Nutrition advice for beginners to build muscle

Nutrition advice for beginners to build muscle

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes


Nutrition. The most important part of anyone’s fitness journey. This may come as a surprise to some, due to the fact that it is rarely talked about in the wider community, with exercise being seen as the holy grail of transforming your body. However, within the fitness world, nutrition has always come first. This is because without the right fuel, your body cannot turn the muscle degradation provided by exercise into more muscle tissue. Likewise for losing weight, if you run for half an hour (burning approximately 350 calories) you can easily undo that with a packet of crisps and a chocolate bar. Essentially, you cannot out-train a bad diet.

Firstly, you need to understand how the body works in terms of processing food. As you’ll already know, food contains energy measured in the form of calories, usually referred to on food packaging as the “kcal”. Just for reference, one kcal is the amount of energy required to heat 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius. Your body needs a certain amount of calories in order to perform your daily involuntary functions (beating your Heart, breathing, Brain function, etc.). This is referred to as your ‘basal metabolic rate’ or ‘BMR’. This is different for everybody and there are ways of calculating it.  We will link a calculator for this at the end of the article. Once you know what your BMR is, you are most of the way there. If you eat this many calories every day and lay in bed all day, you will stay the same weight. If you eat more calories than this with no exercise, you will gain weight and if you eat less calories than this with no exercise, you will lose weight. Simple in theory. 

Secondly, you need to understand that not every calorie is built the same. The calories in your food will come under three distinct categories: Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins. So, whilst the amount of calories that you eat determines your weight fluctuation, the types of calories that you eat will determine your overall body composition. For example, somebody looking to gain muscle will want to make sure they are eating a sufficient amount of protein, as protein contains the essential building blocks that form our muscles. If a person exercises, but doesn’t eat sufficient protein, they will experience drastically different results to someone who is eating a lot of protein. In order to build muscle, it is generally recommended to eat between 1.4 – 2 grams of protein per Kilogram (0.63 – 0.9 grams per pound) of bodyweight. This means that a person who weighs 80Kg (~178 lbs) will want to eat anywhere from 112 – 160 grams of protein per day in order to build muscle; this is where My Fitness Pal will come in handy for tracking what you are eating, as with the pro version, you can track your protein intake. 

Unlike losing weight, when you want to build muscle it is imperative that you train in order to break down the muscle so that it can be built back up again. Therefore, for this goal you will want to take an approach of 60-40; where your nutrition plays 60% of the part in your progress and the training plays 40% of the part. (Of course these numbers are just a guideline and maximum effort should be applied to both aspects)


So, now that you know how many calories you need and the amount of protein that is correct for your body weight, you have the info you need to get started. Just note: eating your five portions of vegetables per day will help you feel more full (I know I gave this concept way less credit than it deserved when I started) and the more simple foods you eat, the more full you will feel with less caloric intake. Simple foods being meats, veggies, rice and grains. Also note: the micronutrient content (vitamins and minerals) of your food plays a massive role on your body and how you will perform. With this in mind, there are lots of recipes online that are cheap and quick to make that are very healthy. My personal go-to is the health tab of:

The final thing to remember is that you are looking for longevity and sustainability. As mentioned in our previous article, this is where most people make a blunder in their planning.



The main things to take away from this article are: 

  • Nutrition is the most important part of your fitness journey.
  • Eat between 1.4 – 2 grams of protein per Kilogram (0.63 – 0.9 grams per pound) of bodyweight.
  • Make sure you find a diet that includes foods and habits that you are actually able to sustain for the long term.

My Fitness Pal