You’ll need to always ensure that your caloric intake exceeds your caloric expenditure. That’s all fine and dandy, but it really only tells us half of the story.

Sit down and feast on big macs, ice cream cones and potato chips and your caloric intake would easily exceed your caloric expenditure… but do you think this would be an intelligent approach to building muscle?

Of course not. You need to realize this…

All calories are NOT created equally!

The raw number of calories that you consume determines whether you’ll lose weight, maintain your weight or gain weight… but it is the type of calories that will determine what kind of bodyweight is lost or gained (lean muscle mass, fat, water etc.)

Your obvious goal is to build lean muscle mass while keeping body fat gains at a minimum, and therefore you’ll need to focus on consuming the right types of calories from the proper food sources.

The 3 main food groups that you should be concerned with are…

1) High Quality Protein –

 Protein builds and repairs muscle tissue and is the most important nutrient for those trying to increase their lean mass. Stick to high quality, easily absorbed sources such as lean red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, skim milk, cottage cheese, peanuts/natural peanut butter and whey.

2) High Fiber, Low Glycemic Carbohydrates –

 Carbohydrates aid in the absorption of protein, provide your muscles and brain with energy throughout the day and also help to maintain an optimal hormonal environment within the body.

Stick to slow-release, low-glycemic sources that will provide you with a steady stream of sugars throughout the day such as oatmeal, yams, certain fruits, brown rice and whole wheat products.

3) Healthy, Unsaturated Fats –

  Not all fats will make you fat, and essential fatty acids fit that profile. EFA’s are highly beneficial to the muscle growth process by increasing testosterone levels, improving the metabolism and volumizing the muscle cells. Some good sources of EFA’s include fatty fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and liquids like flaxseed and olive oil. These 3 food groups should make up the bulk of your diet, and should be spread out over the course of about 5-7 small meals daily. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but over time you’ll get used to it.

4) Increase your water intake-

Water is an absolutely critical component to the muscle-building process and to overall body health in general. Failing to keep yourself properly hydrated throughout the day will have a negative impact on literally every single process within your entire body!

Most people know that they should be drinking “plenty” of water every day, but how many actually do?

If you really paid close attention to your water intake you’d probably be surprised at how little you actually consume.

What makes proper water intake so amazingly important?

Well for starters, it’s the most abundant element in your body. It is ranked only 2nd to oxygen as being essential to life.

Your body can survive for weeks without food, but without water you’d be dead in just a few days.

Roughly 80% of your body is made up of water; the brain is 85% water and lean muscle tissue is 70% water.

Research has shown that being even slightly dehydrated can decrease strength and physical performance significantly. In fact, merely a 3-4% drop in your body’s water levels will lead to a 10-20% decrease in muscle contractions.

Not only will water increase your strength, but it also plays a large role in preventing injuries in the gym. Highly intensive training over a long period of time can put unwanted stress on your joints and connective tissue, and water helps to fight against this stress by lubricating the joints and forming a protective “cushion” around them.

So, just how much water is enough?

To find out how many ounces of water you should be consuming every day, multiply your bodyweight by 0.6. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be consuming around 90 ounces of water every day.

150 x 0.6 = 90

I know it sounds like a lot, but if you plan your day out properly it shouldn’t be a problem. Keep a water bottle with you at all times and sip from it periodically. Keep water in the places where you spend most of your time: in your car, at work, on your nightstand etc.

Another good method to ensure that you drink enough water is to pre-fill a few 16 ounce bottles at the beginning of the day. This way you can have a visual representation of where your water consumption is at any point in the day.

For the first few days you’ll probably find yourself running to the bathroom quite frequently, but your body will soon adapt to the increased water volume and this will no longer be a problem.

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