A Workout & Diet Plan to Gain Lean Muscle

Gaining lean muscle can be difficult because you must eat enough nutrients to allow your muscles to recover, without over-eating to the point where you readily store body fat. Nutrient-timing becomes very important when you seek to gain only lean muscle. In addition, keeping your diet very clean also goes a long way toward building muscle and burning fat at the same time. Follow these basic guidelines to gain lean muscle with a diet and workout plan.


Step 1

Do a resistance training workout three to five days a week. Beginners or hard-gainers (those who have difficulty gaining weight), should do three full-body workouts a week, focusing on compound movements such as squats, deadlifts and bench presses. If you enjoy working out Monday through Friday, try a five-day split. For example, train shoulders on Monday, arms on Tuesday, legs on Wednesday, back on Thursday and chest on Friday.

Step 2

Perform at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise immediately after your resistance-training workout. “Combat the Fat” author Jeff Anderson recommends low-intensity cardio after weight workouts because it directly targets body fat without eating away muscle. Examples of this type of cardio include walking on the treadmill, riding the exercise bike or using the elliptical machine at the gym.

Step 3

Drink a protein shake immediately after your workout. The nutrient combination you consume right after you work out is crucial in building muscle and inhibiting fat storage. Try 30 to 50 grams of whey protein, 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates and 15 to 30 grams of healthy fats, such as flaxseed oil or medium-chain triglycerides; such as those in coconut milk. Overeating carbohydrates can cause body fat, while not eating enough carbohydrates may stunt muscle recovery. Start with these numbers and experiment with different amounts to see what works best for you.

Step 4

Eat five or six small meals throughout the day, spaced two to three hours apart. Frequent meals build muscle by consistently supplying nutrients to muscles. Meanwhile, insulin and blood sugar stay low to suppress fat storage. More frequent meals also help suppress hunger and decrease the body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol, which eats muscle tissue and enables body fat accumulation.

Step 5

Eat carbohydrates when you need energy. The body uses carbohydrates as its primary source of fuel, and anything in excess of its energy needs will be stored as fat. Try splitting your total daily carbohydrates between your pre- and post-workout meals. The rest of the day, eat lean sources of protein, such as fish, chicken and turkey, as well as healthy fats (olive oil, peanut butter and nuts and seeds) and plenty of vegetables.


Items you will need

  • Whey protein
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Coconut milk
  • "The Abs Diet"; David Zinczenko; Rodale, 2004
  • "Optimum Anabolics"; Jeff Anderson; 2004
  • "Xtreme Lean"; Jonathan Lawson and Steve Holman; 2005

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.