What to Eat to Gain Muscle: 9 Diet Tips (with 3-Day Meal Plan)

Updated in February 2022

Diets that promote muscle building include strategies like eating more calories than you burn, increasing the amount of protein consumed throughout the day, and consuming more good fats. In addition to monitoring your diet, it is also important to perform strength training on a regular basis and to perform workouts that target muscle growth to stimulate hypertrophy. 

It is also important to remember that to gaining lean muscle and losing fat at the same time, you should avoid consumption of sugar, white flour and processed foods, as these will stimulate fat storage in the body. 

To increase muscle mass, it is important to pay attention to the calories you consume throughout the day, the type of food you are eating, and the quantity of water you are drinking. You should also be be aware of the frequency and intensity at which your exercise. 

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 7 diet tips for gaining muscle mass are: 

1. Consume more calories than you burn 

Consuming more calories than you burn is essential for gaining muscle mass quickly, as the excess calories (together with your workouts) will promote muscle building.

To know how many calories you should consume to reach your desired weight, enter your stats below: 

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2. Do not skip meals

Avoiding meal skipping is important to ensure you are consuming all necessary calories throughout the day. Consuming less calories or prolonged fasting may lead to loss of lean muscle. Ideally, you should have 5 to 6 meals per day, with special attention to breakfast and pre- and post-workout meals.

3. Consume more protein 

Increasing your protein intake is necessary to promote muscular growth. You protein sources should be spread out throughout the day, and not concentrated to just 2 or 3 meals. These sources should be mainly animal sources, like meat, fish, chicken, cheese, eggs and dairy, however protein can also be found in good quantities in foods like beans, peas, lentils, peanuts and chickpeas. 

In addition, using protein supplements, like whey and casein, may also be beneficial, especially for use following workouts, or to increase protein content in meals with less of it. Check out more examples of animal and plant-based protein sources you can incorporate into your muscle-building diet. 

4. Consume good fats

In contrary to what you may believe, consuming good fats actually stimulates the release of fat that is accumulated in the body, and helps to increase the overall calorie required to gain muscle mass. These fats are present in good like avocados, olive oil, olives, peanuts, peanut butter, flaxseed, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts and fish like tuna, sardines and salmon. 

These types of food can be added to snacks like organic crackers, yogurts, smoothies and even to meals. 

5. Drink plenty of water

Drinking lots of water is important to stimulate hypertrophy, as water is a basic necessity to fill up cells, allowing them to grow. If you do not consume sufficient water, muscle building will be slow and difficult. 

A healthy adult should consume at least 35ml (about 1 oz) for every 1 kg (or every 2.2 lb) of weight. For example, a person who weighs 70 kg (154 lb) should consume at least 2450 ml (82 oz) of water per day. Keep in mind that sugary or artificial drinks, like soda and alcohol, do not count toward this fluid intake.  

6. Eat at least 2 pieces of fruit per day  

Eating at least 2 types of fruit per day is important so that the body has the vitamins and minerals required to promote muscle recovery after working out. Fruit can stimulate a faster muscle regeneration, leading to increased hypertrophy of the muscles. 

In addition, the vitamins and minerals present in fruits and veggies are important for muscle contraction, which can reduce fatigue during workouts and boost immune system functioning.

7. Avoid sugar and processed foods

Avoiding food that contains high amounts of sugar and that is highly processed is important to prevent the stimulation of fat storage  in the body, especially because a muscle-building diet will already involve excess calorie consumption. To avoid weight gain from fat accumulation, it is important to remove certain food from the diet, like candy, cookies, cake, toast, fast food, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, cheddar cheese, prosciutto and other  fatty cold cuts. 

These types of food should be swapped for whole wheat bread, whole grain biscuits, fresh cheeses (like cottage cheese or mozzarella), eggs, meat and fish. 

8. Avoid drinking alcohol 

Consuming alcohol excessively on a regular basis can reduce protein synthesis, reduce metabolism and reduce the body’s ability to burn fat. This can all compromise muscle growth. Therefore, you should avoid binge-drinking altogether.

9. Eat complex carbohydrates 

Complex carbohydrates are important for muscle growth, as these calories will provide the energy the body needs to stimulate hypertrophy. Muscles also needs complex carbs to store glycose in the form of glycogen within the muscle cells, to be used during exercise and when recovering. 

It is important to know what complex carbs should specifically be used in your diet. Ideally, you should consume those that are rich in fiber, like oats, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, beans, sweet potato, whole wheat rice and whole wheat pasta. Check out other examples of high-fiber food you can incorporate into your muscle-building diet.

3-Day meal plan

A meal plan that aims to promote muscle growth will depend on how intensely you are exercising, and with the size, gender and age of each person. Your body type (ie. whether you have a mesomorph, endomorph or ectomorph body type) will also influence the rate at which you gain muscle. The following meal plan is an example to give you a rough idea of what your daily meals can look like: 

Meal Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Breakfast 2 slices of whole grain bread with egg and cheese + 1 cup of coffee with milk 1 tapioca crepe with chicken and cheese + 1 cup of milk with cacao powder   1 cup of juice (unsweetened) + 1 omelet made with 2 eggs and chicken 
Morning snack 1 piece of fruit + 10 chestnuts or peanuts  1 Greek yogurt with honey and chia seeds  1 smashed banana with oatmeal and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter 
Lunch or Dinner 4 tablespoons of rice + 3 tablespoons of beans + 150g of grilled duck + salad made with cabbage, carrots and peppers  1 salmon fillet + boiled sweet potato + vegetables sauteed in olive oil  Whole wheat pasta with ground meat and tomato sauce + 1 juice 
Afternoon snack 1 yogurt + 1 sandwich with chicken and cottage cheese   Smoothie made with fruit and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter + 2 tablespoons of oats  1 cup of coffee with milk + 1 crepe with 1-3 of a can of tuna 

You should only add supplements to your daily diet after being assessed by a registered dietitian, as the excess use of supplements can cause health problems. It is also important to remember to incorporate regular physical activity and intense workouts with your diet to see results. Check-out workouts created by our personal trainer that target the chest muscles and the leg muscles