“If you’re not eating enough protein throughout the day, it doesn’t matter if you eat right after your workout; you’re still missing the basement layer and not getting enough protein,” Arent explains. But if you do get enough protein and add timing on top of it, you’ll see even better results.
If you’re carrying too much body fat and trying to get leaner while adding muscle, then your dietary intake is going to be different, calorie-wise, than someone who’s lean but wants to be bigger. Your starting point and goals are the main drivers here.
How many calories you need per day:
“One commonly applied rule of thumb is 15-20 calories per pound of bodyweight,” Arent says. “I recommend you stick to the 16-18 calorie range, but this is a rough approximation.” From here, adjust up or down depending on your ratio of fat to muscle and rate of gain. Make sure you adjust the calories down a bit by ~300 or so on non-training days.
“Another approach is to use guidelines for energy availability,” Arent says. “This is your dietary intake minus the energy expended by exercise—so it’s basically the amount of energy left for your body to perform all its other functions after you account for exercise, growth, repair.” An energy availability of about 45 calories per kg of fat free mass (not just bodyweight) is usually associated with optimal health and performance in athletes. Fewer than 30 calories per kg fat free mass (FFM) per day tends to result in a slower metabolism and hormonal dysregulation. Below 25 kcal per kg FFM can cause thyroid hormone disruption. (Though most of this work has been done in females, it still applies to men, Arent says.)
Skinny Guys: “If you want to add mass and put weight on, eat before you go to bed,” Arent suggests. “Anywhere from 60-70g to top off for what you didn’t get throughout the day is good. Plus, research shows this has a positive effect on body composition, repair, and recovery.
Bigger Guys: You still want to target about 2g of protein per pound of bodyweight and then adjust accordingly. If you’re gaining too much fat, increase your protein intake a bit and bring down the carbs.