Significant increase in muscle mass is only possible when there is synergy between training, rest, eating and adequate nutritional supplementation (if necessary). When only one of these factors is not appropriate, undoubtedly, the process of muscle hypertrophy will be impaired.
Hypertrophy occurs only from the balance of protein synthesis, ie when protein synthesis exceeds protein degradation. To maximize muscle mass gain, it is necessary to optimize factors that promote synthesis and decrease protein degradation. A large number of potential factors may influence exercise-induced changes in muscle protein metabolism, including type, intensity, frequency and duration of exercise, hormonal factors, duration of post-exercise recovery period, and dietary intake.
The absence of adequate food intake maintains negative protein synthesis, even with the presence of strength exercise. It is estimated that around 60-70% of success in a training program depends on food. Therefore, this article presents several nutritional strategies that cannot be neglected when aiming to increase muscle mass.
These strategies are based on years of experience working with high level bodybuilders. The fans of this sport are great parameters, as they seek the maximum condition of physical presentation in symmetry, density, volume and muscle definition. They are for our work with non-athlete gymgoers, as Formula 1 is for the auto industry. That is, we can use the same strategies / principles, logically with the appropriate proportions.
Set achievable goals!
First of all, it should be widely understood that without the use of health-damaging anabolic drugs, a fat-free mass gain of over two pounds in a month is virtually impossible. It is also worth mentioning that as the individual becomes more and more adapted to training, evolution becomes slower.
Watch out for your caloric intake!
One of the most common mistakes is eating the same amount or even less calories than you spend, leaving you with a considerable energy deficit. This practice certainly prevent the process of hypertrophy. Remember that the muscle’s ability to form new muscle proteins depends not only on dietary amino acids but also on energy intake. Positive energy balance is important in immune response and hormone release. To provide adequate muscle mass gain, you should eat around 500 calories above your daily energy expenditure. That is, if the individual has an energy expenditure of 3000 calories / day, needs to eat at least around 3500 calories to get an anabolic process.
There are some individuals / athletes who use a much higher caloric intake. However, the risk of undesirable body fat accumulation is high.
Always try to grow with quality!
In the 1980s and 1990s, it was common for individuals seeking to gain muscle to worry about increasing body weight by eating a huge amount of calories. This practice caused a very large increase in adipose tissue. After reaching the desired weight, the fat loss process began. However, over time, it was noted that this was not the smartest form, because in the definition phase much of the muscle mass gained through hard sacrifice was quickly lost.
Before starting any work, for the chubby, it is recommended to decrease excess body fat before starting a process to increase muscle mass. During this period, the individual should be concerned not only with increasing lean mass but also with avoiding the accumulation of fatty tissue to ensure a shorter and less arduous definition phase. The shorter and less intense the muscle definition period, the less likely you are to lose lean body mass.
Correctly split meals!
Feeding is known to cause a substantial increase in protein synthesis and a small inhibition of degradation, which results in an increase in muscle protein. However, the anabolic response of the diet is transient, and within a few hours after the meal is over, or after a period of fasting, these two processes reverse (degradation> synthesis). Thus, the ideal would be to maintain an average of five to seven meals a day, eating every 2.5 – 3 hours, in order to ensure a continuous anabolic state.
Maintain proper protein intake at every meal!
Skeletal muscle has about 50% of total body protein. Its two dominant components are water and protein, in the ratio of approximately 4: 1. Body protein is constantly being recycled, with synthesis of new proteins and degradation of old proteins. Changes in muscle mass reflect changes in rates of synthesis and body protein degradation. When there is greater availability of free amino acids, activation of protein synthesis rates occurs. However, as this availability decreases, the body uses structural proteins, activating the rates of protein degradation.
The amount of protein needed for high volume and / or intensity trainers should be offered throughout the day and distributed to all meals. These proteins must offer, above all, essential amino acids (proteins of high biological value) to be used for muscle growth. Foods such as poultry, lean beef, fish, fat-free dairy and eggs should be part of every daily meal. When it is impossible to use one of these foods, either due to transportation difficulties and / or lack of time, resorting to protein supplements may be a good measure. This does not mean that muscle hypertrophy will only be obtained by ingesting an exacerbated amount of protein. Around two grams of protein is recommended for each pound of body weight. A 90-kg individual should be eating about 180 grams of protein a day. This amount would be sufficient for those more prudent / intelligent individuals who are far from any anabolic drug. Undoubtedly, the use of these drugs greatly optimizes protein synthesis, making a much higher protein intake necessary.
Have a good balance of all nutrients!
Many individuals still worry only about protein intake, forgetting the importance of other nutrients. The diet should contain adequate amounts of protein, carbohydrates and lipids, varying according to individual characteristics and phase of training. Another big mistake is neglecting micronutrient intake (vitamins and minerals). Deficiency of a vitamin or mineral salt in the diet can directly interfere with muscle mass gain, even if the diet contains adequate amounts of macronutrients. Therefore, never neglect fruits and vegetables.
Eat properly also on rest days!
Many people still think that dieting should be followed properly only on days when weight training is provided. However, it should not be forgotten that protein degradation of the muscle groups requested during strength exercise remains high for up to 24 hours, and muscle protein synthesis remains above baseline on average for up to 24-36 hours. That is, even on days without training (rest), muscle hypertrophy occurs.
The ideal is to choose only one day of the week, usually on Sundays, to eat what you want and enjoy (logically without exaggeration). On the other six days of the week, the diet should be as close to ideal as possible.
Manage the right amount and type of carbs!
Keep in mind that there are different types of carbohydrates, the main source of calories in the body. They can be simple and complex. The more complex, the longer they burn and the more efficient and sustained the release of energy. Already simple carbohydrates release energy quickly.
Complex carbohydrates exist in cereals, tubers, pastas and breads. Already simple carbohydrates are present in fruits and table sugar. However, one should also always consider the glycemic index of these foods. This index reflects the impact a particular type of carbohydrate has on blood glucose. Except at the meal immediately after training, one should always prefer low glycemic carbohydrates. Sweet potatoes, yams, brown bread, brown rice, brown noodles and oats, for example, are good options.
Both excess and lack of carbohydrates in the diet would have undesirable consequences. The first situation would provide an undesirable accumulation of fat and the second would considerably hinder the gain of lean mass and not be consistent with health.
Eat the correct amount of fat!
Contrary to what many people still think, due to bad publicity, fat is an essential macronutrient in our diet. A deficient diet in fats is not consistent with good health, as they help in the digestive process, transport of fat-soluble vitamins, make up the structure of all cell membranes and are still precursors of various hormones. In addition, several studies show that adequate omega-3 intake / supplementation optimizes muscle hypertrophy.
It is interesting to maintain a lipid intake between 15 and 25% of calories from every diet. Only about 1/3 of these should come from saturated fats, and the resulting 2/3 should come from monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
Don’t forget about dietary fiber!
Dietary fiber is the general term for the various carbohydrate polysaccharides found in plant cell walls. Because they are resistant to digestive enzymes, they leave residues in the digestive tract. Dietary fibers are found in two basic forms: water soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibers include gums and pectins, while insoluble fibers are cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Insoluble fibers cross the entire gastrointestinal tract without being metabolized, but soluble fibers can be metabolized in the large intestine. High fiber diets seem to prevent diseases like colon cancer and hemorrhoids. Wheat-based foods are good sources of insoluble fiber, while oats, pulses, legumes, and fruits are excellent sources of soluble fiber.
Always be well hydrated!
Water represents between 60 and 70% of man’s body weight, so it is a vitally important nutrient for life. Optimal water intake should be maintained throughout the day, not just during physical activity. The recommended amount depends on individual factors and intake should be as fractional as possible as thirst is not a good indicator of hydration. Normally when we feel thirsty, it means that our body is experiencing a reduction of about 2% of its body fluids. Remember that water is the best and most important diuretic in existence! An excellent water supply is fundamental for muscle hypertrophy, besides maintaining your health.
Don’t Forget the Antioxidants!
In order to prevent oxidative stress, the body has a large number of enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants that prevent the formation of reactive oxygen species or are capable of eliminating such substances. Studies show that intense muscle work generates greater amounts of oxygen free radicals, which, if not properly neutralized, can initiate a deleterious process in cells and tissues called oxidative stress. This can lead to the destruction of lipids, proteins and nucleic acids, causing decreased physical performance, fatigue, muscle stress and overtraining.
Some research indicates that the physiological amount of antioxidants may not be sufficient to prevent exercise-induced oxidative stress, and that additional antioxidants may be required to reduce oxidative stress, muscle damage, and the inflammatory process. Here, we can highlight vitamin C and vitamin E. The administration of antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, can reduce the oxidative damage caused by exercise.
Optimal muscle development cannot be accompanied by severe oxidative stress, as it would create adverse situations for cellular metabolism. Consequently, the importance of antioxidant supplementation – as long as it is well targeted – in maintaining cell membranes during exercise is increasing.
Include functional foods in your diet!
Much research is currently being done on functional foods, that is, those that have elements that are beneficial to health, physical capacity and mental state, as well as the basic nutrients of healthy eating. We can mention: red wine, green tea, natural tomato sauce, garlic, oilseeds, onion, natural seasonings (basil, rosemary, oregano), flaxseed and whole grains.
Eat before training!
It is convenient to have a solid meal about 60 to 90 minutes before training. This period is quite variable, because while some people can perform well by eating solid food just 30 minutes before exercise, for others this practice can be disastrous. Therefore individuality must always be respected. This meal should contain an adequate amount of complex carbohydrates and protein, and be reduced in fiber, fructose and fat. At this time, a meal with the right amount of carbohydrates significantly increases the glycogen content in the muscles and liver, which is an important factor in improving performance.
Feed yourself after training!
Immediately after training, it is interesting to have a meal as soon as possible to help with the recovery process and to avoid catabolism. This practice will promote better anabolic hormone profile, decreased myofibrillar protein degradation and rapid glycogen resynthesis. In order to ensure greater practicality, the use of supplements, in this case, is very interesting, because in addition to the difficulty of transport, it is observed in more intense training, which is known as post-effort anorexia, making the eating process difficult.
After a period of no more than 60 minutes, it is interesting to have a meal containing a good amount of protein of high biological value, complex carbohydrates, and restricted to maximum fat. At this point, the blood levels of the anabolic hormone insulin are elevated, which provides a great absorption of the ingested nutrients.
Choose the best food supplement!
Let us be clear that dietary supplementation depends solely on the individual’s diet. It is not possible to prescribe a supplement without prior analysis of diet, nutritional needs, training, anthropometric data, etc. Unfortunately we note that most supplements are indicated for the “ear” without proper control over these factors. What’s more, it’s usually the prescription shop owner himself or a gym friend who usually prescribes.
It is impossible for us to rank the best dietary supplements because what may be critical for one person may be totally unnecessary for another. For example, a person who is unlikely to have intermediate meals due to the amount of work would benefit greatly from a liquid meal. For someone who has a quiet daily routine, the use of liquid meals is unnecessary.
However, two peculiar times when supplementation really is very interesting for all those aiming at muscle hypertrophy (except beginners) would be before and after training. The use of maltodextrin accompanied by a small amount of whey protein would provide a better yield associated with an increase in protein synthesis. For those individuals with a more advanced level, due to the high intensity of training, besides maltodextrin and whey protein, the use of BCAAs and glutamine seems to be interesting. Also for advanced individuals, the inclusion of other supplements such as HMB at certain times may also be helpful.
Immediately after training, a shake containing whey protein is recommended, as well as a carbohydrate mixture with a high glycemic index (dextrose and maltodextrin). These values vary according to each individual, but as a parameter, around 1 gram of carbohydrate per kg body weight (50% maltodextrin and 50% dextrose) and 0.5 grams of hydrolyzed protein per kg body weight appears to be. enough to ensure optimal glycogen resynthesis, excellent release of anabolic hormone insulin, optimize protein synthesis and disrupt proteolysis. At an advanced level, you can further enrich this solution with BCAAs, glutamine and HMB, depending on your financial availability.