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Published on May 31, 2018

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

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

When I graduated college, the freshman 15 that happens to so many graduates skipped me. I could still fit into my high school clothes and I was proud I didn’t put on extra weight.

But there was one problem about my body that I was unhappy with, I looked dreadfully skinny in my pictures. My sister said my body looked really gangly, a very unflattering term I hated since I already thought my arms was excessively long and skinny like a monkey.

I longed to fill out my jeans and have more definition in the arms so I started lifting weights but didn’t pay attention to my diet or to what I ate because I ate healthy. I had three well balanced meals a day based on my Asian culture: a bowl of rice, little bit of protein and lots of vegetables.

After a few years of lifting, I compared my side by side pictures of before and after and I was shocked. I looked almost exactly the same as if I never lifted weights! It was a sad wake up moment that triggered me to hire a strength coach to help me out. He completely revamped my diet and helped me put on pounds of muscles in a short period of time.

In this article I will share with you what I learned about the muscle building diet to build lean muscle while shedding fat.

A muscle building diet and workout

What 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.

You cannot expect to get great results if you train hard in the gym but eat like crap. 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.

So diet and training are equally important for optimal muscle growth and fat loss.

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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 than you eat. When your fat cells start shrinking, your body will metabolize the excess fat leaving you reduced body fat.

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 are you supposed to lose fat and build lean muscles at the same time? The honest truth is you cannot. They are opposing metabolic processes.

If you want to lose fat and build lean muscles, pick out which one start out 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 lose fat.

Having a layer of fat will often times mask the muscle gains you reap from the gym. It’ll look like 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 in caloric surplus to build muscle, you will inevitably also put on some 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 between 10-15% of the calories so you start the fat loss process.

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

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Protein – your muscle building macronutrient

This missing macronutrient in my diet was the reason for my lack of results.

At the time, I didn’t understand the importance of protein till my strength coach had me eating 175 grams of protein every day in the last phase of my transformation. It was a huge struggle eating that much protein primarily because I ate so little of it in my meals. I had to really focus on planning my meals to meet those requirements every day.

In the long run, increasing my protein consumption paid off because I dropped from 30% body fat to 22% in a matter of months without starving or being hungry.

Adding more protein in your 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. Yes, you read that right! 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. How awesome is that?
  • 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 should you eat?

The recommended dietary requirements (RDA) for protein is at a modest 0.8 g/kg of bodyweight per day. This means if you weigh 130lbs, it would translate to eating a minimum of 47g of protein or about a 2 small chicken breasts a day.

This RDA requirement is the bare minimum of protein consumption and is based on the average sedentary individual. If you don’t exercise and 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.

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 strength train. Just by 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 bodyweight in pounds.

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

What are good sources of protein?

You can start making a dent in your protein intake by eating a big breakfast. Most people eat lots of carbs for breakfast like oatmeal, a bagel, a smoothie or a muffin of some sort and find themselves hungry well before lunch.

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

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.

For someone who is vegan or lean towards the more 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.

To supplement or not to supplement?

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 versus a protein shake just passes through.

But 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. It is 3rd party inspected.

The first thing you should research is to check 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.

2. Amount of protein (g) per serving is close 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. You can check by looking at the nutrition label.

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Often times 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 in it only has 23 grams of protein with the other 7 grams of 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 that you want 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. Very 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 everyday, it also means you’re drinking these artificial fillers which are unhealthy for you 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 are wonderful challenging moments that bring out the best in you.

Pairing the right workout with a healthy diet and 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.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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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.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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