Optimal Nutrition For Gains In Muscle Strength And Size
If you regularly engage in weight training for the purpose of building muscle strength and size (hypertrophy), your everyday food selections are extremely critical, as proper nutrition during training is necessary for achieving optimal results. Equally important, however, is eating the right foods at the right times. In light of these facts, here are some essential dos and don’ts that you should consider when planning meals to compliment your weight training program.
Do: Consume ample amounts of high-quality protein based on your body weight
Adequate protein intake prior to and after weight training is especially important when trying to enhance muscle strength and hypertrophy. When choosing your protein sources, ensure that they contain all essential amino acids including the branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine), as these greatly support muscle growth and recovery. Protein sources containing all amino acids are considered “high-quality”. High-quality protein sources include beef, chicken, fish, soy and whey proteins, eggs, and dairy products.
Although it’s typically recommended that 10-15 percent of your daily calories come from protein, this number is inadequate if you’re engaging in intense weight training. To ensure sufficient intake, it’s best to consume about 0.64-0.82 grams of protein per pound of your body weight split between pre-training meals, post-training meals, and between meals, if necessary.
Do: Incorporate substantial quantities of carbohydrate-rich foods into all meals
For optimal gains in muscle strength and size, adequate carbohydrate intake is critical as carbs are necessary for enhancing muscle glycogen stores. Glycogen stores serve as a key fuel source when blood glucose (sugar) levels are low. Weight training significantly depletes glycogen stores, and this effect is greatly magnified when you train hard and over an extended period of time. In general, eating carbs before and even during your workout keeps your blood glucose levels stable and your overall energy levels high. However, consuming them within 1-2 hours after training is especially important, as this is the time during which you’re essentially restocking your glycogen stores. To obtain sufficient amounts of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, select carbs that are of the highest quality like vegetables, fruits, whole grains (oatmeal, quinoa, and enriched breads) and legumes.
Don’t: Avoid fatty foods
Although protein and carbs are much needed nutrients when training to build muscle strength and size, regular consumption of fat-rich foods is equally as important. The healthiest most beneficial food sources of fat are unprocessed (or minimally processed) and include oily fish (salmon, tuna, and trout), bison, egg yolks, nuts and nut butters, seeds, olive oil, canola oil, and avocado.
Fat consumption is not only beneficial for weight management and overall good health, but it also boosts testosterone levels, which greatly enhances gains in muscle hypertrophy. In spite of the many benefits of fat-rich foods, it is best not to consume them in large quantities or all at once. As such, make an effort to consume any and all fat-rich foods after your workout and no less than 3-4 hours prior to training.
Don’t: Restrict your calorie intake
Increased calorie consumption should be your first priority when training for muscle strength and hypertrophy. While calorie intake is generally necessary to maintain adequate energy levels during training, it’s extremely critical for optimal gains in lean (muscle) mass. Restricting calories can lead to an increased breakdown of protein housed in muscle, which can greatly compromise muscle hypertrophy. Furthermore, because your metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories) remains elevated for hours after weight training, it is important to increase your calorie intake to inhibit calorie deficits. For maximum results, increase your calorie consumption with healthy food sources of carbohydrates, high-quality protein, and fat.
Just as it is necessary to eat a well-balanced diet on a daily basis, it is equally as important to eat the right things before and after weight training. When training for muscle strength and size, the ultimate goal of your eating regimen is to maximize your nutrient stores, so you can meet your calorie demands throughout the duration of your training while aiding muscle growth, repair, and recovery afterwards. Following these tips will ensure that you get all the nutrients you need to achieve your training goals.