The most important factors that matter most in nutrition plans are the total calories, and the macros. Many bodybuilders are continually evolving their calorie intake and macros, as well as other variables, to determine what is the best plan that their body will react favorably to.
Finding the perfect nutrition plan for your body will take a lot of trial and error. A good nutrition plan will be tweaked over time because as you building muscle and are getting bigger, your calorie and protein needs will change.
Your body will take some time to adapt to a new food regiment so it’s important not to change things too soon. It’s important to be able to assess how your body is reacting to a nutrition plan before you switch it up.
Before you can come up with a nutrition plan to begin with, you need to know where you are at. It’s important to find an accurate way to track your weight and body fat percentage. Weight alone will not tell you how you are doing and neither will the body fat percentage, but when these 2 are combined it will give you a relatively accurate way to track your fat mass and lean body mass.
If you are not able to monitor your progress it will be hard to make adjustments to your accurate nutrition plan because it will be difficult to know if the weight you gain is from muscle or fat. Tracking your progress with pictures will allow you to see how you are doing if you are not able to calculate your body fat percentage, although this will be very subjective.
Start With your Calories
When designing your nutrition plan a good place to start would be to figure out how many total calories you will be aiming for each day. You can go here for a calorie calculator that can help determine your daily maintenance calories. You can use this number as the bare minimum calories you would need so you don’t start to lose weight.
To gain weight you would need to be above your maintenance calories. A good estimate that is sometimes used as a starting point is 20 calories per pound of bodyweight. So for example if you weigh 200 pounds, you would want to start with 4,000 calories.
If you don’t see your weight going up quick enough after a few weeks you can up the calories. On the flip side, if you are putting on too much fat, you can reduce the calories a bit.
Everybody’s body reacts differently so accurately tracking your calories and your progress will allow you to see what will work best for your body.
Get The Right Amount of Protein
The amount of protein you consume each day is almost as important as the amount of calories you eat. Protein is the building block of muscle so without enough of it, gaining muscle will be very difficult. Most people who are looking to gain muscle should be shooting to eat about 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day (although some top pros get even more protein than that.)
For example a 200 pound person, should get between 200-300 grams of protein per day. This breaks down to around 33 – 50 grams of protein per meal based if you are eating 6 meals per day.
Eat Your Carbs
Carbohydrates are also a very important part for the muscle building process. I have seen a lot of people focus on protein and neglect the carbs and wonder why they aren’t packing on the size. Carbohydrates should be where the majority of your calories come from when you are bulking up.
A good initial estimate for daily carb intake is around 2-3 grams of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight. So that 200 pound person should be aiming for 400- 600 grams of carbs per day.
At first, I would recommend the lower end of that estimation and then if you are still having trouble packing on the pounds then increase the amount you eat.
In general slow-burning carbs like quinoa and oatmeal are a good to start with your carb intake since this will raise glycogen levels, which increases your stored energy.
The exception to this would be your morning meal and your post workout meal. This is when you want starchy simple carbs because they will raise your insulin levels and help your body to absorb nutrients like protein. Dextrose is a good carb for raising insulin levels.
If you are still having a hard time gaining weight you can replace some of the slow burring carbs with some simple quick burning carbs. Jay Cutler is someone who opts for more simple carbs because his weight drops when he eats too many complex carbs.
Don’t Forget the Fat
The rest of your calories should be coming from fats. Fats should not be neglected and are an important part of the muscle building process.
Saturated fat and cholesterol help with raising testosterone levels, so you don’t want to get too low with your fat intake.
Protein and carbs both have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9. So if you are eating 300 grams of protein and 350 grams of carbs, the calorie total so far would be 2,600. This means if you are shooting for 4,000 calories the remaining calories would be 1,400 calories. This equates to 156 grams of fat and a macro ratio of 30% protein, 35% carbs and 35% fat.
The macros may seem a little off when using this method to calculate your daily requirements but remember, this is only a starting place for your diet. The protein you consume will be pretty constant, so you will need to play with the amounts of carbs and fats that you eat to see what macros will work best for your body.