Meal Plan for Muscle Gain: How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

May 7, 2019

If you are looking to gain muscle, you might find yourself asking, “How much muscle can I gain in a month?” and, “How much protein do I need to do that?” The short answer is that both of these numbers depend on a number of factors like weightlifting experience level and genetics. For example, a new lifter can expect to gain as much as 2-3 pounds in a month, an intermediate might gain 1-2 pounds in a month and an experienced lifter may be lucky to gain ½ a pound.

Assess where you are with weightlifting and strength training in order to set realistic goals around muscle gain. Understand that if you would like to gain 10 pounds of mostly muscle mass, it might take 6 months or more.

High protein foods for muscle gain

There are certain foods that help and hurt muscle gain. Foods to avoid include poor quality foods with low nutritional value like processed snacks, fast food meals or junk foods. Foods that help include nutrient-dense whole foods like:

Chicken: Full of high-quality complete proteins

Lean beef: Has muscle-building nutrients like high-quality protein, iron, zinc and plenty of B vitamins

Fish: High in proteins and omega-3 fatty acids; recent studies show that omega-3s help postabsorptive muscle protein synthesis s and enhanced anabolic responses to exercise

Eggs: High-quality protein, amino acids and vitamins; don’t skip the yolks as they contain extra nutrition

Tofu: Great vegan option that is rich in iron and calcium

Legumes: Another high-protein option for vegans with a good balance of carbohydrates and dietary fiber

Milk: Great source of complete proteins, calcium, potassium and some B vitamins

Whole grain carbs: Reach for steel cut oats and brown rice; both have high magnesium content which is good for the heart

Water: Our bodies are made of water, hydration is key for building muscles mass

Nuts: Unsweetened, unsalted versions of nuts like almonds and walnuts have a great amount of proteins and healthy fats

Common mistakes: Why you aren’t gaining muscle

There are a number of reasons why you might not be seeing noticeable muscle gain over time. Here are the most common reasons:

Not eating enough calories: If you don’t feed your muscles, they simply can’t grow! Like I said above, there is some debate in the field of sports science as to exactly how much your caloric surplus should be, but the consensus is that you need to eat more calories than you burn.

Not eating enough carbs: Carbs are often neglected in people’s diets when they are looking to gain muscle because there is such a big focus on protein. While protein is important, carbs play a huge role in muscle growth as well. Simply put, carbs are forms of sugar and sugar is needed to help your body absorb protein. They are also a major source of energy and help fuel your workouts.

Not enough recovery/sleep: You must rest your muscles at least 48 hours between strength training workouts if you want to see results. Skimping on this recovery time leads to overtraining and doesn’t allow your muscles to recuperate fully, stunting your gains. Sleep is often the most overlooked aspect of building muscle mass. As you sleep, your muscles work hard to repair and rebuild themselves. Think of it this way: the gym is where you work your muscles, the kitchen is where you feed your muscles and sleep is where you actually build your muscles.

Doing the wrong workouts/exercises: Let’s face it, there is no wrong kind of workout or exercise. When done correctly, any exercise will make you feel healthier. That said, if you have a specific goal in mind, some workouts can slow you down. Building strength and gaining muscle requires certain workouts focused on reps, sets and percentages of your 1RM.

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