Author: Thomas Calkins
The body is much like a piece of machinery; it requires care and adequate maintenance. More importantly, your body requires the correct kind of fuel. It doesn't matter how much care you put into making a piece of machinery look great, if you attempt to feed it with the incorrect quantity or quality of fuel, it will break down and become inefficient and ineffective. The same is true of your body. Even if you have a world class workout and lifting routine, poor nutrition will give you smaller or even non-existent gains in muscle mass. When it comes to nutrition you need to consider not only what is best to eat, but also when is best to eat. Accompanying a good diet with a well-planned lifting routine is the best way to get maximum muscle gains for your efforts.
The only way you can gain muscle is by partaking in a rigorous lifting routine several times per week. To consistently give you enough energy to exercise, your muscles need good quality and plentiful fuel. A simple formula will help you determine just how many calories in any given day you will need to consume:
Your weight (in pounds) x 18 = Calories needed daily
If your weight is currently around 200lbs you will need to provide your body with around 3600 calories on a daily basis. You could easily get most of these calories in one meal by eating fatty processed food, but this method of eating will quickly eliminate the gains you make in your workout routine. To get see the muscle mass gains you deserve, you need to correctly balance your intake of the three main food groups, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
The general rule of thumb is: 50% protein, 40% carbohydrate, and 10% fat.
Protein is the most important macromolecule you will consume. Protein is broken down into amino acids which repair and build muscle. Water is the only substance more abundant in your muscles than protein. You should aim to consume one gram of protein for every pound of bodyweight on a daily basis. Therefore, if you weigh 200lb, your protein intake should equal 200gms. Proteins include vegetables, lean meat, fresh fruit, and fish.
There are several different types of carbohydrates, but complex carbohydrates are going to be the only nutritionally valuable ones. Sugary or starchy carbohydrates such as bread and candy will definitely add weight to your body, but it won't be concentrated in your muscles! Opt for oatmeal, whole grains, and brown rice which will provide your body with good quality fuel.
Ingesting fat is not something you will consciously need to do. It is the least important of the three food groups, and will be consumed in a plentiful quantity as a byproduct of the proteins and carbohydrates you are eating.
You now have a good idea of what to eat and what your calorie count should be per day. The next most important thing is the timing of your meals. When your aim is to build muscle mass, you need to keep your metabolism as constant as possible throughout the day - meaning that your body is constantly burning fat. To do this, evenly divide your three usual meals into six meals and space them in three hour increments through the day. In addition to being better for your body, this will also be more practical for you, and encourage you to make those calories count!
To ensure you have enough energy to be able to work your muscles to their fullest extent, you should aim to eat a carb-heavy meal with additional protein around 90 minutes prior to entering the gym. Carbohydrate provides energy which is quickly accessible by your body, and this will help you sustain a high energy level throughout your workout. If you feel your energy levels are usually getting low towards the end, try drinking juice immediately before your routines.
The most important meal of your day will be the one you consume within 90 minutes of the end of your workout. You just spent an enormous amount of effort breaking your muscles down, and you need to give them the nutrients they need to rebuild and become larger. The post-workout meal should contain an equal balance of carbohydrates and proteins, and should contribute around 25% to your daily caloric intake.
Water is another critical element of your new diet. Aim to drink 8 x 8oz glasses a day at the minimum to prevent dehydration occurring. Water is the universal solvent. It will detoxify your system, help the kidneys process protein, and assist in eliminating waste products. The best time to drink water is after your meal - as opposed to before or during. Water will give you a full feeling which may limit how much you feel like eating, so ensure you get your calories first, and then fulfill your water requirement.
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