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The Ultimate Muscle Building Meal Plan

Written by Muscle Food PT Steve Ahern

Muscle Food PT: Steve Ahern

Nutrition is the key to your physique goals. Whether you wish to lose weight, build muscle or just maintain your fine tuned body, you need to have a goal-specific meal plan to get the best results.

However, sometimes sorting out your own meal plan can be a little bit of a bore, especially if you haven’t a clue where to start!

That’s why we’ve created this Building Muscle Template to help you achieve your muscle bound potential, along with general guidelines to help you eat the right amount of calories, carbs, protein and fat you should be consuming each day.

First Things First… Your Kitchen

You need to stock that bad boy up with plenty of nutritious wholefoods, which can be used to transform your meals from drab to fab, and to prevent snacking on unhealthy foods that could derail your diet. Here’s an example grocery list:

  • Starches: Quinoa, Sweet Potatoes, White Potatoes, Brown Rice, Whole-wheat Pasta
  • Protein: Chicken Breast Fillets, Protein Powders, Whole Eggs, Liquid Egg Whites, Fish, Greek yoghurt
  • Fruit & Veg: Berries, Bananas, Tropical Fruits, Lots of Green Veg, Beans & Legumes, Avocado
  • Oils: Use sparingly, Teaspoons over Tablespoons – Coconut Oil, Olive Oil
  • Snacks: Nuts & Seeds

Top 5 nutrition tips

1. Eat regularly

Never let your body get into hunger mode. If you do, you’re more likely to snack on food lacking in nutrition. By eating regularly you’ll keep your blood sugar levels under control and fuel your metabolism.

2. Cut the processed food

Processed foods tend to be high calorie and nutrient poor so you’re best to opt for wholefoods for maximum nutrition.

3. Drink like a fish

Hydration is incredibly important. When you’re well hydrated you’ll perform better in the gym, maintain focus and may even feel less hungry…

4. Carb strategy

Carbs are not your enemy but you should eat them strategically. For instance, starchy carbs are perfect pre or post workout as they provide quick energy and replenish glycogen stores fast. Non-starchy carbs can be enjoyed at any time, as they won’t spike blood sugar levels.

5. Lean protein

Protein not only helps your muscles grow and recover, but it satiates hunger and fires up your metabolism too. Best sources are lean beef, chicken, turkey, fish and low fat dairy options. For quick protein hits, protein shakes are great.

How to build muscle

Now I’ve the basics out of the way, it’s time to get down and dirty with the ideal of building muscle.

Essentially, building muscle requires two things:

  • Progressive overload in the gym, i.e. lifting more weight for more reps over time.
  • A calorie surplus whereby you eat more calories than you burn.

It’s also very important you consume enough protein to repair your “damaged” muscle tissue post workout and that you sleep as this is when your body gets to work building and growing.

The Importance of Macronutrients

Macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats which, when combined, add up to the total amount of calories you should eat per day.

Protein, as you know, repairs the damage inflicted on your muscles in the gym. It is the building blocks of muscle.

Carbohydrates provide energy. They are the body’s main source of fuel and can be broke into two categories, High GI and low GI carbs. High GI carbs are absorbed and used quickly, low GI provide prolonged energy release.

Fats are also a source of energy. The body defers to fat when carbohydrates are not available. They also absorb and use certain nutrients and help maintain your body’s equilibrium

Tracking these is very important when bulking as you want to be in enough of a calorie surplus to gain muscle, but no so much that you’ll gain too much fat. However, you must be aware that to bulk up you will naturally gain a little bit of fat, which is where the cut comes in after…

A simple way to calculate your macronutrient breakdown is to use the following formula:

1. BMR

This is your basal metabolic rate, which is how many calories your body needs on a daily basis just to perform normal functions like breathing.

For Men
  • BMR = 66 + (13.7 X weight in kg) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.8 x age in years)
For Women
  • BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weigh in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in years)

2. Now, adjust this to suit your activity level


  • Sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2
  • Lightly active (easy exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
  • Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 4-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
  • Very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725
  • Extremely active (very hard exercise/sports and physical job): BMR x 1.9

3. Add on Required Calorie Surplus

E.g. to gain 1kg of muscle per month you will need a surplus of 440 calories per day.

4. Now, Calculate Protein Intake

You should aim for approximately 2g per kg or body weight.

5. Calculate your Fat Intake

You should aim for 20-30% of your daily calories allowance.

6. Calculate your Carbohydrate Intake

This should be whatever protein and fats do not take up.

Note:

This example plan is for someone who trains in the afternoon, but if you workout in the morning or evening, simply rearrange so your starchy meals come in just before of after your session.

Example Meal Plan

When it comes to building muscle, carbs and calories are your friends, but this isn’t an excuse to eat whatever you fancy, whenever you fancy it! Rather try to eat enough high-quality, nutrient dense carbs around the times your body will need them most like around your workouts.

If you train in the morning or late evening, simply rearrange your meals so you are consuming a higher carb meal around the time of your workout to ensure your energy stores are replenished.

Meal 1: Egg Breakfast

Meal 2: Protein Shake

Meal 3: Chicken Pasta

Meal 4: 30 Minutes Pre Workout

Meal 5: Intra workout (Optional)

Meal 7: Steak Dinner

This is just a rough guideline as what works for one person may not work for you so tinker about until your find something that is sustainable for you, and as always, nutritious, high quality food is essential.


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