This is a question that I wished I asked myself a long time ago. Is diet more important than exercise for muscle growth? Most people will see this question and think, no way, you have to exercise to build muscle.
While I agree that exercise is a must, you are going to find out that the amount of food that you eat might matter more.
The reason that I am so passionate about this subject is because from ages 17-24, I worked out a ton but didn’t gain much muscle, if any. I thought that I was destined for a life of being a skinny man.
That is until I figured out that I simply wasn’t eating enough calories. From that moment forward, I was able to build muscle at a rate that I never thought possible for my body type.
In this article, you are going to discover everything you need to know to answer our question, is diet more important than exercise for muscle growth.
Before we get started, I urge you to download our app All Workouts: Personal Trainer (iOS | Google Play). If you are looking for some solid choices of workout plans for FREE, this app is going to change your life.
The single more important requirement for muscle growth
This is the answer to our question. Is diet more important than exercise for muscle growth? Well, let’s just put it this way. You cannot build muscle in a caloric deficit. Which means that you need to be in a caloric surplus in order to build muscle.
With that being said, it’s safe to say that diet is the most important requirement for muscle growth.
But why? You literally will build no muscle if you are not eating enough food to feed those muscles. I am a living testament to this truth. And it is a tough truth. So many people workout for years without putting on any muscle.
They think that their bodies are just stuck the way that they are. But the reality is that 90% of your muscle growth can be attributed to your diet.
I met a guy at the gym a few years ago. He is in his 50’s and he is super scrawny. After a few years, I noticed that he hadn’t gained any muscle despite the fact that he was doing strength training exercises 4-5 days per week.
One day he came up to me and told me he was frustrated with the fact that he couldn’t build muscle. After asking him about his diet, it was clear that he wasn’t eating enough calories. I told him my story, and he took it to heart.
A few months later, I saw him and noticed that he was bulking up. This is how it is done. And the only way to be certain that you are in a caloric surplus is by calculating your maintenance calories and eating above that number every single day.
You are wasting your time if you are simply working out but not eating enough calories.
Yes, you still need to exercise
At this point, you understand that eating at a caloric surplus is a requirement. You will see a lot of bodybuilding influencers stress about the amount of protein that you need to eat. Yes, protein is important, but not as important as overall calories.
Here is my recommendation. Consume 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of your bodyweight. And then fill in the rest with carbs and fats. The number one goal though is to eat at a caloric surplus.
There is even evidence to suggest that you will gain muscle if you eat in a caloric surplus without working out. The only problem is that you are going to gain a lot of fat as well.
The secret is to eat at a slight caloric surplus AND workout so that the majority of the extra calories that you eat go towards your muscles.
The goal is to gain maximum muscle while gaining minimum fat.
I recommend strength training 3-5 days per week. In fact, when I discovered that I needed to be eating at a caloric surplus to gain muscle, I switched my schedule to workout 3 days per week.
I even created a special workout plan for maximum muscle growth which helped me grow over 20 pounds of muscle in my first year. That exact workout plan is called 3 Day Overload, and it is available in our app.
It doesn’t matter how you cut it, there are 2 requirements for building the maximum amount of muscle and minimum fat. Eat at a caloric surplus and do strength training workouts.
It doesn’t seem that difficult, right?
Being consistent with everything
This is where the difficulty comes in. Sure, it isn’t very hard to workout 3-5 days a week and eat at a caloric surplus everyday for a few weeks, right? But what happens when you try to do that for 6 months straight?
If you are serious about building muscle, then that is what you are going to have to do.
Let’s go back to our question, is diet more important than exercise for muscle growth? Let’s just say that we need them both, and we need to extend them over a long period of time.
Most people can sustain these habits for a short amount of time. But when it becomes a requirement to do them for months or years, people give up or slow down.
If you want to get anywhere in life, you need to be relentless with your pursuit. And building muscle is no exception.
Consistency really matters for these things, and it’s not just about being consistent with diet and exercise.
It is about being consistent with good choices. Are you sleeping at least 8 hours per night? Are you going out drinking every weekend? What about your stress levels? All these things matter in your pursuit of muscle growth and consistency.
There is certainly evidence that alcohol stops muscle growth, so be sure you are making good decisions if you struggle in that area.
At the end of the day, muscle growth takes time, and it takes consistency. If you just make common sense decisions, you will have the upper hand. The muscle is going to pile on your body as you continue on this path.
Main Point: Is diet more important than exercise for muscle growth?
If you have come this far, you know the answer to our question. Is diet more important than exercise for muscle growth? In a way, yes it is. Without eating at a caloric surplus, you will not gain an ounce of muscle.
Once you get that through your head, you will be better off.
I cannot stress this enough. Eating at a caloric surplus is a complete necessity when you are building muscle.
But don’t let that distract you from the fact that you definitely need to do strength training as well.
If you combine these 2 activities, you’re going to build muscle faster than you ever thought possible.
I mentioned in the first section that I put on 20 pounds of muscle in one year after figuring out that I wasn’t eating enough calories. But what I didn’t mention is that I continued that trend for 3 years straight.
Yes, I was super skinny, and at the end of 3 and a half years, I put on over 70 pounds. Ultimately, I cut down 15 pounds from there. But I just want you to know what is possible through consistency and dedication.
Be consistent, eat at a caloric surplus, and workout 3-5 days per week. If you can do all three of those things, you are going to change your body in ways that you never imagined.