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I started working out quite recently and my trainer at the gym gave me the following diet plan as soon as I joined:

Diet plan

As you can see, most of the items are regular day to day meals (I'm an Indian and the menu is mostly Indian cuisine). I try my best to follow this plan. Since I'm lactose intolerant, I replaced Milk with Soy Milk. My intention of joining a gym was simple - workout to keep me fit (and keep my tummy flat). But seeing other folks there, I got motivated and asked my trainer how to put on a couple of inches on my chest, one inch on my biceps and half to three-quarter of an inch on my forearms. He immediately suggested taking protein supplements. I have seen my cousin (who was quite a body builder in his early youth) who now has a sagging body which he thinks is the result of taking supplements earlier. I don't want that to happen to me. Now, after about 4 months of regular workouts, I have gained roughly half an inch on my chest and biceps and about a quarter of an inch on my forearm. I did get a few tips from here and here, but nothing specific to my case.

How right was my trainer? Is it hard to achieve my target with a supplement-free diet?

P.S.: I'm a 27 year old, measuring 170cms (5'7") in height and weighing 58 kgs.

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Protein does indeed build muscle, so, it’s going to be hard to add mass without sufficient protein intake. However, you don’t necessarily need to take protein supplements if your diet is adequately meeting your protein requirements when you train. You should try to get your protein intake from food sources first and supplement only if you can't seem to meet your requirements otherwise.

As for your cousin, my guess is that his appearance has more to do with no longer training than it has to do with consuming protein supplements.

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  • So, I should workout for a few more months with the above plan and see the results? – skrowten_hermit Jul 26 '17 at 8:46
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    Training "naturally" (without drugs) requires a long term commitment. And, since you've just started working out, I'd suggest you stick with your current program. In the end, you are the only one that can determine if your training or diet are working for you. – rrirower Jul 26 '17 at 13:02
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To answer your question... You'd probably build muscle with that diet. I believe the recommended protein intake is 1.5 grams per kilogram to build muscle. Your diet has you at 95 grams if it's been calculated correctly so, yeah, no protein powder needed.

I have to be honest... While I applaud your efforts in eating right and trying to build some muscle (and stay/get in shape), I think you might be surprised by what eating a well-rounded, healthy, diet might do.

Shoehorning oneself into a laser-focused diet to achieve a goal is usually a road laden with failure. I'm not saying it's impossible, or that it won't work, but you've given yourself so many rules to start with: At least 19 by each individual menu item you eat daily. Once you break one, it's generally only a matter of time before others fall. This is a pretty well-documented phenomenon in the weight loss world. There is little reason to think it would be much different in the weight gain world.

To put it another way... You've restricted yourself from ALL of the foods on this earth with the exception of the 19 menu items (23 if you count the ORs) provided to you. How long until you break the rules?

A diet rich with HEALTHY meats, veggies, fruits, and, OMG yes - whole grains, and maybe the occasional protein supplement will probably be indistinguishable (in terms of how much you gain) than from your pre-planned diet - especially as you embark on your fitness journey. Once you begin to make gains and stick with your workout regimen, I would maybe think about a stricter "gains diet."

Prove to yourself first that you're willing to put in the work to get those gains. Focus on a healthy, well-rounded diet in the interim, and you'll be much better off.

Also, did you have input into this plan or was it something your trainer made up for you? The reason I ask is that trainers have a habit of picking menu items THEY like to eat - not what you like to eat. I had a trainer tell me one time to eat three boiled eggs a day. That sounds great, but I hate boiled eggs. With a passion. How long do you think it was until I quit that?

Finally... Your cousin is probably "saggy" because of an increased body fat ratio - not because of supplements. Although, depending on what type of "supplements" he was taking, it is possible they caused some of the problem, but probably not from protein powder.

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  • Like you said, honestly, sticking onto this menu is quite tough. It contains an 8-part plan (early morning to late night). I have combined and made it a 6-part one (my own interpretation). And also, occasional binge eating is there (my cheat days occur once in a week or 2). It becomes harder on work days (weekdays) as well. Weekends are better. I do try my best to follow the plan in general. And yeah, this was a pre-prepared plan that my trainer gave me, no inputs from me whatsoever. As far as healthy diet is concerned, I do avoid deep fried stuffs. Isn't that what you meant? – skrowten_hermit Jul 26 '17 at 8:37
  • Could you throw some more light on "healthy meats" (I hate pork in general so bacon is not an option for me) and "occasional protein supplement"? – skrowten_hermit Jul 26 '17 at 8:42
  • Healthy meats: Chicken, Beef, Lamb, Buffalo/Bison, etc... Unhealthy meats: Sausage, Hot Dogs, Fried Healthy Meats – Frank Jul 26 '17 at 8:49
  • I'd like to note that "eating clean" is pretty simple. People overcomplicate it to fascinating degrees. The thing is: Most people know how to eat clean. It's just harder, and to most people, doesn't taste as good. As a result, I think people tend to make it overcomplicated to make it seem harder than it actually is. If it's hard to do, it's no wonder you might fail! In your case, you just need to eat larger portions of healthy calories. I doubt you really even need to count the calories as long as they're healthy and you're working out. – Frank Jul 26 '17 at 8:54
  • Occasional protein shake: Some days, or series of days, I eat vegetarian: Lots of kale, spinach, beans, etc... I like it and it makes my stomach feel "clean." But I don't get a ton of protein on those days. So I'll knock back a protein shake or two to supplement the lack of protein. – Frank Jul 26 '17 at 8:58
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Don't hold yourself back by looking at your cousin. Everyone has a different body type.

Focus on what you want to achieve and track your progress to see if you are getting there. I would stick to the diet plan and see how you progress. If things don't work after a couple of months you can consider changing or increasing the protein intake.

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I do not think your this diet plan fits for body building. This diet plan consists on daily food items which everyone eat. To add inches to your body, you need to focus on food that increase your body weight. Choose food items which are high in calories, protein and carbohydrates. There are plenty of diet plan available on the internet that guides you according to you goal level.

Once done with diet plant, set you exercise plan as well. LIFT HEAVY!

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  • But, I'm not really looking to puff up. Just trying to put in around an inch on upper body. – skrowten_hermit Jul 26 '17 at 8:43
  • I'd advise against targeting a specific muscle group, or even a narrowly defined set of muscle groups. All chest and no back can pull your shoulders forward and cause bad posture. This can lead to neck and shoulder issues down the road. If you're going to work upper body, do the whole upper body (not necessarily in one day). I'd also suggest leg day. Ever see a bunch of retired people? Notice where their bodies are all failing? It's not their chest... It's usually their legs. – Frank Jul 26 '17 at 9:06

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