Calorie Intake and Building Lean Muscles

Lifting weight in gym
Eating the right quantity and type of foods is a major part of the quest for lean muscles.
Using calories to build lean muscles

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When you want to build lean muscles, what’s your first order of business? Most people would say that they hit the gym and do their best to get their muscles pumped while keeping their diet sparse. Big mistake. Your diet is eighty percent of the work while exercising and sleep are the rest. Calories are what you really need. With the right kind of calorie intake, you can drastically speed up the muscle-building process and stay lean for a long while. Let’s start from the beginning.

How it Works

Calories get a pretty bad rap nowadays. People are always looking for ways to reduce their calorie intake and avoid packing on weight. However, there are also those who are looking to gain weight, in the form of muscles. How does calorie intake help you achieve this goal?

Calories aren’t the big bad wolf of nutrition. They’re just a measure of the amount of energy you get from consuming food. Some food packs more of a caloric punch than others, even when there’s an enormous size disparity in favor of the food that is low in calories. This throws off most people, as measuring the number of calories in something gets complicated. It’s not just hard for those who want to consume less, either. Those who want to pack mass need to watch their calories and make sure they’re getting enough of them.

Caloric Intake and Muscles

It’s no secret that calories play a big part in building lean muscles. Any bodybuilder could have told you that. There are quite a few misconceptions surrounding food that people who are aiming to build muscles might believe.

Everyone knows that protein is key to packing on mass. After all, muscles are mostly built out of protein. People that spend time in the gym carry special containers so that they can get enough protein on the go. Many of those protein mixtures contain lots of calories as well because calories help maintain these muscles.

Whenever you’re in a caloric deficit, the body is looking for ways to compensate for it. It starts using the readily available sugar in your bloodstream. This is quickly exhausted, which is why the body moves on to other reserves. Other than using fat deposits, the body also considers getting its energy from muscle stores. This is bad news for anyone looking to increase their muscle mass. The body chips away at the muscles, even if you’re hard at work building them up. This reduces your progress and decreases muscle mass. Getting the right amount of calories prevents this and helps beef you up.

calculator

Calorie Intake Numbers

As we’ve established, you need calories to build muscle mass. The real question on everyone’s mind is: how many calories? This isn’t too difficult of a question to answer. You need to have a surplus of calories that syncs up with your body weight and metabolic needs.

There’s a certain amount of calories that your body needs to function. This is your base metabolic rate. If you were in a coma, this is the number of calories that would be used up every single day, even if you didn’t move an inch. However, this is far from the actual number that your body needs. As you move around, do your job, and perform mentally-challenging tasks, your body burns calories. This significantly increases the numbers you need just to maintain your weight, let alone increase it.

There are tons of tests that can determine how many calories you expend every single day, but you don’t necessarily need them. You can mostly wing it and calculate roughly how many calories you use by checking your height, weight, and the physical activities you partake in.

Once you have a rough outline of your caloric needs, you can start adding them to your diet. Don’t overdo it, though. Aim for 300-500 additional calories in your daily diet. Any more than that and you won’t necessarily feel the effects in your muscles, but rather your fat deposits. Give your body time to convert calories and protein into muscles without overloading your system.

Dietary Needs

All this talk of calories makes them seem ridiculously simple. You consume a certain amount and you get results. Obviously, this is true in theory, but the reality is quite a bit more complicated. You can’t just get any calories and expect to see spectacular results. You need to focus on your body’s dietary needs.

If packing on mass were as simple as eating a ton of twinkies or ice cream, we’d all be able to get the perfect bodybuilder form. Technically, eating a couple of kilograms of ice cream would give you the calories you need, but it would work out as well as you might expect from just eating ice cream.

Every food you eat is a source of calories, but they are distributed in different ways among different kinds of food. You have to consume sugar, fat, and protein in certain percentages to get the most ideal results from your diet. When you get the proportions right, this will help you with workouts and building lean muscles.

breakfast avocado sandwich with poached egg and feta cheese calorie intake for building muscles

Getting the Right Fats

Fat has long been synonymous with “bad”. People mostly avoid it because they fear that eating a lot of fat will make them fat, as the name would suggest. This is a common misconception with no grounds in reality. Yes, eating a lot of fat could make you pack on weight, but the same can be said of sugar and protein. However, fat has the advantage of being less likely to do so.

Fat packs double the number of calories per gram consumed. Not only that, but fat is also incredibly good at keeping you sated, which helps reduce the real amount of food that you eat. It’s also an essential nutrient that is necessary for muscle growth and development. Dietary fat should make up around thirty percent of your daily caloric intake.

With this in mind, it helps to get the right fats in your system. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are what your body really needs. Saturated fats come from processed food and they aren’t particularly useful for your system. They’re more likely to negatively affect your health if you consume too many of them. This is why nutritionists recommend unsaturated fats, regardless of your muscle-building needs.

If you’re looking for healthy sources of this kind of fat in your diet, look to cold-water oily fish, olive oil, and various nuts. Avocados are also pretty great sources of fat, and they’re tasty to boot. There are many places where cold water fish aren’t abundant, but that shouldn’t stop you. You can easily find affordable fish oil supplements to add to your diet. They can make your food tastier, while also giving you healthy fat that helps build muscles.

Using Carbohydrates as Fuel

Carbohydrates, also known as sugars, are another essential part of our daily diets. While carbs are usually synonymous with excess weight, they’re key for building muscles. Carbs have half the calories of fat per gram, but they make up for that by being easy to digest and quickly available. This is why protein shakes always contain carbs, as they are great for fueling a workout.

Carbs are also directly stored in muscles in the form of glycogen. Sugar is converted into these long-term stores by various enzymes, giving muscles a readily available source of energy. Keep in mind, not all carbs are created equal. Some can do more harm than good, especially if they are eaten in excess.

Processed sugars in candy bars and sugary drinks are considered unhealthy because they release an enormous amount of carbs within a very short amount of time. This causes a number of negative effects. For one, your body hastily reacts by overproducing insulin, which gets you drowsy. Since muscles can only take in so many calories at a time, any excess is directly put in fat stores, which is something you don’t need.

Good carbs are ones that are released slowly. Oatmeal, porridge, fruit, brown rice, and wholegrain bread are just some examples that are worth considering for your diet. Around fifty percent of your daily caloric intake should be made up of carbs. This can vary depending on how much fat and protein you consume.

Closeup of serving homemade steak

Eating Sufficient Protein

Protein is the most important macronutrient for building muscle mass. It’s what muscles are made of, and it helps them repair any damage that comes as a result of working out. There are plenty of reasons why you might want to consume protein for your workouts and keep them in your daily diet.

They’re a solid source of calories, but they lag behind fat and carbs for this function. However, they are pretty slow in their release of calories, which helps the body better utilize these calories when needed. They keep you energized and don’t cause an uptick in insulin.

The type of protein you consume is very important for your fitness goals. Those people that keep sipping their protein in the gym have different kinds, depending on what kind of body they’re aiming for. When you want to lose weight, you’re probably going to go with protein shakes that contain fewer carbs and more protein. On the other hand, to gain mass you’ll need something like the mass gainer from True Protein. It should have an ideal blend of protein and carbs to help fuel a workout while also keeping your calories up afterwards.

Dietary protein is often found in the form of meat, cheese, and plant-based sources. Other than the protein shake you consume, you’ll need to get around ten to twenty percent of your daily intake in the form of protein. This will help you consistently build lean muscle mass while also giving you some calories to boot.

The Muscle-Building Period

After a solid workout, you’re going to craver food like never before. It’s not just protein that you need. You also need quite a bit of other macronutrients, and a bit of calories to make up for the loss during the workout. You can take advantage of the muscle-building period after a workout to maximize your gains while minimizing fat deposits.

The body doesn’t just use the calories to maintain your muscles and keep them at a certain size and strength. It also uses them when rebuilding damaged fibres. Creating cells and letting them grow requires quite a few calories, which means consuming them after a workout will go towards this goal. While your protein shake will do a lot of the legwork here, you should aim to eat a solid meal after your workouts. Combine macronutrients in the percentages mentioned above and you’ll get the optimal results you need from them.

Setting Goals

Set some short-term goals for building muscles and start adhering to these dietary guidelines. With enough hard work, you’ll quickly see the muscles pile up while your fat deposits will stay put. Don’t overdo anything, as there’s no rush to feed your muscles. They’ll grow at a specific pace, as long as you maintain this level of quality nutrition.

Remember, building muscle mass is all about consistency. Keep your workouts and diet consistent, and you won’t have to worry about anything else. With an excess of healthy calories that are supplemented with protein and good fats, your body will build muscles whether you want it to or not. It’s a surefire way to get the figure you want in a relatively short amount of time.

Conclusion

Building lean muscle mass might seem like an insurmountable task at first, but it’s as easy as following instructions. Most of these instructions have nothing to do with workouts, but rather with nutrition. If you have the right kind of diet, muscles will follow. Of course, you have to keep working out in the meantime. Keep your calories up in a healthy diet and you’ll eventually reach all of your fitness goals with no issue. It’s only a matter of time.

Writer

Lena Hemsworth is a writer, enthusiast, and loves to read a good book. She believes that there is nothing better than starting your day with a hot cup of coffee.

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