Nutrition Mistakes to Avoid to Gain Muscle
If you’re trying to build muscle, you’re probably already working out hard and doing resistance training to challenge your muscles. But there’s another important consideration for maximizing your gains: your diet.
NOT EATING ENOUGH HIGH QUALITY PROTEIN
Muscle hypertrophy, happens when you combine the right resistance training workout program with adequate protein.
Following a challenging resistance training workout, the proteins in your muscle fibers break down into smaller components called amino acids, as a response to the stress and damage they take during your exercise. This process is called muscle protein breakdown. If you’re eating enough protein, though, your muscle fibers can recover and rebuild, through a process called muscle protein synthesis. If you want to make gains, eating plenty of protein is a crucial piece of the puzzle. To know exactly how much protein you should be eating, have a resting metabolic test. This test will have diet specific to your goals; including your protein goals for each day.
In addition, it’s also important to consider the kinds of protein that you’re eating to get closer to your goals. For example, many plant-based protein sources are incomplete, which means that they don’t have all of the amino acids your body needs to build muscle.
IGNORING YOUR OVERALL CALORIE IINTAKE
Protein isn’t the only nutrient that contributes to your muscle growth. You should also consider your total calorie intake. If you eat more calories than you burn, that extra energy is stored in your body as fat for future use. However, if you eat fewer calories than you burn (in other words, if you’re in a calorie deficit) your body has to burn through your stored fat for energy, which can help with weight loss.
As a result, many people believe that they should always prioritize a calorie deficit to reach their fitness goals, but this is not necessarily true if you’re trying to build muscle mass. In fact, if your goal is specifically to build muscle, you should avoid being in a long-term calorie deficit altogether since your body needs energy to grow. Meanwhile, if your goal is body recomposition (in other words, if you’re trying to lose body fat while also building muscle), a more moderate calorie deficit is more appropriate.
If you’re eating too few calories, it might result in muscle loss in addition to fat loss. Studies suggest that you shouldn’t have a calorie deficit of more than 500 calories per day if you’re trying to preserve your muscle mass during weight loss. The only way to know if you are gaining muscle and losing fat is to do weekly weigh ins on an InBody scale.
LOADING UP ON CALORIE-DENSE BUT NUTRIENT POOR FOODS
Because you need so much energy and protein to build muscle, some people assume that the most logical course of action is simply to eat more, without paying too much attention to what the nutrient content of your diet is.
Unfortunately, eating foods that are high in carbohydrates and fats can lead to unwanted effects on your body composition like fat gain, which will ultimately throw off your progress. Studies have shown that people who ate a higher protein intake tended to gain more muscle than fat when compared to others who ate a similar energy surplus with less protein.
Instead of loading up on energy-dense but nutrient-poor junk foods, try to eat high-protein whole foods that help you to meet the rest of your dietary requirements.
NOT DRINKING ENOUGH WATER
Your food intake isn’t the only dietary consideration if you’re trying to gain muscle. You should also make sure you’re getting enough water, especially before you work out. Water helps lubricate your joints, moves necessary nutrients throughout your body, and maintains your body temperature, preventing overheating.
Keep a water bottle on hand throughout the day and especially during your workouts. By drinking water regularly throughout the day to give your body the hydration it needs, you can level up your long-term muscle gains. You should be drinking your lean body mass in ounces of water daily. To know exactly how many ounces of water to drink each day, schedule an InBody scan.
OVERLOOKING YOUR CARBOHYDRATE INTAKE
Your body stores some carbohydrates in a form called glycogen, which is found in your muscles and helps provide the power they need for high-intensity exercise. This is especially relevant if you’re an endurance athlete.
Carbohydrates may help improve your endurance during heavy, prolonged exercise that lasts for two hours or more since they can protect your muscle’s glycogen stores.
You don’t need to work out for longer periods to reap these rewards, either — there’s also evidence that eating small amounts of carbohydrates during exercise can help improve performance during short and intense workouts.
The key here is to look for healthy carb options rather than simple carbs, as these will maximize your performance and gains.
NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO YOUR MEAL TIMING
While your overall protein intake during the day ultimately matters the most, you should also pay attention to when you are eating your protein if you want to maximize your gains.
Eating a meal shortly after your workout ends may help boost your recovery. For example, studies suggest that your ability to replace your glycogen stores can drop by up to 50% two hours after your workout.
So, for optimal muscle-building results, aim to eat a nutritious meal within a few hours of your workout to help your body recover with the right nutrients.
RELYING TOO HEAVILY ON SUPPLEMENTS
Because building muscle is such a common goal for so many people, there are plenty of supplements out there that are intended to make this process easier.
Protein powder is made from concentrated protein sources like 100% whey isolate or peas and can deliver large amounts of protein in just one serving.
Supplements are a useful tool for increasing your overall protein intake; however, you should still prioritize whole lean foods to be most of your protein intake. They contain other essential nutrients that your body needs that may not be present in concentrated protein supplements.
Schedule your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) test and InBody scan to adjust your diet to your body's exact needs to make the most gains. By picking lean proteins, eating high-quality whole foods, and diversifying your nutrient sources, you’ll give your muscles all of the fuel they need to conquer your toughest workouts and grow, grow, grow.