One of the biggest mistakes many new bodybuilders makes is that they don't pay attention to their muscle building nutrition with the same detail, desire and determination with which they pay attention to their weight training program.
You constantly see people throw out numbers such as your weight training program is 85% of your results or that muscle building diets are 95% of your results.
I've always rolled my eyes at these sorts of statements and found them rather silly. No one can know for sure how to break this down.
But I can tell you this, if you neglect (or ignore completely) one or the other, whether it be your training or your nutrition, your results will only be a fraction of what they could be!
Look, you bust your @ss in the gym, pounding away at huge weights in the big exercises with animalistic intensity. Don't screw it up by neglecting to be as dedicated to your nutrition program.
So let's talk about the importance of nutrition.
The truth is, no one will ever gain muscle without food. Nutrition for building muscle is simply a matter of eating. But that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to learn.
Stuffing your face with the wrong type of food, or just eating 1 or 2 large meals a day isn't the way to gain muscle. You'll end up gaining weight all right. You'll be fat.
The Best Muscle Building Supplement
So here's the question every dedicated lifter wants to know.
What's the best muscle building supplement available today?
You might not like the answer. It's not sexy, it's not new, and it's not touted as a steroid replacement.
Your number one supplement should be a high quality protein powder.
I know you probably already know this. But it's worth repeating because I get a ton of questions from people wanting to know what is the best new miracle steroid-like supplement they can buy. And they aren't getting enough quality protein. Before buying any other supplements, make sure you are always taking in a high quality protein powder.
If you want to make outstanding muscle building progress, you must put together a solid weight training program, train with a high level of intensity, add poundage to your exercises as often as possible, eat six high protein meals every day, and make sure you are out of the gym often enough to recover from your workouts so that your muscles have time to grow.
Protein powders make it extremely easy and convenient to eat six meals a day and to get enough quality protein into your body.
Using protein shakes will make it easier for you to consume enough calories and protein each day, as well as making it much more convenient to have 6 meals a day. Who has time to prepare six meals a day? Not anybody I know, that's for sure.
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You may need to add or subtract ingredients based on individual taste preferences and number of calories needed.
When I was younger, more active, and had a metabolism like a furnace, I needed all the quality muscle building calories I could get. And protein shakes like this were the only way to get them.
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For us skinny guys, our body will easily burn off any muscle we build unless we do things right and that means eating at least 6 high protein meals every single day, and more if you can do it.
You should eat every 2 or 3 hours and if you have a really fast metabolism it wouldn't hurt to down a protein shake in the middle of the night if you happen to wake up to pee.
When you have your post-workout muscle building protein shake, throw in a serving of creatine as well.
High quality protein, aka, "the real muscle building supplement" should be the center point of all your meals. Intense exercise increases demand for protein, which support muscle repair and growth.
When you train with weights and you're looking to pack on pounds of quality muscle, you should try to eat a minimum of 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. If you weight 150 pounds, try and take in at least 225 grams of protein each and every day.
I know this sounds like a lot and you could probably do okay with 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. But if you find it really difficult to gain muscle, this extra protein can help.
You don't have to have carbs or fat at every meal, but you must have protein. When I say protein, I am referring to high quality protein derived from animal sources.
Throw in a high quality creatine product and you are good to go. Stick with the dual muscle building protein/creatine stack for massive muscle mass gains.
A crucial time to get a lot of high quality protein is right after your intense weight training session.
One thing I've found that has helped my progress is to add a few more calories than I normally would and then drink part of the smoothie right before my workout, or even sip some of it during my workout so my muscles are constantly getting the nutrients they need, both to power my workout and to recover from it.
If you want to add massive slabs of quality muscle mass to your body and do it as fast as possible, you have to get your protein. There is no excuse to skimp in this area. You need plenty of protein. Nowadays, most protein powders taste great and many are pretty inexpensive when compared to food.
Mix your protein powder in whole milk or even half and half (except right after a workout).
Why? Quick muscle building! Whole milk and half and half have fat. You need fat to build muscle and you also get concentrated calories.
The Importance Of Pre-Workout Supplementation
Whether you do aerobics or weight training, doing so on an empty stomach means your body will begin burning muscle tissue for its energy needs.
I know, you've been told over and over again how important it is to train on an empty stomach. Just bare with me for a moment, I'm not suggesting you eat a seven course meal before your workout.
A study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (Tarpenning, K.M., et al. (2001) Influence of weigh training exercise and modification of hormonal response on skeletal muscle growth 4:431-436) looked at both the short and longer term results of drinking a carbohydrate drink before and during weight training sessions.
The first part of the study involved seven men, average age 21. They fasted four hours before beginning a weight training session that involved a nine-station weight training routine. It involved performing three sets of 10 reps per exercise, using 75% of each subject's one rep max.
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Before the workout the subjects drank a zero calorie placebo drink. Before the next workout session they drank a formula containing 6 percent carbs.
Certain hormonal levels rose only 7 percent when the group ingested the carb containing formula. It rose 99 percent when the group took the zero calorie placebo drink.
During the long term part of the study, two groups of men drank either the zero calorie placebo or the 6 percent carb solution. The same results occurred during the long term study.
Lowering the release of certain hormones during training will help to preserve and build muscle mass, leading to quicker progress, as well as fat loss.
In addition to the carbohydrates, consider ingesting a fast digesting protein like whey protein. This will help prevent muscle breakdown, and keep you in positive nitrogen balance, which is essential to keeping the muscle you have and building more mass.
This is extremely important for two reasons. As mentioned previously, when you first wake up in the morning, your body is most likely in a catabolic state, eagerly awaiting protein so it can shift gears, enter a positive nitrogen balance and begin rebuilding itself leaner and stronger, with more muscle and less fat.
Secondly, besides lowering some hormonal levels in your body, ingesting some protein immediately prior to your workout ensures that your body makes the most of its post workout opportunity by already having started the process of protein synthesis.
After your workout, your body is craving carbohydrates and protein to begin the recovery process. Taking in a small amount of carbs and protein before a workout, as well as a protein/carb drink immediately after your workout will help to ensure that your body gets the nutrients it needs.
Nowadays, you can also get some great pre-workout drinks such as:
The Importance of Post Workout Supplementation
I cannot overstate the vital importance of the post workout meal, or more specifically, the post workout drink. You see, after a hard training session, your body is primed and ready to absorb all the nutrients it needs to help your body begin recovering from the muscle breakdown that has occurred during your training session.
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Why a drink? Because your body is craving nutrients immediately following a hard training session and it needs them quickly. Your body will digest the nutrients in liquid form much more quickly than a solid fool meal.
During this time your body is ready, willing and able to quickly and completely absorb the protein that it needs. This will help to optimize protein synthesis, leading to a positive nitrogen balance, gains in muscle and strength, and the loss of body fat.
Of course, you need to constantly supply your body with the protein it needs to maintain and build muscle mass. However, the time right after a hard training session intensifies your body's ability to absorb the protein it needs.
This slightly alters the idea of the 6 meals a day plan. However, it can also greatly improve and speed up your rate of progress. With this modification, you will really be taking in 8 or 9 meals a day on the days that you train. Don't worry, it's not as difficult as it may seem at first glance.
For example, I take a serving of whey protein immediately upon waking in the morning (approximately 20 grams of protein and 115 calories). About a half hour later I eat my breakfast (around 7 am).
More meals follow at 10 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm. At 6 pm I take another serving of whey protein with an 8 ounce glass of 100% juice (or I may take a specific pre-workout formulation like NO-Xplode (with a protein powder). I proceed with my weight workout about 6:15 pm. Immediately after my weight workout (around 7 pm), I take my post workout drink.
For this meal you want fast acting protein and fast acting carbs. This is one of those times you gladly want your body to release insulin, to help shuttle the much needed carbs and amino acids into the muscles. Try taking in 30 to 40 grams of whey protein and 12 to 16 ounces of 100% juice.
Another great way to do it is to use a drink specifically designed to take advantage of the post workout opportunity as I mentioned earlier.
Then around 10 pm I take my final meal, which includes a combination protein that includes both whey protein and micellar casein. You see, micellar casein is a slow digesting protein that is very anti-catabolic.
Taking in a protein that includes micellar casein allows you to supply your body with the needed amino acids for a much longer period of your sleep time, helping to minimize, if not prevent, your body from entering a catabolic state while you sleep.
The more you can lessen the breakdown of muscle tissue while you sleep (catabolism) the quicker your muscle building and fat loss progress will be!
So, if for whatever reason, my last meal doesn't occur relatively soon before I go to sleep, I always take a serving of a micellar casein/whey protein product right before bed.
If you train first thing in the morning, you will make a few minor adjustments. Add some carbs to your protein powder when you wake and then make your post workout meal a liquid one if you are weight training. If you did aerobics, you can still enjoy a solid food meal.
A Typical Day
Following is an example of a typical day for me.
- 6:30 am - One serving of whey protein
- 7:00 am - 6 egg whites, a serving of mixed vegetables, a tablespoon of flaxseed oil
- 10:00 am - Meal Replacement Powder
- 1:00 pm - Chicken Breast, mixed vegetables, 1 tablespoon of hemp oil
- 4:00 pm - Meal Replacement Powder
- 6:00 pm (pre-workout) - One serving of whey protein, 8 ounces of grape juice or a specific pre-workout formulation like SuperPump 250
- 7:00 pm (post-workout) - One serving of a specific post-workout formulation.
- 10:00 pm - Cottage Cheese, mixed vegetables, 1 tablespoon of hemp oil
- 11:00 pm - 1 serving of a micellar casein/whey protein mix
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Now, this meal plan changes slightly depending on my goals at the time such as focusing on building more muscle or turning my body into a fat burning machine.
If you want to boost your muscle building efforts, make sure you put as much thought into your protein plan as you do with your weight training program. If you do, you'll be pleasantly surprised with extra muscle mass in no time.
About the Author:
Gregg Gillies is a trainer and fitness author. His articles have appeared in Ironman Magazine and he's been a contributor to Body Talk magazine for the past 4 years. He publishes two free fitness newsletters that include lots of weight training tips, fat loss, nutrition and exercise program information to help you build your best body as quickly as possible. You can find them at www.fatlosssecretsrevealed.com and www.massbuildingtips.com His blog is at http://tnafitness.com.