At FLEX, the nutrition questions come at us fast and furiously. It's safe to say that diet know-how is almost every aspiring bodybuilder's weak point, both because of rampant misinformation in the media, on the web and spread through gyms nationwide, and because it isn't the simplest of topics in the first place.
What you need are the tools and techniques to shift your body into an anabolic state, that magical place where your body creates new muscle, thus increasing your bodyweight, size and strength.
In the spirit of our 25th anniversary, we've picked 25 of the top inquiries we've received over the years from readers on this very subject, and posed them to our two resident nutrition experts — Chris Aceto and Jim Stoppani, PhD — to provide the information you need to know to grow.
1. How Key Is Protein To My Muscle-Building Efforts?
- Poultry (skinless white meat)
- Flank steak
- Top sirloin steak
- Protein powders
- And low-fat dairy products such as:
You can't construct a building without adequate raw materials, and it's pretty much the same in building muscle. Amino acids, the small components of protein, are commonly referred to as "building blocks" because they're used to build and add new muscle tissue.
Lower-fat sources of protein include:
To get your fill, aim for at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight and upward of 1 1/2 g, spread over six to eight meals each day. This can maximize absorption while minimizing bloating. A 200-pound bodybuilder, for example, would need 200-300 g a day.
2. What Is The Most Important Thing To Know About Carb Intake?
Two words: glycogen and insulin. Glycogen provides the body's storage tanks for carbohydrates located in your muscles. When you eat plenty of carbs, these energy tanks fill up and encourage the body to hold onto protein and build new muscle. When you skimp on carbs, the tanks empty quickly, causing protein to be burned for fuel and, thus, that protein is not available for the muscle-building process.
Carbohydrates also increase the natural release of a hormone called insulin, touted as the body's most potent anabolic or tissue-building hormone. Insulin is quite versatile, driving both amino acids and glucose, the most basic unit of carbohydrate foods, into muscles to facilitate repair and recovery.
For building your physique, you need to make carbohydrates a major ingredient in your nutrition plan. Shoot for a minimum of 2 g per pound of bodyweight and up to 3 g for hardgainers. (A 200-pounder would need 400-600g daily.)
To read the rest of our best nutrition advice, pick up the May 2008 issue of FLEX, on newsstand April 14.