No question about it: Protein is king. But more isn’t necessarily better—there’s a limit to how much your body can use in a setting (about 30g). Plus, to avoid breaking down muscle protein, you need to pair it with just enough carbs (yeah, the macro you keep neglecting) to repair damaged tissue and stimulate new growth. More specifically, complex carbs help restore glycogen levels and shuttle protein quickly and more efficiently to depleted muscle cells. 

Timing is crucial, too: Studies show that getting about 20g of protein and 20g of carbs an hour before and after training (45 minutes of resistance training and moderate cardio, four days a week) is the perfect trifecta for amping total body mass. 

So how do you put it all together? Check out the sample three-day nutrition plan we’ve curated for you, then use it to customize your own long-term muscle-building meal plan.

 

The guy    

175 lb, 5'10", 35- year-old active male

Recommended baseline macros:

Calories: 2,600–2,800 
Protein: 1.7g/kg body weight = 135g protein daily, 27g per meal (20% of total calories)
Carbs: 357–385g (55% of total calories)
Fat: 72–77g (25% of total calories)

Max your protein: Sample day 1 

Breakfast

• 3⁄4 cup dry (1 1⁄2 cups cooked) oatmeal topped with:
1 tbsp raisins
3⁄4 cup blueberries
• 2 whole eggs + 2 egg whites (hard-boiled or pan-fried):
1 tsp olive oil for cooking
Topped with 1⁄4 avocado

Midmorning snack

• 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese topped with:
1 tbsp slivered almonds
• 1 medium apple

Lunch

• 3–4 oz grilled chicken (27g) topped with:
1/3 cup hummus
• 1 whole sweet potato topped with:
2 tsp whipped butter and cinnamon
• 2 cups cooked nonstarchy veggies (asparagus, peppers, spinach)

Snack

• 1 whole banana topped with:
1 oz all-natural nut butter (or a side of whole almonds or walnuts)

Workout

• Drink 16 oz water

Dinner

• 4 oz Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin (get the recipe, and 4 more like it here)
• 1 cup whole-grain couscous with:
1 tsp olive oil for cooking
• 2 cups fresh salad with:
1 cup fresh veggies
2 tbsp vinaigrette salad dressing

Sample day 2  

Breakfast

• 1 whole-wheat English muffin or bagel topped with:
2 tbsp natural peanut butter
• 1 whole banana
• 1 cup skim milk

Midmorning snack

• 1 cup carrot sticks 
• 1/3 cup hummus
• 2 hard-boiled eggs

Lunch

• 4 oz salmon cooked with fresh herbs and citrus
• 1 cup whole-grain pasta or brown rice
• 1 cup cooked veggies

Snack

• Smoothie:
6 oz low-fat yogurt
3⁄4 cup frozen berries
Scoop of protein powder (10g)

Workout

• Drink 16 oz water

Dinner

• 3–4 oz Roast Beef (get the recipe, and 4 more like it here)
• 1 whole sweet potato
• 2 cups sautéed kale, red peppers, snap peas

Sample day 3

Breakfast

• Smoothie:
6 oz Greek yogurt (8g)
1 cup mixed berries
1 whole banana
1 cup spinach or kale
1 scoop protein powder (20g)
1 cup unsweetened coconut water

Midmorning Snack

• 2 hard-boiled eggs 
• 1 low-sugar granola bar
• 1 oz mixed nuts

Lunch

• 3 oz 96% lean turkey burger on whole-wheat bun topped with:
1⁄2 cup kimchi
1⁄4 avocado
• 1 cup black rice
• 2 cups raw veggies (carrots, peppers, celery)

Snack

• 3 oz turkey breast rolled up with 1 oz provolone cheese
• 1 medium apple 

Workout

• Drink 16 oz water 

Dinner

• 3 oz Mediterranean-Style Stuffed Lamb Loin (get the recipe, and 4 more like it here)
• 1 cup farro mixed with sautéed onions
• 2 cups heirloom tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper