You must understand that eating and sleeping are as important as working out when building muscle.
Not getting enough calories or sleep will completely cancel your muscle gains.
In fact, if you do just the following things correctly on a workout day, you should successfully see muscle gains by the next day:
- Eat enough calories to give your body the resources to build muscle. This page will teach that.
- Get enough sleep for your muscles to recover from workouts (study). To be safe, aim for the AASM and SRS recommendation for adults, which is 7 hours (study).
- Complete all reps using proper form with heavier weights than your last workout.
To repeat: If, on a given day, you nail a workout but don’t eat enough calories, you risk gaining ZERO muscle mass by the next morning. (You may still gain strength.)
Here’s the implication: If you suspect you’ll be unable to eat or sleep enough on a workout day, reschedule the workout to a day where think you will. And, on the days before workout days, get a good night’s sleep so you have enough energy to lift heavy weights by the next morning.
Meal calorie counts
On workout days, you have to eat enough calories to build new muscle. On non-workout days, you have to eat enough calories to avoid losing existing muscle.
If you don’t reach your bodybuilding diet’s daily calorie target, your body converts existing muscle and fat into energy. That means you lose the muscle you gained.
In fact, if you measure the circumference of your arm the day after only eating half your daily calorie count, you’ll notice you’ve lost a full workout’s worth of muscle growth. That’s the annoying part of building muscle: dieting consistency.
Use the calculator below to estimate your daily target. The numbers outputted are how many calories you must eat on your workout and non-workout days. Again, workout days require extra calories to make up for what you burn while exercising.
For the weight field, select what your scale says upon waking up (before eating). For the walking and non-weightlifting exercise fields (e.g. running, biking, swimming), enter how many hours of exercise you perform on average each week.
Saving your calorie targets to a text file is not good enough to remember them. They must be in your face. Write them on a post-it note and stick it on your laptop.
In the next section, we develop a critical bodybuilding diet framework for consistently achieving your calorie targets and muscle growth
Bodybuilding diet meals
There is no special “bodybuilding diet.” There’s just common sense nutrition and daily calorie targets. You can follow any diet you want: ketogenic, paleo, whatever. So long as you hit your protein and calorie targets, you’re fine.
To consistently reach your daily calorie target, it’s critical to develop a reliable muscle building meal plan based off what I call “core foods.” These are healthy, high-calorie foods you should stock in your kitchen to form the basis of every meal:
- 1 packet of plain instant oatmeal — 125 calories (easiest and tastiest choice)
- 1 5″ sweet potato — 115 calories (cooks quickly in the microwave)
- 1 cup of cooked brown rice — 200 calories (this is the least healthy option)
- 1 can of black beans — 350 calories (easiest to buy canned)
- 1 cup of cooked quinoa — 220 calories (hard to find pre-cooked for a low price)
- 1 can of lentils — 350 calories (easiest to buy canned from the supermarket)
- 1/4 bag of Soylent powder — 500 calories (a well-rounded meal substitute)
If your day’s target is 2,000 calories, and you’ve chosen to eat the majority of your calories from brown rice (200 calories per can), that’s 10 cups of brown rice to eat.