Wanna get big? Eat smart and lift! Dr. Brad Schoenfeld, regarded as one of the internationally renowned strength and fitness experts and leading authority on muscle hypertrophy, provided key insights during our Dymatize camp. Read our brief summary with the best tips for maximising hypertrophy using nutrition:
Don’t believe in Broscience
Broscience is the predominant brand of reasoning in bodybuilding circles where anecdotal reports of jacked dudes are considered more credible than scientific research (according to Alan Aragon). For example, that eating tilapia fish thins the skin might sound amazing but is simply Bro-logic without any scientific evidence. The best practice nutrition approach must combine state of the art research in concert with personal experience and consider the needs and abilities of the individual.
You have to eat more
A positive energy balance, i.e. more calories in than calories out is a potent stimulator of anabolism. Take in more calories than you expend, and the excess energy is stored in the form of body mass. Whether the additional body mass is comprised of muscle or fat depends on a host of diet- and training-related factors. However, a caloric surplus is necessary for maximising muscle hypertrophy. Losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time is indeed possible, particularly in active athletes with minimal training experience or high body fat levels.
Quit the bulking and cutting method
For maximizing hypertrophy, a common nutrition strategy includes cycling between a very high calorie diet for mass gain (bulking), and a very low calorie diet for the fat loss (cutting) phase. This old-school mass-gain approach brings several problems: During the bulking phase, as much as 75% of the weight gained is stored as body fat, and some of the hard-earned muscle mass is inevitably lost afterwards during the cutting phase.
Therefore, a far better approach is to keep calories intake in a range that promotes the development of lean mass rather than body fat:
- Start off with 39-44 kcal/kg bodyweight for the first month.
- If you aren’t gaining enough mass, increase intake by an additional 100kcal/day
- If you are gaining too much fat, cut back the intake by 100 kcal/day.
- Continue tweaking in 100 kcal increment as needed.
With this approach, newbies can expect a gain of approx. ½ pound of muscle per week and experienced lifters up to ¼ pound of muscle per week.
Protein requirements for muscle building
A recent meta-analysis showed that daily intakes of 1.6-2.2g Protein/kg bodyweight maximize muscle development (1). Proteins are made of amino acids, the building blocks of muscle tissue. The so called essential amino acids are especially important, as they need to be provided to the body regularly and in sufficient amounts. Most importantly, the essential amino acid L-leucine plays a key role for kick-starting the process of building new muscle protein. Approximately 2g leucine (equating to ~ 20g of high-quality protein such as whey protein) per meal is necessary to trigger maximal muscle protein synthesis.
Carbohydrates requirements for muscle building
A general rule for daily carbohydrate intake: ~ 4.4-6.6g carbohydrates/kg bodyweight. Focus on nutrient-dense, less processed or unprocessed carbohydrate choices, as they contain many important compounds that may enhance muscle protein synthesis and repair, as well as improving metabolic function. Hard-Gainers may need to deviate from this approach and consume more liquid and less fibre-rich carbohydrate sources for sufficient calorie intake.
The storage form of carbohydrates in our body is glycogen, mainly found in muscles and the liver. Glycogen is the primary fuel source used to power your muscles during resistance training workouts. Glycogen also mediates anabolism, as it functions as an anabolic signaling molecule. Low glycogen stores can impair performance. For example, reduced muscle glycogen stores can decrease the number of possible repetitions performed in three sets of squats with a load of 80% of 1 RM (one repetition maximum) (2) or can diminish isometric strength performance (3).
If muscle size can be enhanced with carb-loading is currently not known:
Dietary Fat intake recommendation
As a rule of thumb: At least 20% of your daily calorie intake should come from fat. Since protein intake is always constant, the actual number of grams of fat consumed will be inversely correlated with carbohydrate intake; consume more carbohydrates and you will need to consume less fats, and vice versa to maintain your total caloric goal. The focus of fat intake should be on unsaturated fatty acids. Examples of dietary sources of unsaturated fats include avocado, olive oil, nuts (such as almonds), and salmon. Little is known about the effects of dietary fats on muscle mass accretion. However, a collection of studies has shown that Omega-3-fatty acids can enhance muscle protein synthesis.
Summary of Brad’s Bulking concept
Author: Corinne Mäder Reinhard, International Sports Nutrition Lead Active Nutrition International. She holds an International Olympic Committee postgraduate Diploma in Sports Nutrition and is a certified Sports Nutritionist from the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
DisclaimerThe implementation of the nutrition and/or training information and recommendations described in this article/video is done at your own risk and cannot replace a personal and individual consultation. Especially individuals under the age of 18 years, with health restrictions (especially those with orthopaedic or internistic complaints / illnesses, or food intolerances or allergies), during pregnancy or lactation should first consult a doctor. Should any complaints develop during the implementation of the nutrition methods a doctor should be consulted immediately. Active Nutrition International GmbH does not assume liability.
- Morton, R.W. et al. (2018). A systematic review, meta-analysis and metaregression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med, 52(6):376-384.
- Leveritt, M. & Abernethy, P. (1999). Effects of carbohydrate restriction on strength performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 52-57.
- Hepburn, D., & R.J. Maughan, R.J. (1982). Glycogen availability as a limiting factor in performance of isometric exercise. J Physiol 342: 52P-53P.