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.
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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.
Calories for Weight Gain
A safe and effective rate of weight gain for lean muscle growth is approximately .5 to 1 pound per week. 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.
Read more: The Best Way to Gain Lean Muscle Mass
Calories for Lean Muscle Gain
Calories required for a muscle-building diet vary depending on gender and current body weight. 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 pounds would consume approximately 3,776 to 4,368 calories per day.
Macros and Nutrients
Macro-nutrient 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.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises consuming 0.37g of protein per every pound you weigh. Carbs are the ones you want to fuel your workouts. Carbohydrates are converted to glycogen, which is stored in your muscles for when you need energy.
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.
Increasing Your Calories
To maximize lean muscle growth during weight gain, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating five to six times per day if you have a small appetite and adding high-calorie nutrient dense foods to meals and snacks. Think "full fat" instead of the lighter versions available; for example: cottage cheese, yogurt, block cheese, butter, whole-wheat crackers. Just by choosing the fattier foods doesn't mean they're less healthy.
And they don't have all those chemicals that "light" food has. You still have to measure and monitor your fat intake; in other words, increasing your calories is not a license to pig out. 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.