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Last Updated on March 26, 2021

Muscle Building Diet: How to Eat to Lose Fat and Build Muscle

Muscle Building Diet: How to Eat to Lose Fat and Build Muscle

If you are looking to build lean muscle while shedding fat, a muscle building diet should be at the center of everything you do. Beyond getting the right amount of exercise and rest, a muscle building diet can make or break your ability to build strength.

Here, we’ll discuss calorie intake, answer the common question “How much protein should I eat to gain muscle,” and other important elements of a healthy diet that will help you build muscle and strength.

The Relationship Between Diet and Exercise

Which do you think is more important to building a body you want, your diet or your workouts?

Many say it’s 80% diet and 20% working out. As an experienced personal trainer, I say it’s 100% each. To get the results you want, your diet must align with your workouts.

A bad diet will translate into a sub-par workout, which will not give you the energy and intensity you need to get results. By eating a healthy diet, you can train hard in the gym and recover properly to build muscles.

Likewise, you can eat 100% clean and healthy, but if you’re not training in the gym multiple times a week with enough intensity, then you won’t be stressing your muscles enough to get them to grow.

If you need help finding motivation to focus on all of this, you can check out Lifehack’s free Ultimate Worksheet for an Instant Motivation Boost.

Your Calorie Intake

The holy grail of body transformation is to be able to lose fat and build muscle at the same time. We are inspired by those amazing transformations we see on the internet, and we think everyone achieved their results by transforming a fat cell into a muscle cell.

Successful body transformations start with understanding a little bit about how your body works.

For fat loss to occur, you must burn more calories per day than you eat. When your fat cells start shrinking, your body will metabolize the excess fat, leaving you reduced body fat.

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Building muscle happens when you eat excess calories. The extra calories will help to increase the size of your muscle fibers so that you gradually get stronger and increase your overall metabolism.

You may be asking how you are supposed to lose fat and build lean muscles at the same time, and the honest truth is that you can’t. They are opposing metabolic processes.

If you want to lose fat and build lean muscles, pick one to start with. My recommendation is that if you’re a woman with more than 30% body fat or a man with more than 20% body fat, your first goal should be to lose fat.

Having a layer of fat will often mask the muscle gains you reap from the gym. It’ll look as if you’re just getting bigger and softer rather than leaner and more defined as you add muscle to your frame.

In addition, as you eat a high-calorie diet to build muscle, you will inevitably be gaining weight through fat. It’s just the nature of building muscles, unless you are extremely meticulous about your calories.

To lose fat, calculate how many calories your body is burning, and cut out 10-15% of the calories to start the fat loss process.

To build muscle, add an additional 10-15% of the calories of your current caloric burn to your muscle building diet. Monitor your weight and body fat to ensure you’re not packing on too much fat during this period.

Protein: The Muscle Building Macronutrient

Adding more protein in your muscle gain diet can benefit you in multiple ways, as listed below:

Increase Satiety

A big reason why people fall off the diet wagon and quit their diets is because they’re hungry all the time. With food restrictions and calorie restrictions, the mentality of feeling deprived every day leads to an increase in hunger. Adding a substantial amount of protein to every meal will leave you feeling satisfied and keep hunger at bay.

Boost Your Metabolism

Out of all three macronutrients—protein, fat, and carbs—protein has the highest thermogenic effect. Everything you eat takes energy to digest, store, and absorb the nutrients, and discard whatever is left. The digestion of protein takes the most energy out of all three, so about 30% of the protein you eat gets burned off in the digestion process, increasing your metabolism.

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Build and Retain Muscle Mass

Muscle itself is metabolically expensive to maintain. It costs a lot of energy and calories not just to build muscle but also to maintain it, because it’s active tissue.

Protein is a macronutrient that your body cannot store. This is why it is vital that you eat protein around the clock to support muscle growth and repair. Without protein, your body will be unable to build new muscles that you are breaking down in the gym.

How Much Protein Do You Need To Gain Muscle?

Many people find themselves asking, “How much protein should I eat to gain muscle?” Like most things in life, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, but there are some guidelines that can help when it comes to muscle building foods.

How Much Protein Per Day?

The recommended dietary requirements (RDA) for daily protein is at a modest 0.8 g/kg of body weight per day[1]. This means if you weigh 130lbs, optimal protein intake would translate to eating a minimum of 47g of protein, or about 2 small chicken breasts a day as part of a muscle building diet.

This RDA requirement is the bare minimum of protein consumption and is based on the average sedentary individual. If you don’t exercise and also sit for 8+ hours a day, then the RDA recommendation is perfect for you, and there’s no reason why you need to eat more protein.

How Much Protein Per Day to Build Muscle?

I have found from training clients that a higher protein intake translates to faster fat loss and a higher metabolism versus a lower protein intake, even if you don’t do strength training. Adding more protein to your diet causes you to eat less, which results in weight loss.

For building muscle and fat loss, I would recommend about 40% of your total calories come from protein, or about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.

If you are new to eating that much protein with a lean bulk diet, start by adding about 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal, and work yourself up to including protein snacks or even whey protein shakes to meet your daily requirements outside of your meals.

Good Sources of Protein

As you’re wondering what to eat to eat to gain muscle, you can start making a dent in your protein intake by eating a big breakfast if you’re looking into how much protein to build muscle is needed. Most people eat lots of carbs for breakfast, like oatmeal, a bagel, a smoothie, or a muffin and find themselves hungry well before lunch.

Instead, swap out your breakfast with high-protein choices like eggs, Greek yogurt, or smoked salmon, or throw a scoop of protein powder in your smoothie or oatmeal.

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Animal protein sources are complete protein sources and will be the best-quality protein for your diet because they contain high sources of lysine, which is the essential amino acid to build muscles. Make sure to get your protein from different sources so you’re getting different micronutrients and minerals[2].

Top 10 Foods Highest in Protein

    For someone who is vegan or leans towards a vegetarian diet, there are still plenty of options, but it will be more challenging because most plants are not complete sources of protein. Soy and its products like tofu, tempeh, and edamame are examples of a complete plant protein.

    Other examples of vegetarian sources of protein are quinoa, beans, and nuts. Again, you want to vary your sources of protein so you get different vitamins and minerals from your food.

    Should You Take Supplements?

    The most popular question that comes up when people think of building muscles is what type of protein supplement to buy.

    My recommendation is to try your best to get protein from food sources first because they are a natural source of amino acids, minerals, and micronutrients. Eating the protein versus drinking the protein will help to keep you full longer because your body needs to break down the food.

    However, there are times where you’re on the go, and you simply do not have time to sit down and eat. In that case, a protein shake would be a good option.

    Do your research on a protein supplement before you buy so you get the best one for your needs. Below are recommendations of what you should look for in a healthy and clean protein powder:

    1. 3rd Party Inspected

    The first thing you should research is if the protein supplement you are considering has been inspected by an independent third party company. This will tell you if the protein per serving on the nutrition label is accurate.

    At the same time, the inspection will also check for contaminants and heavy metals that could be present and harmful to your health.

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    2. Amount of Protein (g) per Serving Is Close to Serving Size (g)

    You also want to make sure that you’re paying for a protein supplement and not a meal replacement that is full of carbs and minimal protein for your muscle building diet. You can check by looking at the nutrition label.

    Often, the grams in a serving size are much bigger than the grams of protein in the serving size. This happens when there is excess filler in the form of coloring, flavors, and sugar additives.

    For example, one serving may be 30 grams, but it only has 23 grams of protein, with the other 7 grams being miscellaneous filler. This means with each scoop of protein powder, 25% of your money is going towards paying for filler ingredients.

    It’s also important to make sure a serving size actually has a gram amount listed, otherwise you will have no idea how much protein you’re drinking in each serving, which is deceptive marketing.

    3. Minimal to No Fillers

    Extracting pure, quality protein is an expensive process. To reduce costs, companies will add fillers, such as natural and artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, and other components to make the powder mix nicely with whatever you blend it with.

    If you’re consuming a protein shake or two every day, it also means you’re drinking these artificial fillers, which are unhealthy and do nothing to benefit your muscles. Do your best to look for a high-quality protein, and use your dollars to pay for protein versus fillers and flavoring.

    Summing It up

    Body transformation journeys are exciting, life-changing moments to really showcase your health and body potential. They can really bring out the best in you when done right.

    Pairing the right workout with a muscle building diet full of healthy food and good macronutrient ratios will help you get results in a shorter time. By following the recommendations in this article, you will be well on your way to building muscles and losing fat.

    More on Building Muscle

    Featured photo credit: Alonso Reyes via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    Candace Rhodes

    Join Candace's course 7-Day Rapid Results teaches you everything you need to get started for a weightlifting lifestyle to be toned and strong.

    Muscle Building Diet: How to Eat to Lose Fat and Build Muscle How to Lose Fat and Gain Muscle to See Results Fast The Remarkable Benefits of Strength Training for Women 20 Healthy Eating Recipes Even the Pickiest People Will Love Fermented Foods for Better Digestive Health and Mental Wellness

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    1 6 Health Benefits of Beetroot Powder (And How To Choose A Good One) 2 Muscle Building Diet: How to Eat to Lose Fat and Build Muscle 3 10 Quick and Healthy Lunch Ideas That Fit Your Busy Schedule 4 How to Create a Delicious and Healthy Meal Plan for the Week 5 How to Lose 50 Pounds in 3 Months: 10 Unconventional Diet Tips

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    Published on April 8, 2021

    6 Health Benefits of Beetroot Powder (And How To Choose A Good One)

    6 Health Benefits of Beetroot Powder (And How To Choose A Good One)

    Beetroots are vegetables rich in nitrates, antioxidants, and polyphenol compounds that have a role in improved cardiovascular function and exercise performance.[1] However, beetroot juice has limitations with storage and taste preference, and so other more convenient forms have been investigated. One of these forms is beetroot powder.

    What Is Beetroot Powder?

    Beetroot powder is made by dehydrating or drying out thin slices of beetroot (to remove all the moisture) and then grinding them into a powder. If you don’t like the earthy taste of beetroot, then beetroot powder might be an alternative since it is more concentrated than fresh beetroot but with a relatively neutral taste. One fresh beetroot is the equivalent of approximately one teaspoon of beetroot powder.

    Powdered beetroot can be added to sauces, smoothies, pasta, gnocchi, curries, cakes, muffins, or anything you choose to add nutrients and color to. Watch out that your urine may change color too! Due to the natural sugars in beetroot, it can also be used as a natural sweetener. Beetroot powder is even used in natural cosmetics.

    Beetroot Powder VS. Other Beetroot Products

    One study looked at the total antioxidant potential, phenol compounds, sugars, and organic acids in beetroot juice, cooked beetroot, powder, and chips. They found higher amounts of total antioxidant potential and organic acids in the chips and powder compared with the juice and cooked beetroot.[2] However, it’s important to consider that it is a lot easier to take larger quantities of beetroot when powdered or juiced than just eating it and this means ingesting much more sugar.

    6 Health Benefits of Beetroot

    While beetroot may have potential health benefits, it’s not clear if these are temporary or have long-term effects. More research is needed to answer this question and what the optimal dose is. Most studies have focused on beetroot juice, with only a handful of studies investigating beetroot powder. There hasn’t been evidence so far to support the benefit of beetroot powder on blood flow.[3]

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    Despite that, beetroot contains several different compounds with different properties. Here are the six health benefits of beetroot powder.

    1. Beetroot Powder Is Rich in Nitrates

    Firstly, beetroot powder is rich in nitrates. Nitrates have important roles related to increased blood flow, gas exchange, mitochondrial efficiency, and strengthening of muscle contraction.[4] By causing relaxation of the smooth muscles that encircle arteries and veins, nitrate leads to the dilation of these blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure. Nitrate medications are used for people with high blood pressure, angina, and heart disease to relax blood vessels, widening them to allow greater blood flow.[5]

    A meta-analysis that combined 22 different trials and analyzed the results together found that additional beetroot juice significantly decreased blood pressure.[6] However, there isn’t evidence to support the long-term effects.[7]

    2. Beetroot Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

    Secondly, beetroot contains antioxidant polyphenol compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants are molecules that have the ability to neutralize free radicals and protect against cell damage that can lead to chronic diseases. Eating a diet high in antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of chronic disease.[8] Different polyphenol compounds are different colors, that’s why you will often hear about eating a rainbow of fruit and vegetables.

    3. Beetroot Has Anti-Cancer Effects

    Beetroot also contains betalains that have been found to have anti-cancer effects in cellular models in the laboratory.[9] Clinical trials are now needed to assess if there are potential anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects and the nature of these effects. While the anti-cancer effects of beetroot in humans aren’t known yet, including them in your diet may help and is unlikely to risk harm.

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    4. Beetroot Powder Is a Great Source of Vitamins C and Folate

    Beetroots are also a great source of vitamins C and B9 (folate). Vitamin C and folate have many important roles in our bodies. Vitamin C is required for the biosynthesis of collagen, which acts as a scaffold in the skin and ligaments. It is also has a role in wound healing and protein metabolism. Folic acid is vital for the production of healthy red blood cells, and cellular growth. Inadequate intake of vitamin C over a 3 month period can lead to scurvy, and smoking can further reduce the bioavailability.[10]

    5. Beetroot Contains Essential Minerals

    Beets also contain the minerals iron, manganese, and potassium. Iron has a vital role in the transportation of oxygen by healthy red blood cells. Over 40% of children worldwide have iron deficiency anemia and women of childbearing age are also at increased risk because of menstruation.[11] Potassium may actually prevent the harmful effects of eating excess salt (sodium chloride). Manganese has several roles including metabolism, bone formation, and the immune system. Beetroots are a great way of including all these micronutrients in your diet.

    6. Beetroot Powder Is a Great Source of Fiber

    Fiber is such an important component of our diet, with most of us needing to eat much more to reach the recommended daily amount of 30g. For every 10g of fiber you eat a day, you may decrease your long-term risk of bowel cancer.[12]

    Fibre also acts as a pre-biotic, providing food for the friendly micro-organisms in your gut called the microbiota. There are trillions of micro-organisms in your gut that are now known to play a key role in inflammation and both mental and physical health. Eating beetroots can help to increase your fiber intake and support a healthy gut community.

    It’s clear that for relatively few calories, beetroot contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, nitrates, and antioxidants. For these reasons, beetroot is labeled as a “nutraceutical” and supplementation has become increasingly popular.[13] While most studies have looked at the effects of beetroot on blood vessel dilation, there are still many unanswered questions about other potential benefits.

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    How to Choose a Beetroot Powder

    Like all other supplements, there is very little regulation. Therefore, it is very difficult to be sure exactly what is included in the supplement or assess the quality. My recommendations for choosing a supplement are to check for a product license and always buy from a reputable company.

    There are, however, no agreed benchmarks for quality or efficacy. How much and how often are also unknown at this time. Try to avoid powders that have added preservatives, sweeteners, or artificial flavorings. Consider whether an organic powder is worth the extra money to you. I would avoid powders that have added silica to avoid clumping. Some supplements now use 3rd party companies to verify the contents.

    There isn’t an agreed dose of nitrate or beetroot powder, so while some powders do contain nitrate content, it is difficult to know exactly what this means in practice. The higher the nitrate content, the more likely it is to have a beneficial effect on raised blood pressure. But if you don’t have high blood pressure, it’s difficult to know if more nitrate is beneficial.

    In summary, look for:

    • organic beetroot powder
    • tested for quality by a 3rd party company
    • is free from preservatives, sweeteners, and artificial flavorings
    • avoid powders containing silica
    • buy from a reputable company
    • look at the nitrate content

    How to Make Your Own Beetroot Powder

    First, wash, peel, and grate your beetroots by hand or using a food processor. Then, place them on a tray, spread them out, and cover them with parchment or grease-proof paper to protect them from direct sunlight.

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    Leave to dry until there is no moisture left and shake intermittently so that it dries evenly. When it snaps instead of bending and feels dry, it is ready for the next stage.

    The drying stage can take up to four days depending on the air temperature. To speed up the drying process, you can do this on low heat in a saucepan for 15 to 25 minutes or in the oven at no higher than 180 degrees Celsius or in a dehydrator. If you use the oven or on the hob, just be careful not to burn the beetroot.

    The final step is to grind the dried beetroot using a grinder. It can then be stored in an airtight container, avoiding sun-light for up to one year.

    Should You Try Beetroot Powder?

    Beetroot is a great vegetable that contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, nitrates, and fiber. The nitrates present in beets may lower your blood pressure in the short-term, but the long-term effects are not yet known. More research is needed to know about other potential benefits such as the effect on cancer.

    So, while beetroot powder may have health benefits unless taken in excess, it is unlikely to have significant side effects. Large doses of beetroot, however, are associated with an increased risk of kidney stones.

    If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, taking beetroot supplements is best avoided as there isn’t sufficient safety information. Beetroots do also contain fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols or FODMAPS for short. These are types of carbohydrates that are hard to digest and can cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in some people. FODMAPS are thought to act as prebiotics, feeding the friendly micro-organisms that live in your gut (microbiota). So, for those people who can tolerate them, they are beneficial for a healthy gut.

    More Resources About Beetroot

    Featured photo credit: FOODISM360 via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] NCBI: Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables and beetroot) via the nitrate‐nitrite‐nitric oxide pathway
    [2] SpringerLink: Comparison of total antioxidant potential, and total phenolic, nitrate, sugar, and organic acid contents in beetroot juice, chips, powder, and cooked beetroot
    [3] Maastricht University: Effects of Beetroot Powder with or without L-Arginine on Postprandial Vascular Endothelial Function: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial with Abdominally Obese Men
    [4] PubMed.gov: Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review
    [5] PubMed.gov: Nutraceuticals with a clinically detectable blood pressure-lowering effect: a review of available randomized clinical trials and their meta-analyses
    [6] PubMed.gov: The Nitrate-Independent Blood Pressure-Lowering Effect of Beetroot Juice: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
    [7] PubMed.gov: Medium-term effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on systolic and diastolic blood pressure in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis
    [8] NCCIH: Antioxidants: In-Depth
    [9] NCBI: Red Beetroot and Betalains as Cancer Chemopreventative Agents
    [10] Healthline: Beetroot 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
    [11] NCBI: The impact of maternal iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia on child’s health
    [12] Cancer Research UK: Does a high fibre diet reduce my risk of cancer?
    [13] PubMed.gov: The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease

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