Bodybuilding isn’t about lifting weights like crazy, but about balancing this with proper nutrition. And as a beginner, if you’re following the right mass gain meal plan, chances are you’re going to reach your goals much sooner than expected.
Proper nutrition means eating healthy without giving up certain food groups. If you learn how to balance your meals and where to get all those essential nutrients, your muscle gain journey simplifies a lot.
And that’s exactly what I’m trying to do in this article – help you simplify your muscle-building process by applying these science-backed bodybuilding rules.
Breaking Down A Mass Gain Meal Plan
Any mass gain meal plan built with bodybuilding beginners in mind should be made of:
The right mass gain meal plan should contain a lot of protein-rich foods. More exactly, about 30% of the total daily calorie intake should come from high protein food sources.
Why? Because protein provides the amino acids that are used by your body to build more muscle. So basically, the more high protein foods you eat, the more muscle mass you build.
Where to find all that protein? The most complete protein sources are:
- Lean meat such as chicken, turkey, beef, or fish;
Check out this complete list with the highest protein food sources.
The recommended protein intake for a regular person is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. (1) This means that a person weighing 80 kg (180 pounds) should consume a minimum of 64 grams of protein each day.
Well, studies have shown that, for athletes (where you fit, as a beginner bodybuilder), the RDA of protein is almost doubled as for a normal person. (2)
This means that you should set you a minimum intake of protein to 130g per day. And if you want serious and faster results, aim for about 200 grams of protein on a daily basis.
Again, all these numbers are for a person that weighs 80 kg (180 pounds).
About half of your meals should consist of carbohydrate-rich foods.
Why? Because carbs have almost the same significance when it comes to building muscles as proteins have. They provide energy for your muscles during your workouts. And this way, your body uses proteins to build muscles, instead of using them as energy for your muscles.
So basically, the more carbs you eat, the more protein is turned into muscle mass.
Where to find all those carbs? There are two types of carbs:
- Slow digesting carbs, such as fruits, oatmeal, and whole-grain bread. They can be consumed at any time of the day, especially before your workout.
- Fast digesting carbs, such as white bread, bagels, baked potatoes, and sports drink (Gatorade, Powerade). They should be consumed as the first meal after your workout.
The recommended carbohydrate intake for a regular person is 45-65% of the total calorie intake in a day. This means that a person who needs 2500 calories per day should consume about 300 grams of carbs each day.
But if you want to increase your muscle mass you need to get about 500g of carbohydrates every day.
How to calculate the number of carbs you need in a day? Here’s the formula for this: (3)
- Minimum carbs per day are 0.11 * total calories
- Maximum carbs per day are 0.17 * total calories
This means if you consume 3000 calories per day (and you will if you want to gain muscle mass) your carb intake should be anywhere between 330 and 510 grams.
3. Healthy Fats
Fats should represent about 25% of your daily calorie intake. And 5%-10% of fat calories should be actually saturated fats.
I know regular people are trying to avoid saturated fats. But if you want to build muscle mass, you need them to maintain an optimal level of testosterone.
Where to find such healthy fats? Here are some high-fat foods:
- Get the saturated fats from red meats such as ground beef or steak.
- Foods rich in monounsaturated fats are olive oil, avocado, peanut butter, and nuts.
- Don’t forget about fatty foods rich in omega-3, such as fatty fish (catfish, salmon, or trout), walnuts, or flaxseed oil.
4. Total Calories
A proper mass gain meal plan includes a positive calorie balance. This means you need to take in more calories than you burn every day.
To create a positive calorie balance, aim for a daily calorie intake of 45 calories per kg of body weight, or 20 calories per pound of bodyweight.
So a beginner bodybuilder who weighs 180 pounds (80 kg) needs about 3,600 calories every day. These daily calories must have the following structure:
- 20%-30% proteins (720-1080 calories);
- 40%-60% carbs (1440-2160 calories);
- 20%-30% fats (720-1080 calories).
5. Frequent Meals
Your mass gain meal plan should include at least 6 meals every day. So try to split the total calorie intake for a day to 6 and see how much you need to eat every 2-3 hours.
If you’re constantly supplying your body with protein and carbs during the day, it can easily build muscle mass instead of storing all that energy as body fat.
So a beginner bodybuilder who weighs 180 pounds (80 kg) should aim for 6 meals of 600 calories each every day. All these 6 meals need to contain quality protein and carbs.
As a beginner bodybuilder, you can’t miss adding some high-quality supplements to your mass gain meal plan.
Chances are you’re not going to meet your daily protein and carbs target only from the foods you’re eating. So adding supplements such as protein shakes, creatine, or HMB is almost mandatory for a beginner who wants to gain serious muscle.
You already know that your body needs a lot of protein to build muscle mass, so getting a protein shake 30 minutes before and after a workout really makes sense. Make sure each of them contains about 20-40 grams of whey protein.
Now, to boost your strength and speed up the muscle-building process, you can add 3-5 grams of creatine to your pre and post-workout protein shakes.
Another supplement that can prevent muscle breakdown for beginners and enhance your results is HMB. (4) This supplement should be taken in the first 3 months of training, 4 times a day:
- About 2 grams in the morning with your breakfast;
- Before workout another 2 grams;
- After workout 2 grams;
- And before going to bed.
7. Last Meal Of The Day
Before going to sleep you need to prepare your body for 7-9 hours of fasting; because that’s what happens when you sleep. And the solution here isn’t to be sleepless.
Instead, you need to supply your body with healthy fats and slow-digesting protein right before going to bed. This way your body won’t have to use muscle fibers to sustain its functions during sleep.
So drink a protein shake before going to bed. If you prefer to eat something else, opt for any of the following foods:
- a cup of low-fat cottage cheese;
- 2-3 tablespoons of flaxseed oil;
- 2 ounces of mixed nuts;
- 2-3 tablespoons of peanut butter.
Keep in mind that these 7 tips are not going to miraculously add muscle mass to your body if you don’t follow a proper weight lifting routine.
These are the essentials of a successful mass gain meal plan. If you follow these tips precisely, you’re going to shock your friends with your massive mass gains. Good luck!