No matter how long you’ve been lifting weights, and no matter how much progress you’ve already made, proper nutrition is the key to future gains. Lifting weights stimulates your body to grow bigger and stronger, but you need the proper nutrients to actually make it happen. You can train your heart out and leave blood, sweat, and tears on the gym floor and STILL not make any progress! Here are three shocking diet tricks that will help you build muscle faster.
You probably already know the best sources of carbohydrates. Oats, rice, sweet potatoes, etc. – the fitness magazines repeat this stuff ad nauseum in just about every nutrition article. And it’s true, these foods are great for sustained energy and recovery. However, eating your carbs at the right times may be even more important for gaining lots of muscle and minimal body fat.
Timing is crucial because carbohydrates cause your body to secrete insulin – a hormone which has the potential to cause either incredible muscle growth or rapid fat gain. You need to consume carbs when your body is in the proper physiological state to utilize them for growth and recovery – not fat storage. For most people, the ideal times are before and after intense workouts.
The meal you eat before you train should be rich in complex, fibrous starches like those found in oatmeal or potatoes. You might also want to add some healthy fats to this meal in order to slow your body’s insulin response and digestion. After you train, you want to consume simple starches and sugars to create a large spike in insulin levels. When your muscles are thrashed from heavy training, this insulin will cause your body to use carbs for recovery – not fat gain.
Outside the pre- and post-workout periods, you probably want to avoid starchy carbs – even at breakfast! It might seem crazy to eat anything but oatmeal at the beginning of the day, but ditching that AM hit of carbs might be your ticket to staying lean. Keeping your insulin low throughout most of the day allows your body to use mainly fat for energy and avoid storing extra calories as blubber.
While most lifters could probably stand to eat more protein, some of you guys are going WAY overboard! A 300-pound behemoth bodybuilder might need 450-500 grams of protein per day, but a beginner or intermediate lifter does not. In fact, eating that much protein probably keeps you from getting enough carbs and fats for optimal energy and growth.
A great baseline for protein intake is one gram per pound of bodyweight, not counting the incidental amounts you get from nuts, grains, and other plant products. If you’re eating much more than that and still not gaining muscle, try scaling your protein intake back AND increasing your other nutrients. Contrary to what obsessive-compulsive bodybuilders seem to believe, a few extra carbs are NOT going to make you fat!
In fact, the extra energy you can get from increasing your fats and carbs might be just what you need to supercharge your workouts and recovery abilities. Not all calories are the same, and overeating protein cannot make up for a deficiency in other nutrients. I don’t care if you’re eating five pounds of meat every day, you’re still going to be tired and weak if you don’t have some carbs. Serious lifters tend to take things to extreme levels, but “balancing” your diet may be just what you need.
Forget the dogma about eating small meals every two to three hours. This might work for some people, but it is impractical for most lifters with busy schedules. In fact, less-frequent meals may even be BETTER for lean muscle gains!
If you find yourself piling on body fat but still not gaining any muscle, give intermittent fasting a try. Instead of spreading your food intake throughout the entire day, concentrate all of your calories into a roughly eight-hour window. Make sure your “feeding time” also includes your pre and post-workout periods. Most intermittent fasters choose to eat and train in the evening, but you can use the morning hours if that works better with your schedule.
By eating only during this time period, you extend your nighttime fast well into the daylight hours. This allows your body to easily burn up any body fat you might gain while eating big for muscular gains. Research also suggests that these short fasts can cause your body to more effectively use excess calories for muscle growth when you DO eat. Overall, intermittent fasting can help you maximize your body’s anabolic potential!
Article by Sixpackfactory’s Muscle Building Expert and Top Fitness Model Justin Woltering. Get more info on Justin at: http://www.justinwoltering.com/