In order to to gain muscle you need to consume more calories than you are expending through exercise.
The best source of calories is from foods that are rich in protein, carbohydrates as well as good fats.
Eat protein for muscle mass
Protein is essential for rebuilding and repairing damaged muscle cells and carbohydrates provide you with the glycogen (energy) you need to enable us to work out harder and for longer periods of time.
Our body’s muscle cells are made up of two thirds water, and 20 percent protein. So in order to gain more muscle we need to ensure we are eating a diet rich in complete protein, to repair and rebuild the muscle tissue that gets torn or damaged during a workout.
Your body utilizes the protein to rebuild those muscle cells slightly stronger and more resistant than before.
Don't rule out carbs
Even though there is a dietary taboo on the need to eat carbohydrates, because of all the new low-carb diets, complex carbohydrates actually play a vital role in the muscle building process.
When we digest carbohydrates, it gets stored as glycogen ready for us to use when we are working out. If we don’t have the glycogen stored and ready our bodies will break down the muscle to use as fuel instead.
Foods that are high in complete protein:
- Lean beef
- Nuts and seeds
- Chicken breast
- Milk and soy milk
Foods that are high in complex carbohydrates:
- Whole grain breads & whole grain pastas
- Brown rice
- Green leafy vegetables
When should you be eating?
Knowing which foods you need to eat in order to gain more muscle is one thing, but it is just as important to have a good understanding of when to eat.
In order to build muscle mass you need to ensure you are eating a high calorie diet, and that your calorie intake exceeds the calories you're burning during your workouts.
This means eating moderate portions regularly during the day. Aim for a nutritious meal for breakfast, lunch, post workout, and dinner, with healthy snacks in between.
Breakfast and post workout are good times to give your body that much needed glycogen energy boost, so ensure you eat complex carbs with these meals so you can sustain your body throughout the day.
We don’t tend to be as active after dinner, so try and avoid complex carbs for this meal and focus instead on a good protein kick.
There is quite a lot of controversy relating to the belief that eating late at night is detrimental to anyone looking to reduce body fat and increase muscle mass.
Its true that people tend to make poorer food choices, opting for a sweet treat or something greasy to quench a craving, but the important thing to think about is. Do I really need to eat?
If you have been eating nutritious meals of good portions, regularly throughout the day, then the answer is probably not.
If you have been quite active since you ate dinner, and you are hungry, then your body needs some sustenance. Choose wisely, things like mixed nuts and seeds or yogurt are good options.
Ensure you are eating healthy, balanced meals, and drinking lots of water, regularly throughout the day and you will have yourself the ideal foundation for building muscle mass, and sculpting the body you desire!
For a more in-depth guide to building muscle through diet I would recommend the following guide.