Dr. Anthony’s Old School Muscle (OSM) Program works wonders for building lean body mass. It's the first time-efficient muscle building program specifically designed for busy men over 40, and combines:
- Time-tested “old school” strength training principals
- Cutting edge science
- Fast, safe, and powerful results
Dr. Anthony’s background makes him uniquely qualified to perfect the OSM program. He’s the Founder of the Fit Father Project, holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, a secondary degree in nutrition, and graduated medical school as a naturopathic physician. He's also a former clinical researcher and national champion bodybuilder.
Weight Loss vs. Weight Gain Diets
Believe it or not, the main difference between weight loss and weight gain diets is the number of calories you’ll be eating throughout the day. For example:
- Weight loss diets contain 500 to 1,000 fewer calories than your usual intake, or about 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day for men.
- Weight gain diets consist of eating 350 to 750 additional calories (more than your usual intake) daily to gain about 1 pound of muscle per week, suggests the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
- Active men over 40 often need 2,600 to 2,800 calories daily to maintain their weights, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020. Therefore, a muscle building diet plan for men over 40 generally consists of eating 3,000 to 3,500 calories per day.
To get in the extra calories needed for muscle mass gains, choose nutrient-dense, higher-calorie foods and eat often throughout the day (every few hours or so).
Macronutrient Recommendations for Muscle Building
During an effective muscle building diet plan, you’ll be eating extra calories from protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fat. These three nutrients are called macronutrients, as they provide calories and energy. Macronutrient diet recommendations for weight gain are as follows:
Following NSCA recommendations for muscle gains, your protein needs when following a muscle building diet plan are:
- Consume 1.5 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.68 to 0.91 grams of protein per pound of body weight) per day.
- Eat protein frequently throughout the day.
- Consume protein before and immediately after strength training workouts.
Therefore, if you weigh 150 pounds and want to bulk up, aim to eat at least 102 to 137 grams of protein each day.
- 3 ounces of baked chicken (skinless): 26 grams
- 1/3 cup of whey protein powder: 25 grams
- 3 ounces of very lean beef: 24 grams
- 3 ounces of fish (salmon or tuna): 21 grams
- 1 container of nonfat Greek yogurt: 15 grams
- 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese: 14 grams
- 2 large eggs: 12 grams
- 3 ounces of firm tofu: 8 – 10 grams
- 1 cup of cooked green peas: 9 grams
- 1 cup of cooked quinoa: 8 grams
- 1 cup of low-fat milk: 8 grams
- 2 tablespoons of peanut butter: 8 grams
- 1 reduced-fat cheese stick: 6 grams
A good rule of thumb is to consume about 30 to 45 grams of protein at each meal, depending on your daily protein needs, as this amount is associated with muscle mass and strength gains in numerous research studies.
Fill about 1/4th of each plate with non-starchy protein, such as meat, fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, tofu, or reduced-fat cheese.
You don’t have to worry about following low-carb meal plans when you’re trying to gain lean muscle mass, but make sure to choose carbs wisely.
Aim to get about 40 to 55 percent of your daily calories from carbs, or 3 to 5 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight daily during a strength training program for weight gain, suggests the National Strength and Conditioning Association. This equates to eating 1.4 to 2.3 grams of carbs per pound of body weight each day.
Therefore, if you weigh 150 pounds, aim to consume about 210 to 345 grams of carbs (or more as needed) daily. Choose healthy, carb-rich foods, such as:
- Whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, whole-grain pasta, and oatmeal)
- Vegetables (especially, corn, peas, sweet potatoes, dried beans, and other legumes)
- Milk and milk products
- Nuts and seeds
The University of Michigan provides a comprehensive list of the carbohydrates content of some of your favorite foods. Examples include:
- 1 10-ounce baked sweet potato: 60 grams
- 1 cup of cooked rice: 45 grams
- 1 cup of cooked whole-grain pasta: 45 grams
- 1 cup of cooked beans/legumes: 30 grams
- 1 cup of cooked corn: 30 grams
- 1 cup of cooked peas: 30 grams
- 1 cup of cooked oatmeal: 20 grams
- 1 piece of fruit: 15 grams
- 1 cup of milk: 15 grams
Generally speaking, fill about 1/4th of each plate with starches to meet your daily allotment when following a muscle building diet plan. About half of each plate should be from vegetables (or veggies plus fruits mixed in).
Dietary Fat Recommendations
Dietary fat is extremely beneficial for a muscle building weight gain diet. That’s because while protein and carbs each contain 4 calories per gram, fat provides you with 9 calories per gram. About 20 to 30 percent of your calories should be from dietary fat, suggests NSCA.
When eating 3,200 calories a day for weight gain in men, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020 suggest consuming 11 to 12 1-teaspoon portions of healthy fats each day. Examples of one portion of heart-healthy fats include:
- 1 teaspoon of olive, peanut, soybean, coconut, sunflower, canola, or other plant-based oil
- 1 teaspoon of fish oil
- 1 tablespoon of Italian salad dressing
- 1/3 ounce of seeds
- 1/3 ounce of nuts
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of nut butter
- 8 large olives
- 1/6th of an avocado
Adding nuts, seeds, oils, avocados, and even cheeses to meals and snacks is an excellent way to boost your overall calorie intake as part of a muscle building diet plan.
Regardless of whether you’re trying to lose or gain weight, taking in plenty of water is crucial to keep energy levels high — especially during workouts. Men often need about 16 cups of fluids each day; sometimes more when they participate in regular sweat sessions.
Villanova University recommends the following hydration guidelines for athletes:
- Drink about 2 cups of fluid 2 to 3 hours before workouts
- Consume 1 cup of water right before training
- Drink 1 cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes during training
- Consume a sports drink containing carbs when training longer than 1 hour
- Drink 3 cups of water for every pound of body weight lost during exercise
For best weight gain results, drink a protein shake before and after workouts to maximize muscle growth.
What about Protein Shakes?
Adding between-meal protein shakes to menu plans is beneficial when you’re following a muscle building diet plan, especially when drinking shakes before and after workouts.
Doing so makes it easier to meet daily protein, carb, and dietary fat needs, and keep your muscles fueled properly so they can grow. For a total of about 505 calories, mix together:
- 1/3 cup of whey, casein, or other protein powder: 110 calories
- 2 cups of low-fat or plant-based milk: 180 calories
- 1 small piece of fruit, or 1 cup of fruit: 80 calories
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of nuts, seeds, or nut butter: 135 calories
- Ice: 0 calories
Total: 505 calories
Change up your protein shake recipes daily, and you’ll never be bored!
Sample Muscle Building Diet Plan Menu
When muscle gain is your goal, many active men over 40 need about 3,000 to 3,200 calories a day in addition to following an effective strength training program, such as Fit Father Project’s Old School Muscle program.
The sample menu below provides about 3,085 calories to achieve muscle-building weight gain. Add additional high-calorie ingredients to it (extra oils, nuts, seeds, avocado, or cheeses, for example) if you need some extra calories.
- 4 egg (288 calories) omelet with 1/2 cup of sliced green peppers (9 calories), 1/2 ounce of feta cheese (39 calories), and 1/4 cup of sliced avocados (59 calories): 395 calories
- 1 cup of cooked oatmeal: 150 calories
Total: 545 calories
- 1 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt: 175 calories
- 1 ounce of almonds: 165 calories
- 1 cup of sliced bananas: 135 calories
Total: 475 calories
- 3 ounces of grilled chicken breast: 130 calories
- 1 cup of cooked asparagus: 40 calories
- 1 cup of cooked quinoa: 220 calories
- 1/4 cup of sliced avocados: 60 calories
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil: 80 calories
- Seasonings of your choice: 0 calories
Total: 530 calories
- Protein shake (see recipe above)
Total: 505 calories
- 3 ounces of grilled salmon: 132 calories
- 1 cup of cooked brown rice: 218 calories
- 1 tablespoon of olive or canola oil: 120 calories
- 1 cup of steamed broccoli: 55 calories
- Seasonings of your choice: 0 calories
Total: 525 calories
- Protein shake (see recipe above)
Total: 505 calories
Daily total: 3,085 calories
You can add or subtract ingredients and calories based on your individualized weight gain calorie needs.
Healthy Muscle Building Weight Gain Recipes
Healthy weight gain recipes for muscle building are rich in protein, fiber-rich carbs, and heart healthy fats. Examples include:
Recipe #1: Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Protein Shake
Drink this muscle building protein shake when you first wake up in the morning, or before and after strength training workouts to pack on lean pounds. Simply blend together the following ingredients:
- 2 cups of low-fat milk, low-sugar chocolate milk, or protein-fortified almond milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- 1 small banana
- 1/3 cup of chocolate flavored protein powder
Calorie total: about 500 calories
Recipe #2: Sweet Potato Crusted Quiche
When you’re in the mood for a nutritious, mouth-watering breakfast idea, consider this sweet potato crusted quiche recipe to get your morning started off right. You’ll use sweet potatoes, cornmeal, almond flour, eggs, and seasonings for your crust — and eggs, almond milk, onions, cheese, dried tomatoes, and seasonings for the quiche filling.
When you eat 1/6th of this quiche pie, you’ll be getting about 365 calories. Pair this breakfast recipe with 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt for a total of about 500 calories at breakfast. Sprinkle 1/3 ounces of sliced almonds on top of the yogurt to gain an additional 50 calories.
Calorie total for quiche plus Greek yogurt: about 500 calories
Recipe #3: Lentil Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Avocado
Lentil pesto pasta makes the perfect addition to any weight gain meal plan, as it’s loaded with protein, carbs, and healthy fats. Try this recipe to prepare your pesto pasta by combining cooked lentil pasta with pine nuts, olive oil, shredded parmesan, and seasonings.
Once your pesto pasta (containing about 400 calories per serving) is complete, top it with grilled chicken strips and avocado slices to add extra protein and heart healthy fat calories to your dish.
Calorie total for pasta, plus chicken and avocado: 500 to 530 calories
Recipe #4: Chicken (or Beef) Asparagus Stir Fry with Sesame Seeds and Brown Rice
The main ingredients in this protein-rich weight gain recipe are chicken, asparagus, oil, and seasonings. The recipe itself provides about 268 calories in each 1 1/4 cup portion of chicken and asparagus stir fry.
Add sesame seeds to your stir fry recipe, plus 1 cup of cooked brown rice or quinoa to complete a muscle-building weight gain meal containing about 500 calories. Replace chicken with very lean beef or pork if you’d like to.
Calorie total for stir fry, brown rice, and sesame seeds: about 500 calories
Recipe #5: Protein Energy Balls
When you’re in the mood for a nutritious between meal snack, or a pre- or post-workout protein-rich fuel source, consider this no-bake protein energy ball recipe.
Ingredients in the recipe are rolled oats, vanilla protein powder, chia seeds, peanut butter, honey, raisins or dark chocolate chips, almond milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. You can replace raisins or chocolate chips with nuts or seeds, if you’d like to add additional protein.
Calorie total: about 80 to 120 calories per ball, depending on size
Starting a Muscle Building Diet Plan
Beginning a muscle building diet plan is fairly easy. Simply begin Fit Father Project’s Old School Muscle program to start building muscle mass, drink plenty of water, and slowly increase your overall calorie intake by 350 to 750 per day. A few simple tips and tricks to help you increase calories include:
- Consume protein shakes between meals
- Snack on nuts, seeds, cheese, or dried fruit throughout the day
- Add extra cheese, nuts, seeds, or avocados to meals and snacks
- Add protein powder or dried milk powder to shakes, casseroles, soups, and stews
- Use extra olive oil when cooking
Remember, an ideal goal is to gain about 1 pound of muscle mass each week until you reach your goal weight. Don't forget to get plenty of sleep (7 to 9 hours each night) to keep energy levels high. You can do it!
Writer, The Fit Father Project
A 15-year freelance writing veteran, Erin is registered dietitian and health educator who is passionate about health, fitness and disease prevention. Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife and mom of two beautiful children.