Man cannot build muscle with food alone.

Packing on lean muscle weight requires two things: one, you have to lift weights and two, you have to fuel your muscle growth with the right kinds of foods.

Even if you’re training with weights regularly, stuffing your face with anything and everything is not the way to build muscle and achieve that ripped, buffed look you desire.

A healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of lean proteins, the right carbohydrates, and unsaturated fats is essential to gaining lean muscle mass.

So you might ask, “What’s the best diet for me?” If you’re looking at any of the “fad” diets out there, the answer is simple—none of them.

The most effective and healthiest strategy is to develop lifelong healthy eating habits that focus on providing your body with the basic building blocks it needs.

Think of it like this: for tens of thousands of years, our ancestors roamed the earth, lean and muscular as can be, never worrying about being on a “diet.” Why? Because not only were they active all day, but their diets naturally included the right balance of lean proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

For the most part, their proteins came from the animals they hunted; carbohydrates from the fruits, vegetables, and grains they gathered; and healthy, unsaturated fats from nuts.

On the whole, humans didn’t have to worry about getting fat until we began to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle, starting around the dawn of the industrial age.

As we became more civilized, we started eating more and more processed foods, high in sugars and fats—that’s when all hell broke loose and we started needing to go on “diets.”


Crafting an Effective Diet

The best strategy is to look at our past and keep it simple: a 4-6 days-a-week lifting routine combined with a diet of lean proteins, healthy carbs, and unsaturated fats.

Skip the processed foods loaded with sugar, saturated fat, and empty calories.

Chicken breast, turkey, tuna (packed in water, not oil), salmon, and egg whites are all excellent sources of lean protein.

Satisfy your cravings for snacks and supplement your protein intake with a protein or meal replacement shake in between meals.

Carbohydrates should come from fruits, whole grains, beans, potatoes, and vegetables.

Unsaturated fats usually come from plants and nuts and are considered to be the “healthiest” of all of the fats. Avoid saturated fats.

The best way to get started is by developing a plan and sticking to it. In planning your meals, you’re better off eating smaller meals more often.

Most fitness experts agree, and any serious bodybuilder will tell you that it’s best to eat five to six smaller meals spread throughout the day rather than just breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

How much protein, carbohydrates, and fat your body needs is going to vary depending on how fit you are currently and what you have in mind for your training goals.

You’re sure to find differing opinions but a good general rule is that 40–50 percent of your calories should come from lean protein, 40–50 percent from carbohydrates and 10–15 percent from healthy fats.


Meal Prep Mastery

It’s important to start with a good breakfast; what you eat (or don’t eat) for breakfast causes a chain reaction for the rest of your day.

Studies have shown that people who eat a nutritious, balanced breakfast are not only healthier but far more likely to be close to their ideal weight than other folks.

When you neglect your fuel tanks early in the day, you short-change yourself and are prone to binges later on.

Stick to chicken, fish, and lean pork, accompanied by vegetables, for lunch and dinner.

Lean beef can be an occasional treat but for most guys, it shouldn’t be part of your daily routine.

Protein shakes and canned tuna (spice it up with some mustard or even a dash of Tabasco sauce) and a (small) handful of nuts are perfect for between meals.

Plan out your meals for the week so you can be sure to have everything you need on hand.

If you slip up once in a while, don’t knock yourself out; it happens to everyone. Just get back on track and throw in some extra cardio.

For more information, please see: Building Muscle 101


Natural Moves, Maximum Gains

Of course, if you want to increase your muscle mass, you’ll have to train with weights regularly. You should train four to six days a week in order to really see any gains.

For most guys, use free weights rather than machines and you’ll get better results.

The movements used when training with free weights are more natural (similar to everyday movements) and increase the use of stabilizing muscles, helping to boost balance and coordination.

Before deciding on a training routine, determine what your goals are first. Then you can determine what types of exercises are right for you and start planning a regular routine.

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