Gaining muscle


If you want to build muscle without gaining fat, then your diet is just as important as your workout. So before you lift a weight, make sure you lift plenty of spoons and forks. Aim to get 1.0g – 1.6g of protein per kg of body weight per day and spread this across meals and snacks. Remember, dairy is a rich, natural source of protein. Which is handy. And delicious.


  • Aim for increases of 0.3-0.5 kg per week; and combine with a training programme to ensure body weight gains are muscle rather than fat.
  • Increase calorie intake by choosing healthy and nutritious foods. For example, although fat provides more calories per gram, avoid overindulgence in high fat, processed foods as this may result in fat gain rather than muscle gain.
  • Protein plays an important role in muscle growth and maintenance. Generally, 1.2-2g of protein per kilogram of body weight ensures needs are met for gaining muscle.
  • Increase meal frequency to 4-5 times per day. This helps to avoid stomach discomfort that may result from eating a high volume of food across three meals.
  • Try not to compare your results to others as the ability to gain muscle is determined by our individual genetic ability. Be patient and avoid unnecessary ‘quick fixes’.
  • If considering the use of muscle-gaining supplements, discuss their safety and effectiveness with a sports dietitian.

Protein – why, when and how much?

As well as relying on our muscles for support and movement in everyday tasks, those involved in sport and exercise need strong, healthy muscles to withstand training and performance demands. Along with a balanced diet that provides enough energy, protein is an essential nutrient that contributes to the normal growth and maintenance of muscles. Timing and quality are important when it comes to protein and the optimal approach is to spread intakes across the day rather than consuming a large amount at one meal. This enables the body to supply a constant amount needed by active muscles throughout the day. Consuming protein (approximately 20-25 g) following an intense session is particularly useful to assist muscle growth and repair. Protein requirements are estimated based on individual body weight; with slight variations depending on the type and intensity of activity. General ranges for daily protein requirements per kilogram of body weight are provided below:

Source: Adapted from the Australian Institute of Sport

Foods such as lean meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt are among the best protein providers as these are ‘complete’ protein sources – providing all of the amino acids (building blocks of protein) that the body needs. Other protein sources include beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.

Protein content of common foods

Source: McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods (7th Summary Edition)