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How to eat to build muscle mass

How do you eat to build muscle mass?

Kinesiology and nutrition student

Nutrition complements a muscle resistance training program when you’re aiming for mass gain. Consuming huge quantities of protein without regularly going to the gym (or any other sports facility) will not lead to an increase in muscle mass. In fact, did you know that the body can store carbohydrates and fats, but not proteins? In fact, when we consume more protein than the body needs, it converts the carbon part of the amino acid into fat and eliminates the nitrogen part in the urine.

What happens in the human body when we talk about muscular hypertrophy? During training, microtears are created in the muscles. Subsequently, the proteins ingested in the diet help repair tissues. The proteins will lodge in the “cracks” created in the muscle, resulting in increased muscle volume.

So it’s clear that human beings need protein! But we mustn’t forget that carbohydrates are more easily used as the main fuel to produce energy, and it’s precisely these that enable us to be more enduring in our workouts.

If the goal is to gain weight, mathematics is inevitable. Theoretically, to gain one pound over the course of a week, you would need to consume 3500 calories more than those already provided by your usual diet, i.e. 500 additional calories per day. Slow, gradual weight gain is desirable to maximize muscle mass gain at the expense of adipose tissue.
Here are a few tips for getting those extra calories in a day and promoting healthy weight gain:

Tip #1: Eat regularly throughout the day, at least every four hours. Always have snacks on hand. This distribution of calories ensures stable carbohydrate reserves for muscles and amino acids for their protection and growth. When we go long periods without eating, the body can “break” the amino acid chains in its muscles in order to get energy. This happens with people who fast or follow extreme diets, which is counterproductive.

Tip #2: In the same vein, eat carbohydrate and protein snacks before a workout. Carbohydrates provide energy, but amino acids protect muscles from depletion during exercise.

Tip #3: Eat energy-dense foods at mealtimes. The reason is quite simple: more calories can enter the stomach with less volume. As a result, satiety signals arrive later, allowing you to increase your calorie intake. A good example of an energy-dense food is peanut butter!

Tip #4 : Eat a source of protein at every meal: legumes, fish, nuts, poultry, eggs, seafood, cheese, yogurt, etc.

Tip #5 : Limit your intake of saturated fats and focus on polyunsaturated fats such as those found in peanut butter, nuts, avocados, olive oil and fatty fish like salmon and tuna.

To put it bluntly, building muscle mass takes patience. Untrained people can gain 3 to 4 pounds a month, whereas well-trained athletes gain at a slower rate. When gaining weight, it’s a good idea to monitor your progress through frequent body composition assessments, rather than simply on the scale, to ensure that the weight you gain is actually lean mass and not adipose tissue.

Note: Obviously, this article is very general and is only a small part of a process influenced by a multitude of factors. For personalized advice tailored to your needs, don’t hesitate to consult a nutritionist to help you achieve your goals!

Written by Stéphanie Grondin Nadeau, Founder of Squats et Fraises and Nutrition Student

Nancy Clark, MS, RD, Sports Nutrition Guide Book Fifth Edition, Human Kinetics, 2013, pp. 289-305.

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