Lean-Muscle Diet

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Building lean muscle while simultaneously burning fat may not seem straightforward, but a few calculations and supermarket trips and you could be on your way to a new physique.

Energy expenditure and your diet are key. Aim to consume around 2-3g of protein per kilogram of lean bodyweight every day, while reducing your carbohydrate (energy) intake to help the body manage the nutrients you consume.

This sample seven-day diet plan has been constructed to show you how to plan your own diet, according to your individual calculations and dietary needs. The meal plan ensures you’re consuming sufficient amounts of high-quality muscle-building protein are included while also fuelling your body with the all-important essentials of heart-healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.

RECOMMENDED: High-Protein Foods

The sample plan is calculated for a 75kg male with a body fat percentage of 15%, meaning the lean bodyweight on this occasion would be 63.75kg (see calculations below), so the meal plan below will ensure you hit between 190g and 200g of protein per day, as well as getting all the essential fats, vitamins and minerals you need. However, you may be heavier, lighter, leaner or holding more body fat so you need to calculate exactly how much protein your body needs to reach your objective. Use our simple step-by-step guide to work out your daily protein target:

  1. Take your weight and divide it by 100, eg 75kg/100=0.75
  2. Subtract your body-fat percentage from 100, eg 100-15=85
  3. Multiply these two values together to get your lean bodyweight, eg 0.75×85=63.75kg
  4. You need 3g of protein per kg of lean bodyweight so multiply this by 3, eg 63.75×3=191g

This is your daily protein target, which should be split over four to six meals.

Sample Seven Day Meal Plan

Monday

Breakfast: 150g porridge oats cooked with 200ml semi-skimmed milk, ½ a banana and 1tsp honey. Stir in ½ a scoop of whey protein at the end of cooking.

Snack: Post-workout protein shake: blend 1 scoop of protein powder, 230ml almond milk, 1tsp almond butter, ½ a banana and ice cubes.

Lunch: 1 medium baked sweet potato with 1 can of tuna in water (drained) and spinach.

Snack: 2 boiled eggs.

Dinner: Salmon fillet with green beans and asparagus.

RECOMMENDED: How to Cook Pan-Roasted Salmon

Snack: Greek yoghurt with cinnamon and 6 brazil nuts.

Tuesday

Breakfast: 2 grilled rashers of bacon and 2 boiled eggs.

Snack: Small pot of hummus and sugar snap peas, carrots and pepper.

RECOMMENDED: High-Protein Snacks

Lunch: Ham salad.

Snack: 100g cooked prawns.

Dinner: Two home-made hamburgers with a spinach and cherry tomato salad.

Snack: Greek yoghurt with cinnamon and 10 almonds.

Wednesday

Breakfast: 150g porridge oats cooked with 200ml semi-skimmed milk, ½ a banana and 1tsp honey. Stir in ½ a scoop of whey protein at the end of cooking.

RECOMMENDED: Healthy Porridge Recipes

Snack: Post-workout protein shake: blend 1 scoop of protein powder, 230ml almond milk, 1tsp almond butter, a handful of frozen berries and ice cubes.

Lunch: Smoked salmon with spinach, cucumber and mixed salad leaves.

Snack: 2 boiled eggs.

Dinner: Chicken and cashew nut stir-fry.

Snack: Whey protein mixed with 1tbsp Greek yoghurt, water and ice.

Thursday

Breakfast: 2 grilled rashers of bacon and 2 boiled eggs.

Snack: 50g cottage cheese with celery, carrot and cucumber sticks.

Lunch: Roast chicken with baked sweet potato and runner beans.

Snack: 100g cooked prawns.

Dinner: Cod fillet with roasted vegetables.

Snack: Greek yoghurt with cinnamon and 10 almonds.

Friday

Breakfast: 150g porridge oats cooked with 200ml semi-skimmed milk, ½ a banana and 1tsp honey. Stir in ½ a scoop of whey protein at the end of cooking.

Snack: Post-workout shake: blend 1 scoop of protein powder, 230ml almond milk, 1tsp almond butter, ½ a banana and ice cubes.

RECOMMENDED: Protein Shake Recipes

Lunch: Tuna salad.

Snack: Raw vegetables with guacamole (chop ½ a ripe avocado, ¼ of a tomato and ¼ of a red onion, and mix with coriander and lime juice).

Dinner: Steak with steamed green vegetables. Small glass of red wine.

Snack: Greek yoghurt with cinnamon and 6 brazil nuts.

Saturday

Breakfast: 2 poached eggs, 2 grilled rashers of bacon, 2 grilled tomatoes, mushrooms and ½ a can of reduced salt and sugar baked beans.

Snack: Small pot of hummus with celery, carrots and cucumber.

Lunch: Diced lamb grilled on skewers with green and red peppers, cherry tomatoes and 1 small red onion, plus ½ a baked sweet potato.

Snack: 1 small can of salmon.

Dinner: Beef meatballs in tomato sauce with green vegetables.

Snack: Greek yoghurt with cinnamon and 10 almonds.

Sunday 

Breakfast: 2 poached eggs, 2 grilled rashers of bacon, 2 grilled tomatoes, mushrooms and ½ a can of reduced salt and sugar baked beans.

Snack: 50g cottage cheese with celery, carrot and cucumber sticks.

Lunch: Chicken stir-fry.

Snack: 100g cooked prawns.

Dinner: Grilled salmon fillet with roasted vegetables.

Snack: Greek yoghurt with cinnamon and 6 brazil nuts.

RECOMMENDED: The Meal Plan That Will Get You Lean in 4 Weeks

10 of the Best Lean-Muscle Foods

1. Beets

A great source of betaine, a nutrient that clinical research has proven increases muscle power and strength as well as enhancing joint and liver repair (good if you like a drink or five.) The humble beet also provides a nitric oxide boost, which helps to boost energy and aid a faster recovery.

2. Cottage Cheese

The only cheese that you’re ever likely to find on a list of muscle-building, fat-shredding foods. Cottage cheese is rich in casein protein, the slowest-digesting form of protein that you can eat, this prevents your muscles from being used as an energy source while you sleep, making it the only cheese we’ll ever advise you to eat before bed.

3. Quinoa

Go on, have a go at pronouncing it. Pronounced ‘keen-wah’ this grain should be a constant in your diet. As well as being a slow digesting, energy releasing carb, it is also a complete protein. This super-food has also been linked with an increase in insulin-like growth factor-1 levels, one of the most important factors associated with strength gains and putting on lean muscle.

4. Spinach

There is some truth behind Popeye’s love for the green stuff, despite the fact that it decreases to about 1/8 of its original size when it’s cooked. Spinach is a great source of amino acids and glutamine, essential nutrients for the growth of lean muscle.

5. Greek Yoghurt

Although it does originate from the same source as milk, Greek yoghurt has a lot more protein, packing in a muscle building 20g per 235ml; it also contains fewer carbohydrates than normal yoghurt. Not to mention it is a healthy source of casein protein.

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6. Brown rice

It might not taste quite as good as white rice, but the browner stuff is a lot healthier. It’s a slow-digesting wholegrain that will provide you with longer-lasting energy during your workouts. Brown rice is also known to boost your growth hormone levels, which are essential for encouraging fat loss, strength gains and the growth of lean muscle.

RECOMMENDED: Brown Rice Autumn Bowl Recipe

7. Beef

You can’t go wrong with a good bit of beef. It might have become fairly expensive in recent years but it’s an important lean-muscle building food due to its sky-high protein, zinc, B vitamins and iron content. Try to buy organic beef if you can, as grass fed, healthier cows have high levels of CLA, which gives you a boost in building lean muscle and shedding fat.

8. Apples

It might come as a surprise to many, but apples help to prevent muscle fatigue and increase muscle strength due to the specific polyphenols that they contain. Recent research has also suggested that apples speed up the fat-burning process, making them an ideal pre-workout snack.

9. Sweet potatoes

Although they are full of carbs, sweet potatoes are great for building lean muscle. The carbs contained in sweet potatoes keep your glucose stable, a key element in burning fat and preserving muscle. They are a unique carb that actually aid weight loss due to their high fibre content, but they actually keep you fuller for longer than most other starchy vegetables.

10. Eggs

Often described as the perfect protein, eggs are your best friend when it comes to boosting lean muscle growth and strength gains, but this isn’t just down to the protein alone; the cholesterol found in the yolk is also a contributing factor.