How to eat for maximum muscle gain

Elite personal trainer with JDP Health & Fitness and New Zealand’s strongest man Jackson Hinch gives you his secrets to Maximum Muscle Gain

Are you looking to gain muscle? Photo: JDP Fitness

Tired of being skinny, not making strength gains and feeling like you’re spinning your wheels with your gym sessions?

You’re lifting weights like all the bigger guys and girls with curves in the right places and yet you can’t seem to achieve the same result. What’s the secret?

A special workout, different exercise, set and rep schemes no one else knows about? No. Much the same as getting lean, gaining muscle and strength requires just as much of a calculated and measured approach to nutrition.

Providing your body with the nutrients it needs to grow consistently is quite often where many people fall short. I’ve lost count of the amount of people who complain about not growing and think they eat a lot. One big meal a day does not constitute as a lot of food overall.

“A common misconception is that you build muscle while lifting weights,” says Jackson. “This is entirely false. When you are lifting weights you are actually breaking down muscle fibres and sending your body a stimulus to know that it has to adapt for what’s coming next time.

“It’s when you’re eating, sleeping and recovering during your time outside of the gym that your body is growing muscle, but only if you supply it with enough food and recovery time.”

So we need to look at the numbers of the overall picture. To grow we need to be in a calorie surplus, or taking in more than we are using in simple terms.

“This doesn’t mean quick eat everything in sight and load up on calorie dense foods all day everyday or anything of the like,” adds Jackson. “This is a one way ticket to putting on too much weight too fast, putting on body fat rather than muscle tissue, and even life limiting health issues.

“Building muscle tissue is a far slower process than losing fat unfortunately”.

This is a slow building process.

how to build muscle

Photo: JDP Fitness

“Think of it in terms of building a house. It takes months to build a whole house, yet it takes only a day or two to completely demolish it. So while we can do quite a bit for fat loss and be much more aggressive in diets for 4-8 weeks to get noticeable fat loss gains, gaining muscle generally requires a longer commitment, much more conservative and the gains don’t happen overnight.”

So with this logic we start with a small calorie surplus and adjust as needed from there.

Number crunching plays a big part in setting up a well thought out approach to gaining size. Especially when we want to do our best to ensure that the majority of the weight gain comes from muscle and not simply putting on bodyfat.

Your best to enlist the help of a professional in this respect, JDP Health & Fitness for example, so that you aren’t just shooting in the dark and potentially setting yourself up for less than stellar muscle gains and end up looking like the marshmallow man from putting on too much fat that you’ll have to diet off later on.

Let’s look at Jim again like in this Fat Loss article. He’s back from his holiday and keen to put on some muscle so that next time he diets he looks even better.

For perspective, Jim is an 80kg office working male who is training three times per week with weights now that his focus is muscle building.

Sample diet

Meal One > 100g Oats + 100g Frozen Beries, 4 Whole Eggs + 4 Egg Whites + 10ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil + Fibrous Vegetables

Meal Two > 100g Rice + Vegetables + 150g Chicken Breast + 15ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Meal Three/Post Workout > 1.5 Scoops JDP Premium Whey + 1 Banana + 5 Rice Cakes + 1 tsp Nut Butter

Meal Four > 200g Lean Beef Steak or Mince + 100g Pasta + Vegetables

Snack > 50g Mixed Nuts or 3 tsp Nut Butter

This is tailored to Jim’s individual needs, metabolic demands, activity levels and goals, but feel free to use some of the food choices and just adapt the portion sizes to your needs.

When eating in a surplus you can afford to be a bit more lenient on meals off. Generally you know your body best, so if you’re a generally lean individual you can have more off or generally put on weight easily then stick to the plan more.

Also if you know when you eat junk it leads to absolute diet chaos then limit yourself to a small meal off for sanity sake. If you have good self control and can generally handle more food, then 2-3 meals off plan each week isn’t going to ruin your progress at all or set you down the wrong track. When eating in a calorie surplus your sessions will be harder and more intense so you can warrant the extra calories from meals off.

“It is near impossible to put on muscle and not put on any fat ruining many peoples hopes and dreams!” says Jackson. “Eating in a surplus we can’t determine where the body will put the calories or use them for, whether it be fat storage or muscle growth.

“To combat this you should really ensure your workouts are hard and intense and also being conservative on your calorie surplus to minimise fat gain.”

how to build muscle

Photo: JDP Fitness

A little bit of fat gain is warranted as long as you are putting on muscle and strength at a rate you are comfortable with. This makes some of these winter months perfect for putting on muscle and weight as you’re wrapped up in clothes all day. Building muscle and upping your metabolism for next summer when you diet again and want to look good on the beach!

Consistency and dedication to the process will take you to levels of development you could only dream of before!

The information on this website is intended for entertainment purposes only and does not constitute professional, medical or healthcare advice or diagnosis, and may not be used as such.


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↺ Article History
• Last updated on February 20, 2018
• First published on October 18, 2016
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