Weight Training Diet – 5 Tips to Get Muscular and Lean With Food!
Do you bust your butt in the gym? Do you train like there’s no tomorrow in an effort to achieve a lean, muscular physique? If so, good for you, but that’s only half the battle! Any good bodybuilder or weight lifter will tell you that diet is essential to your success. You can train your heart out, but you will never gain muscle if you aren’t eating enough of the right foods. Here are a few tips on how can optimize your weight training diet:
1. Get Big or Get Lean?
Before you design your weight training diet, you’ll have to figure out exactly what your goals are. Specifically, do you want to focus on getting bigger and more muscular, or on trimming some fat? Don’t say both! Attempting to gain significant muscle mass while losing fat is a futile effort for all but the most genetically gifted athletes – and they wouldn’t be bothering to read this kind of article, anyway.
If you are having trouble deciding, think about what is really important to you. Are you already in decent shape? Do you want to get pro-bodybuilder huge and powerlifter strong? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then you’d do well to go ahead and focus on gaining size for a few months or even a couple of years.
On the other hand, if you are currently dissatisfied with how you look and feel because of excess body fat, you probably want to lose it first. You may have long term goals of getting huge and muscular, but you’ve got to be happy with how you look along the way. Just to be clear, this advice doesn’t apply to skinny-fat guys who weight a buck-fifty but have no muscle mass to speak of! Those guys need to just start training hard and eating big. I’m talking about genuinely pudgy dudes who need to lose a few pounds before embarking on the journey of getting big.
2. Make Protein a Priority!
If someone was trying to get bigger and asked me to make their weight training diet as absolutely simple as possible, I would say two things. First, get enough overall calories to slowly gain weight. Second, get enough protein! Proteins are made of amino acids, which are the “building blocks” your body uses to construct new muscle tissue. If you’re eating a lot but not getting enough protein, you’re just going to get fat!
A good rule of thumb is to aim for one pound of protein per pound of body weight per day. A 150 pound guy trying to gain weight would thus aim for 150 grams of protein per day. To get this much protein, focus on animal foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and perhaps some dairy if your stomach can handle it. Don’t count incidental amounts from grains, legumes, and the like, as those proteins are not complete and do not help you build muscle the same way animal products do.
3. Counting Calories?
Most people who concentrate on their weight training diet also get obsessive to the point of counting calories. This might work, but it’s not necessary! Your body is too complicated to be able to predict exactly how many calories you need to eat, anyway. The important thing is that at the end of the day, you have achieved a positive calorie balance. Simply put, you need to eat more calories than your body uses for energy so that the extra can be used to manufacture new muscle tissue.
Ideally, you will get 500-1000 calories more than what you require to maintain your weight per day. However, that is not a hard and fast rule, and some days will require less or more. The best way to make sure you are consistently eating enough food is to simply do what most people do – eat the same kinds of things day after day. They don’t need to be the exact same things, but just be consistent with your meal times and food choices. Except for the occasional “cheat” meal, eat only foods that you know are good for you, like whole grains, healthy fats, fresh produce, and of course all of your proteins.
4. What’s the Deal With Carbs and Fats?
Carbs and fats are both nutrients that various nutritionists like to either praise or vilify. The truth is, they both have their merits in certain situations at certain times of the day. Carbs can certainly make you fat if you eat too many or eat them at the wrong times, but without them, you can’t build muscle! Focus on eating most of your starchy carbs (grains, breads, pastas, etc.) in the hours after you train. Hard weight training allows your body to utilize carbs for muscle building and not fat storage. At all other times of the day, focus on healthy fats and fruits and veggies. You should be eating your protein at EVERY meal!
5. Putting it All Together
So now you have chosen a concrete goal to work towards, and you hopefully understand the basics on protein, carbs, and fats. You know how much protein you need, but how many carbs? How much fat? How many calories? The truth is that every individual is different. Some guys can gain muscle on seemingly paltry diets while others need to eat everything in sight to make any progress. What you will need to do is pay attention to how your body is responding to various types and amounts of food and adjust from there.
If you’re trying to get leaner, the number on the scale should be slowly decreasing, and your strength in the weight room should be staying the same or even increasing. Your clothes should be fitting looser in all the right places, but your muscles should still look as big and full as they did before you started dieting. Not happening? Eat less carbs and fats.
If you’re trying to get bigger, your bodyweight should be increasing 3-5 pounds per month, you should be getting stronger every workout, and you should be gaining minimal body fat. Some fat gain is acceptable, but a lot means you are eating too much or not training hard enough. If you’re not gaining, start adding in carbs and fats and see how your body responds.
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