Do you want to lift heavier, push harder, and ‘soldier-on’ for longer? We’re here to help you! Our 5 top nutrition tips for building strength and gaining muscle should have you achieving your goals in no time!
We expect you already know that protein is important for strength training. But do you know when to time your protein intake, for best results? In summary, your body is constantly repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue, all day every day, not just after a workout. The wear and tear on muscles during a strengthening program will increase the rate at which your body uses protein, for up to 48 hours post workout. However, studies show that we can only utilize loads of 20-40g of protein per meal for muscle repair (1). And, unlike fats or carbohydrates, the body cannot ‘store’ excess protein for later use. So, in order to maximize your muscle recovery and gains, we recommend 4-6 meals/snacks containing 20g-40g protein every day (rather than 3 larger meals). Some studies suggest that a load of 40g of protein in the first hour post workout may increase muscle protein synthesis by 10-20%, when compared to loads of 20g (1).
The terms ‘complete’ or ‘incomplete’ proteins refer to the amino acid content of the food source. Our body requires 20 amino acid varieties for protecting and building muscle mass during strength training, nine of which we rely on from food. These are called ‘essential amino acids’. Food sources of ‘complete’ proteins offer all 20 amino acids, including the nine ‘essential’ amino acids, in adequate amounts. Food sources of ‘incomplete’ proteins are lacking in some of the essential amino acid varieties. However, they can be paired with complementary foods to form a ‘complete’ protein meal.
Food sources of complete proteins include meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs and soy. Quinoa, buckwheat and hemp seeds are also complete protein sources, but their total protein content is low in comparison. Food sources of incomplete proteins include brown rice, whole grain breads, oats, legumes, nuts and seeds, and leafy greens. If you pair wholegrains or leafy greens with legumes, nuts and seeds, you will achieve a complete protein meal. Think beans on toast, porridge with LSA, and spinach and barley salad with almonds and pepitas.
Creatine is a popular pre-workout supplement that can improve strength and power output, by storing phosphocreatine in muscle tissues. Phosphocreatine releases energy to aid cellular function during stress. There is a large body of evidence to support creatine for novice and elite athletes. A review of multiple studies concluded that resistance training with creatine supplementation increased strength and power by 20% and 26% respectively, whereby resistance training alone increased strength and power by 12% only. Creatine has also been shown to reduce exercise-related fatigue. Increases in lean muscle mass with creatine are difficult to determine, as measurements can be confounded by water retention.
Creatine is safe to use daily, with the most popular form being creatine monohydrate. The recommended dose for adult gym-goers, particularly in the case of power and interval training, is 0.3g/kg body weight for the first week, then 0.03g/kg body weight thereafter – mixed with water. However, in practice, many people will opt for servings of 5g – 10g prior to a workout. Note – it can cause water retention, so note any sudden changes you see on the scales! Excess consumption without sufficient water may cause stomach cramps, diarrhea and nausea.
Carbohydrates are essential for protecting muscle during strength training, for many reasons. Firstly, unlike fats, they provide a source of energy that works for endurance (aerobic) AND high intensity (anaerobic) training. This is especially important when advancing your heavy lifting sessions, as you will need to perform short, maximum efforts (2). Secondly, if you are not consuming enough carbohydrates to fuel your exercise, replenish glycogen stores and support essential bodily functions, there is risk your protein intake will be used for these tasks, and not for muscle growth. Lastly, carbohydrates can help you reach the calorie surplus you need to build new muscle tissue. Choose mostly low GI sources, such as fruits and wholegrains, particularly in the lead up to, and after your workout. Back it up with training Unlike weight loss, which can be achieved without exercise, you will not get results for building muscle mass without a proper training plan, no matter how ‘perfect’ your diet may be. Your Goodlife trainers can develop a training plan that suits you and your goals.
References: 1. Witard, OC et al (2014): Myofibrillar muscle protein synthesis rates subsequent to a meal in response to increasing doses of whey protein at rest and after resistance exercise.Am J Clin Nutr 99(1): 86-95 2. Burke, L et al (2011): Carbohydrates for training and competition, Journal of Sports Sciences, 29:sup1, S17-S27