Building muscle isn’t always easy but there’s a number of things you can do with your nutrition to speed up the process. Getting enough protein and calories on board, alongside good quality, consistent training, form the fundamentals of muscle gain. Following our 5 tips below will mean you’re doing everything you can to pack on healthy, lean muscle mass.
1. Eat more and fuel muscle growth with food
To build muscle your body needs energy. If your diet is low in calories and you are in an energy deficit, it becomes much more difficult to build muscle. Based on the current evidence, a small-moderate daily calorie surplus of 250-450kcals is recommended.
2. Eat every 3 hours
In your body, there are continuous periods of muscle protein breakdown and muscle protein synthesis. When muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle protein breakdown, there is a net gain of muscle.
Whilst protein breakdown remains fairly stable, muscle protein synthesis requires a stimulus. Eating a high protein meal will provide this stimulus and increase your rate of muscle protein synthesis.
Regardless of how much protein you eat in a single meal, rates of muscle protein synthesis will naturally start to drop. This is why it is important to eat protein at regular intervals throughout the day with evidence showing that every 3 hours is optimal.
3. Protein can build new muscle
Protein contains amino acids which are the building blocks of muscle. Eating a meal high in protein and amino acids will increase your body’s rate of muscle protein synthesis (MPS). To build muscle, MPS needs to be higher than muscle protein breakdown so it’s important to eat enough protein in order to do this.
Combining adequate protein intake with weight training is the best way to increase muscle mass in the long term.
4. Carbs are great for providing energy and recovery
High intensity exercise such as resistance training use carbohydrates as a fuel source, with evidence showing that weight training can reduce your body’s stored carbohydrates by as much as 40%.
Consuming carbohydrates will also help you to recover so you can train at the same intensity each time you hit the gym and continue to make progress.
5. Protein shakes and amino acids
Not all protein sources are equal. Some contain more essential amino acids than others. This will have an effect on the impact that a specific protein source will have on your body’s muscle protein synthesis rates.
In order to maximize rates of MPS, your body needs to ingest enough leucine, a branched-chain amino acid, which acts a signal for your body to start building muscle.
Whey protein, which is the protein typically used in protein shakes, is high in leucine and other essential amino acids and is considered a high-quality protein source. Additionally, whey protein is digested quickly meaning it will increase muscle protein synthesis at a faster rate.
FAQs About Muscle Growth
How long does it take to build muscle?
The time it takes to build muscle depends on a large number of factors and varies between each individual.
The lucky ones will be able to build muscle quite quickly. For others it can take a long period of time with factors such as training experience, training volume and calorie intake all influencing the time it takes.
If you get everything right with your training and diet, expect to gain around 0.5-1kg a month of lean muscle mass. This may seem like a small amount so it is important to give yourself plenty of time and set realistic expectations. If your body mass is going up a lot quicker than this, it’s a sign that you may also be adding fat mass.
How much should I eat to build muscle?
To build muscle without any unwanted fat gain, it is recommended that your diet consists of a small-moderate daily calorie surplus of approximately 250-500kcals. Adding much more than this will likely lead to fat storage as well as muscle gain.
How Much Protein Do You Need to Build Muscle?
On a daily basis, it is recommended that you consume between 1.6g/kg/d – 2g/kg/d with the exact number depending on the rest of your overall calorie intake. For someone who is 80kg this equates to 130g – 160g.
For each meal, it’s recommended you consume 0.3g/kg (24g for an 80kg individual) to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
Which Myprotein products do you recommend to build muscle?
Impact Whey Protein – provides a quick and easy high quality protein source, rich in essential amino acids with a fast digestion rate.
Total Protein Blend – consists of a mix of whey and casein protein which may help build muscle better than whey protein alone as it will increase the period of increased muscle protein synthesis.
Creatine Monohydrate Powder – one of the most scientifically backed supplements on the market when it comes to building muscle. Creatine supplementation will help you get more out of your gym sessions leading to long term muscle gain.
Essential BCAA Tablets – if you are vegetarian or vegan, supplementing with BCAAs will ‘rescue’ a protein source that is low in leucine meaning your meals will still be able maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
Take Home Message
Using the above tips will give you the best chance of building lean muscle as fast as possible without adding fat mass. Aim for a small calorie surplus (250-450kcals), with a daily protein intake between 1.6g/kg-2.2g/kg and eat 0.3g/kg of protein every 3 hours. Give yourself plenty of time and expect to gain between 0.5-1kg of lean muscle mass a month.