Skip to main content

How to build muscle in the kitchen


A common fitness goal people have is to get 'more toned' or to build size. Essentially, in principle, these are both the same thing - we’ll refer to it as building muscle.

In order to reach your muscle building goals optimally, your nutrition should support your training routine.

Here are our top tips on how to eat to build muscle by PureGym Insider @kaypuregym and fit foodie @macro_joe who both have been on fitness journeys focusing on building strength and muscle mass. 

How many calories do I need?

RDA how to gain muscle

In order to build muscle, your body will need to be in a calorie surplus. This basically means that you need to take in more calories than your body burns on a daily basis. As a rough guideline for females, it’s 2000kcals. For males it’s 2500kcals, though this is variable due to factors such as height, age and weight, body composition, activity levels etc. Your calorie needs will be different to the person next to you, so you’ll need to do a little bit of experimenting and see how your body responds with how much you’re eating.

One way to ensure you are getting enough calories into your body is by tracking your calorie intake. You can do this by noting down how much you're eating on a piece of paper, recording all your foods into a calorie tracker app.

What to eat before working out

what to eat pre workout

Some people prefer to eat on an empty stomach and some people prefer something before they workout – follow whatever works for you. The main thing is to focus on is that at the end of the day, you’re in an appropriate calorie surplus. For me I like to have something an hour or two before I train so I might eat something like a banana or a protein bar but it usually depends what time of the day I’m training.

What to eat after you’ve worked out

what to eat psot workout

Eating a combination of carbs and protein after strength training is recommended as this will help your body to recover and build muscle. I tend to train before I have my lunch or just before dinner so I’ll usually have something like a wholemeal wrap with chicken and veg or some source of protein like prawns, chicken or fish with brown rice/pasta and veg.

Training tips

training to build muscle

If you want to get real results, what you do in the gym should also support your muscle building goals. To achieve that 'toned look' you're going for, weight training should be in your workout routine. Include compound movements like squats, deadlifts, bench press etc. These moves are going to help you build overall strength and muscle because you’re recruiting large muscle groups. Work within the 5 rep to 12 rep range and focus on quality over quantity! If you’re new to weight training or unsure of your form don’t be afraid to ask a personal trainer for advice – they’d be more than happy to help you.

Don’t forget to stay hydrated and don’t forget to get a good night’s sleep!

Key points

  • Be in an appropriate calorie surplus
  • Incorporate compound movements into your weight training
  • Just because you can eat more doesn’t mean you should fill those extra calories eating junk food. While it’s okay to enjoy treats in moderation, you want the main bulk of your foods to be unprocessed and nutrient dense.
  • Be patient.  Results aren’t going to come overnight. Building muscle will take time. Stay consistent, work hard and enjoy the journey and you will get there!

Looking for some motivation to get into weight training? Read Kay's fitness journey from being underweight to fit and strong here.

Go follow @kaypuregym for more fitness and training tips and follow @macro_joe for more tips on how to keep fit whilst enjoying all the foods you love!

All blog posts