Women need plenty of calories to bulk up muscle in addition to their muscle-building exercise program. A calorie-restricted or carbohydrate-restricted diet is not conducive to bulking up and is, in fact, counterproductive. The body requires a minimal amount of calories to maintain normal, everyday activities, but it needs a significant amount of calories to build muscle tissue.
The minimum number of calories a woman needs every day to maintain her current level of body mass for intense training is 44 calories per kg of body weight or 20 calories per lb. To increase her muscle mass, she must eat an extra 350 to 700 calories per day. Maintaining food, exercise and body assessment logs will help you monitor how your body responds to the increase in calories and appropriately adjust your plans so you continue to bulk up. Furthermore, you should plan and prepare your meals ahead of time to ensure you eat all the calories you need to build muscle; waiting for a new day to begin to think about what you will eat for the day will lead to poor food choices and inadequate calorie load.
As part of a high, daily caloric intake, women who want to build muscle must also eat 1.5 g to 2 g of protein per day. Most of that protein should come from high-quality or complete proteins. These proteins contain all the essential amino acids your body needs in sufficient quantity and optimal ratios for maintaining the nitrogen balance in your body that enables tissue growth and repair. Complete proteins are found only in foods of animal origin, such as eggs, dairy products and meat. If you do not eat meat, you should pair beans with brown rice, seeds, corn, wheat or nuts to ensure you consume complete proteins. Or, combine brown rice with beans, seeds, nuts and wheat.
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy you need to fuel intense workouts that will build muscle and bulk you up. Though you may not need the 60 to 70 percent of your calories from carbohydrates that is typical of an endurance athlete’s diet, you do need 50 to 55 percent of all the calories you eat in a day to come from carbs. Fast-digesting carbohydrates like a baked potato, white rice or a sandwich made with white bread are best to eat immediately after your training session when your muscle cells will optimally absorb the glucose from your blood; this means you will replenish your energy quickly so you have the fuel for your next intense workout to build muscle. Other than your post workout meal, the carbs you eat should come from slow-digesting carbohydrates like whole-wheat bread and whole-grain pasta.
Fat should make up 20 to 25 percent of your daily calories for a bulking diet. Most of the fat you eat should be low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fat. Excellent sources of healthy fats include almonds, walnuts, flaxseed, avocados, olive oil, salmon and mackerel.
- “Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning”; Thomas R. Baechle et al.; 2000
- “Exercise Physiology, Energy, Nutrition & Human Performance”; William McArdle et al.; 2007
- National Institutes of Health: Muscles