How to gain muscle mass: 5 essential nutritional variables

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How to gain muscle mass through a diet that takes into account essential nutritional variables? That is the question that 10 out of 10 people indirectly do when they realise that in order to achieve their dreamed goal, they will need to change their diet.

There is no doubt about the positive influence of diet on body changes and on performance during physical activity.

However, few people know how to gain muscle by modifying essential nutritional variables.

The most well-known nutritional variable is the increase in protein intake, which is why many exercise practitioners make use of dietary supplements, such as Whey Protein.

However, it is not only the protein consumption that promotes muscular hypertrophy, but rather a set of factors that compose the pillars of a nutritional strategy for gaining lean mass.

Check below the 5 nutritional variables indispensable for all who want to know how to gain muscle mass:

1. Positive energy balance

Positive energy balance

In order for the muscle to be able to develop, it is necessary to ensure an adequate energy supply to the body, known as a positive energy balance.

This energy comes from the calories obtained from food. For this, the food needs to be hypercaloric, allowing anabolism.

This means that the sum of calories ingested through food, beverages, and supplements should be greater than what the body spends.

What the body spends is the sum of basal metabolism, the thermal effect of food, and the energy dispensed from physical activity.

When the intake of macro and micronutrients is insufficient, the result is a negative energy balance.

As a result, there may be a loss of lean mass and a higher incidence of injury, since the body needs to use its own muscle to keep the body functioning.

In this case, the effect would be the commitment of the training by the fall of the performance and the sports yield.

Therefore, when one is sedentary and starts a physical activity, it may be necessary to increase food intake to promote hypertrophy.

However, do not allow these extra calories to come exclusively from sweets and fatty or industrialised foods because they are too calorie and nutrient-poor. It is essential to ensure quality and naturally healthy food.

But how do you know if your intake is greater than what your body spends?

The energy expenditure is very individual and depends on several factors, such as age, gender, body composition, physical conditioning and training phase, taking into account the frequency, intensity, duration and exercise modality.

Overall, for a healthy adult, the caloric expenditure estimate ranges from 1800 to 2500Kcal. Already for practitioners of intense physical activity can be superior to 3000Kcal daily.

Seek a healthcare professional to help you do this calculation and understand how to gain muscle mass.

A tip is an essential right from the start: never reduce your dietary intake too much with restrictive diets, even if your goal is to lose fat.

If you are overweight and are practising regular physical activity, the Brazilian Society of Exercise and Sports Medicine (2009) proposes a reduction of 10 to 20% in total caloric intake.

This value is capable of reducing body fat and does not induce hunger and fatigue, as with very restrictive diets.

2.How to gain muscle with the correct carbohydrate intake

How to gain muscle

Physical exercise, especially when prolonged, demands energy and dramatically reduces muscle glycogen levels.

Glycogen is our stock of glucose, essential for maintaining proper blood glucose and maintaining the ergogenic effect of exercise.

It is essential to perform the correct replacement of carbohydrates, the source of glucose. This nutrient is needed at all levels of physical activity, but especially in high intensity and long duration sports.

The estimated carbohydrate intake for athletes is approximately 60 to 70% of the daily caloric intake, so it is the most important nutrient in the diet.

If the energy gained from carbohydrates is limited, fat and lean mass are used as fuel, leading to muscle loss.

Most foods contain carbohydrates, but the main sources are bread, cereals, tubers and roots, fruits, vegetables, greens.

Special attention should be paid to the time of consumption. Before exercise it is used to guarantee glucose during exercise, avoiding hypoglycemia.

During training, the function is to maintain the energy supply and, after exercise, favour the re-storage of glycogen and stimulate the protein synthesis.

The choice of carbohydrate sources before training should respect the athletes’ individual gastrointestinal characteristics and the available schedule.

If the meal is 2 to 3 hours before exercise, it is possible to enter complex carbohydrates such as whole grains or high-fiber fruits, as there is an adequate time for gastric emptying and digestion of food.

Already if the time between meal and exercise is small, from 30 minutes to 1 hour, the meal should be rich in low glycemic index carbohydrates with light or liquid consistency, such as fruit juices.

During exercise, carbohydrate intake is not necessary in all cases, and is indicated only for individuals whose training lasts more than one hour or the training intensity is high and short in duration.

In these cases, it is recommended to consume 30 – 60g of carbohydrate per hour of training.

In marathons, for example, it is essential to use carbohydrate-based supplements, which usually come from drinks designed for athletes (isotonic or maltodextrin).

After exercise, it is important to consume this nutrient in the meal to replenish the glycogen lost during training and optimise muscle recovery.

Essentially if it is an exhaustive exercise, it is recommended to consume simple carbohydrates within a period of up to 4 hours.

3. How to gain muscle mass with protein consumption

How to gain muscle mass

Proteins are the raw material for the muscle, being a source of amino acids, therefore they are an essential part in the repair of muscular microlenses and influence in how to gain muscle mass.

It also has a role in glucose maintenance through hepatic gluconeogenesis.

The recommended amounts of protein will depend on the individual and the type of exercise.

Strength exercises require a higher intake, requiring a daily intake of 1.6 to 1.7 g / kg body weight.

For endurance sports, proteins play a role in providing energy, with a need of 1.2 to 1.6 g / kg estimated.

The dietary intake of proteins in addition to the recommendation does not lead to an additional increase of lean mass.

The prime time for protein intake is in the post-exercise, so the body has enough raw material to rebuild the muscle fibres that have been injured.

It is recommended to consume proteins of high biological value such as meats, eggs, milk or derivatives.

However, in order for the protein to be used efficiently in its construction function, it is important to jointly ingest carbohydrates after training.

In some cases, you can use supplements that associate protein concentrate with carbohydrates, but as a rule, you just have to pay attention to the schedules.

4. Adequacy of vitamins and minerals for hypertrophy

how to gain muscle mass

Athletes usually worry about the amount and distribution of macronutrients but forget about micronutrients.

Vitamins and minerals are essential for better performance during workouts, so they influence individuals who have the goal of gaining muscle mass.

If food consumption is based on natural, healthy foods, these nutrients are usually ingested in the recommended amount.

However in some cases, the consumption may be lower than necessary, and supplementation is indicated.

For example, zinc is involved in the cellular respiratory process and its deficiency can lead to loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue and drop in yield mainly in endurance trials.

Low iron intake, one of the most frequent mineral deficiencies, causes fatigue and anaemia, affecting athlete performance and the immune system.

Therefore dietary manipulation should contemplate iron sources of high bioavailability.

Sodium is another important nutrient and easy to be in a lower concentration than necessary when there is intense sweating, causing apathy and nausea.

Vitamins such as C and E are also essential during physical activity because they have antioxidant function and strengthen the immune system, which facilitates the provision of training.

5. How to gain muscle mass with body hydration

gain muscle mass

Hydration should also be part of the exercise, whether in a recreational activity or competitive sport.

A hydrated body works better and guarantees greater performance and performance in the training, in addition to a good recovery of muscle, influencing how to gain muscle mass.

The muscular tissue is one of the main reservoirs, being composed of more than 70% of water.

A dehydrated body during exercise may exhibit increased body temperature, exhaustion, increased heart rate, reduced blood volume, cramps or nausea, impairing physical performance.

These effects can occur even if the dehydration is mild to moderate and are more intense in hot and humid climates.

Therefore, fluid replacement in volumes equivalent to sweat loss during exercise can prevent these effects.

Water is a great rehydration option during exercise because it is readily available and results in relatively rapid gastric emptying.

It is recommended to drink 250 to 500ml of water up to two hours before exercise and during the first 15 minutes of drinking water, ranging from 500ml to 1 litre per hour, depending on the intensity.

Another option is isotonic containing electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and/or carbohydrates.

They favour hydro-electrolytic balance mainly for exercises lasting more than an hour or for those with high intensity, such as football, basketball and tennis.

The total daily water recommendation will depend on the type of activity and individual factors, such as physical conditioning, age, practised modality.

In general, about 30ml per pound of body weight is recommended in addition to the loss of fluids during sweating. Therefore, a practising adult should consume at least 2 litres of water per day.


To assist in how to gain muscle mass and achieve maximum performance, it is necessary to have a healthy diet appropriate to the type, intensity and frequency of training.

Despite the fame of protein among athletes aiming to increase lean mass, the evidence shows that other factors are also essential, such as calorie distribution throughout the day, carbohydrate amounts, as well as body hydration.

In the meal prior to physical activity, it is essential to ingest carbohydrates and then to associate carbohydrates and proteins.

What’s more, foods should be rich in vitamins and minerals, nutrients needed for optimal functioning of the body.

The dietary management that considers these variables is able to reduce the fatigue and increase the muscular recovery of the practitioners of all the physical activities.

For this, seek help from a professional to help you understand how to gain lean muscle mass and achieve maximum performance.

1 Comment
  1. Placitas Dispensary says

    Well written! You have a lot of knowledge on this topic. It is like you wrote the book on it or something. Thanks for sharing this interesting website with us. Nice blog.

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