Want Muscle? Don't Diet!
Every few years there's a resurgence in meal reduction diets. Their premise? The optimal way to gain muscle is to greatly reduce meal frequency, while cutting out certain types of food altogether.
Example: The ketogenic diet hangs its hat on cutting carbs down to 25 grams or less per day so that you can start walking on dietary eggshells. Don't sneeze, stay up too late, or start your day with too much protein or it'll be game-over for your ketosis.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is another dieting technique that reduces meal frequency. Typically, IF gives you an eating window of eight hours or less a day to make it easier to avoid overeating. Helpful if you want to lose fat? Sure, if you're not overeating during that eating window. But is it ideal for building muscle? No way.
If you're going to build muscle, you need to eat frequently. And yes, that includes carbs. However, that doesn't mean you need to eat 6-8 meals a day. Three complete meals and a couple of protein shakes over the course of a 24-hour period will be plenty. You'll pack on muscle mass without putting on a bunch of excess body fat to go with it.
Get The Calories In
Let's keep it simple. You can't put on lean muscle mass if you aren't consuming enough calories. Therefore, goal number one needs to be eating enough calories. Anything that goes against goal one, like restrictive diets, is counter-productive.
What somehow gets lost in all the fitness marketing hoopla is that if you want to build muscle, you need to get into a simple habit. It's called eating.
The general rule of thumb: You need an extra 3,500 calories per WEEK on top of your maintenance calories (2). That's 500 extra calories PER DAY for optimal muscle gains.
To find your goal calorie intake every day, you can plug your bodyweight into this formula:
Bodyweight x 18 = Daily Caloric Intake
For a 170-pound man, that's 3,060 calories per day. You can tweak that intake up or down based on your results.
So now that you know your goal caloric intake each day, how do you get there? Keep easy calories handy. These include nuts, dates, jerky, hard-boiled eggs, and cereal, foods that are tasty and easy to munch on. You can also consider adding a glass or two of juice or milk to the mix. Drinking calories is much easier than eating them.