A Stupid Simple 3 Step Guide to Creating a Muscle Building Diet
You don’t have to be a veteran to the muscle building game to have heard of strategies such as calorie counting, food weighing and other seemingly tedious ways to track food intake in order to pack on lean muscle mass. Using weight scales, measuring cups and taking exact measurements is common practice amongst those in pursuit of a better physique.
But is this so-called perfect science really so perfect?
Is this practice right for everyone? Is it right for you or does it get a little too daunting, leaving you constantly measuring everything to a T wondering what it’s like to have a life outside of the kitchen? What about preparing, pre-measuring and not to mention the stress of having exact numbers with you at all times? It can honestly get a bit overwhelming and cause you to stumble, fall and eventually quit.
I want to present to you a different way – an easier way to manage your muscle-building diet without spending your day worrying over miniscule calculations and minute details. I want you to stop sweating over the small stuff and finally get to a point to where you can start to learn about what your gym efforts and body really need to perform optimally. After all, the more you truly learn how much of what your body needs the better prepared you’ll be without the stress.
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Below is an easy 3-step guide to take the pressure off of trying to achieve the perfect diet. Each step is designed to guide you through the simple process of building your diet without the stress of using the scale or being exact on every calculation.
At first, these steps may seem a bit too simplistic and you may have heard of a few of these before. I’m not here to tout that this is the absolute best practice for everyone but it will get most of you started in the right direction.
Creating a Muscle Building Diet
Step one: Adopt a new way to measure
It’s time to go mobile. Believe it or not, you will be using your hand to roughly measure out servings per meal of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat). Since everyone’s hand is a different size it will be somewhat proportionate and relative to you personally when portioning out servings. If you just so happen to have big hands then lucky you. Below is a quick guide when selecting serving sizes.
At this point you may feel a bit apprehensive of this first step. How in the world will using your hands to measure out nutrient servings work? No worries. Soon, I’ll show you how to adjust if necessary. Again, these rudimentary portion sized don’t have to be exact. Caloric and nutrient needs fluctuate every day so don’t feel pressured to be perfect.
Below is a quick guide when selecting serving sizes.
- Protein serving: 2 palm-sized portions with each meal.
- Carbohydrate serving: 2 cupped hands of starchy carbohydrates and 2 fist-sized portions of vegetables with each meal.
- Fats serving: 2 thumb-sized portions with each meal.
- Protein serving: 1 palm-sized portion with each meal.
- Carbohydrate serving: 1 cupped hand of starchy carbohydrates and 1 fist-sized portion of vegetables with each meal.
- Fats serving: 1 thumb-sized portion with each meal.
Step two: Choose your macronutrients
Next, you will choose your macronutrients from a list of foods. Below is a short list of some of the best options available. This isn’t an exhaustive list as you may have some you favor over ones you refuse to stomach so feel free to add in some healthy personal choices.
Try avoiding highly processed carbs and hydrogenated fats. These will wreak havoc on your efforts. Also, try eating the majority of protein sources from whole food varieties. Supplements are great for quick and easy fixes but relying on them too much won’t produce the type of muscle gain you’re after.
Protein sources: Lean ground beef and turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, beans, legumes, and whey and casein protein powders.
Carbohydrate sources: Starches: Oats, sweet and white potatoes, whole grain breads and pastas, brown and white rice.
Fruits and vegetables: Apples, oranges, all types of berries, spinach, green beans, broccoli, tomatoes, etc.
Fat sources: All types of nuts and seeds, natural nut butters, olive oil, flax oil, avocado, and fish oil.
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Step three: Plan your meals
To keep things simple, start your new muscle-building diet with 3 meals per day and two smaller snacks. The above guidelines should be applied to your three main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) plus you will eat one small afternoon snack and one post-workout shake when necessary.
Feel free to adjust portions according to your training needs. For non-training days simply skip the post-workout shake.
Afternoon snack: 1 palm-sized, easily digestible protein or 1 or 2 scoops of quality protein powder shake mixed with water and 1 piece of fruit.
Post-workout shake: water or milk with 1 or 2 scoops of quality whey protein powder mixed with fruit and one serving of healthy fats.
Sample muscle-building eating plan
- Breakfast: Oatmeal mixed with skim milk, 5 eggs (2 yolks and 5 whites) scrambled with spinach, peppers and onions
- Lunch: Chicken breast on wheat bread with cheese slices or with 1 sweet potato, mixed nuts and an apple
- Afternoon snack: Natural Greek yogurt and berries
- Post-workout: Muscle building recovery shake (whey, fruit, natural peanut butter)
- Dinner: Grouper or salmon fillet, wild rice, salad with added veggies and oil-based dressing
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Frequently Asked Questions
Is this enough food? What about the whole five to seven meals per day plans?
This plan sets up a rough guideline to get you started. Eating three main meals full of the right amounts of macronutrients, one smaller snack and a post-workout recover shake will set the stage to begin with. Later, you can adjust portion sizes up or down regarding your specific goals.
Think of this plan as your starting line. Simple is better without all the confusing guidelines set out requiring a calculator. Plus, imagine having to prepare and eat seven or more meals per day. No thanks.
How do I increase or decrease overall calories if I need to?
You can increase or decrease overall calories in two ways. To increase you can either simply add an additional or half of a whole-food meal daily or increase portion sizes of protein and/or carbohydrate to each meal by 50% or more. For example (for men), you could add a meal with one palm size of protein and one full handful of carbs.
To decrease calories, simply cut 2 starchy carbohydrate portions in half or eliminate starches from one meal entirely (preferably at night). Experiment with one or the other to see which works best for you.
I need to lose weight but can’t seem to drop anymore weight. What do I do?
If you find that you have followed the plan closely and have plateaued or are struggling over a period of time try replacing a portion or two of starchy carbohydrates with more servings of vegetables. Veggies are filling and you can almost eat as much as you want, especially during fat-loss diets. You’ll feel fuller, longer without that empty feeling. Also, be sure to keep water intake high as well.
Can I have a cheat day?
Yes. Since the diet plan includes plenty of healthy foods and little-to-no sugars and highly-refined carbs and you are progressing at a slow and even pace, a cheat meal is definitely in the picture. Just make sure it’s for one day and only a maximum of 2 meals. Don’t go overboard with an all-weekend binge. But enjoy for those two meals and have whatever you want.
What about supplements?
The plan does mention casein and whey protein powder as protein options for your snacks and the post-workout shake, however, don’t get into the habit of taking too many supplements at once. How will you know which worked and which didn’t? Also, the over reliance on supplements will yield little benefit. Nothing beats whole food meals with natural sources of macro and micro nutrients.
What about alcohol?
It is recommended that alcohol consumption be kept to a minimum, moderation is the key. As some forms are beneficial to overall health (red wine has many pluses) never overindulge. Only you will know how your body handles which amounts. If you are the type who likes to party on weekends and imbibe a little too much, then stop.
Too much alcohol robs your muscles of precious recovery abilities by blunting protein synthesis (a vital muscle building process) and dehydrating muscle cells among other things. Again, infrequent moderation (if that’s your choice) is the way to go.