As a ZAP member you will know your way around the usual machines and free weights. You have probably followed programs and understand how important it is to increase muscle mass to enhance strength and power. So why all of a sudden have you hit a wall? Why are you simply not meeting your goals when you are eating all that protein and pumping all that weight?
Muscle is harder to build and maintain as men and women age. Even during their twenties men will see a decline in overall skeletal muscle and women see a decline in the quality of their muscle mass. So muscles need additional stimulation to grow. They also need a quality diet to support this.
If you have a tendency to bulk up on your protein then you may be surprised to learn that the preferred fuel for working muscles is carbohydrate. Most healthy Australian diets provide enough protein for building muscles. You may only need to increase your protein intake marginally if you are really trying to bulk up.
Protein only then needs to go up to 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight per day or 15 percent to 20 percent of your calories. Research indicates that eating more protein than this will not have a benefit. So not making a huge increase in your protein intake is not a ‘missed steak’.
Excess protein will just be oxidized as an energy source and may contribute to gains in body fat. Very high protein diets displace other important nutrients from the diet and can be a source of saturated fat. Women and men who are strength training at least twice a week need at least half of their calories to come from carbohydrates.
One of the most important factors to consider is the timing of meals and snacks to fuel recovery from training sessions and promote muscle growth. Eating more frequently rather than increasing the amount of food you consume at meals is very important. Every three to four hours is ideal.
Including a small serve of protein with all meals and snacks will optimize amino acid levels in the blood and may facilitate muscle development. Compact meals such as milk shakes, smoothies, yoghurt, cheese and crackers or dried fruit and nuts are good options. Remember that protein comes from a wide range of sources including bread, breakfast cereal, rice and dairy products and meat.
Eating a carbohydrate rich, moderate protein snack or meal immediately after training may help to optimize gains in muscle mass by increasing production of anabolic hormones, reducing protein breakdown and supplying amino acids for protein synthesis. This snack may be even more effective when consumed before a weight training session.
Ensuring you have an adequate carbohydrate and protein in your diet and eating it at the right time will make a difference to your results. So if you have a tendency to neglect your diet while training it may be time to start working out your food as well as your weights program.