How important is Nutrition in Building Muscle Mass?

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“Training is 50% and diet is the other 50%”

Many of you have probably heard the saying that “abs are made in the kitchen” or “you are what you eat” or even “training is 10% & nutrition is the other 90%.” Well I’m here to tell you that all these statements are true, except I would like to change the last one to training 50% and diet the other 50%, because you can be eating the “right” way, but if you are not following a structured training plan in which you are progressively overloading your body on a weekly basis then you’re just wasting your time in my opinion. When it comes to either building muscle mass or cutting away excess fat, what you fuel your body with becomes of the utmost importance. In scientific terminology, nutrition is the process by which the body obtains and absorbs essential nutrients from the foods we eat. Therefore, if we are not fuelling our bodies with the necessary nutrients to grow then how in the world do you expect to progress in your training.

The Importance of Macronutrients

Let’s start with the basic Macronutrients that constitute our daily food intake; Proteins, Carbohydrates & Fats. Now as these are the fuels our bodies use as energy and aid in various processes throughout our body such as; building of muscle (also known as a state of Anabolism), maintaining various hormones and protecting vital organs as well as provide the body with energy such as glucose which is stored in either the muscle or liver as glycogen (gives your muscles that round & fuller shape). Each macronutrient supplies us with a certain amount of energy which is given in calories(kcal) per gram. Proteins and carbohydrates give as 4kcal per gram, whereas fats are more energy dense giving as 9kcal per gram.

“the more active you are and the more exercise you perform, the higher your BMR will be.”

Since we now know the amount of calories in each macronutrient, it’s time to move onto the most important guideline that you need to know and be able to apply whether it be when you are trying to lose weight (particularly fat mass) or gain lean muscle mass and that is “Calories in vs Calories out.” On a daily basis depending on how active you are, your body will be burning a certain amount of calories in order to provide you with the necessary energy to perform daily activities. So, for example if you lay in bed all day and performed the bare minimum your body will still be burning calories, in order to maintain various processes in your body such as breathing or keeping your heart beating. This is known as your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).Obviously the more active you are and the more exercise you perform, the higher your BMR will be. To make it simple for you, say you were burning roughly 2000kcal per day, if you had to consume 2000kcal worth of food you would maintain weight, now if you had to consume more than 2000kcal you would gain weight and the same goes for if you were consuming less, you would obviously lose weight. Therefore, at the end of the day if you wish to gain weight in the form of muscle mass you need to be in a calorie surplus, in other words be consuming more calories than you are burning or if you wanted to lose weight you would have to be in an energy deficit. However, is it really that simple? In terms of gaining or losing weight yes it really is, however there is a certain amount of each macronutrient that you should be consuming in order to optimally build muscle while in a surplus or maintain muscle while losing fat if you are in a deficit.


CRUSHEDit Sports & Supplements South Africa - Food - Protein

“Proteins are also made up of various amino acids which can be found in most foods…”

Let’s start with Protein; Protein is regarded as the most important macronutrient in my opinion, because of its function to aid in muscle protein synthesis (that is the building up and repair of damaged muscles from training). The general rule of thumb is to aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight i.e. if you are a 100kg individual then you would be around 220 pounds, therefore you should aim for 220g of protein on a daily basis. Whether you are in calorie surplus or deficit, I would recommend that you keep your protein intake relatively stable throughout and rather add in or take away calories from your fats and carbohydrates when cutting or bulking. Proteins are also made up of various amino acids which can be found in most foods, however it is important that you know that muscle protein synthesis functions in a “all-or-nothing” fashion. This means that if you’re lacking just 1 amino acid in your diet then protein synthesis will not occur, therefore it is extremely important that you know what you’re putting into your body.


CRUSHEDit Sports & Supplements South Africa - Food - Fat - Avo

“A moderate amount of fats is needed for good health.”

Fats is another fuel source which our bodies use, it is also the major storage form of energy in the human body. Fats have many important functions in the body such as; maintaining optimal hormone levels and protection of our vital organs. A moderate amount of fats is needed for good health. Fats can be broken into saturated and unsaturated fats (monounsaturated & polyunsaturated), to much fat or too much of the wrong type of fat can be unhealthy. The more healthier options for obtaining fat in your diet would be; almonds, avocados, olive or coconut oil and fish to name a few.


CRUSHEDit Sports & Supplements South Africa - Food - Carbohydrates - Potatoes

“The “bad” carbohydrates are known as refined carbohydrates.”

Lastly the most enjoyable macronutrient is carbohydrates, which generally makes up the largest portion of people’s diets. This macronutrient provides as with glucose which can be used as fuel during exercise, it also plays an important part in the recovery process from training by refuelling and filling up of muscle and liver glycogen stores post-exercise. Your body uses carbohydrates to make glucose which can be used immediately for energy or stored for later use. It can be noted that the better choice of carbohydrates are these that contain high amounts of fiber such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains (oatmeal, brown rice, whole grain pasta, bread or crackers). These foods take longer to digest and allow you to remain fuller for longer. The “bad” carbohydrates are known as refined carbohydrates, which have been processed to remove parts of the grain and have sugar added. Common examples of refined or processed carbohydrates are white bread, cakes and cookies.


“The most important aspect that one can take away from this article is that, accuracy and consistency is vital to be able to progressively overload your body from week to week, whether it be in your training or diet. “

Even though I am a firm believer in the saying “if it fits your macros”, which basically means that you can eat whatever you’d you like whether it be burgers and fries or chicken and rice, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day all that matters are the amount of calories you are consuming and if it ties in with your training goal, as well as your macronutrient ratios. However even though you will still be getting in the same amount of calories from the junk or less “healthier” food options, the question is will it have any negative effect on your training and health. The answer is yes, because if you are going to be consuming mainly “processed” foods as opposed to whole foods, you will might run into certain problems such as; the fact that processed foods are generally lower in micronutrients (certain vitamins and minerals), you will feel less satiated (meaning you will be less full and be hungry again quickly), your energy levels will spike and drastically drop again which may lead to less energy or willpower to train hard and it might lead to you wanting to overeat. Therefore, I recommend that you stick to this principle which will help with dietary adherence in the long term, which is eat clean whole foods 80% of the time and the other 20% can be whatever you like, as long as it fits into your macronutrient goals.

The most important aspect that one can take away from this article is that, accuracy and consistency is vital to be able to progressively overload your body from week to week, whether it be in your training or diet. It is of the utmost importance to know what, why and when to fuel your body in order to achieve your goal, because if you’re aimlessly eating and training without purpose and a plan then the time in which you want to achieve your goal will be much further away than you think. This is the reason why I recommend tracking your calories as well as having a plan in place with both process and outcome goals.

All the information provided on this blog is for entertainment purposes only and are the opinion of the author.  CRUSHEDit and its affiliates are not providing medical, legal or other professional advice.

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