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.


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.


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.


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.


    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


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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 June 9, 2021

    How to Lose 10 Pounds in 3 Weeks: 20 Simple Tips

    How to Lose 10 Pounds in 3 Weeks: 20 Simple Tips

    Weight loss has become a sticky subject of confusion, conflicting information and myths. Before you know it, you’re on the crash-course diet from hell and getting no-where! Sustainable weight loss is not a fad diet or program, it’s a lifestyle. With these 20 proven weight loss tips, you can lose 10 pounds in 3 weeks. Best of all, you will set yourself up for continued progress every week!

    1. The Golden Rule: Calories In vs. Calories Out

    This simple fact simply cannot be overruled – to lose weight you must burn more calories than you consume.

    Use tools to help track and measure your daily intake then slowly taper down. Start with 500kcal steps or lower until you observe a consistent weekly loss.

    Never go dangerously low, eating much below 1200-1600 can stall your progress and harm your health!

    2. Set Attainable Goals And Track Your Progress

    Achieving each goal will help spur you on, so be realistic and start small. Here is an example of an easily achievable goal progression:

    • Lose weight each week
    • Lose 1-3 pounds per week
    • Lose 10 pounds in 3 weeks
    • Fit into size 30 jeans!

    3. Consider Skipping Breakfast

    Breakfast is commonly considered the most important meal of the day, however, it is not so when it comes to weight loss.

    Intermittent fasting can be a useful fat-loss tool. Restrict yourself to a smaller eating window by skipping breakfast and only eating from 12-8pm. You will reduce your daily calorie intake without restricting your lunch and dinner!

    4. Drink More Water (Especially Before Meals)

    Drinking water an hour before eating has two proven benefits for weight loss:


    • 24-30% boost in metabolism for 1-1.5 hours after intake[1]
    • Increased chance of consuming less calories which further supports weight loss[2]

    5. Make Coffee Your New Best Friend

    Coffee has received a bad reputation in the past, however, it should be known that quality coffee is rich in antioxidants and beneficial to weight loss.

    The caffeine content will boost your body’s metabolism by up to 10%,[3] leading to a 10-29% increase in fat burning power. Take it black, with no added sugar!

    6. Make Green Tea Your Second Best Friend

    Green tea provides a milder dose of caffeine but it is abundant in wonderful catechins. These antioxidants will work with the caffeine in a perfect fat burning harmony!

    7. Always Check For Added Sugar

    Sugar has demonstrated worryingly strong links with obesity, diabetes[4] and heart disease[5] (to name a few).

    But even if you do not add it yourself, you should check the ingredients of your sauces or packaged foods. Even self-proclaimed health foods can be riddled with added sugar!

    8. Cut Out Simple Carbohydrates

    Simple/refined carbohydrates are quickly absorbed, spiking your blood sugar and insulin levels in the process.[6] As a result, you will feel hunger and cravings come back again in no time!

    Avoid all sugar or refined grains by avoiding the following foods:

    • Cookies, candy and sweets
    • Packaged cereals
    • White bread and rice
    • Cakes

    9. Scale Down Your Portion Sizes

    It pays to become aware of how much you are eating, exercise portion control and slowly scale it down.


    Even small reductions of 10-20% are often enough to tip the balance and trigger weight loss. Try measuring your portions more carefully and don’t underestimate the power of using smaller bowls![7]

    10. Keep Healthy Food On Standby for Stacks

    The power of temptation is mighty, so why not remove it completely?

    Only keep healthy snacks within reach, then you won’t be able to binge on junk food! Here are some healthy ideas to stock your cupboard:

    • Whole fruit
    • Handful of nuts
    • Hard boiled eggs
    • Vegetables

    11. Spice Up Your Life

    Breathe new life into your dishes and reinforce your weight loss efforts with the power of cayenne pepper! Capsaicin from cayenne pepper and other spicy foods helps to ramp up metabolism and decrease appetite.[8]

    12. Top Up Your Protein Intake

    Protein rich foods not only keep you fuller for longer[9] but burn more energy during digestion. Studies have shown that swapping calories for whey protein supplements can boost weight loss whilst increasing lean muscle![10]

    Alternatively, here are a number of protein-rich food sources:

    • Lean beef
    • Skinless chicken breasts
    • Eggs
    • Salmon
    • Low-fat yogurt

    13. Balance Your Diet With Complex Carbs

    Consuming complex carbs will produce a sustained energy release and keep blood sugar levels manageable. You can easily keep hunger and cravings at bay with these nutrient dense complex carbs:

    • Vegetables
    • Fruit
    • Brown rice
    • Wholegrains
    • Beans and legumes

    14. Forget About Fast Food

    Not matter how healthy it may claim to be, fast food is almost always laden with heart-clogging trans fats,[11] excessive sugar and salt.


    Worse yet, these meals are high in calories whilst low in nutritional value, making them a terrible choice for fuel. Before you know it, you will have broken the cardinal rule of calories in vs. calories out!

    15. Watch Out for “Hidden Calories”

    There’s no need to completely forgo your favorite condiments, just make sure you are aware of their true caloric impact. It’s easy to go overboard and negate much of your hard work!

    Go easy with the following condiments and toppings, they are surprisingly heavy in calories:

    • Mayonnaise
    • Salad dressing
    • Cream
    • Cheese
    • Butter
    • Oils

    16. Choose Low-Medium GI Foods

    High GI foods sources cause sugar levels to shoot up, the resultant spike in insulin will actually encourage dreaded fat storage![12]

    Check out the GI scale and choose low-medium GI foods. Your insulin levels will remain under control, you will feel fuller for longer and find it easier to lose weight!

    17. Opt For Weight Training Over Cardio

    Weight training burns a significant amount of calories, keeping you strong, fit and healthy in the process. It’s more effective than cardio for body recomposition as it helps preserve essential muscle mass whilst you lose weight.[13]

    Studies have also shown a significant increase in metabolic rate both during and after your workout,[14] further supporting your weight loss efforts!

    Choose a routine that uses compound lifts such as Presses, Squats and Deadlifts. These exercises recruit the largest amount of muscles per movement, ideal for maintaining lean muscle mass and trimming body fat.


    18. Go Walking or Cycling

    Consistent small actions soon add up to big changes. For this reason, why not choose to walk or cycle whenever you can? You will burn more calories as you go about your day without the need for further diet restrictions.

    You can burn more calories as you go about your day, without any further diet restriction. If you’re physically able there is no excuse, take the stairs over escalators and lifts!

    19. Get Enough Sleep

    Sleep is highly underrated for weight loss. Forget about the 6-hour minimum claim, many of us require 8-9 hours to operate at peak efficiency.

    Both duration and quality of sleep will have a great influence on hormones that control body composition. In fact, poor sleep has shown worrying links to obesity, increasing the risk in adults by 55%![15]

    20. Be Careful Of Liquid Calories!

    We all know alcohol dehydrates and damages our liver and kidneys. But it can also thwart weight loss efforts as an unexpected source of calories.

    You may be surprised to know a beer can equate to 150kcal, 125kcal for a glass of red wine and a whopping 400Kcal for a single sweet Piña Colada! Instead, try sticking to tonic water with a slice of lime, your body will thank you!

      So there you have the 20 simple lifestyle tips that will support you in achieving healthy weight loss. Adopt as many as you can and you will easily lose 10 pounds or more in 3 weeks!


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      Featured photo credit: Lecic via


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