Building muscle isn’t just about lifting iron. It’s about solid nutrition to back up all your hard work in the gym. Without a proper muscle building diet plan, your efforts are wasted on mediocre results. You’ll never grow to your full potential, bro, and that’s a crime. Here’s how to eat for stacking lean mass…
- Know Your Body Type
- Understanding the Basics of Muscle Building
- The Importance of Macronutrients
- Know Your BMR
- Nutrition Tips for Muscle Building
- The Meal Plan
- Final Bite
Know Your Body Type
While genetic phenotypes aren’t everything in the world of anabolic growth, they’re something. Your body type can tell you a lot about your potential to build muscle and what you need to get there. So, let’s take a look at where you’re sitting on the scale, bro.
Are you somewhat skinny? A bit of a small-shouldered guy with thin wrists and slightly ‘underweight’? Chances are you’re an ectomorph – AKA a hard gainer. You’re naturally thin, don’t carry much muscle, but you’re not one to add fat fast either.
Ectomorphic traits include:
- Speedy metabolism
- Low body fat
- Narrow shoulders
- Flat chest
- Smaller wrists
- Lighter frame/bone structure
- Find it hard to gain weight
- Not naturally strong
Okay, so you’re a hard gainer. That doesn’t mean you can’t build muscle, bro. Your fast metabolism just means you’ll be able to eat more without too much risk of fat gain.
You should center your diet around lean protein, alongside plenty of carbs and healthy polyunsaturated fats. Hit the 15-22.5% above maintenance calorie count.
Are you the natural athlete everybody at high school was jealous of? Does sport come naturally to you and building muscle doesn’t seem to be a problem? If you’re nodding your head on top a ‘V’ shaped torso, count yourself lucky. You’re a mesomorph, bro.
Mesomorphic traits include:
- Medium size build
- Naturally muscular and lean
- Strong without too much training
- V-shaped torso (wide shoulders, narrow hips)
- Broad shoulders and chest
- Mid-sized joints and bones
As a mesomorph you have the best of both worlds. On the one hand you have the tendency to stay lean like an ectomorph, on the other, you have growth potential like an endomorph.
Adding size won’t be difficult but stay smart. Base your diet around lean proteins, with moderate carbs around workouts and fats throughout. 10-20% above maintenance for you.
Tipping the scales at the upper end is the endomorph. He’s big, broad, and strong from birth. You’ll recognize the endomorph as a stocky guy who’s naturally inclined to carry fat.
For this bro, building muscle is easy pickings. He pretty much just looks at a barbell and can taste the gainz. Funnily enough, the same can be said for food too.
Endomorphic traits include:
- Gains muscle easily
- Naturally big/thick bones
- Born strong
- Slow digestion
- Adds fat easily
- Struggles to lose weight
- Maintains higher bodyweight
- Rounder physique
If there was ever a body type for gainz it’s you! So long as you eat enough, you won’t struggle adding stacks of mass.
However, this comes at a price of struggling to stay lean. Your diet should shoot towards lean protein with every meal, while keeping a close eye on the carbs. Fats should also be eaten in moderation in line with your macros. For you brother, aim for 10-20% over maintenance with diligence.
Understanding the Basics of Muscle Building
Regardless of our phonotype, everybody builds muscle in the same way. We inflict damage on the tissue, repair via protein synthesis, and grow. It’s only by turning over cells in this way that we add size to your alpha-male physiques.
One of the fundamental factors of muscle building is the diet. Eating essential nutrients like protein, carbs, and fats, is paramount for reaching your true potential. Without them your body will not have the resources necessary to repair itself. Damn, you won’t even make it to the gym bro. R.I.P.
See it like this, bro. Your muscle tissue is constructed out of protein (essential amino acids). Therefore, the protein in your diet provides the building blocks to build you back up into Bro 2.0.
The amino acid blocks inside this protein are processed by your body, before being used to patch up traumatized contractile proteins. In short – they rush to the trauma site to fix damaged muscle fibers.
Do you want to know the coolest part, bro? With the right amount of protein, a calorie surplus, and progressive overload , this process thickens the muscle fibers. The tissue grows bigger, better, and more badass than ever before. This increase in cross-sectional area of the muscle fiber increases is known as hypertrophy. But, if you’re not keen on the science, read that as ‘gainz brah’.
Of course, the whole process requires considerable energy. That’s where your carbohydrates and fat come into play too, bro.
The Importance of Macronutrients
You’ve no doubt heard about macronutrients – macros for short. These are the three essential food groups your body requires to function:
- Protein – 4kcal per gram
- Carbohydrates – 4kcal per gram
- Fats – 9kcal per gram
Standard macro breakdown for muscle building:
- Protein – 30%
- Carbs – 40%
- Fats – 30%
Pile on the protein
Protein, as we’ve mentioned, is your main macro for building muscle. You’ll find protein in meat, dairy, eggs, beans, certain grains, and soy products. There’s also protein available in a few plants too.
For your muscle building diet, it’s best to stick to the lean variety. Experts worldwide also recommend one gram per pound of bodyweight every day to add size. For example; an average sized 180 lb man should look to bag 180 g.
Check out our complete guide to eating protein for your goals here.
Why you should eat your carbs
Carbohydrates provide energy for working out, help sleep where you’re most anabolic, and may improve protein synthesis post-workout. Consuming high-quality, complex carbs is a great way to fuel your growth and maintain energy throughout the day.
Post-workout? Eat ‘em up bro and replenish those glycogen stores. You’re gonna need energy to return to homeostasis, while simultaneously synthesizing protein to grow. It’s also the best time to eat lower GI sugars (white rice etc.) for a fast refuel.
High-quality complex carbs can be found in the form of whole grains, starchy vegetables like potatoes, and fruit such as bananas. Simple (low-GI) carbs include table sugar, soda, cakes, candy, refined cereal.
Don’t forget the fats, bro
Forget the fear, bro. Fats are the not-so-secret weapon for carving out a chiseled and jacked physique.
Firstly, they’re high in calories meaning it’s easier to surplus with them. At 9kcal for every gram, they’re an awesome way to increase energy intake without adding bulk to your meals.
Secondly, good fats are stacked full of goodness to support your goals. In fact, let’s be blunt, they’re the foundation of your alpha-male traits. That’s because fats contain cholesterol, which is a type of important lipid molecule.
Without cholesterol your body simply cannot synthesize testosterone. It needs the molecule to make pregnenolone, a precursor to the T flowing through your body. It should also be said that cholesterol is important to general nerve and hormonal health in men.
The takeaway? If you want to experience the strength, muscle, and mood enhancements of testosterone, don’t skip on the lipids! Your alpha-status depends on it, bro.
For a guide to good fats for muscle building click here.
Know your BMR
Besides thrashing iron around the gym, eating in a surplus is the best part of bulking. You’re full of energy, don’t get hangry, and your muscles look pumped.
To grow slabs of mass you must eat more calories than you burn in a day. This way your body feels free to direct extra kcals and nutrients to muscle cells. It begins to understand that if it constructs new mass, there’ll be the energy to nourish it afterward. Your surplus is like a reassuring safety blanket.
But, first, you need to know how many calories to eat. You can do this by finding your basal metabolic rate (BMR), multiplying it by your activity level, then adding 10-20%.
Eating WTF you like and going above this amount is a useless dirty bulk. According to Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, this style of bulking causes muscle wastage after the cut anyway. So, to save your gainz – don’t do it.
Follow this formula to find your BMR instead:
BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) – ( 6.8 x age in years )
Now, multiply your BMR by your activity level. Be super honest here as applying the wrong amount can make or break your physique goals:
- Sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2
- Lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
- Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
- Very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725
- Extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training): BMR x 1.9
Whatever number you’re left with is your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). Now the fun part, add roughly 10-20%.
Example for a moderately active 30-year-old, six foot 180 lb man:
BMR = 66 + (6.23 x 180 = 1121.4) + (12.7 x 72 = 914.4) – (6.8 x 30 = 204) = 1897.8 kcal
Activity level = x1.55
TDEE = 2941.59
+ 20% = 3529.90
Taste the gainbro(w).
Nutrition Tips for Muscle Building
Want a fistful of tips to chew on? You’ve got it, bro! Here are SpotMeBro’s top nutrition tips for muscle building.
#1 – Spread your protein intake out through the day. According to one paper from 2018, to maximize protein intake you should shoot for 0.4 g/kg/meal across at least four servings . We recommend aiming for a higher frequency of five or six.
#2 – Consume at least six grams of essential amino acids in your protein servings. Also, aim to get in around three grams of the leucine too, which is vital for protein synthesis. You should hit the mark by eating a portion of complete protein (meat, fish, soy, eggs) or combining non-complete varieties (beans, lentils, etc.).
#3 – Screw the ‘30-minute anabolic window’, bro. You’re actually the most receptive of protein around four to six hours after training. Enjoy a protein rich meal two hours pre-exercise, and another one to two hours post- for optimum nutrient supply .
#4 – You’re most anabolic during sleep. Therefore, consider drinking a casein shake as part of your supper if you’ve trained hard. It’ll be light on the stomach, so it shouldn’t affect sleep while supplying ample aminos until the morning. Just alter your macros to accommodate it.
#5 – Don’t be tempted to surpass the 20% surplus. Although dirty bulks are fun, you’ll pay for it in the end. Once you start to cut down and get lean, you’ll need to use aggressive tactics, shedding hard-earned muscle in the process. Be disciplined.
The Meal Plan
The following is an example meal plan for an average 180 lb bro on a big bulk. Feel free to tailor the amounts to your own macros and slash by 10% for a less aggressive approach. Do it, get swole, and master the universe as a musclebound freak.
- 70 g – Oatmeal
- 32 g – 100% peanut butter
- Medium banana
- 1 scoop – Whey protein
- 250 ml – Whole fat milk
- 30 g – Whey protein
- 1 tbsp – 100% peanut butter
- Medium banana
- 2 – Chicken breast (seared in 1tbsp extra virgin olive oil)
- Medium avocado
- 200 g – Cooked brown rice
- 200 g – Steamed vegetables
- 150 g – Blueberries
(Season with your favorite herbs and spices)
- 1 scoop – Whey protein
- 40 g – Almonds
- Medium banana or large apple
- Large fresh tuna steak
- 400 g – Sweet potato
- 1 – Cup (134 g) Grilled asparagus
- ½ cup – Cottage cheese
- 1 tbsp – Coconut oil
- (Season with your favorite herbs and spices)
(Alternatively, drop a chicken breast a lunch and replace with casein before bed. Also, if you can’t stomach 400 g of sweet potato, trade 100 g for a slice of wholemeal toast as supper)
How much protein should I eat to grow muscle?
1 g per lb of body weight or sometimes more depending on your macros. If you’re going for an aggressive bulk, the number could increase. It’s worth remembering that you might not necessarily absorb all the extra aminos though.
What should I do in the gym bro?
Try to hit at least 20 sets up to 25 per muscle group each week for decent growth. Any less and you might not be unleashing your potential, any more could send you into overtraining.
If you’re after a solid workout plan to stack lean mass check this out. We wrote it with size in mind so chalk up and get lifting!
Total Body Training: A Full Body Hypertrophy Workout
Cheat meals sound fun. Can I have some of those too?
Cheat meal once a week after a heavy session. It’s rewarding recovery, bro, and is awesome for morale. Let loose and eat some tasty protein dench treats.
I’m getting fat, what should I do?
If you notice yourself getting unwanted fat with your size gainz roll back the carbs. We all have varying degrees of sensitivity to starches, so it’s worth trying different amounts in your plan.
Just reduce your overall amount a small increment at a time. Track both your body appearance, how you’re feeling, and whether or not you have energy for your workout. Just remember there might be slight fat gain until you begin to understand your genetic tendencies.
Apparently, I have to eat protein the moment I train? What if I’m .679 seconds away from a protein shake? Oh lord, think of the poor, poor gainz!
We’re gonna have to stop you right there, buddy. You obviously misheard us when we told you that the narrow anabolic window pushed by protein companies is bullsh*t. Instead, plan to eat a protein rich meal an hour or two after you finish your last set.
Don’t panic if it has to be longer, though.
Hungry yet, brother? You better be! To get big, you’re gonna need to eat big, so get chewing.
Consider the key points from this meal plan to be this; balance your macros, eat enough protein, and don’t skip on the veg. Fruit and vegetables are full of fiber to help digestion alongside being packed with vitamins. In short – eat a varied diet throughout your bulk.
Enjoy your cheat meal. Don’t feel too bad about splurging out because if you’ve worked hard enough you deserve it. End it when you’ve finished your last bite, relax, and plan the week ahead. Excite yourself about getting back in the gym and tearing apart the weight room.
Finally, always remember about your boy Progressive Overload. Keep progressively adding intensity to your workouts (increase the weights slightly) and watch the gainz grow.
Not only is PO fun and challenging, but it’ll keep stimulating the muscle to adapt. Yeah, bro, it’s guaranteed to get you jacked! Stick to a 0.25%-5% increase each week to avoid overtraining and stroll into the swole patrol .
See you in the iron house.
- Kraemer WJ, et al. Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2009
- Schoenfeld BJ, et al. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018
- Schoenfeld B, et al. The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013
- Lorenz DS, et al. Periodization: current review and suggested implementation for athletic rehabilitation. Sports Health. 2010