Nutrition for Muscle Growth
The nutritional requirements for efficient muscle growth are straightforward:
- Consume a caloric surplus
- Consume an adequate amount of protein
- Eat an adequate amount of carbohydrate to replenish muscle glycogen
- Get enough essential and healthy fats –both to reach your caloric targets and to help sustain the body’s endocrine system
Calories: to calculate your necessary daily caloric intake we use the Mifflin St. Jeour equation to determine basal metabolic rate (generally more accurate than the Harris-Benedict formula) , in conjunction with your baseline activity levels and the explicit workouts you log on BodBot. On top of that, your recommendation for gaining muscle includes an additional surplus of 20%.
While muscle growth can be accomplished with a smaller or greater surplus (and indeed, in edge cases, without a surplus – e.g. if you’re new to exercising, coming off a lengthy layoff, or obese), 20% over baseline should represent a good starting point. Note that there is little evidence to support huge caloric surpluses increasing the rate of muscle growth, and you should think carefully before going dining-plate-cowboy on your intake (unless fat gain is also the goal, in which case yeehaw, giddyup).
Naturally if you do not experience weight gain at a predicted 20% surplus, you can look to increase calories in successive weeks.
As far as expected rate of progress, this will depend heavily on lifting experience (novices will typically gain more quickly), age, and other factors. To temper expectations, 1lb of muscle gained every two weeks would be an excellent rate of progress (which would be well over 20lbs of muscle in a single year).
Protein: beyond a baseline level of protein, age and activity level can also increase the demand for dietary protein. Protein ranges between 1.4-2.0g/kg appear to provide a sufficient quantity for training adaptation – and BodBot errs on the high side in your recommendation (2.0g/kg). Note, however, that while higher levels of dietary protein are unlikely to provide additional benefits in terms of muscular hypertrophy , assuming you have healthy kidneys they will not do you any harm .
Fats play a critical role in the body’s endocrine system, and higher fat diets have been shown to help favorably regulate circulating sex hormones – e.g. testosterone in men . For these reasons, dietary fat is recommended in a range of 20-35% of daily calories .
Carbohydrate: carbohydrates play a critical role in the replenishment of muscle glycogen (as well as liver glycogen), and are the primary fuel source for high intensity activities like lifting weights or sprinting . Your optimal carbohydrate intake will depend on the type and quantity of your physical activity, and BodBot will adjust this daily based on your glycogen expenditure. Note that as long as protein and fat have been accomodated, and the composition of the carbohydrates is of a high quality (read: not refined sugars) a relatively wide range of intake is permissible.
Additional nutrients are provided as reference points, however a few nutrients are of additional interest:
Zinc is an important mineral which is often found to be deficient in athletes . Zinc is also important for proper testosterone production, with zinc deficiencies leading to potential impairment . Proper zinc levels may also play a useful role in promoting a healthy appetite, certainly useful when attempting to gain weight .
Magnesium is critically important to the functioning of mitochondria, and the majority of people in the US are deficient in it. To learn more, click here.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: while the effects are likely marginal, omega-3 fatty acids appear to aid in the preservation of lean body mass in older individuals and populations recovering from trauma, and they may even have body composition benefits in healthy and young adults .