How to design a diet plan for muscle building

Welcome back to my blog if you are returning after reading

You will know how to design a muscle building plan, Thats all well and good but are you doing the right things outside of the gym ? No matter how hard and effectively you train if you do not recover well, results will be sub optimal. Here’s an important mantra to imprint in your brain. “Muscle does not grow in the gym it breaks down, Muscle repairs and grows through rest and nutrition only”. We still need to break down the muscle in the gym of course to encourage growth upon repair but it’s only half of the job. So lets work on your diet.

How many calories ?

Diet is integral to growth it’s your fuel if you don’t have enough your body will struggle to repair and build, too much and you will gain fat, hiding all that nice new muscle. Here’s a handy diet plan blue print:

Firstly you need to calculate your daily calorie intake here is the formula.


66.47+ (13.75x weight in kg) + (5.003 x height in cm) – (6.755 x age in years)


655.1 + (9.563 x weight in kg) + (1.850 x height in cm) – (4.676  x age in years)

This calculation is your basal metabolic rate or BMR  (calories you burn at rest) now we need to add in your activity level. 

Little or no exercise: BMR x 1.2

Exercise 1-3 x per week: BMR x 1.375

Exercise 3-5 x per week: BMR x 1.55

Exercise 6-7 x per week: BMR x 1.725

Exercise hard 6-7 x per week (Usually athletes): BMR x 1.9

So now you have an estimate of how many calories you need per day to maintain weight. 

Adding a surplus

For you to put on muscle you will want to be in a calorie surplus. How much depends on your gym experience, If you have been training for years and already put on some lean muscle your growth will be slower, if you have never trained before you’re further away from your genetic limits so will grow faster for a longer period, that makes sense right ?. So a common mistake which I see often is an experienced lifter eating in a high calorie surplus, this will likely lead to fat gain as your body simply doesn’t need that much. Everyone is different so play with the numbers a little bit but here is a good template to start. 

Experienced lifter + 200-300 calories surplus 

Newbie +500 calories surplus 

Recording progress

Weigh yourself in the morning before brekkie 3 times a week, if you are an experienced lifter you will be looking to put on around half a kilo, if you are a newbie you’ll be looking to put on around 1kg per month. Anything excessively over that is likely fat. Use the mirror take side, front and back photos once a week and compare (note week on week noticeable differences will be minor and that’s ok). Use the measure tape. Measure your waist line, chest and limbs once a week. Ideally you want your waistline staying the same and the other measurements slowly increasing. Using all these methods collate the data bi weekly and adjust if it doesn’t look like you are on track for your monthly gain, typically adding/subtracting by 100 calories till you hit your sweet spot. Yes this does take patience but in the long run you will save time, as you won’t over shoot and have to keep yo-yo ing between muscle building and fat loss. 

Balancing macro’s

There is a lot of conflicting info out there about protein intake, shockingly I’ve seen some influencers say you don’t need to eat that much protein to gain muscle. This is blatant misinformation numerous studies prove it’s the building block of muscle building/maintenance here is an example.

Feel free to use the protein calculator in this link or a quick rule of thumb you want to be aiming for at least 1.6 x your weight in kg. However I recommend hitting 1.8/2 x kg body weight if you can manage that. 

Assuming you are fairly lean hence your mass building program you will need enough carbs to provide energy for your workouts and day to day tasks. Aim for total carb intake of 40-55% of your total diet the more body fat you have the lower end of this scale you go. 

Finalising diet plan together

So let’s say I’ve worked out my calorie intake for muscle building is 2700 cals per day.

I’m 72 kg and I’ve gone for 2xkg of body weight. I’m pretty lean so I’ve gone for carb intake of 50% of total calories which is 

Protein 2×72 = 144 grams of protein per day.

Carbs 2700-50% = 1350 calories per day 

So I know how many grams of protein. But to work out how many grams of carbs I should eat per day. I need another sum, there are 4 cals per gram of carbs. So I just need to divide my calories from carbs by 4 to convert to grams 

1250/4 = 337.5 grams per day 

So now I know how much protein and carbs per day but what about fats. Well it’s just the remainder of calories left. Protein has 4 cals per gram just like carbs so I just multiply grams by 4 to convert to calories.

144×4= 576 cals 

So total calories for carbs and protein is 

1350+592= 1926

So my fat calories will be 2700-1926= 774 cals of fat per day 

To convert to grams there are 9 cals per gram of fat so I divide my calories by 9

774/9= 86 grams of fat per day. 

So now you have a diet plan, a method to measure progress and an adjustment plan if needed. One last important tip is divide your macros and calories fairly equally between meals. So your body is getting a balance of everything it needs each meal. I recommend having 3 square meals “saving” 50 to 75 grams of carbs for a pre workout snack on training days. 

Lastly sleep plays an important role on performance and recovery so make sure you are getting enough (7-8 hours) usually.  

Do you feel you still need help? 

I am one of the most experienced personal trainers in Manchester, so no matter your starting point I’m positively certain I can help you. Just drop me an email: And I’ll send over the relevant info, I offer 121 coaching packages.

Sessions held at The gym,253 Deansgate,The Great Northern,Manchester,M34EN 

Or online packages if you are not local. 





About the Author dave