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What should I eat to build muscle?


Dear Dietitian, I am working out to build muscle. May I know what should I eat to build muscle?


“Hi, thank you for your enquiry. Protein is important in building muscle but post-work out meal should also contain balance diet consisting all macronutrients, also remember to accompany the meal with plenty of fruit and vegetables and rehydrate yourself with plenty of water after much sweating.


Protein is one of the foods to eat after working out.  This is because protein can help to repair damage muscle fibers damaged by exercise. The recommended provisions of protein after a workout are between 20-40 grams, to ensure for an efficient replenishment (Schulz, 2014).

You should also be choosing a complete protein source which has a high biological value (HBV) of protein. The staple choice of HBV protein are “eggs”, as not only do they contain all nine of the of the essential amino acids, but they are nutritionally rich in zinc, vitamin B12 and Iron (Diedrichs, 2013). “Animal meats” are also a good source of HBV in order to repair muscle after strenuous exercise. Additionally, “Whey Protein” is consumed by bodybuilders and weight lifters as it offers a quick fix after a workout. As it is scientifically formulated to include elements required for muscle growth, in particular a high Lysine and Leucine content (the essential Amino Acids for protein synthesis). However, Whey does lack natural flavours, nutrients, and phytochemicals to the diet. This is why the average gym goer should eat a balanced diet containing a variety of foods, with an increased consumption of protein and carbohydrates.


Carbohydrates main function is providing energy to the body for everyday functioning, such as providing ATP for protein synthesis. Therefore, the recommended intake of carbohydrate post-workout meal is about 120g according to the Journal of Applied Physiology. (Zawadski, 1992).

In order to maximize a post-work out meal, you should consume it within close proximity of working out, as there is an “Anabolic Window”. This is when your muscles best adapt to receiving the correct nutrients (Slater, 2011). Although there is much debate about when the window is, many researchers believe it to be between 30 minutes to 2 hours after exercise.


As mentioned a post-work out meal should center also consist balance macronutrients, it is important to remember to accompany the meal with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Particularly leafy green vegetables (e.g. kale, spinach and plenty more!) as they are abundant in micronutrients such as: zinc, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin A which all play a role in muscle hypertrophy (increase in muscle size).


Finally putting all these combinations together while drinking plenty of water (2-3 L/d) will enhance muscle growth to its full potential.



Diedrichs, S. (2013). Lifting on Eggshells.

Schulz, R. (2014). How Much Post-Workout Protein Do You Really Need? Men's Health, 1.

Slater, G. (2011). Nutrition Guidelines for Strength Sports: Sprinting. Journal of Sports Sciences, 67-77.

Zawadski, K. M. (1992). Carbohydrate-protein complex increases the rate of muscle glycogen storage after exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 1845-9.


Written by

 Adam John Douch, BSc Nutrition, University of Nottingham