13 Surefire Muscle-Building Nutrition Tips!
Maximize your muscle with this baker’s dozen list of dietary maxims.
You know that protein builds muscle. Duh. You know that you want to avoid fast-burning carbs if your aim is to stay lean, and you know that you should be drinking lots of water a day—a gallon or more if you’re active. If you’re reading this odds are good you have more than a passing interest in such matters, so we’ll dispense with the basics.
The following compilation of sound nutritional tips is for those who already know the difference between carbs, fat and protein and who are looking for a dietary edge that will help them to maximize their muscle gains. That, we’re guessing, is you.
1. EAT BOTH FATTY AND LOW-FAT FISH
Fish is an excellent source of protein that should be consumed regularly by bodybuilders. Varying in fat content, some types of fish are high in healthy fats while others are low in fat altogether. Unlike other tissue proteins, though, fatty fish provide a host of benefits to bodybuilders.
Salmon and sardines, for example, are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which support the immune system and assist with muscle recovery and growth, in addition to many other benefits. Fish that are lower in fat, such as tuna, also make an excellent source of protein. All bodybuilders, regardless of their phase of diet or training goals, should strive to take in eight ounces of fatty fish at least twice a week.
2. EAT YOUR VEGGIES!
Vegetables are one of the most overlooked components of bodybuilding nutrition. Many bodybuilders are rigorous about their protein and complex carbohydrate consumption, but lax about eating a sufficient quantity and variety of vegetables. Bodybuilders should strive to take in five or six servings every day.
To meet your needs, include more than one serving at a meal. Not only do vegetables provide nutrients that other bodybuilding foods may lack, but they also provide bulk and fiber, helping your body more efficiently process a high-protein diet.
3. TAKE GLUTAMINE
Known for its immunity-enhancing properties, glutamine is not only one of the most prevalent aminos in the body, but also one of the most important for bodybuilders. If you’re overly stressed from dieting or training, supplementing with glutamine allows your body to maintain its storage supply of glutamine in muscle tissue, enhancing overall muscular growth and recovery. Take 10-40 g of glutamine a day.
4. MIX YOUR ANTIOXIDANTS
Take a mix of antioxidants; a good cocktail has an anticatabolic effect by quenching free radicals formed during and after intense exercise. In your antioxidant regimen include 400-800 international units (IU) of vitamin E, 500-1,000 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, 200 micrograms of selenium (from selenium yeast). Get the rest from five or six servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
5. USE THERMOGENICS INTELLIGENTLY
Use thermogenic supplements sparingly and intelligently to reduce bodyfat. Supplements containing ephedra or mahuang, combined with caffeine, can help curb appetite, boost metabolism, enhance workouts and preserve muscle mass during a cutting phase. The side effects are irksome for some trainers, but they usually can be avoided by starting with a low dose in the morning only and working up to the recommended dose of 20-25 mg ephedrine and 200 mg caffeine three times per day over two or three weeks.
Do not exceed the recommended dose. Do this consistently for at least three months to achieve significant, fat loss. Check with your doctor before taking thermogenics if you suffer from depression or other psychiatric conditions.
6. ADD ARGININE
Try adding arginine to your supplement mix. Arginine, a conditionally essential amino acid, seems promising in the muscle-building department, although not by aiding growth-hormone release, as previously believed. Studies suggest it speeds wound healing, which isn’t too far removed from what happens in the body after a workout.
Arginine also improves blood flow and enhances the growth of muscles lengthwise (new contractile units are built onto muscle at a faster rate when arginine is given to developing rats). Arginine may also enhance immune function in athletes, especially when combined with glutamine.
7. MAXIMIZE YOUR MINERALS
Take extra calcium and magnesium. If you look at the label of any once-daily multivitamin, you’ll notice a “mineral gap” — a place where certain minerals should be listed. Even if they’re included, most multis contain only a small percentage of the Daily Value (% DV) of calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Calcium is important for fat-burning metabolism, magnesium for training performance and potassium for muscle cell volume. A once-daily multivitamin simply doesn’t cut it. Correct the situation by taking 1,000 mg per day of supplement-source calcium (or two to three cups of fat-free dairy products), 450 mg of magnesium, and five or six servings of fruits and vegetables per day (for potassium as well as other micronutrients).
8. TRY TYROSINE
Give the amino acid tyrosine a try to prevent burnout caused by lack of sleep, stress and/or use of thermogenic supplements. Taking 1-4 g of it early in the day is recommended. In studies using military personnel as subjects, tyrosine was shown to increase performance under stress. It is a precursor to fat-burning hormones that stimulate norepinephrine.
9. TAKE ZMA
ZMA is a specifically formulated combination of zinc and magnesium. The benefits of ZMA supplementation include improved recovery due to enhanced sleep efficiency and increased anabolic hormone levels, as well as greater gains in muscle strength and power. For best results, take ZMA on an empty stomach before bedtime. Follow label recommendations for dosage.
10. DON’T SKIP THE VITAMIN C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps in the synthesis of hormones, amino acids and collagen. It also protects immune-system cells from damage and allows them to work more efficiently. The body cannot store vitamin C, so it must be frequently supplemented. Multivitamins contain C, but additional supplementation will ensure that you don’t have a deficit. Take 500-1,000 mg per day.
11. BOOST PROTEIN BEFORE BEDTIME
One of the best ways to prevent your body from tapping into muscle stores for energy is to take in a moderate amount of protein shortly before going to bed at night. Thirty to fifty grams of protein, consumed before going to sleep, will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to repair and build muscles. A protein shake is ideal before bedtime. Lean meats, nuts and seeds are reasonable alternatives.
12. CYCLE BETWEEN HIGH- AND LOW-CARB DAYS
One excellent way to keep your metabolic rate up and your body burning fat is to change the amount of carbohydrates you eat on a daily basis. Eating high carbs all the time allows your body to readily store them as bodyfat. Eating low carbs all the time encourages your body to tear down muscle tissue for energy. To get the best of both worlds—keeping your muscle while avoiding bodyfat—schedule a higher-carb day after every three to five low-carb days.
13. USE CHEAT FOODS AS PART OF YOUR DIET STRATEGY
On the surface, this may seem to contradict the previous point, but when implemented properly, it doesn’t. The mindless consumption of junk and processed foods destroys bodybuilding progress faster than almost anything else does, Judicious selection of a cheat food, however, can help keep you sane and help ensure your adherence to your overall diet strategy.
Cut out junk food that you don’t crave. If you have a craving, feed the beast, but keep it moderate. If doughnuts are your thing, allow yourself that Sunday morning Krispy Kreme. Have a slice of pizza occasionally. Just set limits and adhere to them.