diet for building muscle


So you’d like to build muscle but you’ve never really got results before?

Well, you’re in the right place!

You see, today I’m going to lay out a simple and highly effective diet for building muscle EVEN if you’re a complete beginner. I’ll reveal what you should be eating, as well as how much of it, and even how often. When you’re done here, you’ll have a proven framework you can use to create a simple muscle building diet that’s way easier than you may expect.

(and BOY does it work!)

But before I go through those details, I want to address something else…

The majority of people reading this right now have probably already tried (and failed) to build muscle in the past, and that’s precisely why you’re searching the internet for good, reliable info. Am I right?

So I’d like to begin this article by showing why those previous unsuccessful attempts weren’t your fault.

Seriously, I’ll explain.

muscle building diet guide


How many times have you heard this phrase before?

Heck, you may have even seen friends wolf down plates of junk food and then brush it off with that statement, right?

Well listen up:

The people who say this s**t all have one thing in common – a gut.

Most people’s idea of ‘bulking’ is to eat piles of s**tty food, with no concern for macronutrients, and no tracking whatsoever. Sure you’ll get bigger – but it’s not the kind of size you want.

So I wanted to begin this article by saying if you’ve done this before, it’s NOT your fault, because for many years, this was the standard advice given to anybody who wanted to build muscle.

And it’s f**king wrong.

If you dirty bulk, you add dirty size. A guy eating 3500 calories from junk food will look like s**t compared to a guy who eats 3500 calories from mostly nutritious foods and with an optimal macronutrient ratio to support muscle growth. This is something I’ve personally tested with clients over the years, and seen the results for myself.

So how do we structure our diet to maximize hypertrophy and minimize gains in body fat?

I’m glad you asked. Let’s get stuck in to some numbers…

diet to build muscle


When you say you want to be bigger, what you REALLY mean is you want to be more muscular, right?

Well, meet your new best friend.

Protein is EVERYTHING when it coes to muscle recovery and growth.

But if there’s one issue I consistently see in guys who struggle to pack on size it’s that they’re NOT eating enough protein. In fact, they’re eating nowhere near enough – for many of them, their post-workout whey protein shake is all they get!

That needs to stop now.

This confusion is sometimes down to the fact they’re not tracking their nutrition, and other times it’s down to government guidelines, which have ridiculously low daily requirements for protein (0.3g per lb of body weight!). You should ignore these targets, becase they are not set for people who lift weights and are trying to build muscle.

Studies more suited to athletes indicate that setting protein between 1 gram and 1.5 grams per lb of body weight is OPTIMAL for hypertrophy. (1, 2, 3, 4)

Some ‘gurus’ will tell you to go even higher (1.5-2g per lb), but this is both impractical and unnecessary. You’ll notice these people almost always own supplement companies.

Interestingly, the actual muscle building effects tend to ‘max out’ at about 1.18 grams per lb, but going slightly higher can minimize fat gain due to protein’s satiating effect (you’ll feel fuller and less likely to go over your calorie target). This is good to know when you’re in a cutting phase, as eating more protein can be a good way to prevent over-eating, but when your diet is higher in calories you won’t need to go above 1.2g per lb. (5)

Make sense? Good!

So using this target figure, a guy who weighs 200lbs will eat 240 grams of protein and a woman who weighs 130lbs will eat 156 grams of protein.

best diet for building muscle fast


Fat plays a crucial role in helping your body to build muscle.

It helps the body to regulate key hormones in the hypertrophy process (testosterone and cortisol), and a heavy weightlifting program which isn’t supported by adequate fat intake will eventually lead to a crashed endocrine system – catastrophic for results!

Things would have to be pretty bad to get that far, of course, but I don’t even want you to entertain the idea.

One of the reasons this happens is because some people are still afraid to eat fat due to the bad reputation it had in the 1980’s. Make no mistake, fat (the nutrient) and fat (the blubber which hides your abs) are two entirely different things – and I do NOT want you to miss out on quality muscle growth because of outdated, debunked 80’s propoganda.

Set your fat intake to 0.5 grams per lb of body weight from now on. Using this target, a 200lb guy will eat 100 grams of fat per day, and a 130lb woman will eat 65 grams of fat.

how many carbs to build muscle


This is where things get awesome.

You see, the amino acids found in protein and the fatty acids found in foods like fish are deemed ‘essential’ because our body is unable to produce them by itself, therefore we MUST obtain them via our diet.

However, there are no ‘essential’ carbohydrates.

This means carbs represent the macronutrient you can tinker with when you are trying to scale your calories up or down depending on your body goals. In this case, we are going to use them to scale our calories UP.

Before we do that, though, I want you to kill any bulls**t you’ve heard about carbs causing fat gain. The early 2000’s were riddled with carb-based myths, so let me confirm that research CLEARLY shows there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating carbs – they will NOT cause fat storage, not even if you eat them after 6pm (another broscience myth!). (6, 7, 8)

Instead, they’ll help you power through your training sessions!

I mentioned above that you should eat AT LEAST 1.5 grams of carbs per lb of body weight. That’s because I want you to play with this one as you go, depending how your body responds. After two weeks if you are not gaining weight you should increase this to 2 grams per lb, and then again to 2.5 grams per lb. Or if you feel like you’re gaining weight too quickly (i.e. if it feels like you are gaining fat, not muscle), reduce your carbs to 1 gram per lb and start from there.

With a target of 1.5 grams of carbs per lb of body weight, a 200lb guy will eat 300 grams of carbs per day, and a 130lb woman will eat 195 grams of carbs per day.

proven muscle building diet

easy diet to build muscle


Not really.

Meal frequency has been a hot topic in the fitness world for many years, but guess what? It shouldn’t be.

This is down to the myth that “eating smaller, more frequent meals can speed up the metabolism and burn more fat”, which is something I STILL see on social media from people who should know better.

Science is very clear on the matter – eating smaller, more frequent meals does NOT speed up the metabolism! (10)

But what about in terms of building muscle? Well, with regards to protein there are tiny advantages to be made in terms of ansbolic response by consuming smaller doses throughout the day (these advantages are small they’re not even worth worrying about!), but neither carbohydrates or fat show any advantages at all. (11, 12, 13)

Meanwhile, the research is overwhelming when it comes to THE REAL KEY TO SUCCESS – sustainability! If your diet is so strict you dislike it, it becomes highly unsustainable and you likely won’t adhere long enough to see any results. That’s a deal breaker right there. (9, 14)

So break your food into as many meals as you want to, just make it fit your life in a way you can sustain it. Job done!

best supplements to build muscle


The world of fat burning supplements and muscle building supplements share one thing in common:


You see, deep down we all know that fat burners are useless. We know there is no magic pill. Yet it’s still a billion dollar industry because they prey on the ‘what if?’ factor.

Muscle building supplements are similar. I mean, we all know there isn’t anything (legal) that can make us Hulk up overnight, but I can guarantee everyone reading this has gambled at some point on a suspicious-looking bottle of pills from the internet that claimed to be ‘the answer’.

That’s because the supplement industry thrives on confusion. Quite frankly, if you knew what worked and what didn’t, you wouldn’t spend anywhere near as much money each year – and that isn’t good for business.

Thankfully, science clearly shows us which supplements are worth the invesement and which are about as useful as a whammy bar on a piano.

You should be using the following things.


Protein is protein, whether it comes from food or drink, and most people struggle to get enough of it per day. Whey protein is the ultimate convenience food because it has zero prep-time and is fast-digesting, so it won’t fill you up quite as much as protein-based food (useful when trying to eat a lot of calories per day!).

This is the one I use.


Creatine is the best-selling bodybuilding supplement of all time for good reason: it works.

It’ll help you improve explosive strength and power, as well as building muscle mass. (16)

This is the one I use.


Omega-3 is one of the most under-rated supplements around, and that’s usually down to terrible marketing as opposed to the actual benefits it offers.

You won’t see any claims of ‘skin-splitting pumps’ on the packaging, but these little bad boys will DEFINITELY support muscle growth and recovery.

This is the one I use.


Even if you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables (which most of us do not), you’d still be unlikely to reaach a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals.

Think about it, when did you last eat turnip? Exactly! Vitamins and minerals play a HUGE role in our lives, not just in regards to building muscle but in terms of our mood, our skin, even the strength of our hair. Grabbing a good multivitamin & minerals supplement is a super simple way to tick this box.

Men and women have different micronutrient requirements, so this is the one I use and this is the one my female readers should use.


A good pre workout will help you train harder, which is always a good thing. A quality product will also come equipped with several ingredients that can lead to slightly better muscle growth, too (citrulline malate & beta-alanine).

This is the one I use.


My list above may seem a little short compared to that given to you by some bro at your gym who rattles when he walks, but that’s because it is based on 40 years of academic research.

The things you see above are supplements which have decades of research to prove their effectiveness.

You will DEFINITELY be recommended other supplements along the way, so let me round-up a few that you absolutely do not need because they do not work. Some of these will surprise you, because they’re really popular.

  • Testosterone boosters
  • BCAAs
  • Glutamine
  • Any type of creatine other than creatine monohydrate

diet to build muscle


When we go too hard on a diet, we WRECK our chances of success.

Think about it…

How many times have you heard you pal Lisa say “That’s it! No more pizza or alcohol from Monday, I’m going to sort myself out!” only to see her last a grand total of 4 days before finding her drunk, banging on the windows of the local pizza shop?

Don’t make the same mistake.

A “100% or nothing!” approach is USELESS for sustainability, and research shows us that sustainability is the key to success in every diet! (13)

Programming a day off is useful for giving you something to look forward to, and one day every so often is definitely not going to set you back (but it’ll work wonders for your mindset!), so ENJOY it.

If you are on a fat loss diet this is a good day to bump your calories up a bit, and if you are on a muscle building diet like the folks reading this post maybe you just want a day where you aren’t trying to maximize protein intake, or even a day where you eat LESS food. Whatever makes you happy, it’s your day.


Hey, presto!

Combine all of the information above and you have a rock solid diet for building muscle. I’ve used this same framework with countless male and female clients throughout the years I’ve spent working as a trainer in Powerhouse Gym; it’s highly effective!

But now it’s time for YOU to get to work…. good luck!

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  1. Thomas, D. T., et al. American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. (2016)
  2. J├Ąger, R., et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2017)
  3. Morton, R. W., et al. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. (2018)
  4. Witard, O. C., et al. Effect of increased dietary protein on tolerance to intensified training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. (2011)
  5. Leaf, A., et al. The Effects of Overfeeding on Body Composition: The Role of Macronutrient Composition – A Narrative Review. Int J Exerc Sci. (2017)
  6. Leibel, R.L., et al. Energy intake required to maintain body weight is not affected by wide variation in diet composition. Am J Clin Nutr. (1992)
  7. Golay, A., et al. Similar weight loss with low- or high-carbohydrate diets. Am J Clin Nutr. (1996)
  8. Golay, A., et al. Weight-loss with low or high carbohydrate diet. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. (1996)
  9. Schoenfeld, B.J., et al. Effects of meal frequency on weight loss and body composition: a meta-analysis. Nutrition Reviews. (2015)
  10. Munsters, M. J. M., et al. Effects of Meal Frequency on Metabolic Profiles and Substrate Partitioning in Lean Healthy Males. PLoS ONE. (2012)
  11. Norton, L., et al. Optimal protein intake to maximize muscle protein synthesis Examinations of optimal meal protein intake and frequency for athletes. Agro Food Industry Hi Tech. (2009)
  12. Moore, D. R., et al. Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. Am J Clin Nutr. (2009)
  13. Stewart, T. M., et al. Rigid vs. flexible dieting: association with eating disorder symptoms in nonobese women. Appetite. (2002)
  14. Bandegan, A., et al. Indicator Amino Acid-Derived Estimate of Dietary Protein Requirement for Male Bodybuilders on a Nontraining Day Is Several-Fold Greater than the Current Recommended Dietary Allowance. J Nutr. (2017)
  15. La Bounty, P. M., et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: meal frequency. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2011)
  16. Butts, J., et al. Creatine Use In Sports. Sports Health. (2018)


  1. Can you do your suggestions in the article and at same time have a caloric deficit to burn fat and get your body fat% down?

    • Hey Jerry,
      If you were quite active then yes, this could still result in a calorie deficit (using these calculations a 180lb guy would be eating 216g protein, 90g fat and 270g carbohydrates, which is 2754 kcals).

      A better approach to for FAT LOSS purposes would be to work out your current calorie intake, set your protein & fat correctly, then use the remaining calories for carbohydrates.

      Or if you have no idea your current calorie intake and want to use these figures as a starting point then see your body’s response, here’s how I would do this by starting out as above then working the carbohydrates DOWN each time a plateau is reached; so my example 180lb guy here would start at 1.5g carbs per lb (270g) which is 2754 kcals in total, and then lower to 1.25g per lb (225g) when a plateau is reached, which would reduce total kcals to 2574, then next time a plateau is reached lower carbohydrates to 1g per lb (180g), which lowers total kcals to 2394, and so on.

      Essentially just doing the OPPOSITE of the nutrition template above, as you’re heading in the other direction.

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