Weight gain, especially lean muscle mass gain, can be just as difficult for some people as trying to lose weight. Lean muscle growth is especially important for certain types of athletes such as body builders. Following a regular exercise program is essential to help increase lean body mass. Increasing muscle mass while reducing fat gain can be challenging, however is possible with the right diet and exercise regimen.
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Calories for Weight Gain
A safe and effective rate of weight gain for lean muscle growth is approximately .5 to 1 Ib. per week, according to Christine Rosenbloom in her book "Sports Nutrition." To accomplish this rate of weight gain, an increase of approximately 400 to 500 calories per day is required. It’s important to note that the additional calories should come from nutrient dense foods, or foods high in nutritional value.
Calories for Muscle Building
Calories required for a muscle-building diet vary depending on gender and current body weight. Rosenbloom states that a muscle building diet requires approximately 23.6 to 27.3 calories per pound of body weight for men and about 20 calories per pound for women. For example, a man trying to gain muscle mass who weighs 160 Ibs. would consume approximately 3,776 to 4,368 calories per day.
Macronutrient recommendations, including carbohydrate, protein and fat requirements, are slightly different for athletes compared to sedentary individuals. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, athletes require approximately 12 to 15 percent of daily calories from protein, 60 to 70 percent from carbohydrates and 20 to 30 percent from fat. Rosenbloom notes similar macronutrient requirements for athletes of 12 to 15 percent of daily calories from protein, 60 to 70 percent from carbohydrates and a maximum of 30 percent from fat.
Importance of Exercise
Although a proper diet is important for weight gain, following an appropriate exercise program is essential to see an increase in lean muscle mass. The most important type of exercise to perform during a period of muscle building is strength training as often as five to six days per week. Including some cardiovascular exercise can help minimize fat gain while increasing lean muscle mass.
To maximize lean muscle growth during weight gain, the American Dietetic Association recommends eating five to six times per day and adding high-calorie nutrient dense foods to meals and snacks. Healthy foods that can help increase daily calories include oils, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, olives, avocados, dry milk powder, grated cheese, honey and dried fruits.