IFBB Pro, Jason Dunning shares a few exclusive diet tips to help you build lean muscle, maximise your fitness goals and make sure you are on the right track when it comes to your diet and nutrition.

Building a lean physique takes time, it is not a process that happens overnight. However, there are many small actions or decisions that you can make on a daily basis that will guide you to your ultimate physique. Arguably one of the most important factors is your nutrition. A decent nutrition regime does not have to be complicated, but it does require some structure and a few simple elements to consider. Essentially, you will need to consider your daily caloric intake and the contributing dietary components, namely your protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake.

  1. Calories

Overall weight gain and/or weight loss will depend on whether you are in a caloric surplus or a caloric deficit. In order to gain weight (including muscle mass) you should be consuming more calories than you are expending. There are many online calculators that you can use to work out how many calories you should consume. These calculators will estimate your resting energy expenditure and further include an activity factor (how active you are during the day / with exercise taken into account) to determine how many calories are needed to maintain your current weight (i.e. your total daily energy expenditure or TDEE). I believe that a 10-15% increase in calories (above TDEE) is sufficient for lean muscle growth, provided that you are covering the other important aspects such as training and recovery. Some prefer a slightly more aggressive approach (25% and above) which is fine too – I would just recommend monitoring your body composition as you go and adjust as necessary.

  1. Protein

It is well known that protein consumption is important for muscle tissue repair and growth, in fact it is crucial for a vast array of processes in the body. However, protein requirements may differ from one individual to the next depending on your age, activity, or specific goal in mind (etc.). I aim for at least 2.2g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight – sometimes more than that. It may not be necessary though, as the suggested guideline is usually between 1.6g to 2.2g of protein per kilogram bodyweight for muscle growth. Protein usually makes up around 35% of my total calories – again I prefer a higher protein intake. (Sources of protein I frequently choose include chicken, extra lean beef mince, ostrich, eggs, and tuna).

  1. Carbohydrates

A good quality source of carbohydrates can make a massive difference in your overall training performance and growth. Generally, around 45% of my total calories are comprised of carbohydrates (although this and the other macronutrient percentages will change depending on where I am in my competitive season). I will usually opt for lower GI foods during times of the day where I am not as active. However, before, during, and after training I will make sure to consume foods with a higher GI (as well as a higher glycaemic load) that are easily digestible – to ensure optimal training performance, faster glycogen replenishment and recovery. Having said this, I still keep track of my overall calories consumed regardless of their effect on blood sugar. It just helps me to control my appetite if and when necessary. (My preferred sources of carbohydrates include oats, sweet potato, lentils, butternut, pumpkin, jasmine or basmati rice, white potato)

  1. Fats

Fats are often overlooked in general and they are often avoided as some believe they will inevitably result in an increase in body fat. Although fats provide more calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein, they are extremely important for a number of reasons. They help to regulate hormone function and overall cardiovascular health (a couple of the many benefits) provided you choose the better options. Fats contribute to at least 20% of my overall calorie intake – I will not drop my fat intake below 15%. (My dietary fats are generally sourced from avocado, nuts, salmon, whole eggs, peanut/almond butter).

  1. Planning your nutrition regime

Your food choices will depend on your specific goal. Competitive athletes may choose to follow restrictive diets – and manage to do so without a problem. Whereas, some individuals may prefer a more balanced way of eating to ensure that they remain compliant to their regime. Each to their own, and it is ultimately up to the individual and the goals they have set themselves. It is important to remember, however, that there is more than one way to achieve your desired physique or lifestyle goal! Find out what works for you or consult with a professional who can assist you.

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