The Ultimate Guide To Strength Training Nutrition

In my opinion, training is the easy part of building muscle and gaining strength. To me it seems once you warm up and get the blood flowing, everything after that is just riding the waves. Most people trying to get their fitness into high gear find the nutrition part to be the most strenuous. Even the most hardcore fitness folk won’t go past 2 hours in the gym. What about all the other hours of the day where you have to exercise some discipline? It seems like just one morsel of devil food can throw your progress off track.

Even if you’re creative, the total number of exercises you can do is probably in the multiple 100’s. But the total amount of foods, seasonings, and toppings easily is in the multiple 1000’s. So what the heck do you eat? And when?
Here I’m going to give you all the info you need if you’re about building some serious strength.


Let’s get into it…


Increase Your Calories, Increase Your Mass


Bulking up your mass and strength means bulking up your calories. Rebuilding muscle tissue that has broken down via your strength training requires energy in the form of calories. That’s the simple way to put it. That doesn’t mean pig out without any restraint. There is a method to this kind of madness. A good rule of thumb to start with is getting about 500 more calories than your body burns through exercise and its normal functions. You can get a ballpark figure of what that number is by multiplying your bodyweight by 17.


Protein Should Be Your Best Friend

This protein thing probably can’t be emphasized enough. You want strength? You want muscle mass? Well then you should want protein like a child wants candy. The general rule of thumb is to get 1 gram of protein for every pound that you weigh per day. That is, if you weight 180 pounds, you should be getting at least 180 grams of protein per day. That’s just the minimum though. If you want to over achieve you should be trying to get around 50 grams more than that. So if you weigh 180 pounds, try to be getting 230 grams of protein per day. Be sure to get your protein from good quality protein sources such as eggs, lean cuts of beef, chicken breast, and protein powders.


Your Postworkout Meal Is Where The Real Power Is At

You’ve always heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well we aren’t here to try and bash that old adage. But the fact of the matter is if you want to put on strength and mass its your post workout meal that you shouldn’t compromise.
Make sure you have a planned out hearty postworkout meal. A good carb and protein rich meal following your weight session works in concert for muscle gain. The carbs will boost your levels of insulin, an anabolic hormone that drives nutrients into the muscle cells, while the amino acids of protein are the building blocks of the muscle.


Eat More Frequently With Small To Medium Meals

This one is pretty big as well. One of the keys to getting stronger is keeping your body anabolic as much as possible. The idea is that strength training is a 24 hour project. You want to be feeding your muscles constantly throughout the day every day. That is done better with 6 or 7 small to medium meals throughout the day instead of your basic breakfast, lunch, dinner. The meal plans I’ve got below help you sink your teeth into this concept more easily.


Pack It On More If You Find That You’re A Hard Gainer

If you’re on a quest to pack on mass but you find that even with consistency in the gym and in your nutrition the gains don’t come don’t lose hope. Try increasing the amount of carbs you take in for your first meal of the day and your post workout meal by 50 grams. These two meals are the main windows in which a hard gainer needs extra energy to push the body into an anabolic state. Look to faster digesting carbs such as white rice, bagels, or honey for these extra carbs.


Foods You Should Avoid

As much emphasis as there is on getting a full stomach when you are trying to train for size and strength, there does need to be some emphasis on foods you should avoid. Some people think that because they are training for strength and size they can just go haywire and gobble down anything. Not true. There are some guidelines to follow and some foods you should avoid if you are trying to get the most out of your training.
In general you should avoid foods that are heavily processed and/or refined. Shoot for lower glycemic fiber-based carbs such as oatmeal, beans, and yams. These kind of carbs tend to satisfy your appetite and they don’t digest too fast. Fast digesting foods tend to stimulate your appetite and trigger cravings.
Here is a short list of some of the foods you definitely want to generally avoid in your diet. Save them for cheating days at best.

White Bread– It’s high on the glycemic index and that means it has a huge impact on blood glucose levels. Be sure that when you buy your bread the first ingredient says whole grain flour. That’s the kind of bread you want to be eating if you have it in your diet.

Store Bought Bagels– Most store bought bagels average around 400 calories. Most of that is refined carbohydrates. The bad kind of carbs. Skip the bagel and opt for a slice of whole bread with some natural peanut butter.

Alcohol– This is a tough one to accept for a lot of people I know. But I gotta give it to you straight. Regular alcohol consumption does put a lot of stress on your body leading to higher antioxidant demands. Antioxidants are crucial to muscle recovery so the last thing you need is your antioxidants metabolizing alcohol furiously instead of aiding your muscle recovery.

Soda– This one might seem kind of obvious to many but it should be said. Almost all sodas are sugar water that give you no benefit whatsoever. You gotta watch the casual soda drinking you do because it really could add up in the end. You don’t want it to be taking up space in your stomach when you should be throwing back your whey protein.

Ice Cream– Only eat sparingly and only for dessert! I know it’s tempting as hell after dinner but consider this. Most ice cream flavors average around 4 grams of saturated fat in just ½ cup. That’s a lot. And of course most people don’t just eat one scoop of ice cream per sitting, so you’re really getting a lot. Try to satisfy your cravings by indulging in your favorite natural fruit instead.


The Best Of The Best Foods For Strength Training

If you’re wondering which are the best foods for building strength and mass here are your go to foods. You should be making every effort to include these in your weekly meal plans.

Eggs should be your go to food in the morning when you eat breakfast. They contain high quality protein and nutrients like vitamin B. One large egg contains about 7 grams of protein. If you’re looking to build strength, I suggest you eat at least 4 for your breakfast.

Chicken Breast
Chicken breast has kind of a legendary status as a lean muscle building food and its for good reason. They are chock full of protein and contain very little carbs or fat. 6 ounces of chicken breast contain just about 40 grams of protein which is perfect for both pre and post workout meals.

Salmon is another staple for building lean muscle because it’s packed with protein and contains a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are important in your central nervous system and muscular health. A 6 ounce serving of salmon typically contains about 35 grams of protein.

Tuna is another fantastic and convenient choice you should keep in your fridge. Tuna is one of those foods that really fits into most diets, no matter what fitness discipline you are training for. That’s because it packs a lot of protein, about 20 grams per 3 ounces, and has large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids which support muscle health.

In most gym rats minds, beef stands out as the king of foods when it comes to strength and mass gaining. While it of course varies which cut of beef you are getting, all cuts of beef pack tons of protein and a good amount of calories. This is essentially the simplified formula for putting on strength and size. On top of that it’s easily the best tasting meat…you can’t argue with that!



What About Food For Energy? What Should I Eat?

Many people ask this question. I know more or less what I should be eating for building my strength, but what foods are best for having lots of energy? It’s a great question because building strength does require your energy levels to be high. You need to be pushing your boundaries if you’re going to make any progress.

It’s a complex carbohydrate. That means it’s full of fiber and nutrients. Oatmeal is slower to digest and supplies energy evenly instead of all at once. A bowl in the morning will keep you going for hours.

A single one has just 70 calories, and yet has 6 grams of protein. That provides fuel that gets released slowly. It also has more nutrients per calorie than most other foods. That helps it satisfy hunger. As a result, you’re more likely to skip that mid-morning doughnut in the office break room that will spike your blood sugar and crash your energy.

They’re a great source of protein, especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Beans also have plenty of fiber to help slow digestion. They’re rich in magnesium, too. That helps your cells make energy.

It’s those omega-3s again. Walnuts have one in particular that your body uses for energy (alpha-linolenic acid). Though nuts are high in calories, studies show that people who eat them don’t gain weight or have other signs of bad health from them. That could be because the fiber slows how your body takes them in and the “healthy” fats satisfy hunger.

Strawberries are another good energy-boosting fruit. They can provide you with carbs, fiber and sugars that can enhance energy levels. One cup of strawberries provides 12 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of sugar. Strawberries help fight inflammation in the body and the antioxidants in strawberries give you energy and battle against fatigue. They are also probably the best fruit to incorporate into so many different recipes. Salads, smoothies, parfaits, the list just goes on.


So What Does A Strength Building Meal Plan Look Like?

1 cup oatmeal
297 cal, 57g carbs, 12g protein, 6g fat
1 tsp. sugar
16 cal, 4g carbs, 0g protein, 0g fat
1 cup low fat 1% milk
100 cal, 12g carbs, 8g protein, 2g fat
8 egg whites
136 cal, 1g carbs, 28g protein, 0g fat
1 whole egg
75 cal, 1g carbs, 6g protein, 5g fat
1 scoop whey protein
114 cal, 3g carbs, 22g protein, 1.5g fat*
1 scoop casein protein
120 cal, 4g carbs, 20g protein, 1g fat*

858 cal, 82g carbs, 136g protein, 15.5g fat

When you wake in the morning, your blood sugar levels are fairly low which causes a muscle wasting hormone called cortisol to rise. Adding a small amount of sugar to your oats provides you with a rapid supply of carbs to suppress that cortisol. The oats, on the other hand, are a slow digesting carb giving you long term energy.
During your sleep at night, your amino acid levels within the blood also drop which can be detrimental to your muscle growth. Egg whites are the perfect choice in the morning because they supply quickly digestible amino acids to reverse the depletion of your amino acids during sleep.
One whole egg with the yolk helps temper the delivery of carbs into your bloodstream, keeping energy levels stable.
Low fat milk is another high quality protein with a different amino acid spectrum than eggs. By combining these two sources of protein you provide a superior base for muscle growth.
A scoop of whey in the morning is always a great idea for boosting your muscle’s recovery after the fast you just had over 7-8 hours of sleep. While a scoop of casein protein will provide you with slow digesting protein to keep you anabolic over a 7-8 hour period.

Midday Meal
6oz flank steak
264 cal, 0g carbs, 36g protein, 13g fat
1 medium yam
281 cal, 69g carbs, 6g protein, 0g fat

545 cal, 69g carbs, 42g protein, 13g fat

Midday as you know is all about getting through the slump. So often its midday when we feel sluggish as hell. This is partly the reason that eating more frequently through the day is strongly advised. It allows you to maintain your energy levels easier.
Red meat is a the best choice because it digest slower than other proteins. This will help you maintain a good energy level through the hump of the day.
For your carbs, yams are the choice because they are a carb that is somewhat in between the fast digesting and slow digesting carb. If a carb is too fast to digest, you are likely to get an energy spike but then an energy crash. If the carb is too slow to digest, then the energy may not be available to you fast enough for it to be helpful in getting through that midday slump.

Pre-Workout Meal
4oz oven roasted turkey breast
124 cal, 0g carbs, 20g protein, 4g fat
2 slices whole wheat bread
140 cal, 24g carbs, 6g protein, 2g fat
1 tbsp fat free mayo
10 cal, 2g carbs, 0g protein, 0g fat
3 Fig Newton cookies
165 cal, 30g carbs, 1g protein, 5g fat
1 scoop whey protein
114 cal, 3g carbs, 22g protein, 1.5g fat*

553 cal, 59g carbs, 69g protein, 12.5g fat

A turkey breast sandwich gives you a combination of low fat protein and carbs. You want lower fat protein before training because the lack of dietary fat allows a quicker delivery of amino acids.
2 slices of whole wheat bread will give you some good slow digesting arbs, but adding three Fig Newton cookies will get you some quick burning fuel for your workout.
If you don’t like Fig Newtons you can try eating one banana or 6 strawberries instead.
A scoop of whey protein always helps keep you anabolic and prep your body for the hardcore workout you’re about to jump into.

Post Workout Meal
Immediately after workout
2 scoops whey protein
228 cal, 6g carbs, 44g protein, 3g fat*
30-60 minutes after workout
8oz Salmon
416 cal, 0g carbs, 48g protein, 24g fat
2 cups pasta
394 cal, 80g carbs, 14g protein, 2g fat
1038 cal, 86g carbs, 106g protein, 29g fat


Right after you workout your body is in immediate need of repair and nothing beats 2 scoops of whey protein to give your body just what it needs. I preach that you should never compromise on your post workout shake. You should swear by it.
Your post workout meal should come around 30 minutes after that.
A large serving of carbs will help spike your insulin levels to help trigger the repair and rebuild process for your muscle. A rise in insulin levels also helps decrease cortisol levels, the catabolic hormone that increases as a result of hard training.
Salmon is a perfect protein choice post workout because its loaded with healthy fats that help to fight muscle inflammation, and it works to spare the loss of the amino acid glutamine which helps out your immune system.


3 scoops casein protein
360 cal, 12g carbs, 60g protein, 3g fat*


When you’re sleeping, your body falls into a catabolic state. You aren’t consuming anything for the 7-8 hours you sleep. Casein protein is a slow digesting protein that has been shown to stay in your system for up to 8 hours. This makes it ideal as a pre-bedtime snack. You’ll be feeding your muscles while you sleep and preventing your hard work throughout the day from being deleted.

*These nutritional values are typical for protein powders that are sold on the market. They will vary depending on which brand you buy. Just be sure to double check what the values are depending on which brand you choose to buy.


Supplementation For Strength Training

Supplementation is one of those topics that gets a lot of people worked up. That’s especially true on social media. You’ll get a lot of people tryin’ to shout over each other about what the real truth is on supplementation and fitness.
So here’s my take…
It’s called supplementation for a reason. It’s meant to be supplemental. Supplemental to a well rounded diet and exercise routine. It’s always a mistake to think that taking any supplement is going to turn the tides for your health and fitness in a cinch.
I always say that the real meat and potatoes of your nutrition should be…well just that…meat and potatoes. To use an analogy try to think of a good exercise routine and solid nutrition as the engine and framework of a car. You absolutely need those in order for that car to be functional. Supplements if used properly could be like a speed booster you put on the car. They can help you accelerate and get past plateaus and the like, but they are all by themselves pretty much useless.
You must must must have a good fitness routine and solid nutritional base for any of this supplementation advice to be worth anything.
Alright, rant over, lets take a look…


Whey Protein Powder

What Makes It So Great?
Your post workout whey protein is the most critical supplement you can take because its so crucial for protein synthesis. This is because it digests fasts and gets to your muscles rapidly. It also contains a high level of branched chain amino acids which are also very crucial for enhancing your strength.

How To Maximize Its Effects:
You should take 20 grams of whey protein powder 30 minutes before working out, and 40 grams of whey protein within 45 minutes after working out. Also, consider taking 20-40 grams of whey protein when you first wake or with your first meal to help kickstart muscle growth first thing in the morning.


Casein Protein Powder

What Makes It So Great?
Casein like whey is a milk protein. But contrary to whey it is slow digesting. This makes it ideal as a pre-bedtime snack because it prevents catabolism while you sleep by feeding your muscles slowly and steadily. Its slow digesting properties also make it a great candidate for taking in between meals to keep your muscles anabolic throughout the day.

How To Maximize Its Effects:
Take 20-40 grams of casein within 90 minutes of going to bed to keep your muscles anabolic during sleep. Try getting in 20-40 grams of casein in between meals in the middle of day to ensure you keep your anabolic state while you’re busy. Also, consider adding 10-30 grams of casein to your post workout shake.



What Makes It So Great?
Creatine works in a number of ways. It increases the amount of fast energy in your muscles needed to perform reps in the gym. The more of this fast energy that’s available, the more reps you can do with a given weight. In addition creatine draws water into your muscle cells, placing a stretch on the cell that increases long term growth.

How To Maximize Its Effects:
Take 2-5 grams of creatine with your protein shake immediately after your workout.

Branced Chain Amino Acids

What Makes It So Great?
Branched chain amino acids refers to leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which are the most important amino acids for repairing and building muscle. Leucine has shown itself to be the most critical as it can stimulate muscle protein synthesis on its own. Nonetheless its best to take all the BCAAs together because they work together to give you multiple benefits. These benefits include muscle growth, increased energy during workouts, and decreased delayed onset muscle soreness.

How To Maximize Their Effects:
Take 5-10 grams of BCAA’s with breakfast, as well as in your pre and post workout shakes.



What Makes It So Great?
Glutamine provides numerous strength building benefits. It aids in muscle growth by increasing levels of leucine in muscle fibers. This helps decrease muscle breakdown and also boosts your immune system. Glutamine also aids in decreasing muscle fatigue and can help boost growth hormone levels.

How To Maximize It’s Effects:
Take 5-10 grams of glutamine in the morning with your breakfast shake. Take 5-10 grams with your pre and post workout shake.

Gaining Size And Strength Is Not An Overnight Project

It should go without saying that results vary from person to person. Your genetics will determine a fair amount of how fast you gain size and strength. If you are doing all the right things from nutrition to working out to rest, gaining a pound a week is very doable for most men. Now if you’re are embarking on a strength gaining quest be sure to do your due diligence to measure how much actual strength you are gaining. Don’t use the scale alone to gauge your gains. Be sure to have a tape measure handy to measure chest/back, arms, and quads at least twice a month.
Also don’t get put off by gains that aren’t exactly linear. In most cases your gains across the weeks will show some variability. Just stick with it.

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