Nutritional Strategies for Gaining Muscle: Part 1- Protein
The three most important factors determining muscle growth are genetics, workout volume/intensity, and nutrition. Supplements probably have the least impact in the long run. When you follow all of the correct guidelines, even the hardest gainers can put on muscle.
Today we will focus on protein consumption for recovery and muscle hypertrophy.
First things first, meat works best. Studies show that the slower digesting proteins contribute the best to muscle growth. So minimize your powders and eat an animal.
Secondly, quality is important. Spend the money and get wild, organic, and grass fed meats. They are healthier, provide more good fats, and contribute to a better environment biochemically for muscle hypertrophy.
Now, how much? That is a great question. Your optimal protein intake is determined primarily by your body weight and activity. So lets assume that your workouts are an hour long for lifting, and 30 minutes for interval training (leave jogging to those that want to be bean poles), and that you lift and interval train 5 days per week. In that case, you should intake 2-3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. As long as you are healthy, you can’t really do too much, as your body will use what it needs and break the extra down into urea to be urinated out.
Now, the timing. You should spread your protein out evenly over the course of the day. So if your a 100 kilos, you should intake around 300 grams of protein per day. That is 6, 50 gram meals through the day. I know… you can only absorb 25 grams of protein in a 2 hour period…gibberish! There is absolutely zero valid research on that subject, in fact, there is plenty of evidence demonstrating that your body adjusts to larger and more complex meals by slowing digestion to extract the maximum amount of nutrients from the meal. Back on topic, your meals should be about every 3 hours, with one within an hour before your lift, and another within 30 minutes after your lift. You should start your day with a protein meal within 45 minutes of waking to shutdown the catabolic state that sets in near the end of the night due to low blood protein levels. And you should eat your last protein meal immediately before bed to keep your body anabolic as long as possible during the night. This last meal is highly important, as most muscle recovery occurs during sleep while your growth hormone is highest.
Protein before sleep is important for 2 reasons:
1. it will sustain blood protein levels for about 8 hours so the protein can be used to repair muscle
2. growth hormone is entirely protein based. This means that excess protein increases growth hormone while inadequate protein decreases it.
Next, if you find yourself waking up during the night, especially if your hungry, eat some more protein.
Remember, you can’t build protein (muscle) without protein, just like you can’t build a brick wall without brick.