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So you just started training and you’re looking to build some muscle. There’s a lot more than what meets the eye when it comes to putting on some pounds (the good kind that makes you stronger, of course). It may come as a surprise that the key to muscle gain is not just hitting intense sessions every single day at the gym but also what kind of food you’ve got on your plate.

As a beginner, just about any weightlifting program will yield results — that is, if and only if you are fueling properly. It’s essential to make sure that your nutrition is on point. Follow these nutrition tips to build muscle and make some major strength gains.

7 Simple Nutrition Tips for Building Muscle

1. Eat More Protein

Chances are you’re not getting enough protein in your diet. While the exact amount you should aim to consume will vary depending on your current mass and your specific goals, there’s a long-accepted rule of thumb. You should eat one gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. So, a 175-pound (79.5 kg) human should aim for about 175 grams of protein each day.

Good sources of protein include:

  • Lean meat — chicken, ground turkey, and fish.
  • Dark meat (in moderation).
  • Egg whites.
  • Whey protein.
  • Low-sugar Greek yogurt.
  • Lentils.

2. Make Carbs Your Friend

If you want to put on muscle, you’re going to have to get over your fear of carbohydrates. Carbs fuel your body to do work, and they also replenish your muscles so that they can heal and grow. It’s important to eat carbs both pre- and post-workout.

Healthy carbs you can include in your diet are:

  • Quinoa.
  • Rice.
  • Sweet potatoes.
  • Oats.
  • Fruit.
  • Beans.

3. Choose Clean Food Over Processed Junk

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Processed foods are full of fat (the bad kind) and sugar, not to mention unnatural and unhealthy ingredients your body doesn’t want or need. While we’ll always tell you to enjoy the food you like in moderation, also remember that processed food isn’t going to nourish you in the best way. Aim to eat clean, whole, real food if you want to have a one-way ticket to mean and lean. Remember to eat for fuel.

4. Nourish Yourself With Enough Calories

Calorie-restricting diets are so out. True, if you’re trying to lose body fat, a decrease in calories might very well be in order. But if you’re trying to add mass — which is what’s happening when you’re trying to build muscle — you’re going to need to add calories.

While tracking your calories (which is all the rage with flexible dieting) can certainly help, don’t get hung up on the number, because chances are you’re going to need to eat more than you think you do.

5. Drink Water — Lots of It

We could give you the complicated version of this one, but all that you really need to know for now is that it’s essential to stay hydrated if you want to build muscle. Dehydration leads to a decrease in performance. In order to gain (and maintain) strength and muscle, you must drink enough water each day.

6. Supplement as Needed

You should always have a goal of getting the nutrients and minerals you need from nutritious whole foods. However, because of today’s farming, soil quality, and food manufacturing, this isn’t always possible. This is when it’s okay to fill the gaps with quality supplements.

For instance, you might consider a protein shake after training, or perhaps you take a vitamin D supplement since so many of us are deficient.

7. Tweak Your Macronutrients

There are three macronutrients (AKA macros):

  1. Protein.
  2. Carbs.
  3. Fat.

We already talked about protein, and you know you need carbs, but there’s one more factor to consider.

On training days, you’ll want to eat more carbs and less fat.

On rest days, it’s going to look more like the opposite.

Why? Simple. When you train, your muscles are depleted of sugar, and you need to eat more carbs to replenish them. On rest days, when your muscles don’t go through that stress, you need fewer carbs, so your fat goes up instead.

You still need the calories — just a different kind of calories.

When it comes to your fitness journey, there are two crucial elements: training and nutrition. You need both in order to make gains and hit your goals. Find foods you love and remember that food is your friend! Go have a snack.

You know what else is crucial when it comes to building muscle? Recovery. Check out our blog post on basic recovery tips for beginners.