If you are an athlete who wants to build muscle mass, the first step to achieving your goal is focusing on mass nutrition and consuming high quality whole foods that are calorically dense and loaded with micronutrients.
Ectomorphs and athletes with high volume training programs are always asking the question of how to gain muscle mass. For many of them it seems like an impossible task.
However the answer is quite simple; provided your training involves resistance exercise all you have to do is ensure your body is in caloric surplus each and every day. That means consuming more calories than you use each and every day.
As such, it is simply not possible to gain weight and muscle without high quality foods. As you need to be eating more calories than your body metabolises throughout each and every day, high quality whole foods should make up the majority of your caloric intake.
So to help get you started with your mass gain goals, we take you through the Foundations of Mass Nutrition: The Top 5 Foods For Muscle Gain!
Regardless of “general” dietary guidelines that recommend limiting the consumption of red meat in the general population, for bodybuilders and performance athletes it truly is one of the greatest muscle-building foods available.
A 100 gram strip of steak packs on average a massive 21 grams of protein and, just as importantly, between 6-10 grams of saturated fat for supporting testosterone production and subsequently more muscle growth.
Red meat is also an excellent source of B Vitamins and Iron, two nutrients that support increased oxygen delivery within cells providing more energy for the demands of resistance training and performance based sports.
High levels of Zinc are also prevalent in red meat, which has been shown to increase testosterone levels, sperm count and sperm motility in men. Beef generally contains the highest levels of Zinc, however it is also found in oysters, turkey and lamb which can be incorporated into your mass nutrition diet.
Eggs are a staple of the classic bodybuilding diet and for good reason. There are few food sources that match eggs for their protein content, healthy cholesterol and nutrients in such a small and convenient package.
A single whole egg contains on average 6 grams of high quality protein, 5 grams of healthy fats and provide more than 14 important vitamins and nutrients. Because eggs contain the complete spectrum of amino acids they are extremely effective at maximising protein synthesis and the recovery and growth of new muscle tissue. In fact, the protein quality of eggs is so high that it is used as the reference standard to assess the quality of protein found in other food sources!
The key with a mass gain diet is to not skip the yolk, as this is where half the protein is contained and most of the healthy essential fatty acids like Omega 3 and Omega 6 that support cell development.
Be sure to source eggs from organically raised chickens, as these contain higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is proven to help with the regulation of glucose and decrease of body fat percentage.
Almonds, Macadamia, Cashew and Brazil nuts are fantastic additions to any muscle gain diet. Simply add a serving to each meal, or consume as a snack between meals for a potent calorie punch! Nuts contain the perfect ratio of protein, fats and fibre that can help to build lean muscle mass and provide energy-boosting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Although nuts are not a complete protein source like eggs or red meat, they can easily be added to meals to bump up the protein and calorie content. A handful of nuts (20g) contains approximately 160 calories, providing up to 5 grams of protein and 15 grams of healthy fats, so simply adding in 2-3 serves per day will assist your muscle gain efforts in a BIG way!
Beyond their caloric value, nuts provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants such as Riboflavin, Vitamin B12, Calcium and Vitamin E, all of which are essential for regulating processes in the body that help with energy, performance, muscle gain and regulation of body fat levels.
Some will argue that protein powder supplements are not a necessary part of a mass gain diet, but for those who have excessive caloric requirements it often becomes near impossible to cook and prepare enough food to reach daily caloric goals. Protein powders offer a convenient and cost effective addition to a balanced nutritional plan.
Your caloric needs and the times of day you plan on using protein powder supplements will dictate which type or protein powder supplement will be most optimal.
Generally speaking individuals using protein powder immediately after training will be best suited to a fast digesting whey protein, be it whey protein concentrate (WPC), whey protein isolate (WPI) or hydrolysed whey protein isolate (HWPI). This should be combined with a fast digesting carbohydrate source such as dextrose or maltodextrin to replenish glycogen and induce an insulin spike to help with delivery of nutrients for muscle growth.
For individuals on the go using a protein blend or meal replacement protein (MRP) that contains several types of protein including whey protein, egg protein, milk protein, soy and casein protein is a great option when it is not possible to prepare a whole food meal. Protein blends offer a full spectrum of amino acids as well as different rates of absorption that can both induce muscle protein synthesis and keep it elevated for extended periods of time.
As a nighttime snack, casein protein powder is the best option offering a very slow digesting source of protein that provides a high grade amino acid profile. For ectomorphs and hard gainers a night-time shake of whole milk plus a scoop of casein mixed with almond or peanut-butter provides all the macro and micronutrients needed for added recovery and muscle growth.
High quality carbohydrate sources are a must when you need to put on some serious muscle mass. Quinoa is an ancient grain that has stepped back into the limelight as an excellent complex carbohydrate that is higher in protein than many other grains, including oats and rice.
A single cup (185g) of quinoa contains on average 220 calories, and with 3 grams of fat, 40 grams of carbohydrates and 9 grams of protein it provides the perfect muscle building ratio of nutrients to support recovery and growth.
Unlike most grains, quinoa contains the full spectrum of amino acids making it a complete protein source. Vegetarians or those with specific food restrictions can effectively combine quinoa with eggs or other legumes throughout the day whilst being assured they are supporting their muscle building goals.