A necessary factor in the process of building muscle is being in a calorie surplus.

This can be a challenge for bodybuilders—consuming enough clean food for months on end can become exhausting. Add in the factor of eating yet another reheated chicken and rice meal, and even the most dedicated athlete may start to struggle.

In some cases, after a prolonged length of time of eating in a surplus, one’s appetite can take a hit, making it even harder to eat the necessary food. Luckily, there are some tricks and tools you can use to help spike your appetite, and get back on track hitting your caloric needs.

First things first, if you aren’t training at a high intensity, your appetite will probably always be lacking. Training hard in an effort to break down muscle can naturally increase your appetite. Your body will crave the nutrients needed to help repair the damage done to its cells. Take into consideration your effort, workload volume, and your technique to thoroughly assess your output. For example, many bodybuilders are ravenously hungry after their heavy back or leg day, as the body strives to recover from the work. Leave it all on the gym floor and you might be surprised at how your hunger kicks up in response.

Assuming your training is on point, your appetite may still suffer after endlessly keeping the tank full. An effective technique many bodybuilders are starting to use is a calorie cycle. Try lowering your intake of both carbs and fats for a couple of days, which will force the body to burn stored energy. On these low days, stick to lean protein choices and vegetables. Then, when your appetite picks up, bring back your other nutrients again. This approach can be done in a variety of ways, but the premise is pretty simple—lower your intake for a few days and then bring it back up again.

It’s also smart to assess your digestive system and give it some support. Try adding a digestive enzyme or some pro and prebiotics to your diet. There are a lot of good options on the shelves for these products, just make sure you do your research to make sure you’re buying a quality product. If you prefer, you can get your digestive enzymes or pro and prebiotics from food sources. For example, you can add pineapple to your diet as it contains the digestive enzyme bromelain. As for pro and prebiotics, you can add yogurt, or fermented foods like sauerkraut, to your diet.

For those who are incredibly disciplined and mentally tough, you could try fasting. Fasting, where you only drink water, black coffee, or tea, gives your body a chance to completely process and digest everything in its system. People can try various fasting approaches, depending on their discipline. Some might opt to continue their fast from the night until lunchtime, while others may do a full 24-hour fast.

The next time you’re approaching meal time and aren’t feeling remotely hungry, consider these tools. Remember, it’s normal for appetite to come and go on a daily basis, as it can be affected by other life factors. But, if your lack of appetite continues, it might be time to try something off this list in an effort to get it revved back up again. Don't forget that optimizing your nutrition is key for muscle growth.