Written by Sarah Louise & Bill Wynne • Updated Jan 17, 2022
How to Eat to Build Lean Muscle
We already know that a good workout routine will build strong & defined muscles. But what about nutrition - How exactly do I eat to build muscle? What should I cut down on? And that age-old question… where do I actually get all of my protein from?
In this article we’re breaking down your nutrition & teaching you how to eat for optimal muscle gains 👇🏼
#1 Eat enough calories 🍛
We all know that calories = fuel. Not only for your day and workouts, but also for your muscles to build themselves up.
That’s why, when trying to build muscle, you need to make sure you’re eating enough.
However, it’s a common misconception that “the more you eat, the more muscle you build”. If your body for example only needs 500 cals extra to support your training, giving it 1000 won’t be of use. Your body will simply store it as fat.
So if you’re looking to build lean muscle you should aim to support your strength training with 200 - 500 calories above maintenance.
Your calorie maintenance depends on factors like your activity level, age, gender & current muscle mass.
For women calorie maintenance is typically 1800 - 2300 cals. A moderate surplus will therefore be 2200 - 2700 calories.
For men calorie maintenance is normally around 2300 - 2800 cals. A moderate surplus will therefore be 2700 - 3300 calories.
How to do it:
The best way to know if you’re eating enough is to track your calories. As a ballpark estimate, aim to be at calorie maintenance or up to 500 calories above.
If you’re not seeing any progress in energy or strength, try upping the calories with another 100-200 cals. While upping them slowly, be sure to also keep an eye on your weight and overall look & feel.
When trying to build muscle, avoid being in a calorie deficit. Doing this for too long, your body will start searching for fuel on it’s own, and therefore break down muscle- or fat tissue.
#2 Get quality protein in 🥜
You’ve heard it before - a high protein diet goes hand-in-hand with building lean muscle. It helps keep you full for longer, and makes sure it’s fat you burn, not muscle.
Proteins are the building blocks of your muscles - not just repairing them after workouts, but building them back bigger as they adapt to your sessions.
How to do it:
For every meal, aim to eat 15-30g of protein. This might sound like a lot but can simply be 150g tofu, 200g of cooked chickpeas, 2.5 eggs or 120g chicken or soy mince substitute.
💡 Tracking calories isn’t for everyone, nor something you have to do every day, but it can really help you understand any nutritional shortfalls you might have
#3 Don’t forget carbs 🥯
As well as getting enough calories & protein, you also need to work enough carbs into your diet. They are what are going to give you energy for your workouts. A little extra carbs will allow you to squeeze in extra reps here and there, and therefore lead to overall gains in the long run.
Great carb sources could be oats for breakfasts, and brown rice, potatoes or wholewheat pasta at lunches and dinners.
How to do it:
Aim to include healthy, whole grain carbs for at least 2 of your main meals. There are many great carb sources out there, and many of them are kitchen staples you’ll almost always have to hand.
#4 Most importantly: Stay consistent 🙌🏼
One of the most important ingredients to build muscle is consistency.
Remember when we talked about setting realistic goals in part 1? It’s because it’s going to take time and commitment to achieve our fitness goals. But I promise, weeks and months of consistent and well thought-out workouts make it so, so worthwhile.
Yes, there will be times where you will miss a workout, you won’t get enough protein, or you’ll pick chocolate over chickpeas.
… but that’s okay. Consistency allows for these imperfections. Just like 1 healthy day won’t give you results, neither will 1 unhealthy day ruin your progress.
Your nutrition puts all the hard work you do in the gym to good use in your body. What you put on your plate really does determine how much muscle you build.
Our top tips for optimising your nutrition to build muscle:
Eat enough calories
Aim for 15-30g of protein with every meal
Include carbs for at least 2 of your main meals
Most importantly: be consistent with both training and nutrition.
Keeping on top of your nutrition & workouts is important, which is why we've created a FREE 20-week Trainn Guide with effective workouts, high-protein recipes and plenty of motivational reminders.
Are you ready to make this the year you finally reach your fitness goals? Get started with trainn
Personal trainer & founder of trainn
Creative content writer
Hi, I'm Sarah Louise 👋🏼
I am one of the personal trainers on trainn, as well as the founder & creator of it all.
My aim is to take you on a personalised fitness journey to a body you love and a lifestyle you can maintain. Real advice. Real results.
After coaching thousands of clients for nearly a decade and gathering lots of experience, I have designed methods that are proven to make your results stick with you forever.
Take your fitness to the next level, regain confidence and create a consistent routine through personalised workouts, weekly goals, healthy habits & expert advice. All unique to you.
Download the trainn app to start your fitness journey today