Muscle Building Diet

Whether your goal is to build muscle mass, increase your bench press, or both, even the best training program will be worthless if you are not eating properly.

There is actually no one universal “best” muscle building diet; there are numerous approaches that work well. There are a myriad of approaches that can be effective, and you should choose the one that is most convenient for you. The key is simply following through, so whatever you like to do best should be your choice.

Stength Training Diet

Balanced Weight Training Diet

I will be adding more specifics on different approaches as time goes on, but for now, here are some factors which any effective muscle building diet should have.

The Three Keys of a Muscle Building Diet

All effective muscle-building diet plans have three major things in common: they focus on total number of calories, protein intake, and peri-workout nutrition. Below, I will expand upon these factors in further detail.

Total Number of Calories

No matter which way you divide your nutrients, what you eat, or when you eat it, you will at some point have to consume more calories then you burn in order to build muscle.

Building muscle is an calorically expensive pursuit. It is a very metabolically active and as a result it requires a lot of calories simply to maintain. It is estimated that every pound of muscle requires 10-12 calories a day to support assuming the person is doing absolutely no activity.

As a result, your body will not be inclined to start building muscle mass unless you are eating more calories then you are burning. It is basic thermodynamics: your body cannot create what it does not have.

Is it possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time? Certainly, but that also depends on a lot of factors aside from diet, such as current body fat, genetics and hormonal status. It is also a bit of a misnomer: building muscle and losing fat does not actually occur simultaneously but rather it relies on alternating between periods of caloric excess (building muscle) and caloric deficit (losing fat).

Protein Intake (for more information, see my How Much Protein to Build Musclearticle)

Another key feature of any muscle building diet is the amount of protein you are taking in. The relationship is clear: muscles are made primarily out of protein and water, so any muscle building diet will need to provide plenty of protein and water.

When you are weight training, your protein needs increase simply to maintain muscle mass, let alone build muscle. Weight training literally breaks muscle tissue down, so your body will be using protein to repair muscle.

Protein is also used by the body as a structural component in every practically all tissues and is also used to create enzymes and other necessary components for a living organism.

Both repairing muscle and maintaining body functions are a higher proriority for the body than building new muscle. As a result, you will need plenty of excess protein for muscle building to take place.

Any muscle building diet will need to account for this. Standard recommendations are anywhere from .8 grams per pound of bodyweight to 2 grams per pound of bodyweight, depending on a variety of factors.

Any very-low carb diet requires more protein than a high-carb diet. Carbohydrates result in more insulin and insulin helps your muscle cells absorb both carbs and protein more readily. Low-carb diets require more protein to meet both caloric needs and because the body does not process protein as efficiently in the absence of carbohydrate.

Additionally, as lifters become more advanced, recommended protein levels increase. More muscle mass means there are more muscle fibers that can be damaged and as a result the trainee needs to eat more protein to make up for this.

Trained muscle fibers produce more enzymes and are able to process proteins more efficiently than untrained cells. This allows a trained muscle fiber to use more protein, further increasing the protein needs of advanced trainees.

Complete newbies often will grow very rapidly on just 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight as long as they are eating plenty of calories.

Peri-Workout Nutrition

Due to a variety of factors both inside and outside of the cell, muscle cells are poised to absorb more nutrients during and after lifting weights. As a result, any muscle building diet should recommend taking in a lot of calories around the workout.

Some programs recommend taking in a lot of calories immediately prior to working out, so that nutrients are in the bloodstream when exercise is taking place. This is an effective approach if the lifter’s performance does not suffer due high blood sugar.

If you are wanting to build muscle as rapidly as possible, eat a decent-sized meal prior to lifting and then a very large meal after working out. The meal should be  igh in both protein and carbohydrates.

It is also beneficial to sip on a protein shake (perhaps with carbs depending on the lifter’s tolerance) immediately prior to and during the workout.


Just remember, no matter what muscle building diet you choose, be sure you are getting in a surplus of calories, enough protein, and are eating something around your workout. If you are following these 3 keys, you are guaranteed to build muscle!