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What Should I Eat to Bulk Up?

author image Christa Miller
Christa Miller is a writing professional with expertise in massage therapy and health. Miller attended San Francisco State University to earn a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing with a minor in journalism and went on to earn an Arizona massage therapy license.
What Should I Eat to Bulk Up?
Protein-rich foods can help you build muscle. Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

If you’re trying to gain some extra body mass, the safest way to do it is to put it on in the form of muscle rather than body fat, according to Harvard Health Publications. Don’t fall for product advertisements that claim you need tons of extra protein powder to bulk up properly. However, you will need to eat a well-balanced diet – and some extra calories – to make progress with a strength-training regimen.

Add Protein

You don’t need to pack your diet with protein to bulk up, but you do need some extra protein for building muscle mass. You only need about 15 g of extra protein each day to sustain growth of about 1 lb. of muscle per week, according to the University of Iowa Health Care. As a point of reference, one egg equals about 7 g, 1 cup of milk or yogurt equals about 8 g, and 3 oz. of meat equals about 21 to 24 g. Your appetite should naturally change to meet your new needs, so don’t fret about counting each gram.

Healthy “Extras”

You need about 500 extra calories a day to gain about 1 lb. of body weight a week, but factors such as your metabolism and weight can influence your true needs. To gain this bulk, slightly increase the size of your meals, enjoy at least two snacks between meals and emphasize nutritious high-calorie foods in your diet, according to the American Council on Exercise. One way to increase your intake of nutritious high-calorie foods is to emphasize heart-healthy fats such as avocados, fish, seeds, nuts and nut butters.


Don’t stuff yourself with junk foods. Chips, cookies and fast food meals are just some examples of foods low in body-supporting nutrients and high in heart-unhealthy fats. Also avoid filling yourself up with drinks that offer little nutritional value for their calories. MayoClinic.com recommends making calorie-rich shakes with milk, juice, ground flaxseed and avoiding drinking anything within 30 minutes of a meal to ensure that you get the most calories from nutritious food.


You must make strength training your top form of exercise to ensure that the “extras” you include in your diet aren’t going to turn into fat pounds, according to the American Council on Exercise. Get clearance from your doctor before you begin a strength-training regimen and team up with a personal trainer to get the most from your workout. Chances are she will recommend that you do a minimum of eight to 12 repetitions of eight to 10 different strengthening exercises two or more times per week.

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