When we think about muscle growth, we typically think about lifting heavy at the gym, but nutrition is just as, if not MORE important! If you are not paying attention to it, you will hold back your gains. While training clients over the years I have found common themes in the mistakes people make when it comes to eating for muscle growth, so I figured I would share them with you. Get ready to take some mental notes because if YOU are making these mistakes, you will not grow as much as you could!
1. Not Eating Enough
For you to grow muscle, you have to give your body the building blocks to support growth! I do not care how hard you work at the gym, if you are not eating enough calories; it is just not going to happen.
I know in the past I have talked about and disproven the myth that weight training will stunt your growth, but I want to make it VERY clear for the young people watching this video that it is actually lack of food that will affect your growth, not lifting!
Will Weight Training Stunt Your Growth?
My recommendation is to find out your BMR, which is the amount of calories your body needs just to maintain its normal functions, and consume 250 to 500 calories above your BMR. The mealplan section of MuscularStrength.com has a BMR calculator for those of you who need help with the calculation.
Now notice that I did not say: go eat everything in sight to fill your calories for the day! You have to eat above your maintenance calories but in a CONTROLLED MANNER and with the right ratio of protein, carbs and fat. The site calculator will give you a breakdown of those numbers as well.
Remember guys, you do not want to gain too much fat because that will be detrimental to your muscle growth and you can check out the video below to see what gaining too much fat does to your muscle gains!
BULKING: You Are Doing It WRONG! (STOP WASTING TIME!)
2. Not Eating Enough Fat!
This may surprise you, but fat is VERY important! Fats get a bad reputation, but they are not the bad guy if you are eating them in the right amounts! I have seen people on YouTube teaching their communities, for the most part, to almost completely cut fat from their diets and that is LUDICROUS!
If anything should set off alarm bells in your brain about the advice someone is giving you, this is it!
Did you know that saturated fat promotes the transport of cholesterol into your testicles so it can be used to MAKE testosterone? Cholesterol is the main “ingredient” used to make testosterone and testosterone is key for muscle growth! If you cut fat too much from your diet, you are not only jeopardizing your gains in the gym but also your “manhood” in the bedroom!
Keep in mind that unsaturated or the so called “good fats” are very important for your overall health as well. The ideal ratio is to have 13% of your total calories come from good fats or unsaturated fats, like olive oil and salmon, and 7% of your total calories should be made up of saturated fats which I mostly get from coconut oil. Not too much or too little, you need to do it just right!
3. Not Eating Quality Foods
Sorry if this is bad news for you, but I am not a believer in eating junk food for gains. As much as ignorant people preach that a carbs is a carbs whether it came from cake or oatmeal, vitamins and minerals are critical for many of the processes that affect muscle growth! They affect things like nutrient absorption and hormone level regulation which includes one of the most critical hormones for gains, testosterone! Also, you are not going to find fiber, vitamins and minerals in junk food.
The other piece of information you should know is that processed foods, refined sugar and all those additives affect not only your testosterone levels, but totally throw off your endocrine system as well.
For those of you who do not know, the endocrine system regulates your hormone levels and balanced hormones are key for building muscle and also losing fat!
I personally do not get lean just for the summer or for a specific purpose like a competition or photo shoot. I like to be lean all year round and get a lot of backlash for not being “huge” but I prefer to be proportional and aesthetic. I like to be able to step into a pool party in Vegas ANY TIME of the year and look awesome and have abs! I achieve this by making good choices the vast majority of the time, not by bulking and getting fatty and then depleting myself to look lean.
I eat a lot of chicken, fish, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, eggs, broccoli... etc. There is no mystery or magic formula; it simply comes down to good old nutritious food. Now, I am not saying live like a slave and never eat the foods you like because I do not do that myself. Nobody can live a life of misery. But if you want to look good all the time, pick out good foods most of the time and let yourself have a treat here or there. It is all about consistency. Two slices of apple pie in a week will not destroy your physique, but two slices every day will.
4. Not Eating Enough Carbs
People in general seem to be afraid of carbs, but they are absolutely necessary! Unless you are at peak week prepping for a contest, you should be eating your carbs daily! Carbs give you the energy to lift heavy so you can grow!
But carbs do more than just give you energy, they also help with muscle growth. Studies have shown that you grow MORE muscle when you eat carbs AND protein after a workout versus only eating protein. The other piece of info you should know is that some of the enzymes that help you utilize fat as a source of energy when exercising (which help you burn fat and grow lean) are derivatives of carbohydrates.
Hopefully by now, you see how carbs are important and by carbs, I mean good quality carbs! Not cake and cookies! Focus on eating complex carbs which are those who are made of big complex molecules that take longer for your body to break down so you do not cause insulin spikes. Controlling insulin is important so you grow lean. Examples of good carbs are sweet potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain pasta and beans.
If you want to learn how to calculate the amount of carbs you need, you can watch the video below or go to the calculator on the mealplan page of MuscularStrength.com.
Building Your Meal Plan! Learn How To Calculate Protein, Carb & Fat Daily Intake For Your Goals!
5. Not Eating Enough Protein
This mistake is so obvious that I was going to keep it out of the list, but then I was sure one of you would call me out on it so I had to be included. Protein is a HOLY GRAIL of muscle growth. The average person should consume 1 – 2 grams of protein per pound of your lean body weight per day and you should be good.
But before I leave this one, I do want to make two points:
ONE: Do not believe this old school tale that your body only absorbs a certain amount of protein at a time. Your body is smart and it adapts, so eat your protein. Also, you should be more concerned with the amount of protein you are eating as a whole on a daily basis. Not how many grams you are having per meal. If you are in contest prep you will need a bit more structure, but for the majority of you out there, this is not as significant. As long as you are eating enough protein on a daily basis that is what truly matters. Dividing everything systematically into seven equal meals is great, but not a lot of people have time for that. Get your daily macros in whatever format your lifestyle allows and the gains will come.
TWO: You should know how many grams of protein you are eating per day. I cannot tell you how many guys tell me they are not growing and when I ask how much protein they are eating a day, they say they are eating “A LOT”. My response is, I do not care about “A LOT” I want to know the GRAMS and they have no idea. Com'mon guys! You need to know your stuff!
6. Eating Too Many Supplements!
Supplements are awesome but they are meant to do what the name says: supplement! Too many people are spending loads of money and do not even understand the functionality of what they are buying! Do you even need it? Is this product supplementing the area you truly need help with? These are questions you should be asking yourself before buying anything. But yet I see people buying supplements as if they were a magic pill that will give them gains with no effort or planning. Why are you worried about creatine and protein powder if you do not have a solid mealplan?
Supplements do not give you the critical micronutrients you need such as fiber, vitamins and minerals that WILL affect your muscle growth. Even at team meetings with BSN, the company wants us to tell you that you should be getting the majority of your calories from wholesome nutritious foods and THEN fill the gaps with supplements.
I like to compare the human body to a car. It needs more than just gas, this would be protein, carbs and fat for us, to run properly. If you want your car to perform at its peak, it also needs good oil, transmission fluid and antifreeze. This would be your vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Do not get me wrong, supplements are awesome and I take them every day, but you should be eating real food the majority of the time and only consuming supplements to fill in gaps.
As you can see, it is all about balance! You need to have a well-rounded mealplan in order to grow. Do not neglect any of the food groups but make sure you are eating them in the right ratio to make your muscles grow!
If you would like more one-on-one help and are interested in online coaching with me, check out the Online Coaching page for more information.
Keep making those #NattyGains nation! I’ll see you next time!