How to Meal Prep for Muscle Gain

Meal Prep for Muscle Gain

One of the primary reasons people find it challenging to gain weight and build muscle is insufficient food intake. Preparing several meals is the greatest obstacle to achieving this goal.

However, meal prep for muscle gain doesn’t need to be complicated! I have simplified the process into seven basic steps to make it easier for you to follow and bulk up. Moreover, I will provide you with my top tips for muscle gain meal preparation.

With this guide, you will be equipped to head to the grocery store and notice progress within the first week.

Meal Prep Defined

Preparing meals in advance, commonly known as meal prep, is a strategy utilized by athletes and bodybuilders to maintain a healthy diet. While some enthusiasts plan out every meal for the following seven days, it’s not necessary to go to that extent to achieve results.

Simply preparing your main meals in advance for the next day can greatly aid in sticking to your diet. Additionally, planning meals for a few days in advance strikes a balance between efficiency and flexibility.

Does meal prep help you gain muscle?

It is crucial to recognize that meal preparation alone does not automatically result in more muscle. To gain lean mass, you need to consume more calories than you burn while also following a resistance training program.

However, achieving this calorie surplus can be difficult, particularly when you’re physically active. In this regard, meal prep serves as a helpful technique to ensure that you consume enough calories to gain weight and muscle.

Reasons to Meal Prep for Muscle Gain

One of the primary advantages of meal prepping is its convenience. It saves you from having to cook every meal from scratch. You can simply grab a pre-cooked meal from the fridge and heat it in the microwave.

Furthermore, meal prep allows you to plan your calorie and macro intake in advance, freeing you from the stress of daily calorie and macro tracking. This meal structure also supports healthy eating habits and promotes adherence to your diet plan.

Ultimately, consuming the right amount of nutritious food is crucial in achieving your desired physique.

Benefits of Meal Prep for Muscle Gain

  1. Drastically reduce time spent cooking
  2. Makes it easier to eat more calories
  3. Ensure you hit your macros each day
  4. Reduce the need to count or track foods daily
  5. Have nutritious meals you can take to work
  6. Promote diet adherence and healthy eating habits

Meal Prep for Muscle Gain FAQ

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of meal prep for muscle gain, let me answer the most common questions related to this topic.

What is the cheapest way to gain muscle?

If you’re looking to gain weight inexpensively, relying on fast food every day might seem like a quick solution. However, this approach can lead to harmful weight gain and worsening health.

A healthier, affordable way to gain muscle is through meal prepping. Contrary to popular belief, eating healthy does not have to be expensive.

Meal prepping allows you to buy ingredients in bulk, including budget-friendly yet nutritious options like rice, potatoes, and lean ground meat, which can help stretch your budget further.

Do I need to prepare full meals?

When people hear “meal prep,” they often visualize containers filled with the same foods for a week. However, meal prep doesn’t have to be so rigid.

Focusing on individual ingredients rather than full meals is more beneficial. This means that preparing one ingredient for multiple meals can also be considered meal prep.

How many meals should I prep at once?

Determining the optimal number of meals to prepare in advance depends on your schedule and personal preferences. If your work schedule is jam-packed and you have little time to cook, cooking a week’s worth of meals may be beneficial.

On the other hand, if you prefer variety and freshness in your meals, cooking every other day may be a better option. I generally suggest meal prepping for at least 2-5 days to save time in the kitchen while allowing diverse meal options.

This flexible approach also prevents the repetition of eating the same leftovers every day.

How do I meal prep to gain muscle?

If you aim to gain muscle through meal prepping, the key is consuming more calories than you burn daily. Including a lean protein source with every meal is essential to help rebuild your body after resistance training workouts.

Additionally, incorporating starchy carbs into your meals can help fuel your workouts and aid recovery. Let’s dive into the specifics of how to meal prep for weight gain.

How to Meal Prep for Muscle Gain

Preparing meals to build muscle is a straightforward process that requires some planning and basic calculations. But it doesn’t have to be complex!

To demonstrate how easy it can be, I’ve simplified weight gain meal prep into seven basic steps.

7 Steps of Muscle Gain Meal Prep

  1. Estimating calories
  2. Calculating macros
  3. Planning schedule
  4. Getting groceries
  5. Cooking food
  6. Dividing into meals
  7. Eating to grow!

Step 1: Estimating Your Calorie Needs

To estimate the number of calories you need to consume to gain weight, it is important to consider three factors.

Firstly, determine your base metabolic rate (BMR) or the number of calories you burn at rest. Secondly, consider the calories you burn during daily activities. Lastly, factor in the calories you burn through exercise.

The sum of these is known as your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). To gain muscle at the fastest rate, you need to consume 15-25% more calories than you burn.

Many wearable fitness devices such as the Apple Watch, Oura Ring, and Polar heart rate monitor can help track your activity and estimate your daily energy expenditure.

Meal Prep for Muscle Gain Calories

Step 2: Calculating Your Macros

After determining your calorie target, you can calculate your macros as a percentage of calories.

For those who are active, consuming approximately 50% of calories from carbs is recommended. A protein intake of 30% of your calories is ideal to effectively gain muscle, leaving 20% for fat consumption.

Weight Gain Macro Ratio: 50% Carbs, 30% Protein, 20% Fat

Let’s say you burn 2,500 calories daily and want to gain weight with a 20% calorie surplus. To achieve this, you’ll need to consume 3,000 calories daily.

For 50% carbohydrates, that’s 1,500 calories or 375 grams of carbs (since 1 gram equals 4 calories). For 30% protein, that’s 900 calories or 225 grams of protein (also 4 calories per gram).

Lastly, 20% fat equals 600 calories or 67 grams of fat (since there are 9 calories per gram of fat). Remember, these numbers may vary based on your body size, activity level, and fitness goals.

Try My Free Macro Calculator to Find Your Weight Gain Macros

Meal Prep for Muscle Gain Macros

Step 3: Planning Your Meal Prep Schedule

For this crucial step, you should plan the types of healthy meals you want to consume. This will assist you in creating a grocery list for the next phase.

To begin, determine how many meals you’ll consume each day to meet your macros. While this may vary based on your preferences, it’s typically best to aim for 6-8 daily meals when bulking up.

Additionally, try to distribute your protein intake evenly across your meals, with 25-50 grams per meal. Also, include more carbs in the meals surrounding your workout, but avoid exceeding 100 grams in any single meal.

I recommend jotting down a daily schedule that includes macros and calorie counts for each meal. This meal plan will make it simple to determine which foods to include in each meal and how much you’ll require.

Step 4: Getting Groceries

Now it’s time to take action and head to the grocery store to gather the necessary ingredients for your weight gain meal prep.

Select a variety of protein sources, such as chicken breast, eggs, yogurt, or lean ground beef. Adding starchy carbs like rice, oats, or potatoes is also recommended. Don’t forget to include healthy fats in the form of cooking oil.

To ensure you don’t miss anything, it’s advisable to make a list. It’s always better to purchase a little more than you need, so you don’t run out of food. Any extra meat can be frozen or carbs saved for the following week.

Click here for a healthy grocery list you can pull up on your phone.

Meal Prep for Muscle Gain Grocery List

Step 5: Cooking Food

The next step in meal prep is cooking, which can take up to an hour or two depending on your schedule.

Don’t stress yourself out by trying to make complicated master chef meals. Instead, keep it simple by focusing on a few ingredients with easy preparation.

To ensure accuracy, measure the quantity of each food using a food scale, measuring cups, or the suggested amounts on the packaging. For instance, dry rice is usually measured in cups while meats are generally weighed in ounces before cooking.

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Step 6: Dividing Up Your Meals

After finishing the cooking process, divide the meals into individual portions. There are two common ways to do this: by weighing each ingredient or using pre-cooked measurements.

For example, if you cooked 24 ounces of meat, you can divide it into four 6 oz portions by visually estimating equal quantities into your meal prep containers. Similarly, you can portion out the carbs and veggies to create balanced meals with protein, starchy carbs, fibrous carbs, and fat.

Finally, store your prepped meals in the refrigerator to maintain their freshness for the upcoming days.

Step 7: Eating to Grow

It’s time to enjoy the benefits of meal planning and preparation. Retrieve your meals from the refrigerator and warm them up as necessary throughout the day.

However, it’s essential to remember that meal prepping alone won’t guarantee achieving your fitness objectives. It’s crucial to adhere to your meal plan to meet your daily calorie and macro requirements.

This entails obtaining sufficient calories from the right macros and consuming meals every few hours throughout the day.

Muscle Gain Meal Prep Tips

Preparing meals for muscle gain is a relatively simple process, but various minor details could cause confusion. Therefore, here are some additional tips to help with your meal prep.

How to Hit Your Macros

Planning meals that align with your macros can be the most challenging aspect of weight gain meal prep. Not only must you meet your daily goals, but each meal must also be optimized.

I suggest utilizing a free calorie-counting app, such as MyFitnessPal, to stay on top of your macros. In just a few minutes per day, you can input your foods and confirm that your meals align with your targets.

Once you establish a routine, you may not need to track your meals continuously. However, I still prefer to do so to remain accountable and ensure steady progress.

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Find a Frequency That Works for Your Schedule

It’s worth noting that some people prefer to meal prep for the whole week, but it’s not necessary to take this approach. For those of you who find it overwhelming, I recommend starting with prepping for just one day at a time.

Then, gradually work your way up to meal prepping for more days as needed. It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to prep all of your ingredients at once.

For instance, you could prepare your meat one day and your carbs on another day. Preparing meat usually takes the most time, so I try to cook enough for at least two days.

In contrast, rice only takes a few minutes to prepare in a rice cooker. If you prefer your rice freshly cooked and fluffy, you could prep it daily for one or more meals.

The key is to make meal prep work for you and simplify your life. Cook as often or as little as it suits your needs.

Measuring Made Simple

When it comes to measuring food, you don’t need to obsess over every gram. To save time, there are some simple tricks you can follow.

First, you can buy packages that are easily divided into portion sizes. For example, you could purchase a package of chicken that weighs as close to 2.00 lbs as possible.

Then, you can divide the chicken into equal servings without the need to weigh or measure anything. You can have four servings of 8 oz each or eight servings of 4 oz each.

Another trick is to weigh your protein source after cooking to avoid dealing with raw meat. However, it’s important to note that meat loses about 25% of its weight after cooking due to water evaporation.

Therefore, you’ll need to divide by 0.75 to get the pre-cooked equivalent. For instance, 3 oz of cooked chicken is equivalent to 4 oz of raw chicken.

Meal Prep for Muscle Gain Chicken Breast

Best Cooking Methods

The best cooking method for you is one you’re comfortable with and enjoy. But be aware of the pros and cons of various cooking options.


For example, grilling is the best way to cook large quantities of meat. And you can even throw potatoes and veggies on at the same time.

However, it’s also easier to overcook meat on the grill, which could make it super dry later in the week. I’ve found that a pellet cooker works best for maximizing quantity without drying things out.

Stove Top / Oven

The oven is another go-to cooking method because it’s multifunctional, and nearly everybody has one.

Also, sauteing meat on the stovetop in cooking oil keeps it moist. And you can even mix in veggies to create a stir fry.

On the downside, you’re limited to a smaller number of meals based on your pot or pan size.

The oven is perfect for baked chicken breast or potatoes and easy to use. The only drawback is that it can take slightly longer than other methods.

Rice Cooker / Pressure Cooker

And for cooking carbs, investing in a rice cooker or instant pot is worth it. These appliances save time and cook to perfection every time.

In addition, these cookers typically come with a basket for steaming veggies while you cook rice or other foods. So they can save time by combining foods as well.

Related: Tasty and Nutritious Bone Broth Rice Recipe

Meal Prep for Muscle Gain Rice

The microwave is typically used for reheating leftovers or cooking frozen dinners, but it can also be a valuable tool for meal prep. Surprisingly, steaming frozen vegetables in the microwave can actually retain more nutrients than sauteing fresh ones on the stovetop due to the flash-freezing process that preserves vitamins.

Moreover, steaming vegetables in the microwave is a quick and effortless task that takes only about 5 minutes, making it a great addition to your meal prep routine.

I also use the microwave for cooking protein oatmeal in minutes.

Not Every Meal Has to Be Prepped

My last tip is that you don’t have to prep every meal in advance. For example, I typically only prep 2-3 of my 7 daily meals.

Other “meals” consist of ready-to-eat foods, protein bars, shakes, or simple smoothies. This approach makes meal prep more realistic and easier to follow.

11 Weight Gain Shake Recipes

Shakes are probably the easiest way to boost your calorie intake. And simple smoothies are an excellent option for getting more nutrients.

Not to mention, these liquid meals take only seconds to make. That’s why I recommend using shakes or smoothies for one or two of your daily meals.

Click here to see 11 of my favorite weight gain shake recipes.

Meal Prep for Muscle Gain Shakes

Now you know enough to get started meal prepping to gain weight. But don’t stop learning now! Check out these other informative articles on fitness-related topics.

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By |June 21, 2023|bodybuilding, meal prep, muscle gain, nutrition|Comments Off on Free 7 Step Guide to Meal Prep for Muscle Gain