5 Ways To Plan Your Diet For Big Gains

Building muscle, takes work. And just like anything else, the more work and effort you put in, the better the results. Setting goals – and seeing your plan through until the end – is what makes muscle happen. Getting there, though, can be tough if you’ve done it before. Planning to grow is only as good as the plan you make, and the information you receive. Here is a rundown of five keys of nutrition planning to help you grow the muscle you’re after.

5 Ways To Plan Your Diet For Big Gains

#1: Grocery Shop in Advance

Planning to grow means going to the grocery store well in advance of when you want to get started on your ‘get big’ meal plan. Don’t postpone it until tomorrow, or until after your workout when you are starving. Set aside some time on your weekend or one night of the week. Shop around the perimeter of the store where the fresh food is located and purchase only those items that will help you get to your goal. Buy plenty of lean meat, green veggies, root veggies, non-fat dairy, eggs and whole grains like oatmeal and quinoa. Need some help building that list? Check out out The Guy’s Guide To Grocery Shopping.

#2: Plan Your Schedule Around Your Meals

Once you have the food, it’s time to plan out your week of eating. Don’t cook for one meal, cook at least 2-3 days in advance. Make a few servings of chicken, beef, a few cups of rice and cut up fresh veggies for easier preparation. Portion out meals according to where you will be. More than likely you already know when you will work out and how many meetings you have or social events you need to attend. Come prepared – always bring your food with you to work, or eat in advance of meetings or parties you need to attend. For workouts, be sure to bring your pre-workout meal and – at the very minimum – a post-workout shake to hold you over until you get home. It’s important to eat every few hours to ensure muscles have aminos, and energy levels are peaked for workouts. Failing to eat because of your schedule can result in unhealthy food binges later, and can cause those calories to end up being stored in fat instead of being used to fuel your muscles.

#3: Eat More, Eat More Often

One easy rule for eating to get bigger is to simply eat more and eat more often. If you’re a hard gainer, you need to eat about 18 to 20 times your body weight in pounds in calories. That means if you weigh 150 pounds you should be eating about 2700 to 3000 calories per day. Space your meals out between 5 to 7 meals every 2 to 3 hours. Most hard gainers have a high metabolism to begin with, which means you are burning through more energy in the form of food – or even muscle. Feeding your body more ensures you are keeping muscles filled with nutrients needed to ward off muscle catabolism, keeping your body in a state of muscle anabolism (or building).

#4: Count Your Macros

After you determine your calories and figure out how many grams of each macro you should be eating. Aim for at least 1 to 1.5 g of protein per pound of body weight per day, or about 40 to 50%. Carbs and fats can make up the remaining 50 to 60% or 20 to 30% each depending on how your body metabolizes carbs, how much fat you need to lose and how active you are.  Invest in a digital food scale, measuring cups and measuring spoons to weigh and portion your food out. You may think this is a waste of time, but you could be short changing yourself on much-needed calories. Use a fitness app to help you track your food to ensure you’re getting what you need every day, and to act as a daily food journal to track and gauge your results with the types of food and the amounts you have been eating.

#5: Be Consistent in Your Approach

If you want to be sure you’re making gains, you need to be consistent. That means you need to eat wholesome, healthy food every day, and preferably at the same times. Providing your body with the right fuel at consistent times throughout the day guarantees your muscles have what they need to keep building and recovering from the workouts you put them through. If you only follow a healthy meal plan for a few days each week, you can’t expect to get results. Building muscle takes work, and time. If you put in as much effort with your diet as you do with your workouts, your results will come in no time.

Lauren Jacobsen

Lauren is a biochemist with a background in sports nutrition and supplement formulation. Lauren has over 15 years of experience as a trainer, consultant to the supplement industry and nutrition expert. She is also the TV show host of "Body Fuel," a former competitive athlete and regular contributor to various fitness publications.

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