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Not sure if this is on-topic: a request for diet modification to help improve strength. If not, please advise on what to edit.

Is there something I can change or add to my current diet (without it being too costly) that will help me build some muscle and push more weights?

My goal is to be able to DL 350 lbs and Squat 300 lbs by end of Dec 2020. These are approximate numbers; I just want to progress with my lifts and not get stalled due to bad nutrition.

I have been lifting for 2.5 months now. And I realize I have come to a point where I am grinding my DL (at 235 lbs) and my 3rd set of Squat (200 lbs) and Bench Press (120 lbs). For the Squat and the Bench, I am not being able to increase the weight by 10 lbs each session anymore (because it becomes too heavy and my form just gets messed up); I am increasing the weight by 5 lbs. Okay, so I am weak, and I need good food to get strong.

Everyone keeps saying that "a great body is built in the kitchen" or "the most important part of lifting is to have a clean diet", but to be honest I don't know how else to clean my diet. I know my eating habit is poor, but I can't afford too many things right now. I am also trying to lose weight. I weigh 215 lbs now, I need to be ~180 lbs (1 year goal). To make things worse, I have never used a food-scale or counted my macros or some of that complicated stuff. I also don't know what my calorie intake is. I really enjoy eating and cooking, so I cook everyday; no meal preps and no food in containers. I also can't follow a diet that is in a book; I can't eat a salad.


Current food intake (same for the last 2 years):

At the moment, I am eating at least once every day. Some days twice. These are the usual stuff, cooked in a variety of ways.

Breakfast: Very rarely. (A) Sometimes bread and left over chicken. (B) Sometimes just a banana. (C) Sometimes sausages.
Lunch: (A) Rice/bread and chicken/beef. (B) Bread, lentils, and eggs.
Dinner: (A) Rice and chicken/beef (sometimes I will substitute pasta for rice). (B) Sometimes homemade chicken sandwiches.

I make sure to have both lunch and dinner on the days I lift weights.

Eggs (3-4 eggs per week), Banana (3-4 bananas per week), Chicken/Beef (200-300 grams every day), Tuna (one can per week), Rice (don't know exact measurement - 2 full plates with a diameter of 5 inch), Milk (1 liter per week), Potatoes (5-6 per week), Lentils (300 grams per week), Onions (1 every day in the chicken/beef), Tomatoes (2 everyday in the chicken/beef), and Yogurt (1 table spoon every day). I also use a ton of spices.

Every two weeks, I will cook one special meal. These could be anything from Pasta, Sandwiches, Biriyani, Wings, Fried rice, Kababs, Tandoori chicken, etc.

Junk food: Chocolate once a month. One whole restaurant pizza every 4 months (i.e., three pizzas per year) and one restaurant burger every 5-6 months. No ice-cream. No soft-drinks or sodas. No alcohol. No sugary food. No snacks/chips.


My food intake might look "less", but I weigh 215 lbs at 5' 10". I am worried that adding too much food will make me gain weight. I don't like running; the only thing I am doing now is weightlifting. I am going to go back to doing martial arts and playing basketball (two sources of my cardio) in addition to weightlifting from January, when they actually open those gyms. Since I will have more cardio then, I think it would be fine to increase food intake by a decent amount.

What can I add to my food to gain muscles and increase my DL, Squat, and Bench Press?

More chicken/beef?


Edit: I am not following any program right now. Here is why:

I started following the LP in SS (increasing the weight by 5 lbs or 10 lbs every session), but I am not able to follow the program fully due to COVID19 arrangements. In my gym, workout sessions have to be booked 3 days in advance and are restricted to 60 mins. Each person is allowed in the same designated workout zone for only 30 mins. My Squats and DLs take 30 - 40 mins EACH including warm-ups, and the Bench Press and OH Press take around 20 mins each. So basically, I have the weightlifting platform (squat rack + deadlift platform) for only 30 min each session, which means I can either do Squats OR DLs in a given session. So I am forced to do something like [Squat + Bench + etc.] one day and [DL + OHP + etc.] on another day. Sometimes I book a session, come to the gym and see that no platforms are available. Sometimes I can't book a session because they are all filled up.

  • Interesting. My goals are very close. I find that the more rice I eat, the better I do. Protein is important, but it’s the rice and oatmeal in my diet that I notice as being 100% critical. Also... What you can lift is often very closely tied to your bodyweight.... Are you doing Starting Strength NLP? – Frank Oct 18 at 8:02
  • What makes you say you are "grinding" your lifts? – Dave Liepmann Oct 18 at 8:20
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    Calling yourself "weak" hints a little at being disappointed in your progress. But please don't insult yourself because you switched from 10 pound jumps to 5 pound jumps. That's how it's supposed to work! That means you're doing it right! – Dave Liepmann Oct 18 at 8:37
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    Costco memberships often are available at a discount via LivingSocial and Groupon, and are sometimes included as incentives with banks, credit cards, phone plans, etc, so check around. mashed.com/155771/… indicates that if you have a friend who is a member, you can tag along and/or have them get you a CostCo Cash Card which will essentially give you a membership limited to the amount on the card. – Sean Duggan Oct 18 at 23:24
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    @RoundHouse if you're eating muscle food (read: the same simple meals over and over) it will probably pay for itself many times over during the year, but I don't have a feel for Canadian food prices so I don't really know. As for the weights, hard to say: depends a lot on factors like your age, genetics, whether or not you've been able to pull numbers like that in the past, whether you get hurt/sick, whether you have a job where it matters if you're too sore to walk. But you will reach a point where you can't increase weight week to week, much less day to day, and then the real work starts. – Jared Smith Oct 19 at 0:13
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When simultaneously doing body recomposition (losing fat weight) and trying to push your strength lifts, the highest priorities are carefully balanced overall calorie intake, and a high proportion of protein.

You seem to be doing okay with overall calorie intake. Keep an eye on your energy levels, throughout the day and during workouts. If you consistently feel run-down and unexplainably weaker than you expect during several workouts in a row, slightly increase your overall food intake for a week and see how it goes. Try to emphasize carbs with a low glycemic index and eat carbs alongside vegetables/fiber/protein/fat so that you minimize short-lived energy bursts.

If you can, try to increase the amount of eggs, meat, fish, yogurt, and milk in your diet. This doesn't have to be extreme; do what you can. This helps your body preserve and build muscle while you lose fat.

Miscellaneous comments

When pressed for time, I also enjoy using a program of two exercises per workout. My favorite is squat/pull-ups and deadlift/overhead press but a lot of combinations work. This is a good alternative to a full three-exercises-per-day linear progression, but it may require that you add weight to the lifts weekly and not every workout, because you're not hitting each lift as often.

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    Thanks for the answer Dave. When you say try to increase some of that stuff, how much increase would you suggest for the meat? Right now it's 200-300 grams. – RoundHouse Oct 18 at 21:26
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    @RoundHouse Doubling it would be a nice first step. – Dave Liepmann Oct 19 at 8:46

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