Fueling your gains:

You know you need to eat to grow, but do you know exactly when you should eat your muscle-building meals? Let’s look at what science says about the idea behind meal timing to maximize muscle growth.


Before we chat about the best times to eat to support muscle building, the first thing you’ll need to do is calculate your calories. We know, we know: calculating calories isn’t the sexiest part of fitness. But there’s no doubt about it: if you want to succeed in growing, you must know the number of calories to eat daily. Why? Your daily caloric intake will be the foundation for your nutritional choices that will help you gain the muscle mass you want. Remember that you must eat more calories than you burn each day. How do you expect to know if you’ve eaten enough to support muscle growth if you don’t have your personalized caloric intake? Check out our article on how to calculate your calories for a step-by-step guide that provides you with your very own daily caloric number to eat to maximize growth.


Now that you’re set with your daily caloric intake let’s talk meal timing. If your goal is muscle mass building or to get as big as possible, you have a lot of food to eat throughout the day. So, when should you eat? Should you eat only three times per day? Should you eat up to eight meals per day? Well, the choice is up to you.


Recent studies suggest that meal timing doesn’t matter for muscle building. What matters is that you get in your recommended number of calories, and you are working hard as hell with a proper resistance training program that focuses on muscle hypertrophy. To support muscle recovery and growth and to avoid muscle breakdown, you’ll need to consume more calories than you burn throughout the day. (1)


The best way to simplify meal timing is to base it on the signals that your body gives you and your personal preferences:

Listen to Your Body: Think about it: You know when you’re hungry, especially after an insane workout. Your body sends out those signals that make you feel ravenous when you come across a freshly cooked meal. You start eating and go into a daze until the meal ends. Your body is too happy to tell you when it’s time to eat. However, if you’re skipping on sleep, the “eat now” switch could be left on, promoting poor nutritional choices. Just because you must eat a lot doesn’t mean you should eat junk. If you eat junk, you’ll get junk results. Make sure you listen to the signals that your body is giving you. For example, eat when you start to feel hungry, not hours after your first hunger pang. The one time you may not want to eat is immediately before bed. It can be hard on your digestive tract.

Your Preference: If you prefer to skip breakfast, that’s okay. Some people can function more efficiently on an empty stomach in the morning, while others require immediate nutrition upon waking. The idea is to take in healthy options throughout the day that meet your calculated caloric range.

Keep Your Stomach Quiet: If you’re involved in an intense training program, your body might wake you up in the middle of the night searching for calories. The best way to avoid this is to drink a casein-based protein shake thirty minutes to an hour before bed. New to protein supplements? Don’t make these protein mistakes.


To ensure that you reach your caloric range each day, learning how to portion your meals properly will be important. Yes, you want to focus on eating more calories than you burn each day, but that doesn’t mean you should just carelessly throw random food items onto your plate. The most important reason for portion control is to ensure you meet your macronutrient needs. For example, if you are an endomorph body type (as we discuss in our article on calculating your calories), and you miss out on protein, but you overeat on carbohydrates, you may see more fat gains than muscle gains. The first step in controlling your portions is to get familiar with nutrition labels. Every nutritional label provides an exact measurement of what one serving is. Once you understand what a serving is made up of as far as macronutrients and calories, you can plan according. If you are eating something that doesn’t have a label, such as an apple, you can always jump online to find the nutrient contents. We recommend using CalorieControl.org.


If you take away anything from this section, it needs to be this: meal preparation is going to save you time and frustration while dramatically increasing your chances for muscle-building success. Studies have shown that when you prepare your meals for the week in advance, you are more likely to stick to your diet and see long-term muscle-building results. (2) Instead of trying to cook several large meals each day with your wild schedule, we highly recommend dedicating one or two days per week where you cook large batches of food. Once you cook large batches of food, you can place them in plastic-ware containers and take them with you or have them ready to go at home. From personal experience, we would suggest cooking your meals in bulk on a Sunday, especially if you’re following the regular Monday-to-Friday work schedule.


On Sunday morning, select a few recipes from a website or cookbook that provide variety, flavor, and great nutrition. Head to the store and make sure you pick up enough food supplies to last you the desired number of days. If you’re cooking for five days, for example, ensure you get supplies for five breakfast meals, lunch meals, dinner meals, and snack meals. After shopping, head to the kitchen and prepare each recipe. When you’re finished cooking, divide the food evenly into food-friendly plastic storage containers. You can even write the date on the containers or as a sticky note on the refrigerator to avoid eating food that gets too old. Below, you’ll find that we’ve provided a nutrition plan example that you are welcome to follow for the first week or two. However, we highly recommend extending your cooking knowledge and learning to prepare new meals that are different, seasonal, and nutritious.


Morning – Breakfast

  • Three eggs with five servings of egg whites
  • Chopped mixed veggies with two tablespoons of hummus in a pita wrap
  • 1 orange
  • 1 cup of water with Himalayan pink salt

Mid-Morning – Snack

  • 1 protein shake (preferably a whey protein blend)
  • 1 apple

Afternoon - Lunch

  • Two chicken breasts cooked in one tablespoon of coconut oil
  • Two cups of a mixed greens salad with one tablespoon of olive oil
  • One cup of black rice

Late Afternoon – Snack

  • One cup of Greek yogurt
  • One cup of your choice of berries (placed in the yogurt)
  • 1 protein shake (preferably a whey protein blend)

Evening – Dinner

  • Six ounces of salmon
  • One cup of lentils
  • One cup of mixed greens salad with one tablespoon of olive oil
  • One apple

Night – Snack

  • One cup of fat-free cottage cheese
  • One chopped nectarine (in cottage cheese)


Do you like to wait until the afternoon before eating your first meal? Can you barely wait an hour after waking up to eat breakfast? What are your favorite muscle-building meals? Let us know on our Facebook!


  1. Bellisle F, McDevitt R, Prentice AM. Meal frequency and energy balance. Br J Nutr. 1997 Apr;77 Suppl 1:S57-70.
  2. Ducrot P, Méjean C, Aroumougame V, Ibanez G, Allès B, Kesse-Guyot E, Hercberg S, Péneau S. Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017 Feb 2;14(1):12. doi: 10.1186/s12966-017-0461-7.