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Timing Your Meals For Maximum Muscle Building
One of the key factors for successfully being able to build muscle mass is consuming enough calories to provide the body with the raw materials to assemble new tissue. Without the caloric support, you can work out as hard you like in the gym, but the results will simply not be there. Diet and training program are two vital components that go together regardless of whether your goal is fat loss or muscle building.
When looking at the diet required for lean mass building, it’s important to take into account a few different factors to ensure optimal success. After total calories are taken care of, be sure to consume enough total protein, as it’s the protein that breaks down into individual amino acids which are the building blocks for muscle. Carbohydrates then provide the insulin spike necessary to shuttle those amino acids into the muscle cells, helping increase the rate at which muscle is built.
Once you’ve got the basics determined – your calorie, carbohydrate, protein, and dietary fat needs, then the next step to look at is what you can do in terms of meal timing in order to push your results that extra bit over the edge. Here’s what to consider.
Meal Frequency Throughout The Day
With all the talk about eating six meals a day for an increased metabolism for fat loss, some people may think they’d be better off with less frequent meals if they are trying to gain weight. However, if your calorie requirements for building muscle are up around four to five thousand a day, trying to squeeze this into three or four meals could become difficult. While you can easily down a thousand calories at your local fast food joint, when you’re actually looking to supply your body with quality nutrition through healthy foods, this becomes much more difficult.
Not getting enough total calories in for the day is going to be the biggest mistake you could make with your diet, so this must be avoided at all costs. Spreading that intake out into six or seven meals a day will help make things much easier. Consider supplementing three or four solid meals with shakes if you really are finding you’re feeling bloated with the higher calorie intake.
The other nice thing about spreading these meals out over the day is you will always have a constant supply of energy and amino acids flowing to the muscles, helping to keep the body in as much of an anabolic state as possible.
Before-Bed Meal Issues
One concern that those with muscle-building goals often express is that they are unsure whether they should be eating all that much before bed. They fear that any food taken in before bed has a much higher chance of being turned into body fat so they avoid this late night meal.
This concern needs to be put to rest because once again, it’s total calorie intake at the end of the day that determines fat gains. If you are eating way over your maintenance intake, then regardless of when those calories come in, you’re going to gain some body fat. The body can only assimilate so much muscle mass at once, so once you’ve supplied the calories for this process, any additional will be stored as fat. The better way to regulate body fat gains if you’re concerned about it is to count your total calories for the day over the span for a couple of weeks and see what your gains have been like. If you’re putting on more body fat than you’re comfortable, knock down the surplus you’re using by a couple of hundred calories. Just be sure you don’t knock it down so low that you eliminate your ability to build muscle.
To Wake Up Mid-Sleep Or Not
On the opposite end of the spectrum, other people get so concerned about going eight hours during the night without food that they force themselves up halfway through the night to down a shake or in some cases even an entire solid meal.
Your body is not going to start eating away at its muscle tissue if you aren’t eating during the night so that doesn’t need to be something you stress yourself out over.
In all actuality, you’re probably doing yourself a disservice by waking up in the middle of the night to eat since this will be disrupting the recovery you get from REM sleep. If you aren’t sleeping enough, you’ll severely hinder your ability to train in the gym, so results will suffer in that regard. Growth hormone is also released in higher concentrations in the night-time hours -- especially the first few hours of your sleep, so optimizing its release will promote further muscle gains as well.
The best guideline to follow is if you are struggling to gain muscle and do happen to wake up, drink a shake (keep it under 400 calories though to prevent keeping yourself up due to digestion). If you don’t wake up, don’t worry. Just be sure you’re planning your diet out well in the first place so you aren’t ending up short on calories at the end of the day.
The pre-workout period is also another time when you can maximize your muscle gains. What you eat before the gym is going to not only provide the energy for that workout, but also set up the recovery process. You have to watch at this time you don’t overdo it with carbohydrates though as that can cause indigestion, diarrhea (especially if you’re drinking a highly concentrated carbohydrate solution containing fruit juice), or muscle cramps. Aim to get in some fast digesting protein powder before the workout with some slow and fast burning carbohydrates that don’t offer a high amount of fiber.
Maximizing The Post-Workout Window
The most important period of the day to maximize your muscle gains is going to be the post-workout window. It’s at this point that the body is going to be extra hungry for protein and carbohydrates, so really filling up your tank will push your results along. Some people choose to place up to 60 percent of their daily carbohydrate intake in the meal or two that follow the workout (immediately after and again an hour later). This leaves 20 percent for before the workout and the remaining 20 percent spread out throughout the rest of the day. You definitely do not need to go that extreme But focusing a large portion of your carbohydrates at this time is beneficial since it will help replace lost muscle glycogen from the workout faster and the increase in insulin after such a large serving of carbohydrates will promote maximum muscle fiber synthesis. Be sure you’re getting a protein source with these carbohydrates for muscle repair and rebuilding purposes.
If you don’t require an extremely high calorie intake to build muscle, you can focus on just placing that surplus in the post-workout period and then eat the rest of the day as if you were on a leaning-out diet with the meals consisting primarily of protein with small amounts of fat. This can go a long way towards helping keep you much leaner as you build muscle.
By putting in that extra bit of effort and making sure you’re not just ‘getting in the calories’ but rather, getting in the calories at the best part of the day, you can really see much better results.
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