You can exercise as much as possible, but if your nutrition is not on point, you won’t see much progress. You have probably heard this before, and are beginning to realize that this statement has a ring of truth to it. If you have been exercising six to seven days a week and have yet to make any significant strides toward muscle growth, then it is time to have a look at your nutrition. In this article, we dive headfirst into how and why your macronutrients matter when it comes to gaining muscle.
The Relationship Between Macronutrients & Muscle Gains
Macronutrients are the nutrients your body requires in large amounts. These nutrients contain calories (or energy) and provide the fuel your body needs to keep moving and functioning at optimal capacity. There are three macronutrient categories, which include carbohydrates, fats and protein . Muscles are made up of about 75% water, 20% protein and about 5% of other compounds, such as minerals, glycogen, and salts . This may not come as a surprise since protein is often emphasized in diets for people who are trying to gain muscle. However, many individuals miss important factors when it comes to the right protein a person should consume, as well as how much of other macronutrients they may need.
Whey protein is a popular choice, especially for those looking to gain muscle. One downside to this type of protein is that people who are lactose intolerant may not stomach it well. Luckily, there are better sources - ones that are easier to digest and that the body is better able to absorb. For instance, liver, oysters, prawns, and bone broth with chicken or other meats are excellent options for bioavailable protein, as well as easy-to-digest variations. These are high-quality protein foods that contain few additives or added preservatives.
Now that you have a simple understanding of quality proteins, what is the proper ratio of macronutrients? You know you need to eat enough protein, but what is the deal with carbohydrates and fats? Should you reduce these in your diet? While many fitness experts claim that low-carbohydrate diets are best, your body needs carbs. Carbohydrates function as your body’s main source of fuel. Meanwhile, fats and proteins are used for other functions in the body, such as hormonal production and muscle synthesis. It actually takes more energy for your body to use fats or protein as energy. To combat this, you want to ensure you eat a certain amount of carbohydrates, as well as fats for other functions. In fact, research shows this to be true, with the ingestion of carbohydrates before physical activity leading to an 8% increase in athletic performance .
Ideally, for muscle gain, you want to stick to a ratio of somewhere around 40% of your daily calories coming from protein, 30% of your daily calories coming from fat, and 30% of your daily calories coming from carbohydrates. If you are finding yourself particularly tired throughout the day, you may need to eat more carbohydrates. It is also important to remember that if you are trying to gain muscle weight, you will need to eat more daily calories overall. Ensure that all your calories and macronutrients are coming from quality sources - not pre-packaged food items. You want to gain your fuel from whole food sources, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, and more. This will prevent your body from storing fat and allow you to put on muscle easier.
How To Gain Muscle: The Right Way
For muscles to be built, you must be progressively overloading your muscle tissue over time. When you place your muscles under resistance, small tears are created. Your body then repairs these micro-tears, as well as lays down more muscle tissue to adapt to increasing loads. Keep in mind that your body may find it hard to adapt when you are not feeding it the proper and adequate fuel. This is why nutrition matters the most. You can attempt to weight train and add resistance all you want, but if you are not fueling your body properly, you will not get results. Adequate muscle gain comes down to a balance between good nutrition and a solid training program.
Finding Your Balance
When it comes to nutrition, it is often about testing and measuring what works well for your taste buds and body. It can take some time, but phone apps, such as MyFitnessPal, can help guide you and your food intake toward the balance you need to achieve your muscle goals and more.
Further, be sure to indulge in some self-care and downtime, otherwise known as ‘rest’. Rest gives your body time to repair muscles and lay down new muscle tissue. It is arguably as important as good nutrition. During your rest days, you still want to engage in light physical activity and other self-care tactics to ensure adequate recovery. Research has shown infrared saunas can accelerate muscle recovery, which may be a great option if you struggle with muscle soreness after a workout . Infrared therapy benefits further include increased relaxation, reduced pain, improved skin health, decreased stress, and more . You can also choose to go for a light walk or perform gentle yoga stretches/poses on these days off. By finding the right balance between proper nutrition, adequate rest, and weight training, you should be able to reach your muscle gains and goals in no time.
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