Full Day of Eating for Muscle Gain
I want to take you through what a full day of eating looks like for me right now to build muscle. I am going to preface this post with this: your food intake is absolutely unique to you. Your calories and your macros (protein, carb, and fat intake) depends on your goals, age, weight, height, activity level, and dieting history. This is why pulling some arbitrary macros off of the internet or following a meal plan you found on Google leads to different results for different people.
In general, a fat loss phase means you are going to be eating in a caloric deficit (eating less calories than you're burning.) A muscle building phase means you are going to be eating in a caloric surplus (eating more calories than you're burning.)
Right now, I am in a muscle building season so the portion sizes you're going to see are for a caloric surplus for MY metabolism.
I eat the same foods year round but the amounts for fat loss goals are smaller. So feel free to use these meal ideas for fat loss goals as well! Just note that your portions will be a little different based on your metabolism and goals.
Again, your calories and your macros are unique to you and your metabolism so don't try to just copy this meal for meal. If you would like to get started with custom macros for your particular needs, I offer 1:1 custom training and nutrition coaching here.
- 1 cup spinach
- 1/4 cup chopped white onion
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 138 g egg stirs
- 1 everything bagel
- 32 g peanut butter
- 2 chicken breakfast sausages
- *Not pictured: 126 g banana
43 P / 107 C / 44 F
As you can see, I really load up on protein in the morning. This isn't because it creates better results... it is simply because I otherwise have a hard time hitting my protein goal. If I load up in the morning, it means I can afford to have smaller protein intake at lunch and dinner and still hit my target.
Protein is super important for building muscle. You should aim to have anywhere between .6-1 g of protein per pound bodyweight. I'm at 1 g per pound right now to help build as much as I can during this growing season.
The egg stirs I am using are kind of like egg beaters. They come from just the egg whites and there's no cholesterol in them. Whole eggs have a lot of cholesterol so I generally just avoid them altogether. If you can't stand the taste or texture of just egg whites you could opt for a single whole egg with your egg whites to make the texture a little better and add some flavor.
If I'm not in a fat loss phase, meaning I am not in a caloric deficit where my calories and fats are more limited, I like to use olive oil or avocado oil to sauté my veggies. These oils provide monounsaturated fats, which maintain your HDL (good cholesterol) and lower your LDL (bad cholesterol.) I aim to have most of my fats come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats for good heart health.
You want to aim for less than 10% of your total calories coming from saturated fats as a general rule for healthy cholesterol levels.
As far as my fruits and veggies go, I try to have at least one serving of fruits or veggies at each meal. I basically pack as much spinach or spring mix into the pan as I can since it's going to shrink down when I sauté it and I usually pair the meal with either a banana (as I did here) or a fruit salad with raspberries, blackberries, and walnut halves. Walnuts are a great source of polyunsaturated fats, which lower overall cholesterol levels.
The breakfast sausages aren't particularly nutrient dense but they're tasty and it's an extra source of protein. Both my coaching clients and I practice the 80/20 rule, which means 80% of your calories are coming from whole, nutrient dense food sources and 20% can come from the "fun" foods you're craving that may be less nutrient dense. Like these sausages!
I discourage people from removing any food that they really enjoy from their diet just for fitness goals. If they have a health problem that requires them to eliminate it, then yes. Eliminate it. But if it's just for a fitness goal, allow yourself to indulge in a craving. Just keep the portions moderate.
- 2 cups spring mix
- 85 g cherry tomatoes
- 1/8 cup chopped onion
- 14 g Mexican blend shredded cheese
- 4 oz 93% lean turkey patty
- 16 g sugar free ketchup
- 150 g vanilla blended fat free Greek yogurt
- .5 cup blackberries
- .5 cup raspberries
42 P / 31 C / 13 F
A quick tip: whether you're in a muscle building phase or a fat loss phase, putting your protein on a bed of greens will help you make a meal more voluminous and help you increase your veggie intake quite easily. Rather than just having a piece of chicken or turkey breast on its own, put it in a salad.
I've been eating this meal a lot lately. I basically just made a burger without the bun - not because carbs are bad (CARBS ARE NOT BAD FOR YOU.) I simply don't have buns or plain bread in the fridge. Usually, I just have a bag of bagels in there and the rest of my non veggie or fruit carbs come from rice, oats, wheat pasta, and/or potatoes.
I opt to stick to leaner protein sources like chicken, 93% lean turkey, 93% lean ground beef, shrimp, etc. These turkey patties are delicious, filling, and rich in protein.
I paired my turkey burger salad with a Greek yogurt and fruit. Kind of a weird pairing but I like sweet with savory combos. Greek yogurt is a great way to get extra protein in if you have a sweet tooth or just don't enjoy eating animal protein all day. This one has 15 g of protein, which is great! I added the fruit for extra micronutrients.
Lunch is usually my smallest meal for no other reason than I get really busy and tend to eat less when I'm in the zone with work around the afternoon. Work with your schedule! If you're like me and struggle to eat when you're focused at work, plan to eat larger meals for breakfast and dinner. Meal timing does not affect your weight.
If you do what's most convenient for you and your schedule, you will have the easiest time adhering to your nutrition regimen and you will be better able to nail your macros.
- 28 g Cheez-its
3 P / 17 C / 8 F
Yes, you're seeing that right! Ya girl still eats her snacks. Remember how earlier we discussed the 80/20 rule? 80% of your calories from whole nutrient dense foods and the rest can be the less nutrient dense foods you're just craving.
Moderation is important. Food freedom is important. That's partly why I wanted to make this post - to show you that you can totally hit your fitness goals without feeling guilt around the tasty foods you love. Food is meant to be enjoyed, not labeled "good" or "bad" and restricted. Eliminating foods you deem "bad" for being less nutritious just leads to a poor relationship with food and cycles of binging, which we don't want!
So have your Cheez-its - just practice the 80/20 rule.
- 28 g pistachios
6 P / 8 C / 13 F
And another snack before dinner! It's important to point out: this is what one serving of pistachios looks like. Above was a single serving of Cheez-its. This is why weighing your servings when you have concrete fitness goals is so important. "Eyeballing" a portion size is very difficult - especially with your fat sources. A small quantity goes a long way in fats and calories.
Pistachios are another great source of monounsaturated fats and they're a snack I really enjoy. I like to have a little something before dinner just to hold me over.
- 4.3 oz boneless skinless chicken breast
- 130 g low sodium black beans
- 90 g jasmine rice
- 180 g steamed veggies
39 P / 98 C / 3 F
Last meal of the day! I know that looks like a huge portion of rice... it is. Lol! I have a lot of carbs to get in each day. Carbs are important because they spare protein as an energy source. This means protein can be used for muscle recovery and building purposes.
Because I didn't have as many carbs at lunch, I needed more at dinner to hit my target. I like rice as my carb source for dinner usually and alternate between jasmine rice, brown rice, and quinoa. Quinoa is definitely the highest in both fiber and protein.
When it comes to rice, darker varieties are generally less processed and more nutrient rich. But if you're like me and enjoy the taste of jasmine rice, don't feel like you have to ditch that jasmine rice for brown every time. You can add a serving of beans like I did here for more fiber.
Progress, Not Perfection
I hope this full day of eating helps you see that I am by no means perfect with my food choices! I still love a bowl of Cheez its or a glass of wine on a Friday night or a slice of pizza.
I reach my fitness goals because I have found a healthy balance with both the nutrient rich whole foods that best fuel my body for my goals AND the tasty, less nutrient dense foods I crave.
There is room for BOTH in your fitness journey. And I wholeheartedly stand behind the 80/20 rule and flexible dieting together as the best strategy for achieving that balance. Having fitness goals should not make you feel guilt around foods you like or feel like you were "bad" for enjoying them. When you learn how to practice moderation, you will see your best results while having the most fun!
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