By Michael Collins
If you've been a reader of MCNewsletters for any period of time, you know that pre and post workout nutrition are crucial for building muscle.
Now I'm going to tell you how and why you should include this crucial component of any muscle building/ fat loss program.
Lets start with the muscle itself. Why do you want it? (I know, I know- some of you don't want to get bigger, but hang in with me for a moment, you'll see how adding muscle actually helps make you appear smaller)
We want more muscle fiber because it burns calories. Plain and simply, muscle fiber does more to raise your metabolism than anything else. Muscle fiber is the powerhouse that chews up calories.
Contrary to popular belief, muscle isn't built during the workout itself. Each time you perform an effective strength training workout, you're actually breaking down the muscle fiber. This is a good thing. Without disrupting the muscles, the body has no reason to add more!
But... you see, the body doesn't understand that you're actually purposely breaking down muscle fiber so that you look better, or get stronger. All your body knows is survival. So the workout gets noticed as a traumatic event for the body. Your brain takes note of the damage that has occurred and tells your system to add more muscle fiber, so next time the body is under this stress, it wont break down again.
(*Cough cough* which is the reason you need progression in your training program)
The body senses the breakdown and sends out the signal for repair to take place. Repair is where the muscle fiber is fortified with protein and is built slightly stronger than last time.
Repair is where pre and post workout nutrition comes into play
For many years, it was thought that post- workout nutrition (Your intake immediately following the workout) is the most important intake of the day.
This is partially correct.
Recent research has shown that post- workout nutrition is only half of the equation, but I'll get to that in a minute.
The reason post- workout nutrition is crucial to muscle growth is that immediately following a workout, the muscles are like a sponge. They are ready to gobble up any nutrients in the blood stream- protein, carbs, creatine, etc.. to start rebuilding itself. They are starved for nutrients and will put them to good use.
Ideally, post- workout nutrition is consumed as a liquid. Usually a whey protein and carbohydrate mixture. This is because time is of the essence. You want to get those nutrients into the muscles as quickly as possible.
Whey Protein Isolate- along with being in a liquid form, a high quality whey protein is beneficial because it has gone through several filtration processes that remove any fat and lactose, leaving a very easily digestible and quickly absorbed form of amino acids (the building blocks of protein).
Dextrose- The carbohydrate is usually in the form of dextrose, or maltodextrin which are extremely quickly digested and absorbed (high glycemic). Gatorade, which is a combination of dextrose and sucrose can also be used. This is key at this time because the insulin release stimulated by the carbohydrate helps shuttle protein and other nutrients like creatine into the muscle cells. The insulin also stops catabolism (further muscle breakdown due to raised cortisol).
So When and Why?
Studies show there to be a two hour window of opportunity where the body is primed for anabolism (muscle growth and repair). The key hormones are peaked- growth hormone and testosterone, and they stimulate incredible anabolism together with the insulin release and readily available amino acids.
You'll notice the exclusion of fat in your post- workout nutrition. Your post- workout drink should contain as little fat as possible- zero fat at best. This is because fat slows digestion and will counteract the speed of the protein and carbohydrate absorption.
Along with tossing fat out the door in the post workout intake, you can toss fiber out as well. As you know, you should keep your fiber intake high throughout the day... except here. For the same reason as your tossing the fat. It slows everything down.
Back to the reason post workout nutrition is only half the equation...
In recent years, more research has been performed regarding nutrition and timing. It turns out that pre- workout intake (and during the workout) is as important, if not more important than post workout. Studies have shown that the presence of protein (essential amino acids) and carbs boost muscle testosterone concentrations during resistance training. This is tremendous for muscle building.
Another benefit of a high quality pre- workout intake is that you'll have the nutrients already in your system during the workout. In fact protein synthesis rates are tripled in response to pre- workout protein/ carb mix!
So what should the pre- workout intake be?
In my experience, the most effective sequence of pre- workout intake would be approximately 2- 2 1/2 hours before the workout, have a meal containing a moderate amount of protein, some quality fats and fibrous carbs.
Some examples of a moderate protein + quality fat + fibrous carbs meal would be:
Broiled salmon with asparagus or broccoli
Grilled chicken with spinach and a handful of walnuts
The macronutrient make- up of these meals is such that they will stabilize insulin levels, provide the building blocks for muscle, and supply anti- oxidants that will come in handy for fighting free radicals spurred on by the workout.
Next intake: about 15 minutes before your first set, start sipping a mixture of whey + dextrose, and continue to sip between sets throughout the workout.
The pre- workout formula will be a more diluted version of the post-workout formula.
For pre- workout, I'll mix up 24 grams of isolated whey protein with 18 grams of dextrose.
For post- workout, I'll have 48 grams of isolated whey protein with 36 grams of dextrose.
Note: The figures above apply for males.
For females, use a little more than half of what is recommended for men; pre- workout 16 grams isolated whey protein and 10 grams of dextrose. Post- workout 32 grams isolated whey protein and 24 grams of dextrose.
This provides ample energy throughout the workout, as well as an easily digestible, non- bloating form of protein to repair and build muscle.
So, to wrap up, here's a sample of an effective pre and post workout nutrition plan:
1) Have a moderate protein + quality fat + fibrous carbs meal about 2 or 2 1/2 hours before your workout to lay the foundation
2) Start sipping your pre workout "cocktail" consisting of 24 grams of whey protein and 18 grams of dextrose about 15 minutes before your first set.
3) Immediately following the workout, slam down a second "cocktail" of 48 grams of whey protein and 36 grams of dextrose. (Ideally you should be drinking this cocktail within 20- 30 minutes of your workout. If you live more than 30 minutes from the gym, you can mix up the cocktail in a second shaker bottle and bring it with you to keep in the car, or your gym bag.)
If you're interested in the full plan for muscle building and fat loss, look no further. We've covered all the bases as far as the workout and optimal nutrition to get your ideal body. Read about our Black Book of Secrets here.
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