It’s no secret that diet and exercise are critical components of creating a healthy, toned body.
But even though weightlifting is important for muscle gain, if you’re looking for huge muscles and a slim waistline to show off next summer, there’s no amount of exercise that can out-train a diet of sugar and fast food.
To maximize your time at the gym, you need to eat the right amount of food and the right type of food at the right time.
While that may sound like a lot to juggle, it’s a cinch when you meal plan.
In this article, you’ll see just how easy it is to get fit and gain muscle through this great meal prep idea.
What Role Does Diet Play in Gaining Muscle?
You’re not likely to build muscle without the right equipment and exercises. But you may be surprised to learn that whether you’re after fat loss or muscle gain (or both), your diet will impact your success as much as your workout, if not more!
Muscle-gaining exercises break down your muscle tissue, and the right foods at the right time help to rebuild your muscle even bigger than before. So, not only do you need adequate nutrition to fuel your workouts, but the foods you eat have a direct impact on your body’s ability to create new muscle.
You’ve probably heard that protein, protein, and more protein should be the basis of your muscle-building diet. But understanding the importance of a well-balanced diet of protein, carbs, and fats is the only way you’ll give your body what it needs for bulking. (And yes, that diet should include a lot of protein.)
In the section below, we’ll break down these macros so you can feel confident in knowing what to eat for muscle gain. We’ll also guide you through the steps to meal prep a muscle-building menu so you’ll be guaranteed to reach your bodybuilding goals.
What are macros?
Macronutrients, also known as macros, are the nutrients in our foods that provide us with energy. The three macros are protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Each of these macros plays a different role in your muscle growth, so knowing how much to eat of each macro is important for reaching your goals.
You’ve heard of how essential protein is for building muscle. It’s true. Increasing your muscle mass requires protein. Eating protein throughout your day in each meal and snack will give your body the necessary building blocks to create more lean muscle mass. To get adequate protein in your diet, consider including these protein-packed items in your meals: peanut butter, egg whites, chicken breasts, Greek yogurt, protein powders, or protein shakes.
Carbs often have a bad reputation thanks to diets that associate carbs with body fat. But carbs are an important source of fuel for your body. While a low-carb diet might be right for some people, first try focusing on selecting healthy carbs – complex carbs. Examples of complex carbs include sweet potato, black beans, bell pepper, brown rice, and oats.
Your diet should consist primarily of protein and carbs, but adding healthy fats can provide long-lasting energy and a great way to increase calories. Adding fat to your diet can increase your body fat and lead to fat storage. So, ensuring a diet with the correct emphasis on protein and complex carbs and a moderate amount of healthy fats is the best balance for healthy eating. Fats to consider including in your diet are olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, and fish.
Macro ratios impact your energy, lean muscle, and overall health. How you choose to balance your macros will also impact your appetite, and can help you curb your hunger and cravings. For example, 5 calories of veggies will fill more space in your stomach than 5 calories of fat. So if you’re looking to lose weight while gaining muscle, a diet that emphasizes veggies would be ideal. But if you don’t have body weight to spare, eat your veggies for their nutrients, but also add more calorie-rich fats to reach your needed calorie intake for the day.
How to Gain Weight and Build Muscle?
Before beginning your muscle-building journey, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor. Your body type and medical history can impact how you approach weight gain to build muscles. After you touch base with your doctor, here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started on your plan for muscle gain.
Step 1: Identify your calorie needs.
Weight loss and weight gain come down to one very simple thing: calorie intake. If you want to lose weight, eat fewer calories than you burn. If you want to gain weight, eat more calories than you burn. But as easy as that concept is, it can feel much more difficult in practice.
You’re body type, current weight, and activity level all impact how many calories you need for muscle gain. Find a calorie calculator online to help you define your target calorie needs. If you’re not interested in calorie counting, no worries. It isn’t necessary to count every calorie to successfully build muscle, but understanding your calorie needs is still an important first step. Calorie counting can be a difficult and exhausting process for many people. If you want to avoid crunching the number, knowing roughly how many calories you’re eating is a great and effective alternative.
Step 2: Calculate your macros.
Your body is unique and so your macro balance will also be unique to you. The best way to find the combination that’s right for you is to start with general recommendations and then experiment over time.
A basic bulking diet is 35% carbs, 25% fats, and 40% proteins.
After using these ratios for a few weeks, try adjusting the percentages to see if something slightly different is a better fit for you.
Step 3: Eat the calories and macros you need.
When you know your daily calorie count and you know how many of those calories come from each macro group, you’re ready to plan your menu.
Now, here’s the honest truth, we’re not math people. So counting all of these numbers and percentages isn’t realistic on a daily basis for some of us. 😎
Using an online calorie calculator to determine daily calorie needs – easy.
Turning those calories into rough percentages for each macro category – doable.
Here’s a sample of what this might look like:
Daily calories needed: 2500 calories
Macro ratios: 875 calories of carbs (35%), 625 calories of fats (25%), and 1000 calories of protein (40%).
Now, turning those numbers into an actual menu may feel like a college exam if you focus on the math. Take a deep breath. That’s not how we do it around here. DO NOT get out a piece of paper to calculate these numbers (unless that’s your thing, then by all means…).
Start by getting an app like My Fitness Pal to do all the work for you.
Use the app to track everything you eat for two weeks. Yes, EVERYTHING. Include your coffee creamer, that handful of nuts you snacked on, and the candy you swiped from your coworker’s candy bowl. Apps like My Fitness Pal have a database of over 11 million foods, so logging macros is as easy as scanning a barcode or looking up the item from the food list.
After these initial two weeks, you’ll have a good feel for your calorie intake, how your food choices convert into macros, and where you need to make adjustments.
Now you can really hone in on a menu that works for your body and your goals.
How to Meal Prep for Muscle Gain?
After your initial two weeks of macro tracking, it’s time to make your life easier with the convenience of meal prep! Eating the right carbs and protein at the right time helps maximize your workout by speeding up muscle recovery and growth. With meal prep, you have your ideal meal ready to go when you need it.
Bodybuilders have used meal plans for years to help them successfully build muscles. This proven method for bulking supplies you with the right nutrients and calories you need to reach your goals for muscle gain. When you take that meal plan and get it prepped and in the fridge, you have easy and quick access to the meals that will help you reach your goals.
Here are the basics of meal prep to get you started.
Step 1: Menu Planning
Start by mapping out your menu for the week. Make sure to include post-workout recovery snacks. Decide which meals you plan to make in advance with a meal prep recipe.
Step 2: Shopping and Cooking
Check your fridge, pantry, and freezer to see what ingredients you have and what you need to purchase. Make a shopping list and head to the store.
Cook your recipes according to the instructions.
Step 3: Portioning and Storage
Make sure you allow food to cool completely before putting it in a storage container.
Portion each meal into an individual storage container and pop it into the fridge or freezer for easy access throughout the week. You can even track the macros now so you’re ready to go during your busy weeknights.
There you go – meal prepping is as easy as 1, 2, 3!
For an in-depth guide to meal preps, check out this Fit Men Cook article.
What Is the Best Meal Plan to Gain Muscle?
The best meals will always be meals you like to eat. Find a healthy meal you enjoy. You’re not going to stick with a new meal plan if you hate all the foods you’re eating. If healthy foods aren’t your favorite (…yet 😉), try finding a healthy version of a food you love. You’ll be surprised at how flavorful and delicious healthy meals can be when you find the right meal prep recipe.
In addition to healthy eating, focus on meals with lots of protein. Remember that the basic building block of muscles is protein. So you’ll want protein-dense foods in all of your meals and snacks. Next, add a complex carb and a large serving of veggies. If you’re eating a variety of healthy proteins and carbs, healthy fats will naturally be a part of the meal.
Also, what NOT to eat is just as important as what to eat. You already know avoiding sugar, alcohol, fast food, and processed foods is the way to go. If these are staples in your current diet, consider a slow and manageable transition instead of cutting them out cold turkey. Again, the goal is creating a sustainable change. If you cut out all the foods you love too quickly, you may not stick with your plan. Finding replacements you enjoy is a great way to help you adopt a healthy diet.
If you’re looking for recipes to get you started, check out our meal prep recipes here.
Final Thoughts for Using Meal Prep to Gain Muscle
For healthy weight gain, it’s important to understand that the first ingredient you’ll need is a little bit of patience. That’s right, there’s no magic pill or quick overnight fix for healthy weight gain.
Like weight loss, weight gain should occur over time so your body can appropriately adjust to the changes. Rapid weight loss or weight gain can stress the cardiovascular system. This stress leads to blood pressure problems, fluid accumulation throughout the body, and strain on your liver. Quick changes to your body weight can also cause your body to store more fat as a reaction to the stress.
So, be patient with yourself and recognize that small, consistent changes over time are the most likely to last.
Meal prepping is an incredible tool that helps you save time and money while you develop a healthy and fit body.
That’s the Kevin Curry story!
Get inspired by Kevin’s muscle-building journey here.
And remember, “Our bodies are built in the kitchen, and sculpted in the gym.”