Believe it or not, this is the most important factor for muscle growth to occur. Without proper nutrition, supplementation and hydration you will make little or no gains and find yourself very frustrated and most likely quit because you won't be seeing any gains. The importance of raw materials for your body to use for muscle growth cannot be stressed enough, and I suggest the first thing you do as a beginner is learn about proper nutrition. So are you ready? Good.
First off, you must understand that there are three macro nutrients concerned with bodybuilding:
All About Protein:
Proteins, composed of various amino acids are the actual building blocks of muscle tissue. Protein builds, repairs and maintains your muscles, and is very important to the bodybuilder since frequent intense weight lifting puts such a high demand for it on your body. In order to achieve maximum growth, a wide range of amino acids must be consumed every day. There are 20 amino acids, and the human body naturally produces 12 of them, but the others, called "essential amino acids" can only be obtained through food. You need to get a good protein intake to make sure you grow, but many teens out there will take their protein consumption to absolutely un-necessary amounts, and this is a problem I feel needs to be addressed. Over excessive protein intake has a harmful effect on both the kidney's and liver and makes the human body burn valuable protein for energy. Keep protein consumption to the ideal amount depending on your bodyweight, there is no need to over-do it.
The Different Sources:
The system of ranking different sources of proteins is called the Biological Value (BV). The higher the BV, the faster the protein is absorbed and used within the body. Here are the best sources of protein and their BV's:
Whey Protein - Derived from milk, this protein is by far the best source available. With a maximum BV of 157* note that normally a BV cannot be higher than 100, but keep this amount in mind as an approximation* , this protein is absorbed the fastest and most efficiently. Found in powder form and mixed with milk or water, it can be found in supplement/health food stores, but I recommend ordering it of the one and only www.bodybuilding.com. This way, you get the best for your buck. Some good quality brands are Prolab, Sportpharma and Optimum Nutrition(all of these brand name products can be found on this site).
Egg Protein - Before whey was marketed, the old fashioned egg was the leading source of protein, containing a maximum BV of 100. The reason being that there is a complete animal inside an egg. And I realize that some bodybuilders avoid this source because they don't like the taste of eggs everyday, but it is nearly perfect and very convenient to use because it can be eaten in many different styles, and can also be drank. You can also buy egg protein in powder form. The yolks can be bad for you if too many are eaten, I wouldn't recommend eating more that four per day.
Milk Protein - This protein is a blend of casein and whey ahs a maximum BV of 91. The whey is fast acting and provides you with protein quickly and the casein in milk is slow developing, this is why many bodybuilders drink milk before they go to bed. A very convenient source as well, and can be added to whey shakes to get some slow developing protein also. Casein supplements are also made in powder form.
Meat Protein - Beef, tuna and chicken all have excellent sources of protein, containing a maximum BV of 80. Also, meats contain creatine, a naturally made compound that produces energy for muscles through the bloodstream, than is converted into phosphocreatine which supplies muscles with ATP (in other words, energy to help your workout, we will discuss this in more detail later).
All About Carbohydrates:
Carbohydrates are the body's most readily available source of energy, fuel the muscle building and other life process while sparing the protein you consume to be used for muscle growth. But beware, any unused carbohydrates can be easily stored as body fat, so the time of consumption will determine if they will be stored as fat or not. The trick is to consume just enough carbs to keep your body out of a ketonic state (using protein for energy). Ketosis is not a desired state to be in, because it will eventually lead to your body using muscle tissue for energy, which is obviously not good. A good rule is for every gram of protein you consume, consume 2 of a carbohydrate. Also, get a wide range of both simple and complex, and use the two sources to their advantage.
The Different Sources:
There are two different sources of carbohydrates we are concerned about:
Simple - These are the fastest acting sources, and provide the body with quick energy. Some common sources are fruits, fruit juices and sugar.
Complex - These are slow acting sources and provide you with long term energy. Some common sources are pastas, breads, rice and oatmeal.
All About Fats:
Contrary to popular belief, fats are essential for building muscle mass and help your body function properly. Fats are also the body's source of stored energy, protect inner organs, and act as an insulator for the human body to keep warm.
The Different Sources:
There are two main types of fats:
Saturated - Stay away from these fats as much as possible, they are usually found in beef. Keep saturated fat intake to a minimum.
Unsaturated - These fats are stored for energy and actually help muscle building. Almost every food contains some unsaturated fat.
Now you know the basics, and hopefully I have dispelled some common myths about bodybuilding such as "you can never get too much protein". The rest of this section is about other important nutritional aspects of successful bodybuilding and helpful information to make the best of your diet.
Meal Replacments Powders/"Weight Gainers":
These are basically meals in powder form. They usually contain a range of simple and complex carbs, as well as whey protein isolate, the ideal meal. They are extremely helpful for fitting in meal, and I recommend that every bodybuilder go get some of Prolabs "N-Large2", my personal favorite.
A calorie, by definition is a unit of energy-producing potential equal to the amount of heat that is contained in food and released upon oxidation by the body. To put it in simple terms, calories provide energy for life processes. Both protein and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, and fat contains 9. As you can see, fat is the most calorie dense of the concerned nutrients. To find out how many calories is enough for you to gain muscle, take your bodyweight and multiply it by 24, but make sure you have a correct balance of macro-nutrients do you don't gain too much excess fat.
To keep your body in an anabolic (muscle building) state makes sure to eat every 2-3 hours. This can be pretty hard, but if you are dedicated to the cause of success you will make time for your meal even if it means pre-packaging them.
Eating for Specific Purposes, Pre and Post Workout:
Post-workout is the most important meal of the day to the body builder, pre-workout coming in 2nd. After a workout, your body's energy stores have been used up, and your body needs protein a.s.a.p. You need both fast acting energy and fast acting protein. The answer, simple carbs and whey protein. In order to fuel the muscle building process effectively, I recommend keep a protein-carb ratio of 1-3. I personally take my serving of meal replacement powder and on top of that an 8oz. glass of o.j. (fast acting simple carbohydrates). Now for pre-workout, the meal that will determine if you are full of energy during your workout, or lazy and tired. For this meal, I recommend having both simple and complex carbs, and again keeping a protein-carb ratio of 1-3. Just to avoid feeling sick, I eat this meal an hour from working out.
Now you know the basics of proper nutrition. What you have just learned will account for the majority of your muscle gains.