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To gain muscle mass, you need to train a lot – everyone knows that. Obsessed with getting quick results, novice athletes fixate on “hardware” and disappear in the gym for days. Often, they forget that muscles cannot form out of thin air. To build them up, the body needs a lot of energy and protein. However, this does not mean that you need to eat everything, and the more, the better. Quite the opposite – you need to adhere to a special diet and diet. Particular attention should be paid to post-workout nutrition.
Basic nutritional guidelines for muscle growth
- 5 – 6 meals a day – preferably every 3 – 4 hours.
- Eating high-calorie foods – up to 70% of the total diet. Muscle mass grows only if the amount of incoming energy exceeds the amount of consumed resources.
- Limiting consumption of fast carbohydrates and fats is better to give preference to foods with a low glycemic index and vegetable fats.
- Compliance with the drinking regime – you need to drink as thirst and a lot.
- Compliance with the balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats is approximately 35% / 60% 20%, respectively.
- Distribution of food throughout the day – portions should be approximately equal, while most of them should preferably be eaten before 17.00.
We take into account the physique
Why do some athletes grow muscles by leaps and bounds, while others do not notice training results? Physiologists say that it depends on the somatotype and distinguishes three body types – ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. Each of them has its characteristics and features that determine the possibility of increasing the mass. Given the following information, you can “trick” nature and achieve better results.
Physique characteristic: lean physique, fast metabolism
Training features: muscles build up long and hard
Diet: emphasis on complex carbohydrates, protein – 3 g per 1 kg of body weight, reduce the consumption of fatty foods, it is advisable to use sports supplements
Physique characteristic: normal physique and metabolism
Training features: fast visible result
Diet: reduce the consumption of fats, protein – 2-3 g per 1 kg of weight, any carbohydrates are allowed
Physique characteristic: full physique, slow metabolism
Training features: muscle mass is gained easily and quickly, but body fat is present
Diet: minimum of fats and carbohydrates, emphasis on proteins – up to 60% or more of the daily diet, do not use gainers
How much should you eat after training?
After an intensive exercise in the gym, the so-called anabolic window opens in the human body – a state of the body where there is a deficiency of nutrients – proteins and carbohydrates (therefore, the state is also called a protein-carbohydrate window). You can quickly compensate for the deficiency that has arisen with the help of food. And since the average duration of the anabolic window is 40 – 90 minutes, you need to eat precisely during this time. However, not everything is so simple, and there are several opinions on this matter.
- To prevent further muscle breakdown, eat right after exercise.
- You need to eat after 1 hour, during which the body will burn its fat reserves.
- You need to consume only proteins that will help restore damaged muscle fibers.
- It is better to give preference to carbohydrates, due to which the energy potential of the body will be restored.
- You can eat both proteins and carbohydrates since the body needs them to ensure muscle growth. The main thing is to keep within the period of the anabolic window.
Any of these opinions have experimental confirmation and real results of muscle gain. And the only thing to consider is whether the person ate before training. If not, you should eat as soon as possible after class. If the exercises were performed on a full stomach, you could take your food intake time.
What to eat after training?
For significant muscle recovery and mass gain, the body needs protein and carbohydrates. But it would help if you didn’t forget about fats either – their lack leads to metabolic disorders. Fats are obligatory for consumption; you just need to control their amount. So the post-workout meal for men and women might look like this.
Amount needed after exercise: 2-3 g per 1 kg of weight
Benefits and impact: building material for muscles, maintaining metabolism and immunity, transmission of nerve impulses between body cells
Recommended food: lean meat, fish, low-fat dairy products, eggs, legumes, nuts
Amount needed after exercise: 1 – 1.5 g per 1 kg of weight
Benefits and impact: energy source, protection of the body from hypothermia, maintenance of metabolic reactions and the structure of cell membranes
Recommended food: vegetable oils, seafood, oily fish
Amount needed after exercise: 5 – 8 g per 1 kg of weight
Benefits and impact: energy source, building support structures, RNA, DNA and ATP, maintaining osmotic pressure
Recommended food: cereals, coarse wheat pasta, fresh vegetables, unsweetened fruits
After a morning workout, when the whole day is still ahead, and additional consumption of the body’s energy resources is ahead, it is better to eat more high-calorie foods. After an evening workout, just before bed, you can limit yourself to protein intake. For heavy exercise, they can be supplemented with a small serving of slow carbohydrates.
What to drink after exercise
Still, mineral water, green tea without sugar, natural fresh juices, or compotes made from unsweetened fruits are the best drinks during the period of muscle gain—drink throughout the day, and especially during exercise, when the risk of dehydration increases. The amount of fluid consumed is purely individual, so it is better to focus on your feeling of thirst.
TOP 10 foods for gaining muscle mass
The post-workout food for muscle growth for girls and men should contain the following foods.
- Curd (low fat) is a slow protein source and one of the best foods for muscle growth. Cottage cheese saturates the body with vitamins B, PP, and C. It increases hemoglobin levels in the blood and strengthens the nervous system and bone tissue. Reduces the risk of developing atherosclerosis and obesity.
- Eggs are a protein source, healthy fats, vitamins, iron, and phosphorus, thanks to which muscles regenerate faster. Researchers at the University of Illinois recommend eating eggs to boost protein synthesis.
- Chicken fillet – contains a large amount of easily digestible protein, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. The product is rich in magnesium, which helps fight fatigue and normalizes the nervous system’s functions. However, do not forget that chicken fillet is a low-calorie food.
- Salmon (mackerel, sardines) – contains a large amount of omega-3-unsaturated fatty acids, which reduce the risk of muscle injury during exercise and help avoid the characteristic pain. Scientists at the University of Washington are looking at eating oily sea fish to boost protein synthesis.
- Ricotta – Whey cheese contains high amounts of casein and albumin. Members of the International Society for Sports Nutrition claim that eating ricotta promotes rapid muscle building. British scientists are in solidarity with them, focusing on the fact that this type of cheese increases the body’s endurance and strengthens bone tissue.
- Whole Grain Bread – It contains slow carbohydrates that fuel the body and helps maintain its energy potential.
- Potatoes (baked) – a source of carbohydrates to replenish energy deficits after exercise. Experts from the Journal of Applied Physiology are confident that a small serving of potatoes after training will not lead to body fat formation and will be beneficial for the body.
- Quinoa (grain cereal) is a protein, fiber, amino acid, trace elements, and B vitamins. According to a study by American scientists, the composition of quinoa protein is close to milk protein, and the chemical composition of grain is indispensable for active physical exertion. (Quinoa can be replaced with buckwheat – the composition is about the same).
- Cherry juice – rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, promotes quick recovery after exercise. Scandinavian researchers claim that cherry juice increases the body’s performance and normalizes blood pressure after exercise.
- Mate (Paraguayan tea) is an excellent drink that tones up and, according to British scientists, helps to recover faster after the training process.
What foods to avoid?
“Brutal” appetite is a good indicator of a fast metabolism. But do not follow his lead and eat everything. The diet should be of real benefit, so it is better to exclude the following foods.
- Animal fats.
- Fast food.
- Foods with food additives.
It is also important not to consume both fats and carbohydrates simultaneously – this causes the appearance of body fat. Both are a source of energy, so it is better to separate them – there are carbohydrates after training and a little fat during the day.
Sports nutrition for weight gain
In addition to traditional foods, sports nutrition – specially formulated supplements – can be included in the muscle-building diet.
- Protein is a fast-digesting whey protein with an optimal amino acid composition. The recommended serving for fast muscle growth is 20-30 g immediately after training, before meals.
- Gainer is a protein-carbohydrate mixture that replenishes the body’s energy deficit. Take immediately after exercise and take into account the amount of protein consumed.
- Creatine Monohydrate is the optimal form of creatine that provides energy metabolism in the muscles. 3-4 g of the supplement can be taken neat, along with a gainer, protein, or 2 g arginine.
- BCAA – a complex of three essential amino acids for the human body – leucine, isoleucine, valine, providing muscle recovery, increased strength, and fat burning. Take immediately after exercise or during a long workout.
- Vitamin-Mineral Complex (Opti-men or Opti-women) is an optimized supplement to improve metabolic reactions. Take within 1 – 2 months according to the instructions. After the end of the course, take a break for 1 month, after which the reception can be resumed.
Can I eat at night?
Often, the work schedule interferes with visiting the gym, and training has to be postponed to the evening. But this is not a reason to give up food because the body needs to restore energy reserves to maintain natural functions. In this case, the amount of incoming energy should prevail over the costs, which will provide the desired set of muscle mass. Therefore, you should eat before bed. As a late dinner, you should choose slow proteins, avoiding carbohydrates, and fats. Low-fat cottage cheese is best suited for this purpose – 100 – 150 g is enough. The casein contained in it will be absorbed for about 5 hours, supplying the body with energy to restore and build up muscles. To enhance the effect and diversify your menu, cottage cheese can be used with low-fat sour cream or kefir.
Errors that prevent weight gain
If everything is done correctly, then the muscle gain will be noticeable at the end of the first month of training. If no changes occur to the body or the mass gain has stopped at the same level, then, most likely, one of 14 mistakes is made.
- Exercise on an empty stomach.
- Late meal after exercise.
- Failure to follow a balanced diet.
- An arbitrary diet.
- Lack of calories to restore the energy deficit required for muscle growth.
- Insufficient fluid intake.
- Lack of protein to build muscle.
- The insufficient intensity and load of training.
- Lack of progress in loads and monotony of training.
- Skipping gym classes.
- Overtraining (overwork).
- Lack of rest.
- Lack of sleep.
- Overstrain at work, frequent stress.
- Systemic use of medications.
Muscle growth mechanism
Human muscles are made up of water, protein, glycogen, lipids, acids, and other substances. Their development requires a balanced diet and physical activity. Under their influence, the so-called hypertrophy occurs – an increase in muscle tissue mass and volume. Thanks to it, the muscles adapt to existing loads, contract, and resist fatigue.
Theoretically, there are two extreme types of muscle hypertrophy (increase).
- Myofibrillar hypertrophy – the process involves active muscle contraction and the development of their strength, without a significant increase in mass.
- Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy – an increase in the non-contractile part of the muscles occurs due to the accumulation of protein, which causes an increase in their endurance and volume.
In real life, during fitness or other sports, muscle hypertrophy is a combination of two types of processes, with one of them’s predominance. So, myofibrillar hypertrophy predominates when exercising with power types, making muscles more robust, and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is more characteristic of runners. While in bodybuilders, both types of hypertrophy are observed.
As for muscle growth itself (hypertrophy), this is a complex and multifactorial process that has not yet been fully understood. Today several theories are explaining its mechanism.
- Acidosis theory – intense protein synthesis for building muscle is due to lactic acid formation, which damages muscle fibers, thereby activating the enzymes of breakdown and synthesis.
- The theory of hypoxia – increased synthesis provokes temporary hypoxia, which the muscles encounter at the time of strength exercises. After all, lack of oxygen also damages muscle fibers, pushing their recovery and subsequent growth.
- The theory of mechanical damage to muscle fibers – damage to muscle fibers due to stress- is considered a triggering mechanism for synthesis.
Thus, supporters of “destruction theories” are sure that the mechanism of building-up is based on the process of damage to muscle fibers. And the more they are injured during training, the more intensively they recover and grow during rest – the phenomenon of supercompensation of destroyed structures appears.
However, supporters of the “theory of accumulation” disagree with this point of view. In their opinion, muscle building occurs due to the activation of growth factors, which leads to physical activity. And the fewer muscle fibers are damaged, the more growth factors are produced, stimulating muscle growth.
The lack of a unified theory of muscle growth mechanism has led to the emergence of different approaches to the training process. Some athletes prefer to work “for wear and tear,” alternating between classes and rest. Others train more “carefully,” but without rest. The results of visiting the gym for both are approximately the same, which confirms all theories’ reasonableness and does not lead to a consensus. But be that as it may, but one fact remains unchanged – to build muscle mass, the body needs proteins, energy and rest. To compensate for their deficiency, you need to eat right and rest from training – it is at such moments that your protein synthesis is activated.