What Should You Eat When You Want To Gain Weight What to Eat to Gain Muscle

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What to Eat to Gain Muscle

Years ago, it was not uncommon for bodybuilding experts to advocate an unrestricted, high-calorie diet—coupled with an intense weight training program—for someone who wanted to gain muscle. The reason was that if you wanted to gain muscle, you could basically eat whatever you wanted to bulk up and then later you could work on eliminating excess fat as needed. Today, we are much more enlightened and we know that this is not only not an effective strategy, but it is also not particularly beneficial for your health. The most effective eating regimen for gaining muscle is one that includes plenty of lean protein, healthy carbohydrates in moderation, and unsaturated fats.

Protein is a basic, essential building block of muscle growth and if your goal is to maintain or gain lean muscle mass, you need to eat a lot of it every day. If the body does not get enough protein from the food you eat, it will use protein from muscle mass to meet its energy needs.

Carbohydrates get a bad rap from many of the so called “health gurus”, but the fact is they don’t tell the whole story. Carbohydrates give the body the fuel it needs for both physical activity and proper functioning of the organs. The key is to recognize the difference between good (“healthy”) and bad carbohydrates. Healthy carbohydrates come from vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans) and whole grains. The bad carbohydrates come from highly processed foods, white bread, sugary sodas, snacks and pastries.

Fat is another often misunderstood component of our diet. All fats are not bad for us. In fact, our bodies need some fat in our diet to function normally. Again, like carbohydrates, the key lies in understanding the difference between the good fats and the bad. Saturated fats are the “bad fats” that we should avoid. Saturated fats come from animal fat, dairy products and oils such as coconut or cottonseed oil. They are also common in many prepared foods. Unsaturated fats – although they should still be consumed in moderation – are the ones that are better for our bodies, and help it to feed and function normally.

Okay, so now that some of the basics are out of the way, let’s tackle the question, “What should I eat to put on lean muscle mass?” Individual requirements for protein, carbohydrates and unsaturated fat will vary from person to person, depending on body type, weight, physical condition, fitness goals, etc.

A good basic eating strategy for gaining muscle mass is to get the majority of your calories from lean protein sources. A general rule of thumb is about a minimum of 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Limit your intake of healthy carbohydrates and unsaturated fats. Don’t avoid them entirely though, because your body – and your muscles – need them, just keep protein the central focus of your diet.

To gain muscle mass, you need to consume more calories than you burn. You should start by determining your body’s calorie requirements to maintain your body weight, factor in your activity level and then add from there. You should also eat five to six meals a day, spread two to three hours apart throughout the day. Eating only one or two large meals a day is not the right strategy for building muscle.

Since protein will be the foundation of your diet, you’ll want to mix up your sources, or you’ll quickly get sick of eating the same few things day after day. Skinless chicken breast and fish are two excellent sources of lean protein. Grill or broil them – don’t fry or drown them in rich sauces. Other good sources of protein include turkey breast, lean beef or pork, egg whites, cottage cheese (fat-free or low-fat), canned tuna (packed in water not oil) and protein powders.

Green vegetables (especially broccoli), leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, potatoes, whole grain breads, whole oat / oatmeal (not the flavored instant packs) and beans are good sources of healthy carbohydrates. Avoid all processed foods, snacks and pastries. You can eat about the same amount of green vegetables (steamed is best) without worrying about getting too many carbs, but watch your intake of everything else on the list above – the carbs add up quickly.

Unsaturated fats should make up the smallest part of your daily diet. Good sources of these healthy fats are olive oil, sunflower oil and avocados. Almonds and walnuts are both also excellent sources of healthy fats, but limit your nut intake to no more than a handful a day.

This is obviously not everything you need to know to eat to gain weight, but it should be enough to give you a basic foundation on which to start on the path to building lean muscle mass, not just fat.

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