In order to lower your body fat percentage and build muscle, you’re going to have to do more than hit the weights. Strength training is essential, but if you aren’t fueling your body properly (you need carbohydrates, fat, and protein), you more than likely won’t see a transformation in your body composition. To learn more about nutrition for muscle gain, POPSUGAR spoke to Avigdor Arad, PhD, RDN, CDE, director of the Mount Sinai PhysioLab.
“Many people make the claim, or make the false assumption, that when you eat more protein, it’s going to build more muscle. That’s absolutely false,” Dr. Arad told POPSUGAR. “The only way that you can build more muscle is if you’re doing resistance training, if you break down the muscle, if you’re creating metabolic stress,” he said. Dr. Arad also explained that in order to increase muscle mass, not only do you have to create metabolic stress, but you also have to be in a calorie surplus. Use this equation to determine how many calories you should be eating in a day.
Another important nutritional aspect is determining your macronutrient split. According to Dr. Arad, eating more protein will keep you full, increase satiety, and improve your metabolism, but there’s one caveat. “Just eating protein is not going to increase your muscle mass; it’s just not enough,” he said.
To build muscle, Dr. Arad said to consume 1.2 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight (he advised not going above 1.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight). “You really have to consume a sufficient amount of calories and a sufficient amount of sugar (also referred to as carbs); otherwise the protein is just going to be utilized for other purposes,” he explained. In a previous interview, registered dietitian Jim White told POPSUGAR to start with a macronutrient split of approximately 55 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent protein, and 20 percent fat to build muscle.
To help you get started building muscle, here’s a four-week strength program to follow.