On training days you have to pay more attention to the timing and composition of your diet than on other days. You don’t have to overdo it though. Five things you need to keep in mind.
1. PLAN YOUR WORKOUT BETWEEN TWO PROTEIN-RICH MEALS
Proteins are the building blocks of muscles, so as a bodybuilder you need a lot of them: 1.6 to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day (a little more in the cut: 1.8 to 2 g/kg/d, or even more when you have a very low fat percentage).
Also, do not eat (much) more protein than that, because that will no longer give you extra muscle growth and will therefore unnecessarily affect your intake of carbohydrates, which are also very important for muscle growth (see point 2).
It has been shown that it is best to spread your protein intake evenly throughout the day in ‘shots’ (meals) of 20-40 grams. This is probably the best way to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. In practice, this means that you eat four to five meals a day (each with 20-40 g protein), with three to four meals in between.
Make sure your workout is scheduled between two such meals so that you can have enough protein during and after your workout for muscle damage repair.
‘Meal’ can also be a protein powder shake, but it doesn’t have to be!
5:30 pm: dinner (pasta with 150 g chicken): 30 g protein
7:00 pm-8:00 pm: workout
8:30 pm: whey protein shake: 40 g protein
As you can see, you don’t have to eat that protein shake right after your workout. After all, during and immediately after training, your body can still have proteins from the 5:30 pm meal.
Always eat whole proteins and therefore no individual amino acids (BCAAs).
Oh, and use a (free) calorie app to monitor all this.
Eat enough protein: 1.6-2 g/kg/d (not much more than that). Spread that intake evenly throughout the day in ‘shots’ (meals) of 20-40 grams and plan your training between two meals.
2. EAT A LOT OF CARBOHYDRATES BEFORE YOUR WORKOUT
If you want bigger muscles, not only protein, but also carbohydrates are your friend. They have a positive effect on the process of muscle growth in several ways. Above all, they are the main source of energy for your training. And unlike proteins, our bodies can store carbohydrates as an energy source for later. However, timing can also be somewhat important with carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates can provide us with energy in different ways. After digestion, they mainly end up in our blood as glucose. Then the tissues take up glucose where it can be burned. This creates direct energy for the body. Unused energy is initially stored in the muscles and liver. This occurs in the form of glycogen. Think of it as an energy supply that is used when your body needs energy. During your training for example. Carbohydrates are therefore a much more efficient source of energy for strength athletes than fats [ iv ] .
We therefore advise you to eat as much carbohydrates as possible in addition to sufficient proteins (1.6 to 2 g/kg body weight/day), and to limit the intake of fats to what is necessary (approximately 1 to 1.5 g/day) kg body weight/day (in the cut even less, but not less than 0.7 g/kg/d). A general recommendation for strength athletes is 4-6 g carbohydrates per kg body weight per day, depending on how often, how much and how intensively they exercise [ v ] .
But should you eat extra carbohydrates around your training? Well, because your body can build up a stock, the total daily intake counts in the first place. Yet it’s totally fine to eat a little more carbohydrates before training than at other times, so that you can be sure that your glycogen stores are fully filled [ i ] . Furthermore, it may also have a psychiological effect to have a big meal before the big lifts in the gym.
If you eat a large meal a few hours before training, make sure it contains mostly complex carbohydrates. By the time you start training, they are digested and you have enough energy. See also point 5. In addition, make sure that the meal contains enough protein – point 1 – and not too much fat. Fat is much more difficult to digest and you could suffer from that during training.
If you have not had a large meal, or even none at all, you can take a source of simple (fast-absorbing) carbohydrates just before training, such as a banana.
Especially in the cut, consuming carbohydrates before training is important, because with a calorie-restricted diet your glycogen stores run out faster. Strategic timing of food intake during the cut can ensure that you have the most energy at key moments, especially during training.
Because the body can store energy from carbohydrates (as glycogen), the timing of intake is less important than that of proteins. It does seem useful though to eat a lot of (complex) carbohydrates in the meal a few hours before training. Or possibly ‘fast’ carbohydrates, such as a banana, immediately before training.
3. DON’T EAT TOO SOON BEFORE TRAINING
Perhaps an open door, because you’re probably wise enough not to enter the gym immediately after a heavy table session. Not only can that cause stomach problems and aches, you also have less energy during exercise because your body is busy digesting all that food. Eating (a lot) just before training can therefore negatively affect your performance in the gym.
Food travels from the esophagus into the stomach and stays there for an average of three hours. For that reason, it is recommended that you only train three hours after a big meal. But you may be hungry again by then and your energy level will not be optimal. Then it may work better for you to start exercising two hours after a meal. And sometimes, for practical reasons, that is not possible otherwise. Starting your training 2-3 hours after a large meal therefore seems to us to be a good general guideline.
For optimal energy during training, it is recommended to take a meal with mainly complex (‘slow’) carbohydrates and of course a lot of proteins (20-40 grams). Avoid too many fats, as they take longer to digest.
What if you couldn’t eat a large meal a few hours before training, for example because you were at work or because you train early in the morning? In that case, it is best to have a smaller meal with simple (‘fast’) carbohydrates just before training, for example two bananas, and possibly whey protein powder. Do this 20-30 minutes before training. Because your body can digest these carbohydrates (and proteins) quickly, you will not be bothered by them during training. But the small meal provides you with just enough energy and possibly with proteins that reach your muscles immediately after training.
Eat a meal with a lot of protein (20-40g) and complex carbohydrates two to three hours before your workout. Do not eat too many fats because of the slower digestion process.
4. EATING DURING TRAINING IS USUALLY NOT NECESSARY
Some supplement manufacturers like to fill the unsuspecting strength athletes with beautifully designed jars with things they simply don’t need. For example, intra-workout supplements. If your nutrition is in order throughout the day and around the training, you don’t have to go into everything during the training. No, not even BCAAs (loose amino acids). BCAA supplements are a waste of money and we are surprised that they are still widely sold and bought.
Is there no need at all to eat during training? Sometimes. If your strength training session lasts longer than 60 minutes, you may benefit from ingesting 30-60 grams of carbohydrates, even after each subsequent half hour [ vi ] . It is best to use a source of ‘fast’ carbohydrates, such as a banana, or possibly a sports drink.
If your strength training session lasts longer than 60 minutes, you may benefit from taking in 30-60 grams of carbohydrates, even after every subsequent half hour. For the rest, eating during training is not necessary.
5. EATING CARBS AFTER TRAINING DOESN’T SEEM NECESSARY (BUT IT IS ALLOWED)
Bodybuilders have long been advised to consume proteins and carbohydrates immediately after training. That way you would prevent muscle breakdown. There is indeed something to be said for protein intake immediately after the workout (see point 3), but as you can read in this article, extra carbohydrates are probably not strictly necessary at that time.
In the first place, with sufficient carbohydrate intake throughout the day, glycogen stores do not have to be replenished immediately. Those stocks really don’t run out by a single hour of solid strength training.
Secondly, you don’t need carbohydrates immediately after training to facilitate muscle protein synthesis, the process of building proteins in muscles that starts immediately after training. An old theory says that carbohydrates after training give that process an extra boost via the hormone insulin. And that carbohydrates thus enhance the effect of proteins, which is why it is best to consume them together (in a shake). But this theory has long been disproved .
Well, if it doesn’t help, then it won’t hurt, you will think. That’s true, but many bodybuilders see this theory as a reason to ingest large amounts of dextrose or other sugar-rich products after training. These are non-nutritive calories that you try to avoid in a ‘lean bulk’. If you still want to consume carbohydrates after your workout, choose a nutritious source, such as a banana and/or a source of complex carbohydrates. If desired, the latter can also be done with the help of a powder, for example oat flour.
Eating (a lot of) carbohydrates immediately after training offers no additional benefit in terms of muscle protein synthesis, nor is it necessary to replenish glycogen stores. If you still like to eat carbohydrates after training, use a nutritious source instead of, for example, dextrose in a shake.
- [ i ] http://www.lookgreatnaked.com/blog/pre-workout-nutrition/
- [ ii ] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3758035
- [ iii ] http://www.lookgreatnaked.com/blog/post-workout-nutrition-2/
- [ iv ] https://youtu.be/NQS-bhb_vk8?t=2145
- [ v ] https://books.google.nl/books/about/Musculoskeletal_and_Sports_Medicine_For.html
- [ vi ] https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/your-guide-to-intra-workout-carbohydrates.html