Whether you're a bodybuilder, fitness or figure competitor, powerlifter, strongman/woman or, a sport specific athlete, your nutrition is the most important component, next to your training, not only for gaining quality muscle but also achieving lean body mass, and strength gains.
There is the approach of eating everything in sight. This approach is when you eat everything and anything all for the sake of calories. I've tried this and you don't want to do this, you become very lethargic and start taking on the appearance of muscle bound Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Over the years of experimenting I've learned a few things about when to eat, what to eat, how much to eat, and how to supplement to maximize muscle mass and increase power and strength.
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Your Nutrition Is The Most Important Component To
Achieve Lean Body Mass And Strength Gains.
So, unfortunately, if you are a bodybuilder trying to stay in a specific weight class, getting ready for a strongman competition, a powerlifting meet, or the gridiron then you need a specific approach to eating.
When Do I Eat?
One thing is true when they say you should eat at least 6 meals a day, and it definitely helps to keep the metabolism high and allows the body to make the most efficient use of its nutrients. Further, this type of eating helps keep my body in nitrogen balance.
What many who are trying to get mass or strength gains don't take into consideration is how eating correlates with the nutrients that are used. Why would you eat a high carbohydrate meal just before bedtime when carbohydrates are your body's main source of energy? You won't use this energy while you're sleeping. Meaning, your body will store that energy as fat.
I'm a firm believer in having a protein shake prior to bed and I even have one in the middle of the night. Proteins and fats are essential to building new muscle, so after the gym, my last meal of the day is some sort of meat, steamed vegetables or a salad with flaxseed oil or extra virgin olive oil.
Don't forget. Your workout breaks down a lot of muscle tissue, and your body repairs the majority of these tissues while you are sleeping. Protein repairs muscle and so does Glutamine.
What Do I Eat?
Most athletes know or should know the importance of protein. Most studies will tell you that you need less then 1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Those studies are done by, you guessed it, small pencil-necked geeks.
For mass maintenance, reduced body fat, and strength gains maintain 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. I would have to say that I've found 2.0 grams to be a better fit when training heavy.
You've heard the term's complex and simple carbohydrates, right? The carbohydrate situation is just that, complex, but it doesn't have to be. Simple carbohydrates include monosaccharides and disaccharides. You may know them as sugars.
If you see something on the nutritional facts that end in -ose like glucose, fructose, galactose and even lactose, then you are consuming simple sugars.
Your body will always burn these fuels first and you may get a short burst of energy, but you may also experience a serious drop in energy afterward. This is caused by sudden changes in glucose levels.
I don't want to make this more complicated than it really is, so here is my solution. Since they are necessary, I recommend getting your daily supply of simple carbs from fruits, dairy products, and cereal (not Frosted Flakes or Captain Crunch).
Most people can make a conscious effort to consume some sort of cereal and dairy product, but I have to stress the need for fresh fruit so I'll hit the technical side really quick.
Fructose doesn't spike your glucose levels like other sugars because it is absorbed more slowly. Have some fruit with your cereal in the morning and you'll find your day will start out much better.
The bottom line is that fruits, dairy products and cereal are good sources of simple carbohydrates and beer, table sugar, candy bars and soda are bad sources of simple carbohydrates. We all knew that, didn't we?
Complex carbohydrates are also known as starches. Complex carbohydrates have so many positive effects on the body that I'm going to stick to the topic of power.
Complex carbohydrates supply sustained energy to working muscles, thus improving your endurance during those grueling workouts. But, they are also finding out that a small source of protein needs to be added to that pre-workout meal or pre-workout drink too. Complex carbohydrates also help increase brain function.
Fats may be the most misunderstood component of a well balanced diet. Fats actually deserve their own section. Trans fatty acids (coffee creamer, margarine, shortening, etc) are the worst of the worst in the fat world. It was once believed that TFA's were healthier than saturated fats, but it turns out that these should be avoided more than any other.
Saturated fats (egg yolks, beef, pork, dairy products, etc) carry health risks, but are essential in building muscle mass. The great thing about saturated fats is that you don't need a lot of them and chances are that unless you're vegetarian, you are probably getting plenty without even trying.
Monosaturated fats (olive oil, cashews, almond oil, etc) actually help you to maintain already healthy cholesterol levels among other things. Probably more interesting to our readers is that it actually promotes already healthy testosterone levels, and we can all use that.
Polyunsaturated fats (salmon, flax oil, herring, etc) are the grand daddy of good fats. Polyunsaturated fat supports already healthy joints, increases aerobic and strength performance, decreases recovery time, helps burn fat, increases insulin sensitivity in muscle and supports your immune system.
Supplementation is sometimes misunderstood. Why? Well, too many advertisements claim false truths about what their products can do for you.
Point in case, don't you just love how certain supplement companies turn a workout article into a praise for their supplements used by one of their "Contracted" athletes? Or, I love it when they do an article on how great their stuff is against non-labeled supplements, no one has ever heard of. You're naive and stupid if you fall for that.
Then why take supplements when supplement companies often stretch the truth and you have those little geeks with nutrition degrees saying that you can get all your nutrients from food alone.
The most common reason for nutritional supplementation is to fill a nutritional void in our athletic diets. Most of us have full time jobs and when we get into the gym the damage we inflict upon our bodies takes nutrients away, thus we need to replenish those stores, sometimes in larger quantities for superior growth and strength gains.
I don't know about you but I don't have time to cook nutrient diverse meals every 2 1/2 or 3 hours. That's why athletes and individuals such as myself use meal replacement drinks and other powder supplements.
Supplements such as creatine, pre-workout, and post-workout drinks are great for supplying the body with significant amounts of nutrients that cannot be reasonably consumed in the form of food. I can digest a combination of meats and my staple supplements of protein powder and glutamine for proper protein synthesis. But protein and glutamine are essential for muscle repair, growth and strength gains.
There are many other supplements out there so experiment with them, see what works for you and eat right and often for your muscle, size and power!