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How to build muscle with a protein rich diet

Updated on July 8, 2015
Fish is a great source of protein.
Fish is a great source of protein.

If you want to build muscle mass, there are two things you need to do. The first is to get control of your diet, and the second is to exercise in the right way. In this article I will bring together all the information about food, supplements and nutrition that you'll need to achieve muscle growth.

People with a skinny body-frame, or ectomorphs, find bodybuilding more difficult than anyone. I have managed to overcome this deficit through natural means. Other aspiring bodybuilders should find the task easier than I have, and as a result, I believe my experience should be immensely useful to all who wish to see their muscles grow.

Cut Out The Trash

There are always sacrifices to make, and the first is to cut from your diet all food that contains excess fat, sugar and salt. This includes chips, cakes, sweets, chocolates, and most varieties of fast food (pizzas laden with cheese, curries, KFC, McDonalds etc). I'm sure you're all familiar with unhealthy foods so I won't extend this list. The reason to cut out this food is simple: you want to build muscle, not fat. I've seen plenty of body builders in the gym who just look fat. It's not attractive to anyone, and it could so easily be corrected with a little dieting knowledge.

Eat Protein Rich Foods

When you exercise you aren't growing your muscles, you are damaging them by tearing the muscle fibres. The food you eat is used to repair these muscle fibres, and the types of food that are best for this are high in protein. When your body repairs the damage, it tries to make the muscle stronger so that less damage is inflicted the next time you exercise. Protein supplies the amino acids needed for this new tissue. There are a number of foods that are high in protein. You can look at the packaging on some of these foods to see the content. Anything over 5/100g is high in protein. Try to consume at least 100g of protein every day. Here are examples of some foods to try:

  • Red meat including low fat beef, pork and lamb. Personally, I avoid red meat because it is strongly linked to bowel cancer. There are also many alternatives.
  • Chicken. This should usually be low fat, but avoid rotisserie ready-cooked chickens which have fat injected.
  • Fish. This is a wonderful source of protein that is always very low in fat. Avoid battered fish. Look for canned tuna, salmon and mackerel. Fish is generally very healthy, and is high in omega-3 oils and vitamin D!
  • Skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.
  • Low fat yoghurt.
  • Nuts and peanut butter. These are high in fat. It is a healthy kind of fat, but don't overdo it!
  • Eggs. Many protein supplements include egg protein because eggs contain all eight of the essential amino acids needed for growth.
  • Beans such as soy, tofu, black, pinto, lentil and baked!
  • Seeds such as pumpkin and watermelon.
  • Cheese, but not fast food cheese!
  • Porridge oats. Prepare with milk and add blueberries, honey, cinnamon, or banana for flavour.
  • If you must eat bread, go for wholemeal as it is higher in protein.

Drink More Water

It is important to drink plenty of water in order to provide the energy needed for protein synthesis. Our bodies are predominantly water, and its role is often understated. Water is a crucial part of chemical reactions that generate the energy needed for exercise and muscle growth. Water is also needed for sweat, which keeps the body cool during exercise and prevents muscle breakdown.

Muscles need protein to rebuild.
Muscles need protein to rebuild.

Eat After Exercise

Given how protein is needed to repair your muscles, it is extremely important that you consume lots of quality protein after exercising. By all means consume protein before exercising too, but combine this with energy giving foods. There is no point lifting weights if you don't have the energy to do it, so a good formula is carbohydrates (fruit, cereal bars, energy drinks) before exercise, and protein afterwards.

Have Extra Meals

One of the most important reasons to cut trash food from your diet is it allows you to eat more meals without putting on excess fat. You need to eat more if you want a bigger body, so try to eat four or five meals a day. These needn't be huge meals, but if you can, include an extra egg sandwich or a can of lentil soup during the day.

Try Protein Shakes

This is entirely optional, but may help you achieve the results you want. Protein shakes contain a high density of protein that should be consumed after weightlifting. They can be ordered or bought from various outlets (I ordered from and come in powder form. You can often get a mixer flask thrown in for free. Typically you would mix the powder with milk or water until there are no lumps, then drink. I tried whey protein powder, but did not see results that could definitely be attributed to the shakes. However, they may work for you, and there are many other supplements that may be useful.

And finally...

This article is part of a series aimed at helping people gain muscle mass, but it should also be taken as a general guide to healthy eating. The second article in the series focuses on how to exercise properly to gain the best results. It can be found here:

Other hubs provide recipes for low-fat, high protein foods. Thanks for reading; I am happy to share my knowledge for free, and would love to hear what you have to say about this article!


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