The short answer is, yes, you can gain muscle without eating a lot but you have to be extremely careful about your protein and calorie intake. You must eat protein-rich food (as expected). At the same time, your diet must not be calorie-deficient. Plus, it must have enough good fat to keep you fueled.
This sounds simple but it requires a bit of calculation. The amount of protein, calories, and fat you will need depends on numerous factors such as your body weight, your current strength and stamina, and the kind of workouts you are planning to do.
In this article, I will brief you on what you can do to gain muscle without eating a lot. My ideas are tried and tested ones. They are practically doable and they will provide you with long-term results. You won’t feel exhausted at the end of the day. You won’t feel like giving up because the new lifestyle changes I am suggesting here are pretty easy to incorporate, even if you have an otherwise busy routine.
Let's get started!
How much protein is enough to gain muscle without eating a lot?
Your body can’t build new muscles out of air. It needs enough protein because they are the building blocks of the muscles. If you do not eat the necessary amount of protein, your body won’t be able to repair the muscles that got damaged during your workouts. This could cause muscle loss!
Our Protein Needs Calculator
So, even if you train hard, you won’t be able to build those biceps, triceps, and quads. Further, a protein-deficient diet will make you feel fatigued. Your performance will decrease. You will find it hard to resist those cravings. Plus, there are numerous other side-effects of a low-protein diet such as headache, mood swings, increased risk of bone and muscle injuries, etc.
You need 1 to 1.5 gm of protein per kg of your body weight
Yes, the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) is 0.8 grams per kg of body weight but that's only meant for preventing protein deficiency; not for building muscles.
If you have a rather sedentary lifestyle or if you are not too much into muscle building, 0.8 grams per kg of your body weight is enough to prevent muscle loss. But if you are a lifter, you need more than this to repair your damaged muscles and build more of them.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kg. Numerous studies support this recommendation and even claim that 1.8 to 2.2 gram of protein per kg intake can provide exemplary results to athletes as well as fitness enthusiasts. So, if you weigh 80 kg, you will need 144 grams of protein per day to reach your goals!
Such a heavy protein requirement is hard to meet with just food. You will have to include additive-free, genuine protein supplements such as Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein Powder in your diet.
Vegans especially find it hard to get even the DRI protein requirement from their food. Thankfully, vegan-based protein supplements such as Orgain Organic Vegan Protein Powder can make things a bit easier for them.
📖 Related Article: Are you diabetic? Here are some of the best diabetic-friendly protein powders we have selected for you. Best diabetic-friendly protein powders
How much carbohydrate do you need to gain muscle without eating a lot?
Carbs do not deserve to be hated. In fact, they are as essential for our body as protein, even when you are trying to lose weight or build lean muscles.
Think about it for a minute- if you want to build muscles, you will have to exercise a lot and for that, you will need energy. Where will you get this energy from? Stored fat? But, your body can’t totally depend on it. It needs to preserve some fat for bad days (fighting illness, etc.). That's why you need carbohydrates.
If you eat a calorie-deficient diet, your body will start burning protein to fuel itself. And, you don’t want that. Proteins must be used for building muscles only. That's why it is extremely important to eat just the right amount of carbohydrates.
Research suggests that you need about 5 to 6 grams of carbohydrates per kg of your body weight. As obvious, you must try to eat complex carbs such as Oatmeal, quinoa, beans, fruits, and vegetables instead of simpler ones such as white sugar, soft drinks, etc. Complex carbs are slow to digest and they keep you fueled for a long time. Simple ones just provide you with a short spike, leaving you drained after some time.
💡 Quick Tip: Running out of time? Do not exercise without having a proper pre-workout meal or else you may not be able to complete your reps. Try Nitrosurge Shred Pre Workout Supplement along with a decent portion of carbohydrates and protein.
Nitrosurge Shred Pre Workout Supplement
When and how to eat so you can gain muscle without eating a lot?
The process of building muscle mass is known as Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS). A lot of factors including sleep quality and rest days affect MPS but when you eat and what you eat are the major ones.
Studies have concluded that eating protein just before and just after workouts is one of the biggest factors that stimulate MPS. Not just protein, your pre-workout meal must have some carbohydrates as well. Stock up your panty with ready-to-eat high-protein snacks such as Pure Protein Bars so you never have to rely on quick fixes.
Make sure you spread your protein intake throughout the day because your body can’t absorb more than 35 grams of protein at a time. You can even have a protein bar or a handful of nuts as your bedtime snack to boost MPS.
💡 Quick Tip: Do you feel tired and exhausted during your workouts? You are probably not having enough protein and carbs before starting your workouts. GU Energy Original Sports Nutrition Energy Gel can provide you with the necessary nutrition you may have missed.
GU Energy Original Sports Nutrition Energy Gel
What should you not do while trying to gain muscle without eating a lot?
Do not overtrain
Training breaks down your muscles and rest helps repair them. Overtraining, however, burns out your body, increases the stress hormones, causes sleep deprivation, suppresses your immune system, and even increases the chances of injuries. Push yourself hard but only to a certain extent.
Do not dehydrate yourself
Muscles are made of protein and water (yeah 2/3rd of our body is made of water). So, it makes sense to stay hydrated throughout the day. 6 to 8 glasses is the standard guideline but you need to drink more because you will be sweating a lot in your gym.
Avoid empty calories
Soft drinks, cakes, pizzas, energy drinks, alcohol, etc. are empty calories because they are low on nutrition but they do provide a spike in energy. Now, you might enjoy the instant rush of energy they provide but they leave you dehydrated and drained. Plus, they are known for causing spikes in the blood sugar level. Be mindful of what you eat because what you eat is what you become.
📖 Related Article: Did you know alcohol can slow down your muscle growth and recovery? Read this to find out what happens when you mix alcohol with protein shakes
Gaining muscles takes time. It requires a lot of dedication and sacrifice. There are no quick fixes but, if you are determined, keep reading our blog to learn more about what you should and shouldn’t do to get maximum long-term results without risking your overall health.