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7 steps to a muscle building nutrition plan

Step by step, our nutrition experts will show you what is required for an effective and sustainable nutrition plan for muscle building.

We also offer additional resources in the form of our calorie and nutrient calculator, sample plans and muscle building shopping lists.

1. Calculating the total energy expenditure

The first step on the way to the perfect nutrition plan for building muscle mass is to determine your total energy expenditure, which is calculated from your basal metabolic rate and your active metabolic rate.

Our Calorie Calculator allows you to determine the exact amount of calories that you need to build muscle.

Calorie calculator

Calorie Calculator

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The basal metabolic rate describes the energy that is needed to maintain all the vital processes in the body.

These vital processes being the cardiovascular system and the functioning of individual organs in particular.

The basal metabolic rate depends on age, the amount of muscle mass and the physical activity level of the individual.

The active metabolic rate describes the additional energy expenditure of the body.

The active metabolic rate is very individual and is characterised by markers like job, physical activity level and how we spend our free time.

2. Amount of calories needed in the nutrition plan

The key to more muscle mass is maintaining a calorie surplus.

Only with a calorie surplus of 300-500 calories can our body afford the luxury of building additional muscle mass – after all, these new structures need to be supplied with sufficient nutrients.

Here is an example:

The total energy expenditure of a 26-year-old man (height 190 cm, weight 81 kilos) with an office job who exercises three times a week is about 3000 kilo calories per day.

If he wanted to build additional muscle mass, he would have to add an extra 300-500 calories into his diet plan, on top of his total energy expenditure. This surplus brings him significantly closer to his goal of building muscle.

3. Macro nutrient distribution

Calculating the required amount of calories forms the basis for a muscle building nutrition plan.

The next step involves evaluating the 3 macro nutrients – protein, fat and carbohydrates – and understanding their role in the nutrition plan.

Proteins – muscle building blocks

Protein plays a particularly important role in regeneration, nutrient supply and muscle building.

We recommend 1.5 to 1.8g (about 20-25% of the total amount of energy) of protein per kilogram of body weight for a muscle building nutrition plan.

A drastic increase in protein consumption does not necessarily mean improved muscle building results.

Your muscles need protein in the form of amino acids to repair muscle fibre and build new muscle mass.

When selecting suitable protein sources, take particular care to choose a healthy mix of animal and plant protein. The proteins should also have a high biological value and be very low in fat.

Carbohydrates – the workout fuel

The carbohydrate intake in a nutrition plan depends on a number of factors.

People who exercise almost every day and complete intense workouts rely on a sufficient intake of carbohydrates.

Avoiding carbohydrates increases the risk of long-term fatigue and a lack of energy and motivation.

Fat – for an optimised hormonal balance

We often neglect healthy fats in out diets. The myth that "fat makes fat" has long been put to rest.

An appropriate supply of fatty acids – especially polyunsaturated fatty acids – is very important for our body's performance.

The intake of fats controls testosterone levels, for example, and the release of growth hormones for muscle building.

Good fat sources can be found in plants and animals.

We recommend 1 gram of fat per kilogram of body weight (20-25% of the total energy balance) for muscle building.

Our nutrient ratio calculator determines exactly how your calories should be divided up for your muscle building efforts. This makes writing a nutrition plan for muscle building as simple as can be.

Nutrient Ratio Calculator

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4. The right choice of foods

Now that we have laid down the theoretical principles and key figures for your muscle building nutrition plan, it is time to choose the right foods.

The meal plan for muscle building should be designed to include a combination of high-quality proteins and complex carbohydrates.

Fats play a key role in many metabolic processes, including the formation of muscle building hormones like testosterone and so should be included in moderation.

High-quality protein sources for muscle building:

  • Low-fat dairy products (quark, cheese, yogurt)
  • Lean meats (beef, chicken, turkey)
  • Fish (salmon, mackerel, herring)
  • Red lentils, kidney beans, peas, quinoa, chickpeas, soya

High-quality fat sources for muscle building:

  • Oils (nut oil, walnut oil, coconut oil, olive oil)
  • Avocados, flax seeds, sunflower seeds
  • Nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pistachios, etc.)

High-quality carbohydrate sources for muscle building:

  • Wholegrain products (wholegrain rice, whole-wheat pasta)
  • Oatmeal, spelt
  • Quinoa, amaranth
  • Rice cakes

The highest quality muscle building food for proteins, carbohydrates and fats can be found in our shopping list PDF: Muscle building foods PDF list.

As a last step for creating your nutrition plan for muscle building, let’s use an example day to demonstrate the transfer of all relevant influencing values like calorie amount, nutrient ratio and food selection:.

5. Example day, example week

Using an example day, we want to show you how to reach the required daily calorie amount for building muscle mass, while keeping an eye on your macro nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats).

Example – calorie requirements

  • 3200 calories needed for building muscle mass

Nutrient ratio for muscle building

  • 1760 calories from carbohydrates (55% of the daily total) = 430 grams
  • 640 calories from protein (20% of the daily total) = 155 grams
  • 800 calories from fat (25% of the daily total) = 86 grams

Muscle building muesli

(824 calories: 15.5 g fat, 119.5 g carbohydrates, 39.6 g protein)

  • 150 g oatmeal
  • 100 g mixed berries
  • 100g low-fat quark
  • 15 g linseed

Second breakfast

(398 calories: 13.3 g fat, 38.5 g carbohydrates, 26.8 g protein)

  • 2 slices wholemeal bread
  • 70 g Gouda cheese
  • 4 cucumber slices

Lunch

(588 calories: 21.5 g fat, 43.4 g carbohydrates, 54 g protein)

  • 200 g salmon fillet
  • 150 g brown rice
  • 150 g spinach

Snacks

(500-600 calories)

  • Rice cakes with a little honey
  • Fruit and/or vegetable salad
  • Trail mix/almonds/cashews
  • Protein bar
  • Protein shakes

Dinner

(566 calories: 5 g fat, 80.2 g carbohydrates, 57.8 g protein)

  • 300 g sweet potatoes
  • 200 g chicken breast fillet
  • 200 g vegetables (broccoli, carrots, cauliflower)

We also give you the option of using precise templates to create your own diet plan.

6. Choice of dietary supplements

The implementation of food supplements within the muscle building nutrition plan plays an important role in meeting the demands for all the essential nutrients, especially after a workout.

Shakes are a great alternative, since not everyone has the time and wherewithal to carry pre-cooked meals with them to their workout.

And there are of course a number of different solutions. From the classic post-workout shake to complete deluxe versions, specifically for muscle building.

The right choice for you depends on a variety of factors like exercise experience, frequency, intensity and eating habits.

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Protein shakes as a helpful supplement:

With the help of a protein powder, you can supply your muscles with the protein building blocks it needs immediately after a workout.

There is a so-called open window during the first 30 minutes after a workout. The body craves nutrients during this time.

Whey Protein – the classic
For: Quick supply of nutrients
Characteristic: Quick metabolic availability
When: Ideally right after your workout
3k Protein – the all-rounder
For: Quick & long-term supply of nutrients
Characteristic: Optimised protein combination
When: Perfect after an evening workout

Creatine – the classic muscle building supplement

As confirmed by numerous studies, creatine supplements have been proven to be successful in the context of muscle building.

An additional intake of creatine helps to increase the body's creatine phosphate storage by 2-3g.

The effect for your training: Improved performance in the explosive power and maximum strength range. Creatine also helps you gain weight.

You can expect to gain 2-3 kilograms of mass within the first 4 weeks.

Learn how to complete a Creatine cure in our magazine.

7. Making adjustments during periods of stagnation

No matter how good a muscle building nutrition plan, at some point the weight gain and development of muscle mass stagnates.

A period of stagnation can be identified using a weight log. A good guideline for the healthy development of muscle mass is a weight gain of about 0.5 kilograms per week.

If you fail to see this weight gain over a period of 2 weeks, we recommend increasing your total calorie intake by 10%.

You should then monitor your weight gain closely and readjust if necessary.