If you’re trying to build muscle, just eating lots of calories isn’t going to do the trick. As with any diet, what you eat is more important than how much you eat, in most cases. To gain as much muscle as possible, avoid these common diet mistakes:
1. Not Eating Enough Before And After
What you eat before and after your workouts are the most important meals of the day when you’re trying to bulk up. You need energy to get you through an intense workout, and you need nutrients afterward to help your body repair itself and grow.
About an hour before your workout, eat a meal with lots of proteins and slow-digesting carbs. Then, when you’re finished with your workout, eat something with proteins and sugars, like a protein shake. Exactly how much sugar you take in depends on your specific body type. Learn how your body reacts to avoid eating too much sugar and putting on fat instead of muscle.
2. Inconsistent Diet
You may only workout three days a week, but you need to keep a consistent diet every day. You don’t have to eat exactly the same foods every day, but you should have a plan that gets you a similar amount of calories and nutrients every day, and stick to it. Deviating too much could derail your progress and hinder your growth.
3. Eating Too Much
Yes, you need to eat more to gain weight, but be careful. Eat too much and you’ll start gaining fat. Even weightlifters are not immune to this. Avoid eating junk with no nutritional value, like potato chips and soda. Figure out how many calories you need to eat each day to gain muscle, and stick to it. Make sure you don’t eat more than a third of your calorie allotment in any one meal, because those calories are much more likely to be stored as fat.
4. Not Eating Enough
This one is just basic math. In order to gain mass, you’re going to have to consume more calories than your body needs to maintain. You can’t gain weight just by working harder at the gym. In fact, if you do work harder without eating more food, you’ll just burn even more calories and lose more weight. Use a calorie calculator and make sure you eat enough.
5. Not Eating Enough Protein
Your body breaks down proteins into amino acids, which are used to repair and regrow muscles. If you don’t have enough protein in your diet, your body simply cannot increase its muscle mass. It’s that simple. Make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet to maintain and grow your muscles.
6. Protein Isn’t Everything
To gain muscle, you’re going to need to eat a lot of protein. The mistake some bodybuilders make, however, is thinking that’s all they need. Eating nothing but protein and carbs can have serious consequences for your health. Make sure you’re getting all the other vital nutrients your body needs by keeping a balanced diet. Eat lots and lots of veggies (seriously, like more than half of your plate should be veggies) and don’t forget to get some fruits in there too.
7. Hidden Calories
When you’re planning your diet, have you accounted for the little extras throughout the day? The olive oil you used to cook your dinner, the salad dressing you used, and the ketchup you put on your burger all have significant amounts of calories that add up over time and could ruin your diet, especially if you end up on the “too much” end of the scale. Make sure you account for all these little things to keep your diet on track.
8. Skipping Meals
This one goes hand in hand with not eating enough. When you get lost in what you’re doing, it can be easy to forget to eat. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been busy writing, hanging out with friends, or watching TV, only to realize that I’ve gone hours and hours without eating. At that point, I’m so hungry that I end up eating too much, and most of what I eat is junk. Skipping meals can be detrimental to your diet, your energy levels, and your muscle growth. Just don’t do it. Make a meal plan and stick to it.
9. Cheating Too Often
It’s totally okay to reward yourself every once in a while with a meal or a snack that breaks your normal diet rules. Eat some cookies or get a sugary drink from the coffee shop, but know your limits. If you eat too much junk, you’re going to undo all your hard work. Remember that growing and maintaining muscle requires a 24/7 commitment.
10. Letting Others Influence You
You probably have a lot of friends and family members who don’t have the same fitness goals you do, and will question your diet choices. That is their prerogative, but you can’t let it change your mind. When you’re hanging out with your friends and they want to order pizzas or binge drink, learn how to politely decline. Your health and your fitness goals should be your top priority, and your friends should understand that.
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