Your body is a machine. Like any other machine it requires maintenance. But it also requires the proper fuel. No matter how much work you do on your car, if you put sand in the gas tank, you’re not going to get the results you are looking for. Your body works the same way. As you put in the time exercising and taking the proper steps to lift for mass, make sure you are getting the most of that time by giving your body the proper fuel. What you eat and drink is important, but so is when you do your eating and drinking. Doing all of these things the right way, in combination with an intelligent workout routine, will have you gaining solid muscle the right way.
One of the biggest keys to gaining muscle is the workout. No matter what you eat, if you do it as a part of sitting on your couch all day, you are not going to see the results you are looking for. Second in importance though is definitely the food that you eat. The quality and type of food is important, and we will get to that, but we need to start by knowing how many calories a day you need. A simple formula is to multiply your weight by 15-20. Each person is unique and so this isn’t exact but you can start in the middle with 18, and adjust up or down after you see some results. Let’s use a 200-pound person as an example. 200 x 18 =3600. In order to gain mass this person needs to eat 3600 calories a day, and work a rigorous lifting program several times a week. Those two things are a good start for information, but they are only the beginning.
Now that you have worked out how much you need to eat, it’s time to figure out what you need to eat. A milkshake on the way to the gym, and a burger with fries on the way home will defeat all of the hard work that you do in between. All the foods you consume can be broken down into 3 main categories; protein, carbohydrates (carbs), and fats. In order to make sure that you are eating the right diet to gain weight, you need to have these three categories balanced properly.
An industry standard is the 40-40-20 rule. 40 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrates, and 20 percent fat.
The biggest key is protein. The only thing more prevalent in your muscles than protein, is water. To determine how much protein should be consumed daily, we can use another simple formula. 1-2g of protein per pound. Using the same 200-pound person as an example, they would consume 200-400g of protein daily.
Carbohydrates offer you a wide range of choices, but be careful. Not all carbs are created equal. Try to get the majority of your carbs from foods like fresh vegetables, whole grains, oatmeal, cereal grains, brown rice, and potatoes. These are all complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates like; candy, sugar, and white bread are not good choices to help you gain muscle.
The fat is the one you have to worry least about. Make smart choices about the proteins you are choosing, and opt for complex carbs instead of simple ones. As a natural by product you will end up with the fat your body needs to operate, without over doing it.
Now that we have the How much? And the What? Of your nutrition plan covered, let’s talk timing. Your body is at it’s peak when it is constantly working. By eating smaller meals, more often, through out the day you are ensuring that your digestion keeps a steady pace all day. Your goal of gaining mass is assisted by the fat that is burned by constant activity all day. The other reason for spreading your meals through out the day is practical. It is not always easy to eat 3600 calories daily. By spacing out your meals you are more likely to get those calories in intelligently. It is easy to eat a 1500-calorie meal at a burger joint, it takes a lot more lean chicken breast and vegetables to reach that same 1500 calories. You will have days that you are working to get to your necessary caloric intake. It will be easier to eat 7 meals of 500+ calories than it is to eat 3 meals of 1500+ and still eat healthy.
Another aspect of timing your meals is their relationship to your workout. In the 90-minutes prior to working out it is good to consume a meal that consists of proteins but is a little heavier on the carbs. These carbs will provide the energy that fuels you through your work out. Also if you are going to have simple carbs at all in your diet, juice prior to working out can offer a quick burst of energy for your workout.
Your post work out meal is even more important. Your entire time at the gym was spent breaking down your muscles in order for them to rebuild even larger. It’s important that your post-workout meal provide your muscles with the elements necessary to rebuild. Your post workout meal should be 20%-25% of your daily caloric intake, consisting of proteins and carbs in a fairly equal balance. Studies have shown that the timing plays a large part in the effectiveness of the post-workout meal. The sooner after the workout that you get your meal in, the more mass can be gained. Waiting any longer than 90-minutes nearly eliminates the effectiveness of the post-workout meal.
The final part of your diet is also the easiest to master. Water. The standard suggestion is a minimum of 8 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Those doing heavy lifting will often require more. Weight training can be a very dehydrating process. There is no dangerous level of water intake; consuming more can only help you. It also aids your kidneys in processing the large quantities of proteins that you will now be consuming. The one caution with water consumption is the timing. It is best to limit the amount you drink before and during your meals. Filling up on water will limit the amount of calories you can consume in each sitting.