In this post I will show you the fundamentals of a good diet plan for your gym workout. This diet will help you pack on lean muscle quick without unnecessary body fat.
So where should you start as a beginner?
Maybe you have already done some research and know a few things about calories and macronutrients, but don’t really know how to put everything together.
Before we get started make sure to download the sample meal plan at the bottom of this page. It is built around what I will teach you in this video and you can use it to get started right away.
Ok, so whether you are a beginner, an intermediate or even a professional bodybuilding, there are few basics which have to be included in your gym diet plan to see results. Let’s start with the most important, your calorie surplus.
1. Step: The Right Calorie Surplus
So the first and most important step is to create a calorie surplus. This means you have to eat more calories than your body burns regularly. I cannot stress this enough.
Most beginners, especially skinny guys just don’t eat enough. If you don’t give your body the building blocks to create more muscle tissue you can train as much as you want but won’t see any results.
When they hear the term calorie surplus or bulking, many people think of eating crazy amounts of food and eating ice cream all day. That’s not what smart meal planning is all about.
To make muscle growth happen, you only need a small calorie surplus. Usually, 10% to 15% above your maintenance is already enough. That’s 200 to 300 additional calories per day. Add these to your normal food intake and you good to go. If you don’t know how to calculate your calorie needs, check out this post on how many calories you need to build muscle.
2. Step: Set Up Your Macronutrients
Once you have your calories covered, the next step is setting up your macros, so finding out how much protein, fat and carbs you need. This is pretty straightforward and now I will just give you the ideal values for each macro. If you want to find out why the values are what they are, again check out my other posts where I explain each intake in more detail.
First, protein because it’s the most important macronutrient for muscle growth. The ideal range of protein intake is around 0.8 – 1 gram per pound of body weight. This will make sure your body gets all the amino acids to repair and grow muscle after your workouts.
Next is fat, which should make up at least 15 – 20 percent of your daily calories. This value might be a little too low for some people and you can go as high as 30 – 35%. So the overall range of your daily fat intake should be between 15% and 35% of your daily calories.
And lastly, fill the rest of your daily calories with carbs. That’s by far the simplest step.
For experienced trainees these calculations will be fairly easy but I understand that for beginners everything might be going a little too fast at this point. If you want a more detailed explanation on how to calculate your macros check out my meal planning mastery course.
3. Step: The Right Meal Timing
When and how often should you eat? To be honest, it doesn’t really matter if you eat three or six meals or anything in between. All studies on different meal frequencies have shown that different setups lead to basically the same results. But if you have to eat a lot of food, it makes sense to divide everything into 5–6 meals with one meal before and after your workout.
As for your pre- and post-workout meals, there are a few things you want to get right. In general, both your pre and post workout meals are meant to do several things:
– Reduce muscle glycogen depletion.
– Reduce muscle protein breakdown.
– Reduce post workout cortisol levels.
– Ensure optimal recovery
How exactly do you accomplish this?
Easy, you eat carbs and protein before your workout. What this means is, the most important rule of your PRE workout meal is to consume a good amount of both carbs and protein before you train.
I know it sounds very simple and maybe to simple to you, but let me tell you way too many people overcomplicate this. Of course, I don’t want to leave you with no guidelines at all so I will give you a few rough values that you can keep in mind when you prepare your pre-workout meal.
The true specifics here will always differ from person to person and depend on what time of the day you work out or how much time you actually have before your workout but it’s a good reference.
If you can, eat a balanced meal with 0.2 – 0.25 g/lbs of your target bodyweight (for both carbs and protein) around one hour before your workout and one hour afterward.
In case you don’t have time for that and/or your last meal lies more than two hours prior to your training, consume a more easily digested protein and carbs 30 minutes before your workout. This could be a protein shake with a banana for example.
I personally like to eat a normal meal of brown rice and chicken or meat an hour before my workout. This is nothing special, just protein and carbs coming from normal foods 1-2 hours before working out.
This is what is proven to get you the best results and will keep things a simple as possible. There’s really no need to get any more complicated than that, and no need to obsess about the specifics.
Last but not least, In case you don’t like rice and chicken or don’t want to eat it every day here are some more suggestions for pre-workout meals:
Meals that you can eat up to 1 hour include:
– Oatmeal with whey protein mixed in
– A large chicken sandwich with wholegrain bread
– 2x or more Hard-Boiled Eggs on an Avocado toast
– Wholegrain pasta with some sort of protein (again chicken or meat or whatever source of protein you prefer)
Snacks right 30min or less before your workout:
– A banana with protein bar
– Apple Wedges and a protein shake
– Just a protein bar
4. Step: Supplements
Most supplements are overrated and as a beginner you really only need two: protein powder and creatine.
Protein powder will help you reach your daily protein more easily and creatine provides the muscle with more ATP, which is the primary energy molecule in the body. More ATP means more strength which means more muscle growth over time.
If you want a more detailed guide on the best beginner supplements, check out this post.
5. Step: Track & Adjust Your Diet
Once you have all that set up, you need to track your diet. Start by counting the calories in your food and stick to the macronutrient recommendations I mentioned before. You can google the macros and calories or just use an app like myfitnesspal. It’s really simple and after a few days you will get the hang of it.
Follow this diet for a few weeks and you will see your weight increase. A good rate is around half a pound per week. If you are gaining weight a lot faster than that you are probably gaining too much fat and want to dial down the calories. Here is more info on how much muscle you can gain in a week/month/year.
If you are gaining weight slower or not at all you need to increase your calories and of course always make sure to train hard in the gym.
And that’s it. As you can see gym diet plans are pretty simple. Just make sure to get enough calories and protein in 5 to 6 meals per day and monitor your weight. If you have any questions just shoot me a message or write a comment.