5 Simple Muscle-Building Nutrition Tips
Muscle isn't easy to come by, especially if you're a naturally skinny guy with the metabolism of a hummingbird in flight. Try as you might, those twiggy arms of yours never develop into full-grown sleeve cannons; your legs look like bits of string hanging from your shorts; and we won't even talk about your chest and back. (Maybe this will help: Pack on the Pounds With the Skinny Guy Workout.)
Although you've tried lots of muscle-building plans, you never stick with anything with a degree of consistency. Instead of flitting from program to program and diet to diet, make the following five changes to your eating habits. I guarantee you will pack on the pounds. Kiss good-bye to "skinnyville" by implementing these tips today.
Count Your Calories
It might sound lame, like advice to an overweight moms' slimming club, but calories really do count.
Skinny guys are prone to overestimate the number of calories they take in. You might think you eat a lot, but you probably don't. One big meal a day plus a few snacks won't cut it. Neither will one super-high-calorie day each week if it's preceded by six days of eating less than your 90-year-old grandma.
Plug your calories into an online calculator or app, like My Fitness Pal, for seven days, take an average, then weigh yourself. If you gain less than half a pound, you need to bump those calories up—by as many as 500 per day. (Ask the Experts: How Can I Gain Weight?)
Embrace the "3 Square Meals" Principle
Breakfast, lunch and dinner—the staples of any good diet plan. Don't try to follow exotic meal frequency schedules. Pack each of your 3 squares with protein, essential fats and healthy carbs, and you'll be on the right track. (Read What to Pack on Your Plate to Put on Weight.)
Fill a third of your plate with a lean protein, such as sirloin steak, chicken or turkey breast. Fill another third with veggies—as many different colors and types as possible. To round out your plate, go with healthy carbs from grains such as rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pasta or quinoa.
To get the fat you need, switch your lean protein to a fatty option, like salmon, whole eggs or mackerel; dress your meal with a tablespoon of olive oil-based sauce; eat an ounce of nuts or olives; or drink a big glass of whole milk with your food.
Eat a Hearty Breakfast
Your mom was right: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But maybe not for the reasons she thinks.
Forget the "metabolism boosting" nonsense. Breakfast is important because it gets you in the right frame of mind for the rest of the day and because it's a great opportunity to cram in some awesome-tasting calories.
Starting your day with a bowl of kids cereal and an energy drink will only set you up for failure. But if you begin with a healthy, calorie-dense feast, you'll give yourself a perfect start to a muscle-building day. Try this breakfast on for size:
- 4 whole eggs scrambled with grass-fed butter or coconut oil, green peppers, zucchini and mushrooms
- 2 slices of whole grain toast with 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter
- 2 cups of mixed berries
- 1 large glass of water and 1 cup of coffee
Eat Between Meals
In my opinion, the idea that you need to eat six to eight meals a day, or chow down on something every two to three hours, is nonsense. But eating regularly can help you pack in extra good quality calories. (Here are a few ideas: Healthy Snacks for Weight Gain.)
Rather than eating actual sit-down meals, drink a shake between your main meals. The following recipe provides around 400 calories and 30 grams of protein, and it can be consumed in less than a minute.
- 2 big handfuls of spinach
- 1 scoop of protein powder
- 1 tablespoon of a high-quality fat, such as a nut oil, nut butter, coconut oil or heavy whipping cream
- 1 large banana or 2 cups of berries
- Water and ice to blend
If you read the latest bodybuilding magazine, you might think that supplements are the fastest way to get big. This is not the case.
Supplements can play a role in making up for dietary deficiencies, but that's it. The general rule is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Stick to four basic supplements and you can't go wrong:
- Whey Protein: quality protein that's easily absorbed by muscles after a workout. It can also be used in your mid-day shakes.
- Multivitamins: you should be eating plenty of fruits and veggies anyway, but additional vitamins and minerals never hurt..
- Fish Oil: this aids recovery and prevents inflammation.
- Creatine monohydrate: this boosts the stores of the fuel your body uses during training and increases muscle mass.