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What to Eat to Gain Muscle

Building muscle is essential for all of us. Muscle "gains" are no longer reserved for the classic weight lifter or bodybuilder. Having solid muscles sustains life and gives us longevity to enjoy our life to the fullest.

The tricky thing about building muscle is its connotations and the general need for more knowledge about how nutrition impacts it. Many people reserve muscle gains for men or athletes and focus on muscle aesthetics rather than the life-giving force they provide. And many struggle to see results from their strength training regimes because they haven't dialed in their nutrition.

Let's Talk Macros

An effective nutrition plan for building muscle includes adequate energy (calories), macronutrients, and hydration. Macronutrients (or "macros") are the nutrients we need in larger quantities that provide energy. They are protein, carbohydrates, and fats.


Proteins are the most essential macro for muscle gain. Their primary function is to build and repair cells, tissues, and muscles, providing energy and supporting our immune system to keep us healthy. They are essential for muscle growth, and most people do not get enough protein.

Protein details

  • 1 gram provides 4 calories

  • 10-35% of our general daily diet should come from protein

  • However, when building muscle, experts recommend a ratio of .8-1.2 grams or more of protein per kilogram of body weight

  • Good protein sources include lean meats, fish, eggs, tofu, beans, nuts, cheese, milk, hemp seeds, edamame, yogurt


Carbohydrates get a bad rep, but they are critical in providing the energy for a solid strength workout. Our bodies break down carbs into glucose, the primary energy source for our muscles. If we don't get enough carbs, our bodies will use the protein in our muscles for fuel instead.

Carb Details

  • 1 gram provides 4 calories

  • 45-60% of our daily diet should come from healthy carbohydrates

  • Good sources of carbs are found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains


Fat is essential for blood clotting, muscle movement, and control of inflammation. Omega-3 fats improve heart and brain health, decrease liver fat, and reduce inflammation. During a longer workout, your body will run out of readily available carbs and turn to fat as a fuel source.

Fat details

  • 1 gram provides 9 calories

  • 20-35% of our daily diet should come from fat

  • Good fat sources include eggs, salmon, nuts and seeds, avocado, and coconut oil.

Planning Your Daily Food Intake to Build Muscle

Understanding macros is step one when eating to build muscle. Next, you must learn how much of each macro you eat in a given day. Tracking your food for one to two weeks using an app like MyFitness Pal is helpful in understanding your habits and average macro intake.

Once you know how much of each macro you typically eat per day, you can compare your macro percentages to the ones listed above. If building muscle or gaining strength is your goal, then your protein is the best macro to focus on. You want to ensure that you consistently eat at least .8-1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight.

Then, fill the rest of your day with a balance of wholesome carbs and fats but don't get hung up on these percentages. When you eat enough protein (& hydrate with water), you begin to feel more full and tend not to overload on excessive "sugary" carbs or saturated fats.

Eating Enough & Avoiding Restrictive Behaviors

Two of the most common behaviors we see at Juniper Physical Therapy & Fitness are not eating enough and restricting favorite foods or entire food groups. Whether your goal is to get toned, gain muscle, or get strong, your body needs enough food to accomplish this.

When you restrict calories for too long, your body goes into survival mode, storing fat to sustain life. Besides, it is typically not sustainable, causing most people to ride a roller coaster of under and overeating. This yo-yo dieting messes up your metabolism, making it challenging to achieve your muscle-building goals.

How We Can Help You

Nutrition can get complicated quickly, and working with a nutrition coach is beneficial to get yourself on the right track. Our trainers are well-versed in this topic and enjoy sharing their knowledge with their clients when working out with them. If your goal is to work on modifying your body composition (amount of muscle vs. fat vs. water), then doing personal training at Juniper will be precisely what you need!


Do you want to build muscle, get stronger, or be more toned? Get the guidance you need by doing personalized training with one of our trainers! Click HERE to schedule a free phone consultation for personal training with us at Juniper Physical Therapy & Fitness. We will answer your questions to ensure we are a good fit for you!


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