Crush Your Resolution: 4-Week Muscle-Building Diet Plan

Meal plan week3 teaser

Gaining five pounds is easy. Gaining five pounds of muscle without adding fat requires careful attention to what foods you’re putting in your mouth. With holiday parties out of the way and a new workout plan on your agenda, now’s the perfect time to focus on foods that fuel muscle growth.

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD, creator of the F-Factor Diet and author of Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear—with Fiber! put together an easy-to-follow eating plan that will help you get lean and toned, not bulky—in four weeks.

Program Details >>

from Tanya Zuckerbrot

Before jumping into the good stuff, like meal plans and recipes, you’ll need to get schooled in calorie expenditure. We’ll keep it quick—promise.

To gain one pound of muscle, you need to take in 2,500 extra calories over the course of a week. Add these calories to what you burn on an average day. If you’re not entirely sure of that number,’s caloric needs calculator can spit out an estimate based on your basil metabolic rate (BMR), or how many calories you expend by simply being alive, along with your activity level, body fat percentage, and protein needs. From there, add approximately 360 calories a day in order to gain a little over a pound of muscle mass per week.

[See: Are calories from fat, protein and carbs equal?]

Once you’re done with the math, focus on food. Here are some things to keep in mind when putting together your meals. 

> Instead of piling on calories from fat and high-fat protein sources, stick to lean protein and foods low in saturated fat.
> Aim to eat nutrient-rich foods that help repair muscles, promote muscle growth, and provide enough calories to fuel your workouts.
> Combine the right nutrients to help your body gain muscle faster. Mix lean protein with high-fiber carbohydrates or monounsaturated fat with lean protein. Stay away from meals that combine only fat and carbs—they’ll pile on calories, but do little to help you add mass.
> To gain five pounds of muscle, you will be eating a lot of protein, but keep in mind that your body is only capable of handling a certain amount at one time. For this reason, space out your meals instead of eating three giant protein-packed plates.
> Refuel your body 15 to 30 minutes after a workout. The easiest way to do this is to drink a protein shake that contains some carbohydrates, like soy, rice, or low-fat milk. Liquids get digested faster and are easier to consume when you’re pressed for time. That same logic applies to mixing protein powder with water in between meals. It’s faster and more convenient than eating pieces of chicken and turkey all day.

Too much to think about? Below you’ll find four weeks’ worth of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack suggestions that tie these guidelines together in an easy-to-follow breakdown of what to eat every day. And now that you know the rules, feel free to modify meals as you’d like.

Weekly Eating Plans >>


Recipes >>

Greek Yogurt French Onion Dip
Greek Yogurt Veggie Dip
Garlic-Chili Flank Steak
Turkey Chili
Salmon with Maple Balsamic Glaze
Mexican Omelet with Salsa
Steak Fajitas
Mediterranean Couscous
Sweet Potato Fries
Tropical Fruit Parfait

Shopping List >>

Simplify a trip to the store by sticking to the following healthy, muscle-building foods. These eats make up the bulk of the meal plans above.

• Low-fat chese
• Deli meats: turkey, roast beef, ham, etc.
• Fresh or frozen berries
• Fruits: berries, apples, pears, plums, bananas, grapefruit
• Vegetables: broccoli, asparagus, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, zucchini
• Starchy vegetables: corn, beans, sweet potatoes
• Beans: chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, edamame
• Fish and shellfish
• Poultry: chicken and turkey
• Meat: lean cuts of beef, lamb, veal, ham
• Cereals: Fiber One, All Bran, oatmeal
• Whole-wheat breads: bread, English muffins, pitas, tortilla wraps, mini bagels
• Natural peanut butter
• Eggs, egg beaters, egg whites
• Low-fat/fat-free milk
• 1% or 2% cottage cheese and plain 0% or 2% Greek yogurt
• Ground lean turkey breast
• Canned tuna or salmon

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