Posted by Craig Brown

Gaining muscle is a slow process , one that takes time and consistency in all areas, your training, your nutrition, your sleep and managing stress.

When I set up a persons diet with muscle gain as their primary goal, there are a few things I try and achieve, based off what we currently know regarding maximising nutrition for muscle hypertrophy. The same base principles apply whether you male or female.

Can one gain muscle in a caloric deficit if sufficient protein is being consumed , yes , but is it optimal, wants to create a surplus to minimise muscle protein breakdown over the course of a day and likewise maximise muscle protein synthesis.

There are many ways of going about this, what fits a persons life and schedule, what can they do over time consistently, and what is ultimately realistic is usually what is optimal.

Here are some general guidelines :

• Be in a calorie surplus (300 cal or more) or at the very least maintenance level calories.The higher the surplus the higher the rate of body fat gain to muscle.

• Keep fat intake around 20-25% of total daily calorie intake, keep sources varied.(whole eggs, nuts, livers, avocado, olive oil, macadamia nut oil etc) 

• Keep carbohydrate intake consistent with training and expenditure 2g plus per kg bodyweight depending on training and if you do any further sport specific training (rugby etc) try to include a variety of wholegrain, and fruits as well.

• Have 2-3 meals a day consisting of at least 0.4g-0.5g/kg (or 2.5g-3.5g of Leucine per meal) of bodyweight of protein so for example a 100kg male would be aiming for 30g protein at this meals (eg. 100g cooked skinless chicken breast , 150g cooked hake , a tub of cottage cheese,) be mindful of proteins coming from other sources in mixed meals and adjust accordingly.

• Have 1 shake of 0.3g/kg of fast digesting protein shortly after your workout (eg. A quality Whey protein)

• Have a bolus dose or your largest protein take before bed 0.5-0.6g/kg, preferably this should be a solid protein or Casein shake)

• Spacing meals every 2.5 to 4 hours apart depending on schedule

All added up this would equal 1.6g – 2.4g per kg of protein per day.

The guidelines above would be 5 meals a day but one can choose anywhere between 4-6 meals a day depending on lifestyle, how long one is awake per day and so on. Whatever suites your lifestyle.

Supplement wise : this is not a prescription but suggestions to look into.

• Fish oils : unless oily fish makes up a decent part of your diet its usually a good idea to supplement with fish oils (omega 3 or flax seed if vegan)

• Vit D 3 is a good idea unless being exposed to a fair amount of sun per day (+- 30 min)

• L – Carnitine tartrate : consider L – Carnitine tartrate dose pre and post workout with high carb meals usually associated to pre and post workout, to help minimise overall fat gain. Although I don’t see much use in L Carnitine tartrate as a fat burner in a caloric deficit, as a potential supplement to help minimise fat gain during a gaining period it may provide some benefit.

• Creatine – no brainer as one of the most researched supplements and one with the most benefits backed by actual science, 3-7g per day depending on your size, red meat intake , usually 5g per day suffices taken anytime of day, my favourite is creatine monohydrate powder, simple cheap and effective.

• Caffeine – if not sensitive to or have health reasons not to, some caffeine pre workout (coffee or pre workout formulations) will help raise exercise intensity and effectiveness.

There is no magic formula to muscle gain, its consistent nutritional intake as above, progressive hard training in various rep ranges with sufficient recovery , and optimising sleep and minimising stress. Over and over and over again.

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