While it is certainly not my intention to imply that diet is of no importance, I do want it clearly understood that the “amount” of food is of far more importance than the actual makeup of the diet – so long as any reasonable attempt is made in the direction of providing a balanced diet.
– Arthur Jones
You strive for another rep. You add a little weight to the lifts each week. You push yourself on sprints. You keep up with walking for health and recovery. You stretch as it helps you with good form. You grab that spoon and take another big bite, long after you felt full?
While the need to increase training demands makes sense to those that have given it even the slightest thought, adding calories often gets ignored. Many fail to realize that the muscle they aim to create needs raw materials. Our world follows the conservation of energy, that you cannot build something from nothing. You expect to get big and strong, then eat like a wimp. Nothing appears sadder than a warrior training hard and sensibly, only to lack food and reap no rewards for his back-breaking efforts.
Avoid processed foods. Eat more natural foods. While some trainees may assume they need to focus solely on massive amounts of protein, this is a mistake. Overemphasis on any specific food leaves you less likely to get the minerals, vitamins, and nutrients you need. You simply need more calories. If you train hard and eat enough, then your body will use its protein efficiently and calories from the other macronutrients will spare it.
The RDA for protein may work well or perhaps a bit more serves as a good guideline. I find about ½ a gram per pound of bodyweight works fine. This requires some attention but nothing extraordinary. Use some common sense here. If everything else seems in line but you fail to make gains, then perhaps you can experiment with adding some protein. Keep in mind the rate of muscle gain for natural lifters appears much lower than you may believe. Going over 200 pounds while staying lean almost never occurs in drug-free trainees. Gaining 20-30 pounds of muscle over a lifetime upon a base established during early adulthood seems more reasonable. Achieving this will morph you into a completely different person.
You may have to work hard to overcome your satiety. Eating may grow unpleasant. Therefore, I suggest progressive eating. Say you already eat a well-rounded diet. You may begin by adding egg whites throughout the day. Initially you may start with 3 egg whites. Each week or two you add an additional egg white so that eventually you reach a dozen or more. Just like adding an extra rep or a bit of weight, you eat progressively to give your body enough calories to fuel the recovery process from hard training. Pick any calorie dense and somewhat convenient food and consume a little more each day or week. Choose something sensible, ideally a lean protein as opposed to a high-fat or sugar-laden food. A hearty grain with some beans could work just as well if willing to prepare it.
Find a balance that allows you to maintain or slightly add weight. Your bodyfat can create a minor surplus, but muscle gains cannot persist for long while losing bodyfat. You cannot force muscle growth either. Overdo it and you will just become fat. In most cases, far beyond 500 calories from your baseline would be too much unless you under-eat regularly. If your strength goes up, you can feel assured your diet has worked. Practice progressive eating in addition to progressive training. It ranks just as importantly as consistently adding weight to your lifts.