4 Diet Must-Do's to Get Stronger

4 Diet Must-Do's to Get Stronger

Has it been awhile since you’ve PR’ed your back squat (or press or deadlift) one rep max?

Of course, proper programming is a necessity for gaining strength. But if that’s on point and you’re still struggling to see progress, there’s a good chance your diet could use a change-up. Consider this post your nutrition checklist to make sure you’re fully fueling those muscles.

And if you’re a lifting newbie? Great news — you’re probably going to see your numbers increase for awhile no matter how you eat. That’s because your gains are coming mainly from neurological adaptation, which is nerd speak for your body becoming used to the movements and better able to recruit more muscle fibers. Use these four must-do’s, however, to keep the PRs coming and maximize your progress.

#1  Eat enough food, i.e. calories.

In order to get stronger, you need to eat at a caloric maintenance minimum, if not a caloric surplus. This means you cannot be in a caloric deficit.

In other words, rather than dieting or trying to eat for weight loss, you need to eat enough to at least maintain your bodyweight and properly fuel your workouts and daily life.

So how do you know if you’re eating enough? Well, there’s a lot that can factor into this. You could use an online calculator for a rough estimate, work with a nutrition coach, or simply start increasing your food until you start seeing results. For this last scenario, you might begin by adding a weekly refeed day or bumping up your typical daily calories.

Of course, the more variables you can keep track of in this process, the better results you’ll probably get. Key variables to track include your lifts and your food intake. (For food, I recommend the MyFitnessPal app to clients, which I also use myself.)

You might want to monitor your bodyweight as well, especially if you’re also aiming to increase muscle mass. The intermediate lifter might expect lean gains of about 1-3 pounds per month — a little more for newbies and a little less for experienced lifters.

And if your weight starts jumping up too quickly, that means you’re probably putting on more body fat than muscle. In this case, I’d recommend decreasing your food back down until you get a nice slow upward trend.

#2  Include plenty of carbs AND fat.

When it comes to strength, both carbohydrates and fat are important to include in your diet.

Carbs help give your muscles energy to power through your workouts as well as properly recover. And fat helps your body maintain optimal levels of hormones, including muscle-building testosterone. (Yes, it’s important for ladies too!)

Your ideal amount of carbs and fat will depend on your lifestyle and other activities you do. For example, if you also frequently do high-intensity, glycolytic training like CrossFit, you’ll want to fuel with more carbs than, say, someone who does strictly powerlifting.

#3  Eat the right amount of protein.

Unlike carbs and fat, the ideal amount of protein is more consistent for each person, at least proportional to his or her bodyweight.

For the average active person, a good place to start is by eating 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day.

That means if you weigh 150 lbs, you’d aim to eat 150 g of protein each day.

This estimate is based off your lean mass, so if you’ve got a lot of weight to lose, use your goal bodyweight instead.

And if you have no idea how much protein you typically eat, try tracking your food for a day. The majority of people I work with are surprised to find they’re not getting enough of this valuable macronutrient.

Unlike carbs and fat, your body can’t exactly store protein to use as needed. So with a consistent intake of protein-rich foods, your muscles will get a steady supply of amino acids to repair and rebuild stronger after each workout.

#4  Keep it clean for lean gains.

Sure, we’ve all known that guy who eats anything and everything for his “bulk” phase, but… how do I put this lightly… food quality is EVERYTHING.

Simply put, fresh unprocessed food provides our bodies with the nutrients we need to be healthy. And every process works better including building muscle (and burning fat) in a healthy body.

It’s also totally normal and sometimes necessary to gain a little body fat in the process of gaining muscle. And the cleaner you eat, the easier it is to minimize any body fat gained.

Plus, if you want to do a “cut” or fat loss phase later after that strength phase, it will be a whole lot easier to shed excess body fat when you’re already eating quality food because, again, the whole healthy body thing (and your taste buds won’t be craving sugar and junk).


So there you have it. I hope this helps you get your nutrition dialed in to get more #gainz (had to include it just once) out of every workout. And if you’re still confused about how many calories, carbs or fats are right for you, feel free to reach out and I’ll help you get on track.

To your evolution,



P.S. Of course, I can’t stop here because there’s always more to strength / health / fat loss / [insert your wellness goal here] than just diet and exercise, so check out my “Part 2” post: 3 Lifestyle Must-Do’s to Get Stronger.


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