If building muscle were as simple as going to the gym, doing a couple of strength exercises, and eating lots of protein, we’d all be walking around looking like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Fortunately for The Rock, we aren’t coming for his top spot anytime soon.
Whether your goal is to be The Rock’s stunt double or you’re just trying to get lean and build muscle, it’s going to take time and hard work. For starters, you’re going to have to strength train, and by that we mean lift heavy weights. You’ll also need to adjust your caloric intake, eating more food to provide your body with fuel and reach your muscle-building goals. Another component to the muscle-building equation is recovery. It’s often overlooked, but stretching, foam rolling, doing yoga, and getting enough sleep are just as important as what you do in the gym.
We could go on for days about the dos and don’ts of building muscle, but for now, we’re going to focus on what you shouldn’t do nutrition-wise if you want to build muscle.
You’re Cutting Calories
“Many times, women are way too restrictive with their calorie intake,” Brittany Linn, RD, CDN, a clinical nutrition coordinator at The Mount Sinai Hospital, told POPSUGAR. “Especially when trying to build muscle, most women and men will need more calories and protein than they typically give themselves,” she explained. This number will vary from person to person, but Brittany recommends consuming 1.0 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day to build muscle. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, which is approximately 63.5 kilograms, you should eat 63.5 to 107 grams of protein a day (definitely use a food scale for measurements). Everyone’s caloric intake will vary, which is why we recommend speaking with a registered dietitian who can provide you with an exact caloric goal.
You’re Not Eating Enough Carbs
You’ll also want to avoid cutting carbohydrates. Yes, we know low-carb is all the rage, but if you want to build muscle, you’re going to have to sit out the low-carb trend. According to Brittany, “Carbs are essential to helping your body function at its best. Carbohydrates also give you the energy you need to fuel your workouts and your brain.” If you’re deciding between a low-carb meal or a bowl of pasta, we say go for the latter.
“There is no such thing as being perfect when it comes to your diet or workout routine,” Brittany reinforced. Instead of feeling guilty about your food choices and striving to eat perfectly, Brittany said to take pressure off of yourself. “We’ll all be successful no matter what. Building muscles takes time, commitment, and consistency, but being kind to yourself is always the first step in any successful life change.”