Consume Plenty (of the right) Calories
A lot of people, and I include myself in this category, sometimes overlook this very important aspect of body building. All body building enthusiasts will tell you that you need to eat plenty of protein. What they don’t tell you (through no fault of their own, I hope!) is that you need to be consuming the right amount of calories throughout the day if you are targeting muscle growth. Yes, protein is vital for muscle growth, but there comes a point that no matter how much protein you consume, if you are not taking in enough calories, you will fall short of your target. To put it simply, if you are not consuming enough calories, you are not growing, period! The universal rule to determine how many calories you need on a daily basis is to take your body weight and multiply this by ten (to start off with). After that, you need to add between 1000-1500 calories per day.
Eat Plenty of Carbohydrates
You probably know this; carbohydrates are needed to fuel your exercise sessions. When carbohydrates are stored, they are known as glycogen. In order to achieve muscle mass, you should aim to super-saturate your glycogen levels so your body doesn’t need to ‘dip’ into protein to produce energy. The more carbohydrates that you have in your body, the more likely your body is to be in an anabolic state. Carbohydrates are also essential for the release of insulin. Insulin is the body’s anabolic hormone. It is responsible for promoting protein synthesis, gluconeogenesis and the development of adipocytes. The release of insulin is vital because it is required to assist in the promotion of an anabolic environment and this is where carbohydrates come into play. They help release insulin.
Eat Plenty of Protein
Protein is made from a composition of amino acids. It is impossible to build muscle without protein. A good way of thinking about building muscle is if you compare it to building a house with Lego bricks. If you don’t have all the pieces that you need, then you can’t build your house, simple. Most bodybuilders know the importance of eating protein. In order for you to achieve the muscle mass that you long for, you must consume between 1-2 grams of protein per pound of your body weight. Say, for example you weigh 200lbs. You will need about 200 grams of protein daily. Foods rich in protein can usually be quite filling, so the best way to ease increased protein into your daily diet is to eat smaller servings throughout the day and this will assist in better absorption. The sources of protein that I recommend include beef, fish, egg whites and chicken.
Eat More Meals
By now you must be thinking, “I must eat 4000 calories per day!”, and you are correct. The best way to do this is to break your food into 6 evenly spread meals a day. Yes, it does sound like a lot, but when looked at holistically, it’s not. Divide the 4000 calories into 6 meals…each meal consists of 660 calories, which seems a lot less (hopefully!). From personal experience, 660 calories in a meal is really not that much. Protein consumption takes a lot of discipline but believe me…eating smaller portions more frequently does always pay off. Remember that eating smaller meals is excellent for the release of insulin. Every time you eat, your blood glucose levels rise. When this happens your body responds by counteracting this by releasing insulin to lower the blood glucose levels. This helps to keep your body in a homeostasis state. As I stated earlier, insulin is your body’s most anabolic hormone. So the more you have, the better it is for muscle growth.
Eat Enough of the Right Fats
Another common mistake that a lot of you budding bodybuilders make is that you don’t seem to eat enough ‘good’ fats. People seem to think that they should steer well clear of fat whereas as in actual fact, fats are very important for muscle growth. Remember that ‘good’ fats have a direct correlation with your testosterone levels. A good example of this is when body builders ‘diet-down’ before a show. They concentrate on limiting their calorie and fat intake to help them achieve their ultimate stage-condition. Unfortunately, this restrictive diet makes it impossible to grow. This is precisely why professional bodybuilders firstly ‘bulk-up’ and then ‘cut-up’ because they can only do one or the other. I recommend that you consider including salmon (rich in omega-3 fatty acids, essential fatty acids, flaxaseed oil and conjugated linoleic acid) in your diet because it contains most of the ‘good’ fats that I discussed.
Pre-workout Meals are Important
Eating an hour or so before your workout is essential for effective muscle growth. I recommend eating food that contains slow-burning carbohydrates such as rice and pasta. Slow-burning carbohydrates are helpful because it takes them longer to convert into glucose and this assists in keeping the blood sugar levels consistent. A good pre-workout meal will prevent your body from undergoing an ‘energy-crash’ and allow you to work out longer and harder. I recommend that you combine this meal with a healthy portion of good protein to optimize your muscle growth.
Post-workout Meals are Equally Important
Eating after your workout is equally as important as eating before your workout. Your post-workout meal should be packed with fast burning carbohydrates and protein. I personally take a protein shake along with some form of sugar. I usually have a Gatorade mixed with creatine. Remember, when you train, you are putting your body in a catabolic state. Essentially you destroy it so it can rebuild itself to be bigger and stronger. Some food for thought…if you don’t provide your body with effective building blocks, then how can you expect your body to repair itself?
You Can Never Drink Enough Water
Again, a lot of people neglect this aspect of their training regime. Remember that your body is made up of 70% water. When you dehydrate, this has a direct impact on your muscle size. Everyone 1lbs of muscle can store up to 3lbs of water. If you add it all up…that’s a lot of water and a lot of muscle size.
Don’t be Afraid of Taking Supplements
Let’ be clear, in the current financial climate, not everyone can afford to use supplements and that is perfectly ok. But those of you that have the luxury of having a few extra bucks, you should use supplements because they work! I recommend starting off with the basic stuff such as protein powders, glutamine, creatine, joint formulas and even multi-vitamins. But remember…supplements will only work provided that you work!
Rest, Rest and more Rest
In my humble opinion, this is the most overlooked aspect of bodybuilding. If you don’t allow your body to rest then please don’t expect your body to grow. Your body needs the stimulus in the form of intense training after which your body is ‘broken-down’. In order for your body to effectively repair itself, it needs the proper nutrients and recovery periods to grow bigger and stronger before you proceed to break it down again. If you are currently not resting in between your workouts, I suggest taking your foot off the pedal and setting aside a day or two of rest every week.
About James McDuffy
James McDuffy is a fully qualified personal trainer and nutritionist. He has worked in the health and fitness industry for 15 years, and shares his expert advice online at MGE.