As the old adage goes, “bodybuilders are made in the kitchen, not the gym.” Nutrition is a huge, and frequently overlooked, aspect of building lean muscle while keeping the fat off. Although getting optimal macronutrient ratios beefed up with plenty of protein, eliminating processed foods in favor of whole foods, and planning meals are great ways to improve gains, there is more to the story.
Here is a look at the biggest do’s and don’ts when it comes to getting the best nutrition possible to see the most benefit in the gym and in the mirror when it comes to pre-workout, intra-workout, and post-workout.
Although most fitness enthusiasts focus on the post-workout meal to replenish depleted muscles with high-quality protein, what you eat before the workout has a huge impact on your performance in the gym.
The primary focus of an ideal pre-workout meal should be on fast-absorbing proteins and slow-absorbing carbohydrates. The amino acids in protein will prevent the muscles from becoming catabolic (meaning that the body is breaking down muscle for fuel) while the carbohydrates will give a much-needed energy boost to bust out an extra rep.
Some great options to achieve these nutrition targets are low-fat milk and oatmeal or brown rice mixed with tuna.
Ideally, you should consume the pre-workout meal roughly one to two hours before the workout session to see the biggest performance boost.
During the Workout
Because the body uses calories during digestion that should be used for training, it’s a good idea to limit calorie intake during a workout. However, you should focus on remaining hydrated with water.
For longer workouts, it may be advisable to sip on some protein powder mixed into a shake.
Fitness experts agree that the post-workout meal is the most important for bodybuilders. First, insulin acts as an anabolic agent within the body, prompting “building” as opposed to a catabolic state which promotes “breakdown.” After a workout, you want to focus on building.
A solid post-workout meal should include plenty of carbs to replenish depleted glycogen supplies and protein from multiple sources to rebuild the damaged muscle fibers.
For lifters purely interested in putting on lean mass, the ratio of carbs to proteins should be 2:1. For those who want to cut extra fat, a 1:1 ration of proteins to carbs is ideal.