If you're looking to gain weight and build muscle mass then a high protein diet plan is of high importance to you. Without adequate protein intakes every single day you won't be able to support any real muscle growth. This article will take a look at what protein is exactly, what amino acids are, a look at good sources of protein, and other tips on following a high protein diet.
What Is Protein Exactly?
Protein is actually a nitrogen which contains compounds found in animal and vegetable tissue. Protein is used for muscle tissue repair and synthesis.
The nitrogen in protein comes from amino acids. Amino acids are basically the building blocks of protein, and there are 20 different amino acids commonly found in protein. 8 of these amino acids are essential and only come from food.
The 8 essential amino acids for building muscle are:
You don't need to know about these amino acids to create a high protein diet plan. But just know that without them you couldn't build muscle, so you need to provide your body with plenty of quality proteins that contain these amino acids.
If you're looking to gain muscular weight then your high protein diet plan must take this into account. You need to feed your muscles protein every 2-3 hours to keep them in an anabolic state. An anabolic state is simply a state where muscle tissue is repairing and growing, which is what you want.
When you eat protein, your body can only use a limited amount of it at one time. So that's why you need to eat smaller, more frequent meals to give your muscles the protein that it needs to grow larger and stronger throughout the day.
Different protein sources have different ratios of each amino acid. The good sources of protein for promoting muscle building will have all of the 8 essential amino acids present at the same time and in the right proportions.
Animal proteins do contain all 8 of the essential aminos for muscle growth which is perfect for you. On the other hand, vegetable protein sources don't have as good of a amino acid profile.
Like animal protein, they do contain all 8 essential amino acids, but the bad thing with vegetable protein is they have lesser amounts of the aminos and in the wrong proportions. So overall, animal protein is likely to be the better protein source to build muscle mass (although there are some vegans who disagree).
Animal protein such as red meat, chicken, fish and eggs are all examples of a complete protein source since they contain all the essential amino acids to build muscle mass.
Incomplete protein sources such as nuts, beans, and vegetables aren't as good for promoting muscle building, but when combined together then can become a complete source of protein for you.
Red meat is perhaps one of the best protein sources you can have, nothing beats a good steak. As well as being very high in quality protein red meat also contains some creatine too, although only in small amounts. Leaner cuts of red meat are better for you, so try to get them as lean as you can.
Chicken breast and tuna are also very good sources of protein for your high protein diet plan. Same with other types of fish such as salmon. Eggs are a quality source too, but you need to be careful if eating too much egg because of the cholesterol in them. Just don't go overboard with eggs in your high protein diet plan.
If you're not lactose intolerant, then milk can become an excellent source of protein too. The added calcium from drinking milk is a great bonus too. The bad thing about milk though is the high sugar content, so it may help you add on some extra body fat if you're not careful.
Here is a list of high protein foods that you should consider for your high protein diet plan:
Variation is a good idea when it comes to selecting protein sources for your high protein diet plan. Getting your daily protein requirements from a variety of different sources will give your body a range of different amino acid quantities and ratios.
To promote muscle mass growth you should be eating a minimum of 1 gram of protein for every pound of bodyweight. So if you weigh 180 pounds then you should be eating at least 180 grams of protein every single day.
This may seem like a lot, but it's necessary if you want to maximize your muscle mass gains. Weight training workouts highly increases your need of protein and amino acids to repair lost muscle tissue and grow new ones.
Hopefully this article helped, but always remember to never get stuck in research land. Information is great, but what's infinitely more important and the only thing that actually matters to get results and change your life is to be hitting the gym week in week out, with a properly-structured, intelligently-crafted and well-balanced strength training and nutrition plan that's based on actual scientific principles of building muscle mass (not bro science like you'll see practically everywhere you look online).
But here's the thing:
You don't just randomly stumble upon a highly-effective program that's designed specifically for hardgainers by simply browsing a popular mainstream bodybuilding/fitness magazine, site, or forum (or asking your average run of the mill trainer at a local gym who is highly likely to be just repeating the same old ineffective, incomplete mainstream advice they learned in a classroom).
To truly build that strong, ripped, lean muscular body that you want - and to not just leave it to chance and hope/pray that you'll get results - your training and eating program needs to be solid. Otherwise, you'll be wasting a ton of time in the gym for little return, which is unfortunately what happens to most guys who start hitting the gym as they eventually start spinning their wheels and getting nowhere due to a lack of knowledge and awareness of what actually works most effectively.
So the question remains, how do you ensure you're implementing an effective bulking program that will 100% get you the results you seek? You basically have three paths to take here, so choose whichever fits your situation best.
Path A: Design Your Own Effective Bulking Program (Recommended for Some Beginners & Intermediates)
If you're the patient type who also likes to know how every little detail works, and are willing to spend the time and effort necessary to study the most effective muscle building training and nutrition strategies out there right now to strategically piece together the best information that you find from credible sources to sculpt your own custom bulking program, consider the DIY path of creating your own program from scratch.
However, if you're a beginner, or intermediate lifter who hasn't been getting the results you want, you'll want to make sure that you get your advice from sources and people who understand what it's like to gain muscle starting out as a skinny hardgainer, which is a different beast compared to building muscle as a more naturally bigger guy with more favourable genetics. You also ideally want someone more experienced to look over your program just in case, because there are various things you could miss or do wrong, such as creating an imbalanced program that will lead to posture issues, muscular imbalances, or worse (injuries).
Up for the challenge? To get started planning your own muscle building program from scratch check out our full introduction to building muscle mass as a hardgainer which covers some important basic principles, strategies, and tips.
Path B: Follow A Proven Time-Tested Bulking Program (Recommended for Most Beginners)
If instead of creating your own program from scratch you'd rather follow an already-made complete program that has been proven to work for others in your shoes (ie skinny hardgainers) this is the path for you. Spending the few bucks to get your hands on a well-crafted, respected program that's specifically been designed with hardgainers in mind can really save you time and effort having to design your own program, and it ensures you don't miss out on the various important details that makes a good program.
This is what I'd recommend if you're just starting out or quite inexperienced in the gym, as you'll get off on the right foot to kick-start great results. Although this is also a smart path for intermediates, because if you've been training for a while and not getting great results, getting your hands on a fresh new program created by a natural bodybuilding expert could be the game-changer you need to spark the best results of your life. Sean Nal's Body Transformation Blueprint Program is currently the most comprehensive, polished bulking program for beginners on the market, and is the program that actually helped me the most when I first started out as a newbie so I can't recommend it highly enough if you're new and wanting to all but guarantee great results over the next few months and beyond.
There are other good premade mass gain programs out there that were created specifically (and scientifically) for hardgainers, but there's also a lot of overpriced, overly-marketed and low-quality programs that you should avoid out there so be on your toes when looking for the right program to follow to avoid wasting your money. I've personally used a ton of different programs and I compiled the best, highest-quality ones that I can comfortably recommend in my list of the best comprehensive bulking programs for hardgainers here.
Path C: Find a (Good) In-Person Trainer
This isn't going to be for everyone as a quality trainer who knows what they're doing, and most importantly has got great results themselves (ideally starting out in similar shoes to you) can be quite costly. This is the path you should probably consider if you have any type of injury or health problem, or obviously if you have the money to burn and want someone to carefully monitor what you're doing in the gym and be able to give you specific feedback.
Whichever path you choose, never forget the single most important thing: never give up, and your success in transforming your body, strength, health, posture, and self-confidence will simply be a matter of when, not if. I'd say good luck, but if you really understand that last sentence, you're not gonna need it, friend. I wish you nothing but success.
Mad-Scientist of Hardgainer-to-Hero Transformations for 12+ Years
Last and Definitely Least: Certified Fitness Instructor (real-world experience > school)