Every body is different, every fitness goals are different. Among the countless fitness goals out there, one of the most sought after – and the hardest to achieve – is to build muscle without the fat. Often referred to as ‘Clean bulking’, this is quite a challenging task because one need to ‘eat more to build muscle.’ Yes, muscle building is not all about protein and hitting the gym. It’s about eating many meals to meet calorie expenditure, too.
But we all know that overeating calories will result in weight gain. Therefore, you’re better off have a check on ‘Calories In/Calories Out’. Other factors to look for: nutrient profile and quality of food, hormonal balance, physical activity, and genetic factors.
Read on to uncover the best ways to achieve the ‘cleaner bulk look’.
What Nutrients are needed to build muscles?
Much of our body is made of proteins. There is protein in blood, bones, tendons, muscles, hair, and fingernails. Unlike carbs and fats, proteins aren’t stored for later use. They’re broken down into their constituent amino acids to supply energy. Do you know what that means? You have a long way to go to make yourself a Dwayne Johnson lookalike and you can’t build muscle mass amidst protein catabolism.
Fret not… there is another way: BOOST MUSCLE PROTEIN SYNTHESIS. How? By supplying dietary protein at regular intervals throughout the day. When protein starts to synthesize in muscles, you build muscle mass. This will also accelerate muscle recovery and repair. Researchers found that taking a 30-gram protein-rich serving can increase muscle protein synthesis up to 50%.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association says, ‘more than 30-grams of protein intake at one time may not give any muscle-building benefit’. And, in 2014 scientists showed that a regular supply of protein increased muscle protein synthesis better than eating a large proportion of protein at one meal. However, we need more long-term monitoring for better understanding.
Besides bench presses, squats, and protein supplements, you should consider eating lean, rich, complete protein. Here are some high protein foods for muscle gain: Chicken, Lean beef, Fish (watch out for Omega-3s), Eggs (don’t skip the yolks), Milk, Unsweetened, unsalted almonds, and walnuts. Vegans, we didn’t forget you guys – you may eat tofu, hemp seeds, nuts & nut butter, plant-protein powder, avocado, broccoli, greens, and beans.
Before you feast on ‘protein, protein, and only protein’ know this: carbohydrates are the human body’s preferred source of energy. Many fad diets gave them a bad rap, leading everyone to believe that they’re ‘unwanted’ especially when building sculpted muscles. Sure, they elevate insulin levels which in turn interferes fat oxidation and promotes weight gain. But if you ‘feed’ the muscles wisely, carbs will stimulate them to get bigger, just the way you wanted.
In fact, if you cut the carbs during and after high-intensity workouts, the body starts utilizing protein as an energy source. The result – the breakdown of hard-earned muscle protein to fuel the very same workout you were doing to build muscle mass. Needless to say, that’s the last thing you’d ever want. TAKEAWAY: Protein needs Carbohydrates.
The recommended carbohydrate intake varies greatly depending on the individual. As a general rule, if you’re naturally skinny or looking to bulk up, you should eat more carbs than a guy who carries more fat. Plus, it depends on how much you’re training. The more intense workouts you do, the more carbs you need, and vice versa. If you’re still expecting a ‘number’ from us, here you go: eat about 2-6 g of carb/kg of your body weight. That’s a good place to start.
Talking about the dietary carbs, we must address mixing fats with simple carbs. Don’t mix fats with sugars in one meal: it may spike up insulin and promote fat storage. However, if you’re a hard gainer, you can do mix and matching carbs and fats (read: just enough for you). If you have ‘less supplement, more natural food’ policy, base your diet around oatmeal, whole-grain bread, pasta, quinoa, brown rice, and legumes. At the same time, stay away from bad carbs: all sugars and syrup, all cookies and cakes made with the enriched floor, and sugary cereals.
We have seen how protein and carbohydrate help you with your muscle building journey. What about fat? Does fat help one gain muscle mass? Well, it turns out fat is way more important than you might think. Let’s check it out.
Fats are the subset of lipids that make our cell membrane, vital hormones including testosterone (vital for muscle building), stores energy, and synthesize protein (read: build muscle). With an RDI (for adults) of 20% to 35%, without fats, you risk nutrient-related disorders to poor hormonal levels and chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus. Plus, fats contain 2X calories than carbs and protein.
However, not all fats are created equal; there’s good fat, bad fat and the in-between fats. So, the word here is MODERATION. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) like Omega-3s and Omega-6s play an important in muscle building. Corn oil, canola oil, flaxseed, cod liver oil, and salmon are excellent sources of PUFA. Don’t like oils and fish? Try Omega-3 supplements.
Note for salmon lovers: eat only the wild-caught salmon, not the farmed ones. Studies have shown that farm-raised salmon contain high levels of contaminants including PCBs.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are just as important as proteins, fats, and carbs. In fact, even the slightest nutrient deficiency can affect your gains and recovery time… severely! Some vitamins boost your immunity and keep you healthy and strong. Some promote muscle growth and repair. Others support cell differentiation and growth to prevent muscular atrophy.
Most dietary vitamins and minerals come from the diet. This involves an emphasis on eating fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans and legumes, and dairy products. Unfortunately, many eat too fewer fruits and veggies and run low on vitamins and other essential micronutrients. Then there are others who make friends with vitamin supplements. More than half of American adults take at least one dietary supplement, mostly a multivitamin, says National Institutes of Health.
Right Weight Gainer – To Fill Extra Calorie Needs
You need extra calories to get beefed up arms and chest. However, in reality, it’s not that easy to eat extra servings of fruits, veggies or meat, just for the sake of fill extra calories.
“Sorry, I can’t eat anymore.” If that’s you, it might be a great idea to be friends with a weight gainer. But with too many names in the realm of weight gainers/protein powders, how do you choose the right one? Tick the names below – so simple!
Impact Weight Gainer – This blend of whey protein concentrate and ground oats is a great substitute to add to your muscle building diet plan. If you’re planning to drink the calories before and after the workout, go for a low-fat/high-carb weight gainer. Because this is the time to get some serious muscle growth happening.
Total Gainer – It is a complex formula of carbohydrates and high-quality protein blend. It is beneficial especially for those have a high metabolic rate. The protein blend present in it ensures you are steadily supplied with enough amino acids for at least 4 hours post-consumption. With the inclusion of essential fatty acids, PUFA, medium chain triglycerides, you are certain to meet all energy requirements.
Hard Gainer Extreme – the name says it all. It is a concentrated formula containing whey hydrolysate (rapidly absorbed protein) and calcium caseinate (the slowest digestible protein). It ensures there’s a constant flux of amino acids in the bloodstream for about 8 hours after consumption. It also has fast-acting carbohydrates gainers, fiber and, additional sources of dietary fat. You may choose this only if your metabolism is on the higher side. Otherwise, choose an impact weight gainer or a total gainer.