Can You Gain Muscle on an All-Natural Diet?

It’s a shame, but in the bodybuilding and weightlifting communities, all-natural diets kind of get a bad rap. But building muscle without turning to crap diets or synthetic supplements is completely possible. With the right all-natural diet and workout, you can absolutely achieve the level of fitness and physique you’re looking for.

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Once you’ve got your all-natural nutrition and your workout routine in alignment, you’ll start to see your hard work pay off. Read on to learn how to make an all-natural lifestyle work for you.

Make Natural Eating a Habit

In order to make an all-natural diet work for you, you have to commit to sticking to it. Make natural, healthy eating a habit. Don’t let your diet become an afterthought. The easiest way to take control of your diet and make sure you adhere to your plan to meet your goals is to meal prep. If you want to gain weight, gain muscle and gain strength, you have to be on top of what you eat, how much you eat and how often you are eating.

BodyBuilding.com suggests focusing on five to six natural, calorie-dense meals every day. Space them two or three hours apart so that your body is constantly being fed. You’re taking every opportunity to provide your body something to metabolize to build muscle. By prepping your meals ahead of time, you’re eliminating the possibility that you might screw up and miss a meal or fail to meet your calorie or nutrition requirements. Prep your meals. Follow through. Meet your goals. Learn what works for you and keep repeating. It’s that simple.

And you know this already, but if you’re looking to build muscle, protein and calorie intake are the name of the game. Men’s Fitness suggests evaluating your diet and your protein intake when you’re embarking on a quest to gain muscle. “Start reading food labels to get a sense of how many calories you’re already eating,” the magazine recommends. “Then, add 500 to that number and start eating that many calories every day.” That’s going to set you on the path to a caloric surplus that your body can use to build the muscle you’re after.

Those calories should come from a lot of protein, too. But just how much protein do you need? Schools of thought on protein consumption vary. Some say you need to get one gram of protein per pound of body fat. Other sources say that’s too much or not enough to build lean muscle. What it really comes down to are your personal goals. If your goal is to gain muscle, upping your protein intake is going to help.

A study conducted by the Letterman Army Institute of Research in San Francisco found that subjects eating more protein (2.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day), coupled with intense strength training gained 3.28 kilograms of lean mass over the study’s 40-day period. According to BodyBuilding.com, Susan M. Kleiner, author of Power Eating, says that for muscle building, a protein intake of 1.6 to 2.2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight is recommended. This is about 0.7 to 1 gram per pound of bodyweight.

Just don’t overdo it. A diet containing too much protein can cause a host of health problems. Overindulging can result in kidney disease, heart disease, constipation and osteoporosis. Remember that protein is one part of clean, natural eating. Be sure you are also adding fresh fruits and vegetables as well as minimally processed whole grains, nuts and legumes. Natural eating efficiently benefits all your systems with macronutrients, micronutrients and fewer hard to process or harmful ingredients.

Align Your Diet And Your Workout

Now that you’ve got your diet sorted, you need to get your workouts on board. You might think that working out harder, faster, longer is going to be the way to build muscle, but, contrary that logic, you need to work smarter and make sure you’re incorporating rest into your routine. According to BodyBuilding.com, you shouldn’t be working out for more than an hour at a time. You should be focusing on the intensity of your workout rather than the duration. Limit your rest between sets to under a minute, cut the gym chit chat and get your workout done well.

Limit your time doing cardio workouts, too. Don’t completely neglect cardio, but spending too much time on the stepper or the treadmill is going to be counterproductive to building muscle. Men’s Fitness recommends two days of light jogging for about 30 minutes at a time. To lose fat without losing muscle, incorporate sprint intervals three times a week.

Men’s Fitness also suggests lowering your reps to build muscle. “Do no more than 20 sets per muscle group,” the magazine says, “closer to 12 is even better.” Instead of trying to do more reps, focus on lifting a heavier load and doing so at a controlled, even speed. Make your workouts total body or split routines, too. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses, rows and pull ups are going to give you the most bang for your buck.

Don’t Neglect Rest

The most natural way to build muscle is to rest. Men’s Fitness recommends training no more than four days a week and BodyBuilding.com goes one step further to suggest cutting down on physical activity outside of the gym as well, especially if you’re a person that has trouble gaining weight. Try to be less stressed if you can, too. Being on edge all the time can elevate your levels of cortisol. Cortisol breaks down muscle to fuel other processes, so be mindful to manage both physical and mental stress.

If you’re looking to build, make sure you’re sleeping enough. Shoot for the standard seven to eight hours per night. According to Bodybuilding.com, sleep helps bodybuilding in four ways. 1) Sleep raises levels of human growth hormone (HGH), which regulates the body’s metabolism. 2) Protein synthesis occurs during sleep if you eat protein before bed. 3) Energy consumption is reduced, conserving resources for muscle building. 4) Restoration of brain cells occurs, improving alertness and motivation.

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