two of the primary things you should look to avoid when building muscle. Further to this, steer clear of deep-fried foods such as fried fish, french fries and chicken strips.
Fried food is known to promote inflammation and can cause disease when eaten in excess. Though you may assume that because you are a weight lifter, you can eat any deep-fried meat, you are deeply wrong. Though deep-fried meats contain protein and can be considered a treat, it is something that you should look to avoid to prevent further complications from arising. After all, your goal should be to stay healthy, not just build muscle.
Alcohol as mentioned first is one of the first things that you should avoid if you want to get serious about gaining muscle. This is because alcohol can negatively affect your body’s ability to build muscle. It can also hamper your body’s ability to burn fat. Hence, when consuming alcohol, always stick to moderation and avoid if possible.
When it comes to added sugars, the truth is plain and simple. They basically provide your body with unnecessary amounts of calories and very few nutrients. Food such as candy, cookies, doughnuts, ice cream, soda and even sports drinks should be avoided to prevent the hampering effect of added sugar on muscle building. These added sugars only cause sugar spikes in your body and have no real value in terms of nutrients.
As a word of warning, you should also look to avoid certain types of food before going to the gym. This is because these foods can cause slow digestion which can result in stomach upsetting during your workout. Food containing high fat such as buttery food and high-fat meats should be avoided before a workout. This also goes for high-fibre foods such as beans and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli. As already mentioned on the list of things you should avoid altogether, you should also avoid drinking carbonated beverages before going to the gym, including sparkling water.
Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat Ratios for Muscle Building
Now that you are aware of the types of food that you should include in your diet and what to avoid, let’s dive a little deeper and understand the ratios of macro-nutrients that you would need to bulk up or shred muscle.
As mentioned prior, based on whether you are looking to bulk up or shred (cut) muscle, the portions of food would vary. This doesn’t only apply to the portions of the meal, however should be something of focus for the design of the meal in itself.
As a general rule, whether you are looking to bulk up or shred muscle, you should look to get,
- 30-35% of your calories from protein
- 55-60% of your calories from carbohydrates
- 15-30% of your calories from fat
So what does this translate to, in terms of grams? The table below should clarify.
Source: Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation
Hence, when preparing your meals, remember the portions of proteins, carbohydrates and fats recommended and ensure that you get enough of all three nutrients from your diet.
Cooking for Weight Lifters
They say that 80% of bodybuilding is nutrition and this is entirely a 100% truth. You have to ensure that you are eating right and getting all the nutrients that your body needs, thereby ensuring optimum results.
With a good portion of protein, carbohydrates and fats in your diet, you can ensure results. As mentioned within this article, there are some foods that are considered really beneficial and certain types of food you should really focus on. Simultaneously, there are certain foods that you should not include in your diet before a workout and some you should look to avoid altogether.
All in all, if you stick to the food sources that we have set forth in this article and put the work in, you should notice results. Remember to stick to the recommended portions of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, since eating too little protein or too many carbohydrates could have detrimental effects on results.
We hope that reading this word to word has informed you of the best nutrition practices to incorporated into weight lifting. We hope that you found this article insightful and useful and that we were able to provide you with a reliable source!
Happy Muscle Building!