Many people who work out think of weight training and other exercise as the primary means of gaining lean muscle mass. While strength and resistance training is vital, hard hours of exercise can be easily sabotaged by a poor diet. Even those who eat relatively well to begin with may want to closely examine their diet and tweak it to become optimal for putting on lean muscle. No matter how much muscle a person is looking to put on or what their overall fitness goals are, there are important nutrition factors to consider.
The Importance of Body Type
Before nutrition and workouts are considered, it is important for a person to consider their natural physique and physical tendencies, otherwise known as their body type. A person’s body type doesn’t just impact how they look in general. It has a major role in how a workout and muscle-building regimen will affect them and what results they can hope to achieve. Gaining the right proportions of lean muscle can be more or less difficult based on body type. Considering your body type is important for creating realistic goals in all aspects of your training. Since body type will affect the impact of nutrition on weight gain, it is vital for any discussion of nutrition and weight training.
These are naturally slim and small-boned people. They tend to have trouble gaining any type of weight and may be chronically considered underweight. Of all three body types, ectomorphs have the hardest time gaining muscle mass. In general, an ectomorph will want to take in many more calories than other body types to achieve the same result. The fat-cutting guidelines presented later will apply less to ectomorphs because they need the extra calories. An ectomorph will also want to supplement more so than the other types and will definitely want to include protein drinks and such in their diet.
Don’t despair if you are an ectomorph trying to gain muscle mass. While it is not realistic for an ectomorph to become the quintessential vision of the buff body builder, this body type can maintain an incredibly beautiful fit physique if they put in the work.
This is the perfect body-builder type. Mesomorphs tend to put on muscle mass very easily and may appear naturally muscular even when they don’t work out that much. This body type is also more efficient at building lean muscle because they tend to naturally store less fat. Generally, body building will be easiest for this body type following regular nutritional and exercise guidelines.
Endomorphs are essentially the opposite body type of ectomorphs. They tend to put on weight very easily, but unlike mesomorphs, they are much more likely to put that weight on as fat. The good news is that it is easier for them to build muscle mass. Endomorphs may be challenged to put on lean muscle mass and keep it there. A strict nutritional program that emphasizes protein and limits fat and carbs will be especially important.
General Nutritional Guidelines
Healthy diets that are good for everyone are also good at helping build lean muscle. This means limiting saturated fats and sugary carbs and maximizing lean proteins, complex carbs with fiber and plenty of fruits and vegetables. As in all nutrition, just talking about the macro-molecules of fat, protein and carbohydrates doesn’t cut it. Your body will not shed fat easily or gain muscle easily if it does not have the many micro-nutrients, vitamins and minerals, that it needs from fruits and vegetables. These are equally or even more important than controlling ratios of protein to fat and carbs.
Proper hydration is vital. In fact, strongly consider making water your primary drink with the occasional smoothie or protein shake thrown in. Sweating more and eating more protein both increase your need for water.
Focus on increasing protein and decreasing fat and carbs. However, never eliminate either entirely. Your body still vitally needs healthy fats like olive oil and some carbs like those from brown rice.
Eat Small and Timely
What you eat when gaining muscle is important, but how you eat it is even more. The key concept is to give your body the energy it needs when it needs it without overdoing calories. If you starve yourself, you won’t gain muscle because your body won’t feel like it has the excess to build on. If you overeat, then you will gain muscle and fat, instead of just the lean muscle you want.
The most important times to eat are in the morning and after workouts. Yes, breakfast will still be the most important meal of the day. You will also want to eat many small meals throughout the day instead of a few large ones. Preferably you should eat after a workout when your body’s reserves are most depleted. This ensures that you give your body the consistent energy it needs, but not any extra. If your body doesn’t have any extra calories sitting around, it wont need to store them as fat.
By focusing on these nutritional guidelines you can eat a balanced, enjoyable and filling diet all while maximizing your fitness goals. Remember to enjoy what you eat so that you keep eating it and always choose nutritious and healthy foods.