Lean Muscle Mass Nutrition

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Trying to build lean muscle mass? Bench and squat all you want, but if you don't eat right, you'll get squat for results. Power up your diet with this advice from Julie Burns, Chicago Blackhawks and White Sox nutrition consultant and founder of Eat Like the Pros and SportFuel, Inc. 

Morning of

Burns says, "The biggest determinant in terms of gaining weight is actually getting the right amount of good, quality calories." But the nutritional composition of those calories is especially important. Burns says that consuming too many carbs can lead to fat gain, and getting too little protein inhibits you from gaining as much lean mass as possible.

Before stacking your plate, Burns advises first determining the number of calories you need to maintain your weight at rest [i.e., resting metabolic rate]. To that total, add calories you need for activity, plus additional calories for building lean mass and to support your training. The goal is to eat more than you burn, because, according to Burns, "if you're not eating enough calories, your'e using protein for fuel and breaking down your muscles."

Meals can be spread throughout the day. "Smaller athletes [who] are trying to gain weight have to eat more often, because their stomachs aren't as big and they have a harder time getting those calories in," Burns says.

For starters, in the a.m., one energy-packed option includes two waffles with two teaspoons of butter. Add one cup of strawberries and three-and-a-half ounces of Canadian bacon. Continue fueling throughout the day with lunch, dinner, a recovery drink and a couple of 200-calorie snacks. Burns suggests a quarter-cup of nuts-Brazil, walnuts and pumpkins seeds-or two-and-a-half ounces of beef jerky.

Immediately following and no later than 1 hour after

Eat up soon after intense activity. "That's when the muscle is really receptive to picking up protein and carbohydrates, so timing's critical," Burns says.

In fact, she and the Blackhawks' athletic trainers require that the players consume a recovery drink immediately after stepping off the ice. The drink ranges from eight to 10 ounces and consists of a natural carbohydrate source, such as agave nectar, juice and powdered vegetables; undenatured whey protein; and sometimes ribose. "[Ribose] uses a different pathway as far as fuel replenishment to help with recovery. It also helps with muscle soreness," Burns says.

Prefer good ole chocolate milk? Drink up, but Burns advises, "One glass is not going to cut it." Consume a balanced meal thereafter with quality, colorful fruits, starchy vegetables and protein to help your body reach an anabolic state.

"During exercise, you're catabolic, [so] you're breaking down because you're utilizing the fuel for your activity," Burns explains. "[Post-activity], the most important goal is to become anabolic, meaning to build up."

In addition to a recovery drink, Burns' meal of choice includes four to five ounces of braised, grilled or roasted fish, beef, pork or chicken; one-third cup of a starchy vegetable like corn, potatoes, peas or butternut squash; and a side of fruit or vegetable salad.

Nutrition Totals*:










*For two Vans organic waffles with 2 tsp. of butter, 1C strawberries, 3 oz. Canadian bacon










*For 5 oz. of pork, 1/3 C butternut squash, 1 tbsp. olive oil, vegetable salad w/ 2C greens, Roma tomato, 1 slice red onion, 4 tsp. balsamic vinaigrette

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock