10 nutrition habits for more strength and muscle

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Habits are the most important factor when building strength.

Sure, programming is incredibly important if you want achieve your goals, but it’s the combination of proper training, nutrition and recovery that will provide the greatest stimulus for gains. You need ritual and routine to drive the daily effort and progress.

There are no shortcuts or hacks when it comes to building strength and muscle, you earn what you build with dedication and consistency. Long-term goals look just like mountains sometimes – Huge from the bottom up, and too much to take on all at once.

dailyClick HERE to download your FREE copy of our strength training guide, “How to Get Strong Now learn what you absolutely must start and stop doing right away to gain strength and build muscle.
But this is just a limitation of one’s mindset. By focusing on smaller habits, you can effectively chew that mountain down into small pebbles. You can’t climb it all at once, but you can certainly fill and carry your bucket of stones daily. In time, you’ll build your unique mountain.

With a little dedication and consistency, you will create a brand new lifestyle that results in increased strength and muscle all on its own.

Start here.

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1. Eat more protein.

Here’s the problem – Most people don’t consume nearly enough protein to support muscle growth. You must focus on getting more high-quality whole food protein sources from animals and plants.

You can begin this habit by batch cooking three different protein sources for the week, such as hard boiled eggs, ground beef or a whole chicken in a crock pot. Just having more food on-hand and ready will make things easier.

Focus on eating one palm-sized portion of protein at every single meal. After two weeks, increase the protein portion closer to one and a half palms per meal, then work towards two palms. Keep that up and you’ll notice a big difference in the gym.

You’ll also start looking much stronger as well.

 

2. Keep better snacks on hand.

You will need to eat in between meals to add muscle to your frame, there’s no doubt about it. But you can’t settle for unhealthy sugar-laden snacks that will just make you fatter.

With a little planning, you will always be prepared. Keep a stash of healthy snacks in your desk, workout bag, or in your car. That could be jerky, nuts, seeds, coconut chips or high-quality protein bars. Single serving packets of coconut oil and almond butter can be a life saver in a pinch.

When it comes to creating new, better food habits, being prepared is essential. Don’t sabotage your efforts with missed meals and poor snack options.

 

3. Consider eating dairy.

Dairy has powerful anabolic properties that support muscle growth, which makes perfect sense. It’s a beverage designed by nature to make mammals much bigger and stronger.

If you do not have an allergy to dairy and need to get more calories to support growth, dairy is very hard to beat. Pick varieties that you enjoy and make a snack out of it. For example, I love to mix about one and half cups of greek yogurt or cottage cheese with protein powder and berries. It’s great before training or as a late night snack.

You could also try having one glass of milk with your smallest meal. Just like with protein, increase your intake slowly.

Begin incorporating dairy at one meal and one snack per day. Keep track of your weight and how you feel for a few weeks, and increase or decrease based on your progress.

 

4. Sleep 8­-9 hours every night.

Sleep is vital. You cannot repair and grow muscle tissue without it, it doesn’t matter how well you train or eat.

Most people get around 6 hours of sleep per night. I know that might feel adequate, but trust me, it’s not. Within a few nights, you will see this for yourself.

Rather than expecting 8 hours of sleep right away, focus instead on developing a night time ritual. Start setting an alarm 30-minutes before you need to be in bed. This will remind you that it’s time to start winding down. Turn off all electronics. Read a novel. Do some soft-tissue and mobility work. Take a bath and meditate, whatever you want. This will greatly improve the quality of your rest.

Try setting the bedtime alarm three day a week at first. Do it before your busiest, most important days for greatest effect. A this becomes part of your routine, add in more days until this becomes a cemented daily habit.

You can thank me later.

You really should sleep more. 

5. Support digestion.

You are going to be eating more food than you are used to. Your digestive system will be working harder and secreting more digestive fluids to break down the extra food.

You might consider supplementing hydrochloric acid (HCL) and digestive enzymes to reduce the burden on the digestive system. Probiotics are a great way to support the digestive system as it adapts to the extra volume of food.

Begin by taking the enzyme supplement with your largest meal of the day and a probiotic during your night time routine. See how you feel and adjust as necessary. Also, you might try packing a few forkfuls of sauerkraut with your lunch three times per week. People have been eating fermented foods for thousands of years for a very good reason.

If you are digesting well, you’re going to feel, perform and look better.

 

6. Reduce stress.

Stress is highly problematic because it hinders digestion and spikes cortisol, which results in muscle loss and fat gain. That’s not good.

When you are trying to build muscle and get strong, stress reduction is critical. So, focus on simple rejuvenating activities that fit into your schedule. Take a walk outside, meditate, read a book or write in a gratitude journal, nothing major. You don’t want to overcommit. Just start small and build your habit.

Try this first. Start your morning with just 3 minutes of quiet time, and then go for a 15-minute walk in the afternoon. As with your other habits, try this on your busiest days, then slowly increase the frequency until you have a new daily habit.

This is not a break from work. It’s not something you might get to, ok? It’s your new priority. Build quiet and recovery into your day and you’ll become a lot more productive and satisfied in the gym and in life.

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7. Carbs are your friend!

To get big and stronger, you’re going to need more carbohydrates to shuttle nutrients to those working muscles. So, have some quality carbohydrates at each meal. Some great examples include sweet potatoes, oats, yams, squash, rice or rice cereal. You can also have a piece of fruit with your protein rich snacks to get in some extra calories.

Start by having 1-2 fist-sized portions of dense carbs at lunch and dinner. As you adapt to the greater intake of food, increase the frequency slowly by adding servings to meals and snacks.

This will really bump up your calorie intake, boosting muscle growth and recovery.

 

8. Outsource meals.

If you try to cook all of your own healthy meals it can quickly get overwhelming, which is counterproductive to the long-term goal.

There are a few options you can try to make things easier. First, pick the most time-consuming aspect of meal preparation and buy that food pre-cooked instead. You can get whole chickens and chicken breasts at the store for pretty cheap, wild caught canned fish as well. Most grocery stores now sell pre-cooked dense carbs in their hot cases.

Once or twice a week go buy enough cooked protein and carbs to last you a few days. It’s a little more costly than prepping the food yourself, but you save yourself a lot of time and stress otherwise. Also, keep in mind that this is still far less costly than grabbing lower quality food on the run.

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9. Learn to cook in batches. 

One day per week, set aside time to make a favorite meal in a larger portion than normal. Eat your fill, then use the extra servings for lunch or dinner the next day.

You’ll be able to cook more meals at once as you get comfortable handling larger quantities of food. In just a few weeks, you should be able to prepare most of your weekly meals all at once, and with minimal fuss.

You can then spend all that time and effort throwing around barbell in the gym instead.

 

10. Use the Crock Pot!

The crock pot is an amazing, essential tool for meal prepping and batch cooking proteins, veggies and dense carbs.

Go get a big piece of meat and rub it down with any spice you want, then chop up a bunch of vegetables. Whatever you want. There, your meal prep is done! Put all the ingredients in your trusty crock pot with a half cup of water or some chicken stock. Then just turn it on low and let the magic happen. In 8 hours all you have to do is eat.

Cooking couldn’t get any easier than that. Also, you can find millions of great crock pot recipes online, so you’ll never get bored.

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These things will change your life. 

 

Building nutrition habits over time you will notice they become easier and require less thought.

Quality nutrition combined with a smart training program and recovery are guaranteed to result in muscle gains. However, the key to maintaining that progress over a long period of time is staying consistent, dedicated, and being patient with the process.

Do that and you will be successful.

Alex

For more:

Learn our method to increase strength and muscle and download our guide, How to Get Strong Now.  In our training guide you’ll learn…

  • What you should probably stop doing to gain strength.
  • What your programming should look like to get strong.
  • 2 weeks of programming from our Muscle Gain Challenge.
  • What to eat to build muscle.
  • What you absolutely must start doing to gain strength.
  • Answers to frequently asked questions we get about strength.
  • Lots of links to all of our strength related videos.
  • And much, much more!

Click here to get your free copy of How to Get Strong Now 

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27 Responses to “10 nutrition habits for more strength and muscle”

    • margo b

      if you are in a hurry or forget to set out dinner and Instant Pot is an amazing gadget to have. Makes rice and yogurt, works as a crock pot and pressure cooker. I steam all my veggies, cook all my chicken for lunches and make hard boiled eggs in it. It is the best.

      Reply
  1. Caitlin

    I always think that “general guidelines” can be so tricky since you never know where the person who is reading them is starting from, but I think these are well done; I love that they focus more on habits than anything else and that it is made abundantly clear that this are guidelines for people who are looking to do something specific, build muscle and strength.

    A question: where do you see fat fitting in to this? I noticed that you cover 2 of the 3 macronutrients as their own categories, but fat is never directly mentioned and is only touched on indirectly (the almond butter, coconut oil and dairy.)

    Reply
    • Alex McMahon

      Hey Caitlin,

      Thanks! it is a lot of fun to help folks troubleshoot habits and where to start on their muscle gaining journey. The question about fat is a great one. A certain amount of fats in the diet are necessary for health. While fat is twice as calorically dense as carbs they also keep people fuller for much longer , which works against frequent eating for muscle gain. You will have to see what works best for you. A starting point could be a serving of fat with each meal. Make sure that the fat portions are not keeping you from eating regularly. As you approach your workout focus more on protein and carbs pre and post workout and less fat at this time. As always test and assess to see what works best for you personally. Cheers!

      Reply
    • Greg

      Thank you for this Alex! Been planning on gaining muscles and weight since I was 15 but can’t even start right away, maybe because I thought it was too hard. Indeed, I just need to be patient with the process and right food. Just like what you’ve said, eating more protein is a must and that’s one of my struggle. But when it comes to 8-9 hours of sleep, that is also one of my goal and quit spending so much time in the internet.

      However, I believe, at least for me, that some of the important nutrients that I need in order to achieve my desired body I can also take some supplements. I find these supplements from Ariix effective. You can view these supplements and other products here:

      Reply
  2. Giovanny Colon

    Awesome advice! How about nutrition for those heavier guys who need to lose weigh but maintain their muscles?

    Reply
    • Alex McMahon

      For your goalI would make sure to keep protein consistent across all days whether they are a training or recovery days this way you have ample amino acids to feed muscle even while losing fat. On training days center carbohydrates around workouts pre and post should be the majority of carbohydrates. On recovery days focus on protein, fat and vegetables and try to get at least a 300 calorie split between the training and non training day. See how that works!

      Reply
  3. Ken

    I’ve been lifting for about a year and the nutrition part has been my biggest struggle. I eat a vegan diet. I also have IBS so I’ve always been a light eater. I know I need to eat more than I did before I started lifting but it can be a real struggle and when it catches up with me I find myself falling back on bad options like sweet and salty trail mix (crazy that doesn’t trigger my IBS, but it doesnt) all too often because I’m not prepared.

    Reply
    • Alex McMahon

      Hey Ken,
      How of your diet is made up of grains and legumes ? Those along with raw vegetables are well known gut irritants, especially for people with any kind of digestive issues. Are you against bone broth ? If not I would make and consume at least two cups of that every day, cook all your vegetables and remove grains and legumes to see how you feel. Hope this helps amigo.

      Cheers,

      Alex

      Reply
  4. Leighton Wells

    I love the analogy of goals looking like a mountain. It always looks huge and unattainable until you start taking small strides and working your way to the top. I’ve been consuming lots of protein and I’ve noticed that it’s truly making a difference!

    Reply
  5. Rick

    Thanks Alex! I’ve been following your work for a couple months after you were featured or name dropped on a podcast (can’t remember which one, I listen to a lot, sorry!) You mentioned after being in a calorie deficit for a long time your hormones and metabolism can get messed up. A few years ago I took the chronic cardio, switch to a paleo diet, go on a huge deficit approach. I got into lifting after that, but ever since, it seems like whatever approach I take to nutrition I’m still stuck in this skinnyfat body composition and rarely feel like I have energy. Moreover, I keep plateauing around the same numbers and have started over what feels like countless times without keeping any meaningful gains. My diet has been all over the place since someone suggested I simply wasn’t eating enough, but the weight I’ve put back on is mostly fat.

    What’s the best approach to take as far as appropriate macros, meal timing (I wake up and go to the gym at 4am before work), etc? It feels like I’m stuck in a perpetual loop; I can’t achieve the gains I want without feeling fat or lifeless, at which point I fall off the wagon and start again at square one.

    Reply
  6. Muzzamil

    Great info. It will help me implement a better routine and training routines. Thanks Again. ::Thumbs UP::

    Reply

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