Hypertrophy is muscle building. So you want bigger muscles? Of course you do, who doesn’t? So it’s simply a matter of eating more, yes? Well not so fast. Although that’s true to a point, there’s certainly more to it than that. Before we get into it though, there’s a couple of assumptions being made here; the biggest being the assumption that you are training correctly and with proper technique, etc., but also that you’re getting proper recovery and sleep. With that in mind, let’s have a look at what you can do to maximise eating for hypertrophy.
Surplus requirementsSo you need to eat more, but how much? There’s a limit to the amount of muscle you can build naturally per week/month/year and even with all factors being perfect some of what you consume will be stored as fat. Unless you’re not bothered by this at all, the aim is to minimise fat gain and maximise muscle gain. You want to eat enough to fuel your muscle building but not too much as the excess will be stored as fat. Everyone is different of course, but a 20% increase on top of what you normally eat is a good figure. Depending on how much you normally eat to remain weight-stable, (referred to as your maintenance calories; this is dependent on your age, size, sex, height, training frequency, etc.), this could be a good 500-900+ calories extra. It can be a good idea to build up to that 20% surplus over a couple of weeks as well; this is not mandatory but adding calories in slower can have some beneficial effects and allow you to get used to consuming more both mentally and physically. The length of time that you’ve been training has an effect too. The longer you’ve been training then the less muscle you’ll put on as it gets harder to do so the more advanced a trainee you are. This means that you don’t need as large a surplus as more of it will just turn to fat. It’s important to not get fixated on the numbers though – it all depends on the person. Accumulating too much fat? Dial back the calories. Not making as much progress as you’d like? Add some more in.
Surplus cyclingDo you just eat all day, every day? As usual, it depends. If you are willing to put up with a bit of extra fat gain then just eat to your surplus every single day. This also has the advantage of being simple to remember and work with as every day is the same. Alternatively you can surplus cycle, where you eat to a surplus on your training days and on your non- training days you don’t. So if your maintenance calories are 3000kcal then you would eat to this amount on your non-training days and on your training days you’d eat to 3600kcal instead, (assuming a 20% surplus). Advantages? This approach will help lessen the amount of fat you gain, as on the days you’re not training you’re eating less, (but not below maintenance). Disadvantages? You won’t build muscle as quickly as someone who eats in a surplus every day. As with most things, it depends on the individual and what works best for you and your lifestyle.
Protein requirementsThe protein requirements for hypertrophy are actually lower than if you are looking to cut fat. The amount necessary can range anywhere between 1.2-3.0g per kg of lean body mass, although 1.8-2.0g is a decent middle ground for most people. Although going higher than this certainly has no real disadvantages, going lower than this is probably not the best course of action. Protein/meal timing is quite an individual thing; hitting your daily macronutrient targets is more important than anything else. It’s whatever works best for you really. However, making sure you have evenly spaced meals with 20-40g of protein per meal, (depending on your targets), is a good rule of thumb. If you’re struggling to meet your protein requirements, then a high quality protein powder can help you to reach them.
Satiety problemsOccasionally people struggle with eating enough. It may sound strange to some, but it can be a genuine issue. If you have thousands of calories to pack into your day it you can very quickly run into satiety issues; in other words – you can get extremely full! Liquid calories are a very good tool to assist with this. Typically liquids aren’t as filling as solids and you can pack quite a few calories into a good shake if you know what you’re doing. Try some milk, some whey protein and a few scoops of fine oats and you very quickly can start ramping up those calories in a healthy, tasty way.
ConclusionEating for hypertrophy is relatively simple, however the above four areas can certainly make a difference in your quest for bigger muscles. It’s not just about eating, it’s about eating smart.
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