Building Muscle: How should my diet change when I'm strength training?

Are you starting a strength training program? Are you looking to build muscle mass or even become a bodybuilder? The right workout program is the biggest factor in success, but your results also depend on nutrition.

There are some changes that you may need to make to your diet when you’re strength training. These are some benefits of proper nutrition for your goals.

  • More energy for workouts. When you feel better, you can work harder and get better results.
  • Faster recovery. The right nutrition can speed muscle repair and recovery, and improve refueling as you replenish muscle and liver stores of glycogen, which is the storage form of carbohydrate in the body. 
  • Prevention of nutrient deficiencies. When you work out intensely, your body requires more of certain nutrients. Getting enough nutrients can help prevent conditions such as iron-deficiency anemia, which can make you tired and weak - exactly the opposite of your goals with strength training!
  • Supporting faster muscle growth. Having the right types of proteins and carbs at the right times, along with some supporting nutrients, can stimulate muscle generation.

Hydration, protein and macronutrients, micronutrients, and other components of your diet are all important, and so is the timing of your meals and snacks relative to your workouts. Here’s what you should know about a diet for strength training, and how it might change from before you started thinking about it.

Protein and Strength Training

You might ask about protein first when you start strength training. If you’re working out especially hard or you are trying to build muscle mass, your protein needs can be higher than average. You might aim for up to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. If you weigh 180 pounds, for example, you might have up to 180 grams of protein. That’s a lot, though, so be sure to check with your doctor about the possible health implications of that much protein for long periods of time.

A good approach is to have a source of protein at each meal and snack. These are some high-protein foods that don’t have a lot of unhealthy fat.

  • Skinless chicken breast and lean ground turkey.
  • Egg whites, cottage cheese, and plain yogurt.
  • Protein Shakes and Protein Bars.
  • Protein Shots.

Proper Hydration

Staying hydrated during your workout and throughout the day can prevent fatigue and headaches caused by dehydration. It can also prevent muscle cramping and soreness. Those are definite benefits when you’re working your muscles hard!

Plain water, ice water, and water with mint leaves, basil leaves, or slices of orange or lemon are all good choices. You can also use water enhancers to make your water taste better. For example, SweetLeaf Water Drops Water Enhancer is sweetened with stevia, has 0 calories and carbs, and comes in flavors such as Lemon Lime, Mixed Berry, Peach Mango, Raspberry Lemonade, Strawberry Kiwi, and Tropical Punch.

Pre-Workout Fueling

The goal is to get enough energy for your workout without making your stomach work so hard that you feel sick. Before a workout, choose low-fat foods that don’t have too much fiber or protein. Simple foods can be best, with toast, crackers, a banana, or some cereal being possibilities. Larger meals are best more than 3 hours before your workout.

Before a workout, if your stomach is on the sensitive side, you could include NOW Carbo Gain powder, which is made with maltodextrin. It has glucose polymers, which are easy for the body to digest so your muscles can get the glucose, or sugar, that they need for refueling and recovering as quickly as possible. Just mix it into water or juice and drink it. It’s designed for your needs before, during, or after workouts.

Post-Workout Snacks

Your muscles are most responsive to nutrition right after you work out. There’s a window of opportunity that lasts for 15 to 60 minutes after you finish your workout. During that time, your muscles are better able to take in nutrients.

That includes protein, but guess what: it includes carbohydrates, too! The optimum ratio of carbohydrates to protein is 3 to 1. For every gram of protein you get, you should have 3 grams of carbohydrates. These are some snacks you could have.

Vitamins and Minerals for Muscles

Iron and vitamin B12 are both needed for the production of healthy red blood cells that contain hemoglobin. That’s the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. Without enough healthy red blood cells, you can develop anemia and feel tired and short of breath. Red meat is a good source of both of these nutrients. You may be at risk for low levels if you only eat plant-based products. Check out our supply of Iron and B12 Supplements in capsule, patch, and other forms!

Calcium is a mineral in bones, but it’s also found in muscles. You need it for proper muscle contraction and relaxation during movements while exercising. Without enough, you may experience weaker muscles and fatigue. For an extra boost if you’re not getting enough in your diet, a Calcium Supplement may be right for you.


Vitamin D isn’t just for calcium muscle, though that in itself is essential for proper muscle function. Your body also needs vitamin D to produce certain hormones, such as testosterone, which supports muscle growth. Many people are low in vitamin D, but you can easily get more with products such as Vitamin D Drops or soft gels.

More Nutrition for Muscle Building

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and glutamine is an acid that’s in higher demand when you’re working out hard, such as during intense strength training programs. 

Creatine is a substance that’s naturally produced in the body. It’s part of a reaction in your muscles that generates energy for your muscles during exercise. Athletes have used creatinine for years, and you can try any of our Creatine Monohydrate Powders or Chews.

Beta-alanine allows your body to produce carnosine. That’s an amino acid which promotes muscle recovery and helps reduce the buildup of lactic acid in your body. Netrition has it in Pre-Workout Powders.

General Nutrition

Good overall nutrition supports better results when working out. A diet rich in vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish, nuts, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains is rich in nutrients. If you need help with whole grains, these are a few ideas.

For healthy fats, it’s easy to make swaps. For example, try Primal Kitchen or Chosen Foods Mayonnaise made with avocado oil, or use Olive Oil instead of butter in cooking.

Strength training can be exhilarating and have great results for health and how you look and feel. A few simple changes to your diet can help you get even better results, and Netrition can help you make those changes.

*The Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated these statements. Netrition products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Anyone with a medical condition should seek the advice of a licensed medical practitioner. Individual results may vary.

Health and nutrition