How to Optimize Your Diet for Building Muscle

Nutrition plays a big role in helping you reach your fitness goals, pair it with a good workout program and you got an effective program that will get you the results you’re looking for. And when you’re looking to build some size, your diet is going to be one of the main factors to help you do that. Today, I will talk about how to optimize your diet for muscle growth as mentioned in Jeremy Ethier’s, “The Best Science-Based Diet to Build Lean Muscle.”

A common misconception when it comes to bulking or being in a caloric surplus is that you just need to eat big to get big, and while that’s true to an extent, it’s important to know the kinds of foods you should be eating more of in order to be in that caloric surplus.

So, when looking for what foods to eat, you want to focus on four important factors: Total Calories, Protein, Carbs, and Fat.

Total Calories

If you want to maximize muscle growth while minimizing fat gain, you want to pay attention to your total calories; just like when cutting. You want to make sure you’re not going overboard with your eating as that can lead to excessive fat gain rather than muscle gain.

As Jeremy cited, “More calories is not necessarily better for growth […] since your body has a limit to the rate of muscle growth it experiences […] this will cause the rest of your excess (unused) calories to be stored as fat.”

In other words, there’s a limit to how much muscle you can build in a certain period; whether it’s in months or years. The amount of muscle mass you can gain during those periods of time depend on how long you’ve been training.

It is more ideally recommended to “slowly gain 2-4lbs per month depending on your training experience” (Ethier).

To find out how many calories you should be eating, using an online TDEE calculator or simply “multiply your body weight in lbs by 15” and add 200-400 calories; if you’re a beginner aim closer to the 400 range, and if you’re experienced aim closer to the 200 range.

However, the TDEE calculator will result more accurately as it contributes other factors such as age, height, etc.

The result of these calculated calories will not be spot on, but you can assure you’re in a surplus (or a deficit) based on how your weight fluctuates throughout the weeks. If you seem to be gaining a bit more weight by the weeks, you’re most likely in a surplus, and vice-versa for deficit.

Protein Intake

While more protein isn’t necessarily better, “there is an optimal range you want to hit given that it plays a vital role in muscle recovery and growth” (Ethier).

Now for how much you should intake, eating “0.73g/lbs to 1g/lbs” seems to be the optimal range to stick to for muscle growth

“going over this range doesn’t seem provide an added benefit for growth[…].” This means that as long as you’re eating the minimum amount of protein for your body, you will receive the benefits of high protein intake. It comes down to preference the higher you aim for your protein intake.

Carbs & Fats

As for carbs and fats, “you need sufficient carbs in order to fuel your workouts and boost your performance […] (and) you need sufficient fats to support your hormone levels and overall health” (Ethier).

The literature recommends to intake roughly “0.25g/lbs to 0.5g/lbs” of fat, and the remainder of your calories will come in from carbs (Ethier). This creates a lot of flexibility with your food choices and intake and can choose them to better suit your lifestyle preferences.


In order to optimize your diet for muscle growth, focus on the four key factors: Total Calories, Protein, Carbs, and Fats.

Calculate your total calorie intake through an online TDEE calculator or by simply multiplying your body weight (lbs) by 15 and adding 200-400.

Eating between 0.73-1g/lbs of protein is an optimal intake for muscle growth, going above these numbers have no significant benefits or issues as long as you have healthy functioning kidneys.

Eating between 0.25-0.5g/lbs of fat is an optimal intake for overall health maintenance.

Filling in the remainder of your calories with carbs will be ideal for maximizing performance. You can be very flexible with your fat and carb intake and can set it up to how it best fits your preferences; as long as you’re within your calorie intake.


Total Daily Energy Expenditure Calculator

Macronutrient intake Calculator

Food tracking app

The reader assumes full responsibility for consulting a qualified health professional regarding health conditions or concerns, and nutritional advice before applying the content on this site to themselves. Samuel Navarro will not assume any liability for direct or indirect losses or damages that may result from the use of information contained in this post. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health.

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