Diet Plan For Building Lean Muscle


Diet plan for building lean muscle is one of the most important aspects of a bodybuilder’s training program. An efficient and effective diet for building lean muscle mass consists of high protein, high calorie, low carbohydrate intake. These are fundamental building blocks to constructing a well rounded weight training plan.

Nutrition for bodybuilding 

To effectively gain muscle mass or reduce body fat, a person needs to focus on eating the right number of calories.

They also need to concentrate on their macronutrient consumption and eating strategy, or how many times they eat throughout the day.


The number of calories a person eats, combined with exercise, affects whether they will gain, lose, or maintain their current weight.

In order to bulk, bodybuilders should eat more calories than their body needs to maintain weight each day. Conversely, when preparing for a competition, they need to eat fewer calories than they need each day to lose fat while preserving muscle mass.

According to an older review, a bodybuilder should increase their necessary caloric intake by 15% during the off-season or bulk-up periods. To lose fat, they should eat 15% fewer calories than the number they need daily to maintain their weight.

A person should consult their doctor, certified fitness instructor, or dietitian for professional guidance on how many calories they need to eat daily. They can also try using a reputable online calculator.

A person can then tailor their caloric intake based on whether they are in the bulking or leaning phase of their training.


This state-of-the-art diet plan will help you add muscle without gaining fat.

Fit man wearing a blue tank top eating grilled chicken with a fork

Bulking up: It’s a scary thought for many guys at the gym because it seems like there’s always a string attached. Everyone wants to add lean mass, but—and it’s a big but—a lot of us don’t like the idea of gaining body fat, even as little as a couple of pounds, which is the norm with most mass-gaining meal plans.

Seriously, what’s the point of gaining 20-30lbs if a good portion of that is fat? If you can’t see the muscle you’ve added, is it even worth having? In this case, we say no, which is why we provide you with the tools you need to add muscle while maintaining, not increasing, your current level of body fat.

So the question is, how do I bulk up without adding unwanted pounds of fat? The answer: By being careful, precise, and paying close attention to food timing. Whether on this page or on Instagram memes, you’ve heard the expression “bodies are built in the kitchen, not the gym.” Too often, you associate lifting weights and doing cardio with crafting a great physique—and don’t get us wrong, that’s an important aspect of it, too.

But if we were to compare bodybuilding to building a house, our diets are the foundation, walls, and support beams. Without those, it doesn’t matter how pretty we make our bedrooms and living rooms—you need to start from the ground up. To use another cliche, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

That’s why we’ve laid out this simple and effective meal plan to help you put on mass while staying lean.


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Smart growth

Building muscle requires an increase in calories; that is, to gain weight you must eat more calories than you burn each day. But if you go overboard and eat too much, you’ll kick-start the fat-storing process. So the key is to eat just enough to facilitate the muscle-gaining process but not so much that you’ll add fat along with it.

One way to do this is by controlling portion sizes at mealtime. For most meals (not including post-workout), aim to get 40-60g of protein and 40-80g of carbs, depending upon your size; bigger guys weighing more than, say, 225lbs will shoot for the higher end. The meal plan on the following pages gives a guide to particular food portions that will get you to these gram targets. Dietary fat should be as low as possible, except for healthy fats(from nuts, olive oil, fatty fish), which can amount to 5-10g per meal.

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Timing is key

Meal timing is the other key to staying lean while bulking up. When you eat not only supports mass gains but also plays a pivotal role in controlling body fat levels. If you’re trying to gain only quality mass, increase the size of your meals at breakfast and after training. These are the two times of day when muscles crave more calories and nutrients—at breakfast because you’re nutritionally depleted after a night’s sleep, and post-workout because the stressed muscles are in dire need of replenishment to jump-start the recovery process. Providing the body with what it can put to use during these windows facilitates optimum growth and keeps body fat levels down.

In short, smart growth—muscle sans body fat—is contingent on manipulating calorie intake. Yes, you have to eat more to gain mass, but when you eat more can determine whether you’ll gain fat or muscle. If you stick to a large breakfast and a substantial post-training meal and evenly divide your other meals into smaller portions, you can boost your total caloric intake, ensuring that those extra calories go to the muscles when they need them.

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How to Eat on Nontraining Days

Muscles require rest days to grow, but you shouldn’t scarf down the quantity of carbohydrates you do on training days since the demand for carbs can fall considerably when you’re inactive. This is where people often get into trouble—they continue to maintain a high-carb intake on days they don’t hit the iron and aren’t burning through a lot of carbohydrates. The end result? A rise in unwanted body fat, especially around the lower back and midsection.

The basics of our lean-mass meal plan sum up what you’ve just learned. As far as portion size goes, the diet delivers a roughly equal amount of protein and carbs for most meals. You’ll eat six times per day to supply your body with critical nutrients, especially aminos, for driving muscle growth, and meal timing focuses around workouts and time of day. On training days, you get to eat more carbs overall (almost 2.5g per pound of bodyweight) and your post-workout meal is loaded with them—the meal plan on page 3 includes 177g of carbs after training. Try this at another time of day and it could lead to fat gain; here it will spur muscle growth.

You’ll get most of your carbohydrates early in the day (up to nearly 100g at breakfast), while your later meals are mostly protein. This gives your body the amino acids it requires and negates the carbs it doesn’t necessarily need at this time of day. Since insulin sensitivity tends to be lower later in the day, avoiding carbs helps prevent fat gain. Protein intake stays the same on both days (almost 2g per pound of bodyweight, roughly 330g in our sample meal plan), so the drop in carbs also means a much-needed drop in calories. On workout days you need about 18-20 calories per pound of bodyweight, but on rest days you require only about 12-14 calories per pound. Swapping these days will spur muscle growth without seeing your midsection grow as well.

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The Science of Timing

Three cups of rice, pasta, or even a couple of bagels at a single sitting? Sounds like it’d make you fat, right? Not if you consume it along with lean protein immediately following a training session. Carbs remain the mismanaged nutrient. While they have the ability to be stored as body fat, they’re crucial to the muscle-building process. When you eat a lot of carbohydrates after training, it sets off a cascade of hormonal changes that favor the rebuilding of muscle mass. This includes a rise in insulin, which not only forces protein into muscles for growth but also stabilizes testosterone levels, which often fall as a result of too few carbs after training. On the flip side, if you eat too many carbs and just sit around being fairly inactive, some of those carbs might end up as body fat. That’s why you should eat fewer carbs on days you don’t train. While you need them to grow on days you work out, your need for them goes down considerably on days when you don’t hit the iron.

These are examples of the types of meal plans you should follow when you want to build muscle without gaining fat.

* If you have a hard time staying lean, eat the smaller portion of carbs at this meal.
** Optional. If you start the plan and find you’re adding body fat, drop this menu item.

7-day meal plan 

Day 1

  • Breakfast: scrambled eggs, stir-fried veggies, and oatmeal
  • Snack: whey protein shake
  • Lunch: grilled chicken breast, mixed greens, and baked sweet potato
  • Snack: hard-boiled egg(s) and carrot sticks
  • Dinner: broiled fish, green beans with brown rice

Day 2

  • Breakfast: protein pancakes with fresh berries
  • Snack: apple slices and almonds
  • Lunch: lean ground beef burger on lettuce with tomato, onion, and green beans
  • Snack: protein shake
  • Dinner: shrimp stir-fried with bell pepper and brown rice over spinach

Day 3

  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt, almonds or walnuts, whole grain granola, and fresh berries
  • Snack: protein shake
  • Lunch: grilled fish with a spinach salad and broccoli
  • Snack: egg white omelet with bell peppers and mushrooms
  • Dinner: chicken breast topped with fresh salsa with a sweet potato and a side salad

Day 4

  • Breakfast: oatmeal with berries and scrambled egg whites
  • Snack: turkey breast with carrots and celery
  • Lunch: sirloin steak with broccoli and mushrooms
  • Snack: apples with natural nut butter
  • Dinner: broiled fish, brown rice, and a mixed green salad

Day 5

  • Breakfast: protein shake with oatmeal
  • Snack: hard-boiled egg whites with sliced peppers and cucumbers
  • Lunch: grilled chicken with white bean and tomato salad
  • Snack: Greek yogurt with berries and nuts
  • Dinner: grilled fish with quinoa and green beans

Day 6

  • Breakfast: scrambled egg whites with cheese, peppers, herbs, and Ezekiel bread
  • Snack: protein shake
  • Lunch: grilled chicken breast with bell peppers, black beans, and onions over romaine lettuce
  • Snack: apple and almonds
  • Dinner: sirloin steak with sweet potato and asparagus

Day 7

  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt with whole grain granola and berries
  • Snack: turkey breast with carrots and celery sticks
  • Lunch: grilled chicken breast over spinach with sliced strawberries and almonds
  • Snack: protein shake
  • Dinner: shrimp stir-fried with peppers, onions, and broccoli over brown rice

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Training Day Menu

MEAL 1: 8 a.m.

  • 10 egg whites
  • 1¼ cups oatmeal (dry measure) or 11⁄2 raisin bagels
  • 8 oz. orange juice or 1 cup mixed fruit

Meal Totals: 669 calories, 58 g protein, 93 g carbs, 7 g fat

MEAL 2: 11 a.m.

  • 8 oz. chicken breast
  • 1 small to medium potato*

Meal Totals: 409 calories, 56 g protein, 37 g carbs, 3 g fat

MEAL 3: 1 p.m.

  • Whey protein shake (2 scoops)
  • 6-8 rice cakes*

Meal Totals: 450 calories, 48 g protein, 58 g carbs, 2 g fat

MEAL 4 (post-workout): 3 p.m.

  • 8 oz. turkey breast
  • 2-3 cups cooked pasta or white rice*
  • 1 whole-grain roll**

Meal Totals: 1,096 calories, 78 g protein, 177 g carbs, 4 g fat

MEAL 5: 6 p.m.

  • 8 oz. ground beef (95% lean)
  • 1 slice low-fat cheese
  • 2 slices whole-grain bread
  • 1 piece fruit**

Meal Totals: 593 calories, 59 g protein, 57 g carbs, 13 g fa

MEAL 6: 9 p.m.

  • Whey protein shake (2 scoops)

Meal Totals: 170 calories, 40 g protein, 2 g carbs, 0 g fat

Daily Totals: 3,387 calories, 339 g protein, 424 g carbs, 29 g fat

These are examples of the types of meal plans you should follow when you want to build muscle without gaining fat.

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Nontraining Day Menu

MEAL 1: 8 a.m.

  • 10 egg whites
  • 2 slices whole-grain toast w/ low-sugar jam

Meal Totals: 344 calories, 46 g protein, 35 g carbs, 2 g fat

MEAL 2: 11 a.m.

  • 8 oz. chicken breast
  • 1 small to medium potato

Meal Totals: 409 calories, 56 g protein, 37 g carbs, 3 g fat

MEAL 3: 1 p.m.

  • Whey protein shake (2 scoops)

Meal Totals: 170 calories, 40 g protein, 2 g carbs, 0 g fat

MEAL 4: 3 p.m.

  • 8 oz. turkey breast
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 cups mixed vegetables

Meal Totals: 734 calories, 75 g protein, 70 g carbs, 4 g fat

MEAL 5: 6 p.m.

  • 8 oz. ground beef (95% lean)
  • 1 slice low-fat cheese
  • 2 slices whole-grain bread

Meal Totals: 483 calories, 59 g protein, 27 g carbs, 13 g fat

MEAL 6: 9 p.m.

  • 8 oz. chicken breast
  • Medium green salad w/ fat-free dressing

Meal Totals: 302 calories, 55 g protein, 10 g carbs, 3 g fat

Daily Totals: 2,442 calories, 331 g protein, 181 g carbs, 25 g fat

Keys to a Lean Muscle Diet

The key to a lean muscle diet plan is to follow the basics and fundamentals: 

  1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  2. Lean meats (white meat chicken, turkey)
  3. Fresh vegetables
  4. If you are overweight or gain weigh easily, then you must watch your carbs and sugar. Go light on carbs and sugar
  5. If you’re trying to get lean, the watch your calories. This means knowing your calorie intake, as well as what you are burning.
  6. Exercise every day 

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