Crash Course In Muscle Building Nutrition
Do you know the best ways to gin mass and lose fat? Pass this crash course and you'll be well on your way to optimal muscle gains.
On the road to bodybuilding superiority, the plate can be as important as the weights. Ask any championship bodybuilder: Even if you push dumbbells till you puke, you're only accomplishing half of what you need. The other part of the equation? Not surprisingly, it's nutrition.
Of course, knowing how to eat is never an easy task. One week, fats are bad...and then they're good and carbs are bad. How are you supposed to keep up with it all? The key is to focus only on what you need for your goals. So that's what we did: We talked to top nutritionists and boiled down the facts on protein, carbs, fats and hydration to the essentials. Then our expert nutritionist, Chris Aceto, dug through the latest scientific research to put together our Top 10 Mass-Gain Tips and Top 10 Fat-Loss Tips. Use our simple study guide to build your best body ever.
TOP 10 MASS-GAIN TIPS
1) Eat before you train
Eat a hefty dose of easy-to-absorb protein and carbs within 60 minutes before workouts (ideally, 20 grams of protein and 40 grams of carbs for a 180-pound male). This combo protects muscle and glycogen stores.
2) Eat after you train
Eat 40-65 grams of protein and about 80-120 grams of carbohydrate - depending on your size - after workouts. After training, large amounts of protein and carbs can be readily absorbed for growth.
3) Cycle your carbs
Cycling carbs can keep growth supporting hormone levels mildly higher. Consume 2 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight daily for four days and 3 grams per pound on the fifth day.
4) Eat 5-7 meals a day
Eating multiple meals supplies you with nonstop nutrients without setting off fat-storing hormones and enzymes associated with larger, infrequent meals.
5) Take leucine
Leucine increases insulin, a muscle-building hormone, helping reverse muscle breakdown. Take 5 grams 20 minutes before workouts and another 5 grams after.
6) Go fish
Omega-3 fatty acids in fish fight inflammation, support glutamine levels and increase anabolic response to insulin. Eat 4-6 ounces three times a week.
7) Pack on the protein
Aim for at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight pep day; spread that among 5-7 meals.
8) Vary your protein levels
Lowering your protein intake by half (to about 0.5 gram per pound of bodyweight) four consecutive days per month may help mass gains. During that time, the body releases enzymes that oppose muscle loss. When your diet returns to normal, the body overcompensates and retains more protein for added growth.
9) Keep eating earns
Garbs provide fuel for the body's internal repairs and increase insulin, which in turn boosts other growth-promoting hormones and enzymes.
10) Drink milk
The amino acids in milk digest slowly, making it ideal for preventing muscle breakdown. Plus, milk exerts a repartitioning effect, meaning calories become less efficient at making bodyfat and are either used to build mass or are simply burned off.
DAVID L. KATZ, MD, the director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center (Derby, Connecticut), puts it best: "Muscle is made from protein, and it takes protein to make protein." Yet the relationship between protein and achieving peak muscle mass is a little more complicated.
All bodybuilders know that bigger muscles come from actually damaging the muscles - that is, tearing them down through weightlifting to the point of exhaustion, then having them come back bigger and stronger through the repair process. Here's where the true importance of protein comes into play: "Protein supports the immune system, and bodybuilders are constantly taxing theirs with hard training," says Chris Aceto, author of Championship Bodybuilding: Understanding Bodybuilding Nutrition and Training. "Extra protein is needed for repairing the damaged muscles that are the result of hard training."
The latest research indicates that protein is even more crucial in this process than we previously thought: "It's long been known that carbohydrates increase insulin levels. Well, it turns out that protein does as well," says Aceto. "And insulin supports muscle repair." The bottom line? Protein packs a one-two punch - giving you the fuel to build muscle and repair it after a strenuous workout.
RECOMMENED PROTEIN SOURCES
Protein powders, eggs, lean beef salmon, poultry and dairy
Bodybuilders should ingest about 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight daily while trying to build muscle, making protein about 30% of your daily caloric intake. You may need as many as 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight a day when training hard, but that's about as high as you should go. Then, train to momentary muscle failure using fairly heavy weight to optimize your protein Intake.
Carbohydrates may rival protein in importance for getting big. The relationship between carbs and protein in muscle growth is a complex one, but the bottom line is this: Carbs equal energy. Consumed before a workout, carbs give the bodybuilder fuel to lift optimal weight to spur growth. Post-workout, carbs increase glycogen levels, and glycogen leads to increased muscle growth and repair.
Carbohydrates act along with protein to give you the most bang for your buck. They change your hormonal environment, allowing more amino acids from protein to be stored in your muscles. In other words, they give you greater growth.
The two basic kinds of carbohydrates are simple and complex. Simple carbs are more refined (candy, soda, table sugar), though the exception to this rule is fruit, while complex carbs come in more natural forms (potatoes, yams, rice, oats, beans).
Typically, complex carbohydrates digest slower than simple ones and are better to eat, but simple cartas have their role, too. Since they digest quickly, simple carbs can provide the body-builder with a quick burst of energy when it's needed most.
RECOMMENDED FAST CARB SOURCES
Fruit, baked potatoes, white bread and sports drinks.
RECOMMENDED SLOW CARB SOURCES (BEST SOURCE)
Oatmeal, whole grains, vegetables and beans.
- Consume 2 grams of carbs per pound of body weight daily if you're training at a moderate level.
- Consume 3 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight daily when you're training hard.
- Eat fast carbs immediately before and after working out.
- Eat slow carbs with all other meals to reach your daily requirement.
Protien and carbs are the fuel that creates muscle, with protein providing the active ingredient and carbs assisting with energy and repair work. Meanwhile, fat provides extra calories for growth and supports hormone production, both key players in the muscle-building game. However, despite the importance of having some fats in your diet, overall they should be limited to about 20%-25% of your daily calorie intake.
It's important that you include the right fats in your food choices. Red meat and full-fat dairy products, for example, contain saturated fat. You need some in your diet, but too much can wreak havoc on your heart and blood vessels over time. The biggest culprit in the fat family are trans fats, the industrially modified oils used in processed foods. They're often called partially hydrogenated oils on food labels. Instead of saturated and trans fats, choose nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil and fatty fish. These are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which have been shown to possess healthful properties. What about cholesterol? "Dietary cholesterol was once thought to be harmful but increasingly looks innocent," says Katz. Your best source of dietary cholesterol is egg yolk.
Amid all this talk of low fat intake, remember one thing: Don't let your fat intake get too low. Fat adds flavor and texture to food, and it increases satiety, meaning you feel full after eating less. Keep fat in its proper role in your overall diet, and you'll be well on your way to buffness.
RECOMMENDED FAT SOURCES
Salmon and tuna * eggs * lean red meat low-fat dairy * nuts and seeds * olive oil
- Wether you're trying to gain mass or cut up, steer toward the fats that are healthiest for you, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
- Omega-3 fats found in fish have specific benefits for bodybuilders: They fight muscle inflammation and spare the loss of glutamine - an amino acid that helps in muscle-building. If you hate fish, try taking 2-6 grams of a fish oil supplement per day.
- 25% - Maximum percentage of your daily calories that should come from fat
Our bodies are made up of 55%-65% water - everything from blood to bones and muscle contains water, and our systems depend on it to function properly. Water regulates body temperature and waste disposal, and it lubricates your joints. So when you have long and/or hardcore workouts, it's crucial that you replace the fluidsyou lose to prevent dehydration. Symptoms can include excessive thirst, fatigue, headache, dry mouth, little or no urination, muscle weakness, dizziness and lightheadedness. Even mild dehydration can sap your energy and make you feel tired.
The amount of fluid you should drink is determined by how long and how hard you train, environmental conditions and whether you've acclimated to the heat. You've probably heard that you should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, but a recent study done by the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.O., found that men need an average of 16 cups of water a day and women need 11 cups. But you don't need to drink that much water; included in that total is all the fluid you consume each day, including coffee, tea, soda and milk as well as the fluid contained in fruits and vegetables.
- When you exercise or engage in any activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra water to compensate for that loss. If you work out for less than an hour, plain old water - about 2 cups - is sufficient for optimal rehydration.
- Workouts that are longer than an hour increase your loss of fluid and drain your muscles' energy stores. Make sure to drink water regularly during longer training sessions and continue to drink even when you're done. Sweating profusely leads to sodium loss, so you may be better off drinking sports drinks that contain sodium.
1) Drink before you're thirsty - thirst isn't always a good indicator of fluid loss.
2) Drink 15-20 ounces of water or a sports drink before you start your workout.
3) Drink plenty of fluids while working out (5-10 ounces every 15 minutes).
4) Weigh yourself before and immediately after your workout and drink 1 quart of fluid for every 2 pounds of weight loss.
5) Drink fluids at a room temperature. Studies show that people can more effectively circulate water when its at temp closer to your bloods.
1) Make the right cut
Reduce your daily calorie intake by 15%-20%. (For example, if you're currently ingesting 3,000 calories, reduce to 2,400-2,550.) This reduction almost exclusively burns fat, while larger cuts in calories burn a combination of muscle tissue and fat.
2) Eat like a cow and write it down
The grazing method - consuming 4-5 small meals and 2-4 shakes a day - elevates metabolism. Dieters who record their daily food intake make better choices, cheat less and eat fewer total calories.
3) Increase your protein intake
When calories drop, protein preserves muscle, which keeps your metabolism elevated. Aim for 1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight daily.
4) Cycle your carb intake
A modified low-carb diet (three straight days of 100-125 grams a day, followed by a single day of 300-400 grams) supports muscles without storing fat.
5) Splurge occasionally
Dramatically increase your calorie intake for one day every 2-3 weeks. The splurge "resets" your metabolism by restoring levels of a calorie-burning thyroid hormone that declines in production with dieting.
6) Stack BCAAs and carnitine
Five grams of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and 1-2 grams of carnitine 30 minutes before cardio helps prevent protein breakdown and testosterone loss.
7) Don't be cardio crazy
Excess cardio slows metabolism, promotes muscle loss and can lower testosterone levels. Do 4-6 high-intensity cardio sessions a week, 30-45 minutes in duration. Separate your cardio and weight training as well: Cardio in the morning, weights later in the day.
8) Creatine gets you cut
When combined with weight training, creatine increases metabolism to the tune of 100 calories a day. Take 4-7 grams with your post-workout meal.
9) Dairy is for dieting
Dairy foods contain biologically active compounds that help make the body less efficient at storing fat. Studies show that weight-loss plans containing lots of dairy are superior to those that lack it.
10) Sip green tea
Green tea contains caffeine and polyphenols called epigallocatechin gallate, which have been shown to increase calorie burn by 100 calories a day.
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