Whole30 is a popular diet for those looking to create healthy changes. It is often associated with weight loss, but can it be effective for muscle gain as well?
Participants in the Whole30 diet can definitely gain muscle during the 30 days. To prioritize muscle growth while on the diet, it is recommended to focus on adequate protein intake, balanced with carbs and fats. There are plenty of high-protein options that are also Whole30-approved.
Understanding how the Whole30 diet and muscle gains can work together will help you reach your fitness goals. Here is everything you need to know about increasing muscle mass during the Whole30 diet.
An Overview of Whole30
Whole30 is a dietary program that is designed to be a short-term reset for your eating habits and relationship with food. It’s a 30-day elimination diet that focuses on consuming whole, unprocessed foods while cutting out certain food groups that are believed to have the potential to negatively affect health. The program’s primary goal is to help individuals identify potential food sensitivities, reduce inflammation, and promote a healthier relationship with food.
During the 30-day period, participants are encouraged to avoid the following:
- Sugar and Sweeteners: This includes all forms of added sugar, natural or artificial sweeteners.
- Alcohol: Any form of alcohol, even for cooking, is not allowed during the program.
- Grains: This includes wheat, rice, oats, corn, quinoa, and other grains.
- Legumes: This category includes beans, lentils, peanuts, and soy products.
- Dairy: All forms of dairy, including milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter, are eliminated.
- Processed Foods: This encompasses anything with added preservatives, additives, or chemicals.
- Certain Additives: Specific additives like MSG, sulfites, and carrageenan are not allowed.
- Junk Food and Treats: Even if these items are made with Whole30-compliant ingredients, recreating dessert-like or junk food-like items is discouraged to change the mindset around such foods.
Fortunately, none of these food groups are necessary for muscle gain.
The Whole30 program emphasizes consuming whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish, nuts, and seeds. The goal is to eat nutrient-dense foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Many of these foods can support muscle gain.
After the 30 days are completed, participants are encouraged to gradually reintroduce the eliminated food groups, one at a time, while paying attention to how their bodies react. This can help identify any potential food sensitivities or triggers that might be causing discomfort or health issues.
Whole30 is often seen as a reset or a jumpstart to healthier eating habits, but it’s important to note that it’s a restrictive plan and may not be suitable for everyone. Individuals with certain medical conditions or dietary needs should consult with a healthcare professional before starting the program.
Gaining muscle on Whole30
Yes, it is possible to gain muscle while following the Whole30 program, but there are some important considerations to keep in mind.
Perhaps most importantly, you need to focus on your protein intake. Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair. The Whole30 program emphasizes consuming lean meats, fish, and eggs, which are good sources of protein, so make sure you’re eating enough of these protein-rich foods to support your muscle-building goals.
A common guideline is to allocate about 10-35% of your total daily calories to protein. However, for muscle gain specifically, aiming for the higher end of this range is often recommended. You can also aim for a protein intake of around 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (or 0.55 to 0.9 grams per pound).
Fats and carbohydrates are the other two macronutrient categories that you also need to pay attention to.
Healthy fats are important for overall health and hormone balance, which can influence muscle growth. Include sources of healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil in your meals. A common recommendation is to allocate about 20-35% of your total daily calories to fats.
Carbohydrates provide energy for workouts and help replenish glycogen stores in muscles. Whole30 restricts certain carbohydrate sources like grains and legumes, but you can still get carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables. Anywhere from 45-65% of your total daily calories should come from carbohydrates.
With all of these macros together, you need to be consuming a lot of calories. To gain muscle, you need to consume more calories than you burn. While Whole30 promotes whole, nutrient-dense foods, only some of these foods are calorically dense. it’s important to ensure you’re eating enough calories to fuel your workouts and support muscle growth.
Many people rely on protein powders to help them reach their calorie and macro goals for muscle gain. While Whole30 discourages most forms of supplementation, you might consider discussing with a healthcare professional whether specific supplements like protein powders or creatine could support your muscle-building efforts while adhering to the program’s principles.
Any protein powder will break the guideline of no processed foods, but there are options that are gluten, dairy, and soy free like this Naturelo plant protein powder from Amazon.
It’s important to pay attention to how your body responds to the Whole30 program and adjust as needed. If you find that you’re not making the progress you desire in terms of muscle gain, it might be worth modifying your approach or seeking guidance from a registered dietitian or fitness professional.
The Whole30 guidelines can feel restricting at times and make it difficult to come up with meals that work for you. Here are some meal ideas that follow the guidelines and will also support your macro goals for muscle gain.
- Scrambled eggs with spinach, bell peppers, and avocado
- Greek yogurt with berries and chopped nuts
- Breakfast bowl with sliced banana, mixed berries, chopped nuts, and coconut milk
- Sweet potato toast with almond butter, chopped nuts, and berries
- Turkey and avocado lettuce wraps with sliced veggies and mustard
- Grilled chicken salad with mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olive oil vinaigrette
- Tuna salad with mixed greens, olives, and balsamic vinaigrette
- Grilled chicken breast with a side of roasted mixed vegetables (zucchini, bell peppers, and carrots)
- Baked salmon with roasted sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli
- Grilled pork chops with roasted Brussels sprouts and mashed cauliflower
- Baked cod with asparagus and a side salad of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and a lemon-tahini dressing
- Beef stir-fry with broccoli, bell peppers, and cauliflower rice, drizzled with coconut aminos
- Apple slices or pear slices and almond butter
- Mixed nuts and dried fruit
- Carrot or celery sticks with hummus
- Hard-boiled egg and sugar snap peas