Healthy Food is more important than how you train when it comes to getting bigger and stronger muscles.
A nutritional program for strength training has as its goal to develop a lean, muscular physique with the reserves needed to provide the strength, power and endurance to meet the demands of daily life, training and competition.
Healthy food must be at the core of your plan to achieve that goal.
Eating for Strength
There is no universally correct balance of daily nutrient intake. For people who are intent on building strength and / or muscle, however, a macro-nutrient ratio of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat is a good bench-mark.
Healthy food based carbohydrates need to focus on natural, unprocessed sources. Eat fruit as a snack. Eat fibrous carbs at each meal. Try to get 30 grams of fibre into your body each day.
Complex carbohydrates, or polysaccharides, contain fibre and, unlike simple carbs, provide a steady flow of energy over a sustained period of time. In addition, they allow you to feel fuller and are more nutrient rich.
The fibre found in complex carbs acts as your body’s natural cleanser, and protects against gastrointestinal disease and colon cancer. Fibrous carbs from vegetables are also a great fat loss aid.
Protein for Strength
As the building blocks of the human body, proteins are essential to the growth and repair of muscle cells.
We all need protein, but those training for strength need more than healthy food protein sources than non-trainers. This is due to the intense demands that training places on the body and it’s need to repair and recovery the damage that results to the muscle tissue.
Proteins are made up of chemical units called amino acids. The following foods provide a complete source of the essential amino acids (those that the body cannot manufacture).
- Cottage cheese
- Lean beef
- Chicken breast
- Turkey breast
- Milk, egg, casein and whey protein powders
- Lean pork
Fruit, vegetables and nuts contain protein, but on their own may not supply all of the amino acids needed by a strength trainer. For this reason, vegetarian and vegan athletes should get nutritional advice before starting high-level training.
Protein needs to be taken in regularly because it is not readily stored in the body. That is one reason why eating every three waking hours makes sense for strength trainers.
Hard training strength athletes should consume approx 2 grams of healthy food protein per Kg of bodyweight. So, a 100Kg male should take in 200 grams of protein per day, spread over 5-6 meals.
In order to get stronger, you need to build muscle. To add extra muscle mass to your frame, you will need to take in more calories than you normally do. An extra 300 calories per day of healthy food will provide the needed fuel for muscle and strength gains.
Stick to a well balanced diet with frequent small meals and good natural protein sources from meat, fish, eggs, beans and legumes, and dairy products for those that are not lactose intolerant. This diet will give you all the protein sources you need for strength gains.
Begin with a good breakfast every day that is made up of low GI (a GI score of 55 or less) such as eggs, then attempt to eat every three hours to allow your body a constant supply of fuel to burn. Try not to skip meals. If you need to snack, go for nuts and yoghurt as well as lean sources of protein.
If you are training hard to build strength, you should consume high GI foods within 30 minutes after your training session to replenish your energy stores. You also need to take in quality lean protein after the workout in order to replenish and repair the muscle cell. A quality whey protein drink with milk is a good post-workout option.
By eating a balanced, healthy food diet – one made up of natural, unprocessed foods, taken in moderate quantities, with slightly increased protein, an average of 300 extra calories per day and more frequent nutrient timing you will be optimally supporting your strength and muscle building efforts.