Most muscle-building plans and articles are long on mythology and short on tangible examples. I’m here to flip the script and show you what exactly I include to create a proven muscle-building meal plan.
But first, a caveat: there is no perfect diet. I’ve been consistent with training and nutrition for the better part of 16 years at this point, so what works for me may not be best for you.
There are a few keys you should focus on, regardless of your goal.
Focus on eating whole foods that came from the ground or had a face.
Drink plenty of water. If you so choose, Use a few time-tested supplements to fill in the gaps.
Now, the details. I’m entirely focused on building muscle right now. It takes months of focused work (without dieting down) to build any noticeable muscle. Some fat gain is par for the course. Sacrifices must be made if you want to achieve significant progress. Here’s my current plan of action.
Diet Plan For Building Muscle
The most underrated component of a muscle-building meal plan is time. Building muscle takes months, not weeks.
So, if you’re going to focus on building muscle, give yourself at least three months of commitment to the process. Currently, I’m committed to six months and will re-evaluate my physique after six months of time. Even if you gain a little more body fat than you want you can lose fat much faster than you can build muscle.
Eat To Build Muscle: Macros and Protein
Contrary to what the gym bros will tell you, eating more doesn’t always equal faster muscle growth. Fact is, your body can only build muscle so fat. A 10-15% caloric surplus is all you need to build lean muscle. That said, I run hot metabolically, so I need to consume more calories than most to maintain and increase body weight.
How to Design A Muscle Building Meal Plan
To find caloric intake for each I use a simple equation: Bodyweight in pounds (lbs) x 16.
There are dozens of equations and calculators around the web to help you find your maintenance calories. None of them are 100% precise, so your best bet is to pick one, get started, and adjust based on your results.
Calories are king when it comes to building muscle, but macronutrient breakdown is also important.
Keep it simple.
Shoot for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. There is no additional muscle-building benefit to consuming more protein than this if you’re a drug-free lifter. If you’re on anabolics, muscle protein synthesis is elevated 24/7, so adding more protein to your diet can be beneficial.
But if you’re a drug-free lifter?
The excess protein you consume will be excreted while other amounts are converted into carbohydrates via gluconeogenesis.
So, the additional protein shakes you’re drinking? There’s a point of diminishing returns. Over 1g/day and protein essentially becomes a tasty, yet expensive carbohydrate.
Related: All About Protein Timing
The most anabolic hormone in your body isn’t testosterone: It’s insulin.
When you’re trying to build lean muscle carbohydrates are your best friend.
Don’t let all the KETO zealots fool you. There’s a reason most anaerobic athletes (football, sprinters) follow high carbohydrate diets: they support high-intensity training, they’re protein sparing and help support lean muscle growth.
Protein Sparing Carbs:
Carbohydrates are protein-sparing, meaning they’ll prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue. At any given time, your body is either breaking muscle tissue down for fuel or building it. When you’re in a fed state with carbohydrates present, your body preferably uses carbohydrates as an energy source.
Similar to banking, a penny saved is a penny earned.
Consider carbs the key to saving the muscle you already have while promoting further growth.
Men who are 7-12% body fat and women who are 17-19% body fat should aim for 2-2.5 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight.
Men who are 12-15% body fat and women who are 19-21% should try 1.5-2 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight. If you have a higher body fat percentage, get lean first.
Related: How to Accurately Estimate Your Body Fat Percentage
To optimize the muscle-building process a higher carb, lower fat diet is superior.
Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule. But the protein-sparring nature of carbohydrates and how they break down as preferred fuel source for the type of training you need to build muscle makes them a better energy source than higher-fat diets.
Are there exceptions to the rule?
Of course. Eating enough calories and protein is more important than being perfect with your carb and fat intake.
But in my experience, too many lifters suffer from carb-phobia during the current keto craze.
Make no mistake, the high-fat diets you see designed to lose fat and/or optimize longevity are not ideal diets for building lean muscle.
Muscle Building Meal Plan Macros
Putting the advice above into practice, here are my current muscle-building macros.
Carbs: 40%, 324g/day
Protein: 30%, 243g/day
Fat: 30%, 108g/day
I do not cycle calories on off days.
I do not cycle carbs on off days.
Carb and calorie cycling is a popular method and can help you stay lean.
The common problem is impatient lifters get tempted to go into “cut mode” or become overwhelmed if there is too much variety in their diet.
If you have a tendency to give up on muscle-building goals too quickly or hop programs, reduce complexity and avoid calorie and carb cycling.
My Personal Muscle Building Meal Plan
Breakfast (before gym):
Overnight Oats, 595 calories, 60g protein, 79g carbs, 6g fat
1 cup Oats, 2 scoops whey protein, 1 apple.
Greens drink w/creatine.
Training/Post Training: 300cals
Protein bar or shake (25g protein), 1-2 pieces of fruit (50g carbs) OR PW workout drink, which is generally cyclic dextrin from Trunutrition.
Lunch 550: calories.
Some form of chicken or beef (8oz), 50g protein, 10g fat
Bag of frozen veggies or a big salad with 1tbs balsamic vinegarette dressing (100 calories)
Sweet potato, red potato, or rice 40-50g carbs
Snack: 300-500 calories.
Epic bar/Quest Bar, nuts, beef jerky and either carrot or another raw veggie.
8-12 oz of fish or another type of meat. Generally, another 50-75g protein depending on the cut.
Two cups of white rice or two sweet potatoes.
Big ass salad or sauteed veggies. Usually, cooked or with 1tbps of butter or salad dressing added (100 cals, 9g fat)
Evening Snack: 400 cals
1 cup greek yogurt
2 squares dark chocolate
¼ cup walnuts
This gets me to 3000-3200 calories. Once I factor in additional condiments or “nibbles,” I’m generally around 3200-3300. Again, don’t follow my diet as gospel; it’s all about hitting your numbers with quality food that your body agrees with.
-Vitamin D3: Health and testosterone support
-Omega 3 Fish Oil: Cardiovascular and neurological health
-Protein Powder: Easier to hit protein goals.
-Creatine Monohydrate: #Gains
-Greens Powder: Overall health and digestion
-Magnesium: Improves nearly every physiological function
If you want a fully-fleshed out explanation of the supplements and brands I use, grab a copy of my high-performance supplement guide here: High-Performance Supplement Guide
Weekends and debauchery:
I like pizza. I like burgers. I love tacos. I like to drink and have a good time.
I fit all of these into my diet every single week (tacos 2-3x). You can make variations of all these much healthier with a little planning and foresight. It’s obvious, but it bears repeating: alcohol is not healthy and will negatively impact your health and body composition. That said, I still imbibe within reason and you probably can too.
Bodybuilding Meal Plan Key Points
Calories are king for body composition.
If you’re trying to build muscle, you must be in a surplus consistently, or you won’t gain size.
If you’re trying to lose fat, you must be in a deficit consistently, or you won’t lose fat.
Don’t straddle the line and try to build muscle on training days and cut fat on off days. You’ll fail at both.
Food Quality Matters Greatly:
The better quality (generally, fewer ingredients) in your food, the better your body composition and health will be. Many lifters take macro-chasing too far and only focus on the amounts of carbs, fats, and proteins they eat irrespective of food quality. This is a first-class ticket to poor eating habits and ill-health.
For your best physique, keep your food choices as clean as possible.
Your Eating Schedule:
You can eat twice per day or 6x. Whatever you can stick to consistently for your goals makes a difference. Personally, when I’m not trying to build, I’m eating four meals per day.
When I’m cutting, I generally use intermittent fasting and eat 2-3x.
Don’t eat fewer than three meals and or use intermittent fasting when trying to bulk up. They simply don’t work as well as eating more often.
Building your best body is within reach. But it takes a well-thought-out plan, accountability, and sacrifice.
But it doesn’t just magically happen; you have to put in the work. I’ve had plenty of folks who’ve helped me along the way, and that’s why we help others do the same today.
By figuring out the “details” of your training and nutrition program, we simplify the process so you can execute, including muscle-building meal plans.
We figured out how to do it, so you don’t need to stress.
If you’re interested in building your best body without living in the gym, the next step is simple: Apply below.