When you're trying to build muscle, diet can make or break a weightlifting routine. Not only what you eat but how much and when you eat must be considered to get the best results. Training without the proper fuel for your body will result in smaller muscle gains, and consuming too many calories can cause you to gain fat as well as muscle. Timing your meals properly can help you get the best results from your muscle-building activities.
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Timing of Meals
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that you eat small meals or snacks five or six times each day if you are trying to build muscle mass. This means eating approximately every two to three hours each day. Eating more often helps make sure you have plenty of fuel and nutrients spread throughout the day for building and repairing your muscles.
Composition of Meals
For the most benefits, when you eat every two hours you should make sure that you are eating at least some protein, carbohydrates and fats in each meal. Protein helps to build your muscles, while carbohydrates and fats provide the fuel you need for your workouts. If you only consume protein, your body will have to use some of the protein for fuel, leaving less for muscle-building purposes. Throughout the day, about 50 percent to 60 percent of your calories should come from carbohydrates, 25 percent to 30 percent from fat and the rest of your calories from protein, recommends the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Amount to Consume
People who are trying to build muscle mass need to consume at least an extra 200 calories per day and perhaps as much as 500 to 1,000 calories extra per day depending on whether they are trying to gain weight or just turn fat into muscle. Eating every two hours can help you consume sufficient calories. Try to consume 30 grams of protein at each meal, which is the equivalent of a 4-ounce serving of protein-rich foods like dairy, poultry, soy or meat. A study conducted in 2009 by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that consuming this amount of protein per meal increased muscle building, but increasing the amount of protein per meal further didn't have any additional benefits.
Eating every two hours doesn't guarantee you will build more muscle. You also need to participate in an effective weight-training program and make sure you consume only high-quality foods, such as whole grains, fruits, nonstarchy vegetables, lean protein sources and foods containing the essential fatty acids found in unsaturated fats, such as fish, nuts, avocados and flax seed. Choose unprocessed foods over refined grains and heavily processed or junk foods. Don't consume more calories than you need or you will gain fat instead of muscle.