What to Eat for Muscle Gains ?
Most people who want to gain muscle and body weight know that they need to eat a surplus of calories. What should you eat for muscle gains, and how should you spread your food out throughout the day?
The three basic macronutrients (meaning that your body needs them in large amounts) are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Many also include water as a macronutrient. Each of these macronutrients plays a role in building muscle, so you will not want to leave any of these out!
When most people think of what to eat for muscle gains, they think of protein. Protein is composed of bound amino acids, which can be broken down into individual amino acids and assembled into new muscle tissue. Without protein, you can not build muscle. Protein cannot be stored in the body (except as muscle tissue), so you will need to be getting in protein in frequent intervals throughout the day. Try to get your protein mostly from whole food sources like meats instead of powders and milk.
Carbohydrates are often underrated in terms of building muscle, as protein seems to steal the spotlight. You know that hard, pumped feeling that your muscles get when you work out? If you were to eliminate carbohydrates from your diet for a week, this effect would certainly be diminished and your muscles would deflate like empty balloons. Carbohydrates provide energy for hard training sessions, and are stored in the muscle as glycogen. When carbohydrates are stored in the muscle, they pull in water and important nutrients. This happens to give the muscle a full, pumped look, an effect that is certainly welcome in addition to the performance enhancing abilities of carbohydrates. Because carbohydrates can be stored as glycogen, it is not quite as imperative to have them as often as protein, but you should still be including them with most meals
Fat is important for muscle gains too! Essential fatty acids serve many many functions in the body. They play a role in inflammation, cardiovascular health, mental function, and have a long list of other functions. Essential fatty acids are called essential for a reason! Testosterone is also made from cholesterol. Drop your dietary fat levels excessively low and watch your testosterone levels plummet.
For muscle gains, you will need to be eating frequently. Every three hours is generally a good standard to go by, with your first meal upon waking and your last meal right before bed. A protein source should be a component of every meal. Carbohydrates should also be a component of most of your meals. Many people find that eating more carbohydrates before and after a workout leads to better energy during the workout and better recovery. The only meal you may want to completely leave a carbohydrate source out of is your last meal, as you will not need as many carbohydrates at this time, and because too many carbohydrates can reduce the growth hormone rise experienced during sleep. Fat can be included in your lower carbohydrate meals to keep the calories up.
Increasing you calories and eating the proper macronutrients throughout the day are both very important for muscle gains. For more information about protein, carbohydrate, and fat sources as well as eating and training to gain muscle, read my article “The Basics of Gaining Muscle”.
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