Andrew Jagim, Ph.D, CSCS
It has long been accepted that exercise, specifically resistance training, is the primary way to increase muscle mass. However, an often-overlooked component of this process is the importance of nutrition and even more importantly, the timing of nutrients. Without the proper combination of nutrients, timing and exercise, one may not reach full potential. Before a workout, it is important to eat a well-balanced meal and consume plenty of fluids in order for energy stores to be full and ready for utilization. Ideally, this meal should be consumed 2-4 hrs before exercise and consist of 200-300g of carbohydrates, 30-40g of protein, and roughly 16 oz of water. Meals should also be low in fat and consist of familiar foods to promote gastric emptying and minimize discomfort. In addition, meals should consist of low glycemic index foods to prevent a rapid spike in blood sugar and insulin levels and provide a slower rise in blood sugar, resulting in longer lasting energy. During bouts of resistance exercise averaging an hour, nutritional supplementation is not as important as it is during long-duration endurance exercise because energy supplies are not. Therefore, proper hydration becomes the main focus during bouts of resistance training. Consuming 6-8 oz every 10 to 15 min should be sufficient to maintain proper hydration.
Following exercise, nutrition should be the number-one priority to maximize muscle gains. There is an “anabolic window” of opportunity when the body is primed for muscle growth to occur if the proper nutrients are present. Following resistance exercise, the rates of protein synthesis and breakdown are elevated as a result of the stress placed on the muscles during the workout. If proper nutrients are not supplied to the muscle, muscle tissue will continue to be broken down without the desired increases in muscle synthesis. This is why post-exercise nutrition plays such a vital role. Carbohydrates and proteins are equally important because proteins provide the backbone for the synthesis of new muscle and carbohydrates replenish energy stores and increase insulin levels, which aids in the transport of nutrients into the muscle. Ideally a post-workout snack should be consumed within 30 minutes after exercise followed by a larger meal 2 hours later. The post-workout snack should consist of carbohydrates and protein in a 3:1 ratio. This should equate to about 1.5 g/kg of body weight for carbohydrates and .5 g/ kg for protein. In this case, the carbohydrates should be high glycemic index foods to promote a rapid rise in blood sugar and insulin, which will assist in the influx of nutrients into the muscle. Proper re-hydration should also be considered post-workout to compensate for any fluids lost during. Again, it is imperative that proper nutrient intake and timing be included in any training program to maximize results and help achieve one’s potential.
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