Nutrient distribution for lean muscle building

In several posts on Instagram, on YouTube and also here on the blog, I have already reported on the calorie balance. It should be clear to everyone that a calorie surplus is essential for building muscle. In order to keep the increase of body fat during muscle building as minimal as possible, it makes sense within the framework of a moderate calorie surplus to pay attention at the same time also to an optimal distribution of calories. One speaks in this connection of the so-called Nutrient distribution.

Macronutrients

Macronutrients are the nutrients that provide our body with energy. These include:

  • Proteins
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • (alcohol)

Depending on whether muscle is being built, body fat is being reduced, or a particular diet is being followed (z.B. anabolic diet, low carb diet), a slightly different breakdown emerges. The following is an explanation of the optimal nutrient distribution for lean muscle building.

Proteins

Proteins are for our body after the water one of the most important building material. They are the basic building blocks of all human cells and are involved in many vital processes, such as building new cells and repairing existing ones. As the main component of our musculature, proteins are indispensable building material for muscle development. Our body can also use food protein for energy production. At the same time, one gram of protein provides about 4.1 kilocalories. In addition, protein has the following other functions in our body:

  • Building material for enzymes and hormones
  • cell component
  • Building muscle, tendons, skin, bones, etc.
  • Formation of antibodies
  • transport in the blood

Proteins are constantly being broken down, reconstituted and built up in our bodies. They are made up of so-called amino acids, which are linked together like a string of pearls. If the pearl chain has more than 100 amino acids, it is called a protein, if there are fewer, it is called a peptide. Some books put the total number of amino acids important for human nutrition at 22, others mention only 20. A basic distinction is made between "essential amino acids" (essential = necessary) and "non-essential amino acids". Essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body itself – they must be supplied through food. Non-essential amino acids can be produced by our body itself from other amino acids. Provided it has sufficient amino acids of the first group. 1 In the context of muscle building, the branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine are of particular importance. They are called BCAA’s and play a major role in muscle building, energy production and performance maintenance. In contrast to all other amino acids, BCAAs stimulate an insulin output in the same way as carbohydrates. 2

Protein intake

In general, the D-A-CH Society (German, Austrian, and Swiss Society for Nutrition) recommends a daily protein intake of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight for a healthy adult, based on scientific research. 3 However, there are many factors that cause an individually increased protein requirement (z.B. Food choices, amino acid balance, total calories, age, gender, body composition, immune system, type of sport, amount of sport, etc.). Especially in weight training and bodybuilding it is necessary to increase the protein intake, because the demand for protein increases on different levels. On the one hand our body needs the protein as building material for the structure of new musculature, on the other hand must be supplied to it for the preservation of the increased musculature as well as for the protection against the muscle dismantling durably more proteins.

Depending on the factors already mentioned, experienced strength athletes need a daily protein intake of 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight in order to achieve a balanced nitrogen level – and thus to maintain their muscle culture. 4 For building additional muscle, this results in the recommendation of a daily intake of 1.5 – 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. An excessive increase in protein intake of far more than 2g per kilogram of body weight shows no positive effect on muscle building or fat burning. 5 Although there is no scientific evidence that long-term increased protein intake has harmful effects, studies showed that an intake of 2.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight did not change the total protein turnover and did not increase muscle mass and strength, even during high-impact workouts. 6 Thus, athletes are well advised with a protein intake of 1.2 to 1.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight. 7 As a safe upper limit, a daily amount of 2g protein per kilogram body weight specify. 8

Fats

Fat is vital for our organism. It is primarily used to provide energy and, at 9.3 calories per gram, provides more than twice the energy of proteins and carbohydrates. In addition to providing energy, it is also needed for other functions in the body, such as in the subcutaneous fatty tissue for hormones and via dietary fat for the transport of fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D and K, which the body cannot absorb without fat. In addition, fats are involved in building the cell membrane. Even 60 percent of our brain is made up of fat, 30 percent of which is made up of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) alone. Among other functions of fat are:

  • Absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Component of the cell membrane
  • Inflammation promotion and inhibition
  • Influence on blood clotting

Similar to proteins, there are also essential and non-essential fats among fats. The non-essential fats include saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Saturated fats are mainly used by the human body to provide energy. The fact that saturated fats in themselves are harmful to our health has now been disproved. However, the combination of saturated fats and carbohydrates has a negative effect on fat storage. Since saturated fats are not essential, we should keep their share in the diet low. We should therefore consume dairy products, pastries, confectionery, meat and palm fat in moderation. Monounsaturated fats are not necessary for our body, as our body can produce them on its own. However, since they have a positive effect on our health, we should increasingly integrate them into our diet. Therefore, we should make use of food sources such as canola oil, olive oil, nuts or avocado for example. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, on the other hand, are essential for our body. In contrast to the other types of fat, polyunsaturated fats are used in our body mainly as a building material, for example for the formation of tissue hormones, which have an influence on the water balance, insulin metabolism, inflammatory processes and the immune system. Polyunsaturated fats consist of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. An optimal ratio here would be 1:1. However, since this is hardly feasible in today’s diet, the ratio of 1:5 (omega-3 : omega-6) is considered sufficient. Oils such as linseed oil or rapeseed oil have such a fatty acid profile. In particular, we should include foods containing mainly omega-3 fatty acids in our diet more often. These include primarily fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring or trout and, as a plant source, algae. 10

Fat intake

In contrast to proteins and carbohydrates, fats do not play such an important role in muscle building. In order to ensure all vital processes in our body, it is recommended to consume 0.8-1 grams of fat per kilogram of body weight per day. Women in particular should aim for a fat intake of at least 1 gram per kilogram of body weight, as fats are indispensable for the hormonal reactions of the female organism. Especially for people who find it difficult to get enough calories, it is advisable to increase the amount of fat in their diet.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are our most important source of energy during intense exertion. Just like proteins, 1 gram of carbohydrates provides about 4.1 kilocalories. When it comes to muscle metabolism, carbohydrates play a very dominant role. Normally our organism gains its energy mainly by burning fat. However, as soon as our body needs larger amounts of energy and oxygen supply becomes scarce, the metabolism switches to carbohydrate burning. Carbohydrates are by far the most important source of energy, especially during intensive sports activities. In the human body, approx. 600g of carbohydrates are stored in the form of glycogen, of which approx. 80-120g are in the liver and 300-500g are in the muscles (depending on the degree). However, the continuous supply of carbohydrates is most important for the brain, since it cannot store carbohydrates, but absolutely needs them for energy supply. However, unlike proteins and fats, carbohydrates are not considered essential. It is therefore not vital that we consume carbohydrates in our diet, as our body can synthesize amino acids (protein building blocks) to form glycogen. This process is called gluconeogenesis. Carbohydrates are divided into simple and complex carbohydrates. They differ mainly in how quickly our body can absorb them. Simple carbohydrates (simple sugars) enter our body’s bloodstream very quickly. All other carbohydrates consist of multiple sugars and are first broken down by our body into single sugars.

Dietary fiber also belongs to the category of carbohydrates. However, since they are indigestible, they are not taken into account in calorie consumption. Dietary fiber has many positive effects on our health and digestion. Since they are especially important for our intestinal flora, we should consume at least 30g of dietary fiber daily. 11 When we consume carbohydrates, sugar enters our bloodstream – our blood sugar level rises. In order to transport sugar into our cells, our pancreas secretes the hormone insulin, which causes the sugar to be stored either in our muscles or as fat in the fat cells, depending on our needs. Therefore, insulin is the most anabolic (building) hormone in our body. Although it favors the buildup of fatty tissue, it also promotes the introduction of new amino acids into the muscles. Insulin therefore plays a very decisive role in the muscle building process. Excessive fat gain, even with high insulin levels, can only occur through an over-caloric diet. Thus, the total calorie balance remains one of the most important adjusting screws in the diet.

Carbohydrate intake

Due to their great influence on the anabolic hormone insulin, carbohydrates should make up the majority of the total calories to be consumed in the context of muscle building. It is estimated that carbohydrate intake should be around 5-7 grams per kilogram of body weight. Depending on how many total calories are needed, the amount can vary. Besides the release of insulin, carbohydrates also have other advantages in muscle building. Since carbohydrates provide the fastest energy, they increase the performance during training. The more intense the training, the more muscles are built up. Through the intensive training we empty the carbohydrate stores in the muscles. If we replenish our energy stores after training, we regenerate more quickly. Because only if we give the muscle the signal that it is permanently supplied with energy, it is also ready to build up more muscles. Finally, more muscle in turn means more energy consumption. 12

Summary

MacronutrientsProtein: 1.5-2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day Fat: 0.8-1 grams per kilogram of body weight per day Carbohydrates: 5-7 grams (or. the rest of the daily calories) per kilogram of body weight per day Example Now comes the mathematical part. An 80kg athlete has determined his caloric needs. This is 2800 calories. Since he needs excess energy to build muscle, he increases food intake by 300 calories to 3100. Now it determines the optimal macronutrient distribution. He starts with 1.6 g protein per kilogram body weight. For a weight of 80 kilograms, this corresponds to a protein intake of 128g per day – 525 calories (1g protein = 4.1 kcal). Now he determines his fat intake. It should supply at least 1g of fat per kilogram of body weight. This corresponds to 80g of fat per day – 744 calories (1g fat = 9.3 kcal). If he now subtracts the 744 and the 525 calories from his daily calorie intake of 3100 calories, he is left with 1831 calories that can be covered by carbohydrates – 446g per day (1g carbohydrates = 4.1 kcal). This corresponds to a carbohydrate quantity of 5.5g per kilogram of body weight. If the weight gain stagnates during the build-up, the athlete starts to increase his calories week by week until he reaches the desired weight gain of 0.5-1 kg KG per month. In doing so, he increases protein up to 2g, carbohydrates up to 7g and then fat first until he adds enough calories.

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