Eating to Gain Muscle
Some people think that hour after hour at the gym is all they need to build muscle. You can train all day long, but if you don’t put the right fuel into your body, your muscles will fail to recover after exercising and simply will not grow.
To gain muscle, you need to adopt a diet that is rich in carbohydrate and protein, with some fat. Choose low GI foods over high GI ones and consider including a dietary supplement.
Small and frequent meals will help to increase metabolism, burn more fat and give you better muscle definition – great definition will make your muscles look bigger, even if they aren’t. Eat little and often; every three to four hours to avoid going into a catabolic state, in which your body starts to eat muscle to get energy, resulting in more fat and less muscle.
A Balanced Diet
Each meal should consist of 40 per cent carbohydrate, 40 per cent protein and 20 per cent fat. You need protein to build muscle and carbohydrates to give you the energy to turn protein into muscle. Fats are also important as every cell in the body has fat in it and hormones are made from fats. Choose unsaturated fats – good sources are fish oils, peanut butter and olive oil.
Testosterone is the most important hormone as far as muscle growth is concerned. A low-fat diet leads to low levels of testosterone, and therefore no muscle growth. Every tissue in the body is made from protein, so it is very important to maintain a high-protein diet, especially if you need to repair damaged tissue after exercise.
For basic training of up to an hour a day, you need to consume 2.5g/0.080z of protein per 1kg/2.2lb of body weight. If you aim to train hard and gain muscle, you will need to increase this to 3-4g/0.10 – 0.14oz of protein per 1kg/2.2lb of body weight, or approximately 57-85g/2-3oz per 18kg/40lb.
There is no point in eating more than 4g/0.1oz of protein per 1kg/2.2lb of body weight, or approximately 3oz per 40lb, as your body cannot utilize more than this quantity of protein.
Low GI and High Fibre
Eat low GI foods for a sustained slow, but constant release of energy, and to maximize recovery of your muscles. Always include fibre in your diet. Five to ten servings of fruit and vegetables a day will help to keep your digestive system working efficiently , which is especially important if you are eating extra protein. Fibre will slow down the digestion of the protein giving your body more time to absorb the amino acids.
Tips: Peanut butter provides essential fats and protein for building muscles and a long steady release of energy.
Tips: Avoid saturated fats; choose healthy oils instead, such as olive oil or various types of nut oils.
Creatine supplementation will help to increase muscle mass. It is possible to gain up to 3 per cent muscle mass in one week, if you consume 7g/0.25oz of creatine a day. Creatine works by dragging water into the cells, which then stimulate protein synthesis.
There are some side effects – water retention, cramping, kidney and muscle damage and dehydration. The best form of creatine is creatine monohydrate, which is readily available and easy for the body to utilize. People with fewer fast-twitch muscle fibres may struggle to get the maximum benefit from taking creatine. If you are a long distance athlete looking to put on weight, use creatine after meals containing carbohydrates, as the increase in the insulin level after the meal can help with the uptake of creatine into the muscle cells. Drink plenty of water after taking creatine to compensate for its dehydrating effect.
If you are attempting to put on muscle, try increasing you carbohydrate consumption to 50 per cent and your fat consumption to 25 per cent, while decreasing your protein consumption to 25 per cent. This will mean that instead of consuming 12 calories per 500g/1.1lb of body weight, which is an average amount, you will double your calories and consume 24 calories per 500g/1.1lb of body weight. Extra calories are essential if you want to put on more muscle, especially if you are burning off more energy because you have recently stepped up your physical training.
If you lead a busy lifestyle, it can be hard to prepare meals with enough calories and nutritional value. A meal-replacement drink will take care of that. Most MRP drinks contain essential amino acids and creatine and glutamine to aid recovery and promote muscle growth. They typically contain 40g/1.4oz of protein and 60g/20z of carbohydrates.
More Food, More Muscle
In order to increase muscle mass, you will simply have to consume more calories. Include a selection of mainly low to medium GI foods in your diet and increase the protein content of your food to 40 per cent. If you find it hard to eat larger portions of food, particularly foods in the protein group, then supplement your meals with protein shakes and bars, and make sure that you eat something every three hours.
Exercise and Rest
To prevent calories form being burnt, avoid cardiovascular exercise and ensure you do appropriate weight-training. Use free weights to work throughout the entire movement and provide good stability. Rest is very important. If your body has maximum recovery after a workout, it will also have maximum potential for growth.
Tips: Adding protein and fruit shakes to your diet will ensure that you get a supply of high quality protein.
Carbohydrate, Protein and Fats
These are the three pillars of diet that keep the human body fit, functioning and healthy – as long as they are in correct proportion and balance. All too often, unfortunately, that’s not the case. Its time to redress the balance.
A balanced diet consists of three main essential food groups: carbohydrates, protein and fats.
There are two types of carbohydrates: Simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates, also known as sugars and starches. Simple carbohydrates are higher in refined sugars, contain empty calories (non-nutritious) and can cause food cravings and upset your energy levels. Complex carbohydrates are also high in sugars but take longer to digest and absorb and keep blood sugar levels stable.
Good carbs, bad carbs for athletes, a carbohydrate-rich diet is essential for constant energy. For those living a sedentary lifestyle, carbohydrates are less essential. Common foods high in carbohydrate are pasta, bread, potatoes, rice, fruit, vegetables, jams and honey. Carbohydrates account for more than 50 per cent of our daily food intake in the developed world, while for our ancestors, they made up less than 35 per cent. We simply eat too much carbohydrate. You can be forgiven for assuming that all carbohydrates are good for you – because some of them are. But take time to work out which ones are, and which are not.
For example, most breakfast cereals contain around 70g/2.5oz carbohydrates per 100g/3.5oz. Cereal, however, has little nutritional value and will affect your metabolism because the rate of sugar release is too rapid. It can also contain anti-nutrients, which actually stop you absorbing proper nutrients that are vital for digestion and the immune system. Oats, however are a good source of protein and help to reduce low-density lipid (LDL) cholesterol; the so-called bad cholesterol.
Fruit and vegetables are sources of good carbohydrates. They have a slower rate of energy release and also provide more fibre in your diet. If you are unsure which carbohydrates are good for you, then choose fruit and vegetables, preferably those that have been grown organically, as they are much more nutritious and tasty.
Essential amino acids from proteins help to repair muscle. Fish, poultry, meat, eggs, milk and cheese are examples of protein-rich foods. In the US and most western countries, protein provides only 15 per cent of daily food intake. We should be consuming closer to 30 -40 per cent. Protein provides useful energy that helps to bun calories and promote weight loss. Without protein, your muscles cannot be fed with the correct nutrients for repair and growth. Some foods contain more protein than others, and those with a higher protein content often contain less fat. For example, the calorie content of two slices of skinless turkey breast contains 3g/0.1oz fat, 0g/0oz carbohydrate, 11g/0.4oz protein, 75 calories, 32 milligrams cholesterol and 1g/0.04oz saturated fat. By comparison, a fried egg contains 7g/0.3oz fat, 1g/0.04oz carbohydrate, 6g/0.2oz protein, 90 calories, 211 milligrams cholesterol and 1.9g/0.07oz saturated fat.
Whereas, today, we mainly get our protein from animals, 10,000 years ago, we obtained it from pulses, nuts and seeds, and animals. Our current over-reliance on animal protein is responsible for the high LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in developed countries. So, take time to compare the labels on the foods that you buy to make sure that the meat and fish you eat is high in protein, and not high in saturated fats.
The majority of people, particularly overweight people, eat too much fat. Though essential for energy, fat takes a lot longer to break down than carbohydrate. Fat provides energy for long periods of exercise but the exercise intensity has to be lower so that there is a good supply of oxygen available for the fat to burn. Examples of foods high in fats are cheese, butter, oil and some meat. Per gram or ounce, fat provides twice as many calories as carbohydrates and proteins. The World Health Organizations recommends that 25-30 per cent of daily calories should come from fat, but most of the population in the developed world get 40-50 per cent of their daily energy from fat.
Saturated and Unsaturated Fats
Problem in not necessarily the amount of fat that you eat but the type of fat. Saturated fats clog arteries and cause poor health, such as heart disease, obesity and cancer. Foods containing saturated fats include meat, eggs, dairy products and foodstuffs containing these ingredients, such as cakes and chocolate, pastries and pies. Unsaturated fats are better for you. They promote high-density lipid (HDL) or good cholesterol and reduce the risk of illness. Oily fish – for example salmon, herring, mackerel, fresh tuna (not canned), anchovies, sardines, kippers and whitebait, among others – are rich in beneficial omega 3 polyunsaturated fat, which can help protect against heart disease. Vegetables oils like sesame, olive, sunflower, corn, soya bean, walnut and canola are sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Tips: Oily fish, such as sardines, mackerel and anchovies are a good source of essential oils. Two to four portions a week are recommended.