Muscle Building Diet Plan: Pack On Lean Mass!

Written by: Erin Coleman,

B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer, The Fit Father Project

Written by: Erin Coleman,

B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer, The Fit Father Project

muscle building diet plan

Want to gain muscle mass while minimizing (or eliminating) fat gain? You need the right muscle-building diet plan!

Beginning a muscle-building diet plan is fairly easy.

Start by drinking plenty of water, and slowly increase your overall calorie intake by 350-750 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.

But perhaps one of the most important components of a muscle-building plan for men is using the right strength training regimen.

Maximizing your efforts is vital when it comes to muscle growth. If you're ready to get started, use the easy-to-follow muscle-building diet plan laid out below!

At a certain age? Check out our definitive guide to building muscle after 50!

See the program 38,000 guys over 40 are using to get results like these

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 weight, 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).

Meet SuperFuel. The Delicious Protein Shake Packed With 40+ Energy-Boosting Vitamins & Superfoods (Designed For Busy Men)

As a busy guy, it’s challenging to stay consistent with healthy eating. That’s why we created SuperFuel… the delicious “all-in-one” nutrition shake for busy guys 40+ to give your body the protein + key nutrients you need for more energy, fat burning, and muscle building.

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:

Protein Requirements

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 bodyweight) 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.

The protein content of some of your favorite foods, provided by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Composition Database, are:

  • 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.

Learn about Fit Father SuperFuel, a specially designed protein powder for men over 40.


Carbohydrate Needs

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)
  • Fruits
  • 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).

This video gives you both the science of what does work as well as our own personal philosophy on what works best.


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.

How many calories does it take to build muscle? We’ll teach you how to calculate YOUR daily calories for muscle building.


Fluid Requirements

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 the best weight gain results, drink a protein shake before and after workouts to maximize muscle growth.

Find out the BEST way to start drinking more water and avoid dehydration!


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 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!

Meet SuperFuel Vegan. The Super Delicious 100% Plant-Based Protein Shake Packed With 40+ Energy Boosting Vitamins & Superfoods

Meet SuperFuel Vegan.
The Super Delicious 100% Plant-Based Protein Shake Packed With 40+ Energy Boosting Vitamins & Superfoods

As a busy guy, it’s challenging to stay consistent with healthy eating… especially if you’re following a more plant-based diet. That’s why we built SuperFuel Vegan… the delicious “all-in-one” nutrition shake to give you the premium 100% plant-based protein + key nutrients you need for more energy, fat burning, & muscle building.
As a busy guy, it’s challenging to stay consistent with healthy eating… especially if you’re following a more plant-based diet. That’s why we built SuperFuel Vegan… the delicious “all-in-one” nutrition shake to give you the premium 100% plant-based protein + key nutrients you need for more energy, fat burning, & muscle building.

Click here to learn more about SuperFuel Vegan the delicious 100% Plant-Based Protein with 40+ powerful superfoods »

Sample Muscle Building Diet Plan

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

Snack 1

  • 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

Snack 2

  • 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

Snack 3

  • 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.

best exercise for men 40+

What Are The 5 Best Muscle Building Exercises For Men 40+?

best exercise for men 40+
The secret to building age-defying muscle in your in 40s, 50s, & 60s is to modify the best muscle building exercises (bench, squats, rows) to make them safe on your joints…

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:

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
  • Ice

Calorie total: about 500 calories

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

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

See the program 38,000 guys over 40 are using to get results like these

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

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

Erin Coleman B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer, The Fit Father Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on a muscle-building diet plan.

Written by: Erin Coleman,

B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer, The Fit Father Project

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