Nutrition is probably the most important factor, when looking to improve your fitness or your physique. You can train for as many hours as you want in the gym, but if your nutrition is not on point then progress will definitely not be maximised.
When choosing what nutrition plan you want to follow, you firstly must decide upon what is your fitness goal. Is it to build muscle? (Bulking), lose fat? (Cutting), or pretty much maintain your current physique (Maintenance). People often get lost in trying to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, and this is almost impossible and certainly not optimal, so it is best top chose just one. Whichever you choose as your goal, your overall health should be the first priority, thus making sure you are eating enough carbs, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals, to stay in good health.
Bulking- Building Muscle:
So if you are looking to build some serious muscle mass, then you are going to want to start a bulking cycle. This means you are eating above your maintenance calorie
s and therefore supplying your body with all the nutrients that it needs to grow. So those calories are made up of three essential macronutrients which are, Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats.
1 Protein - The Building Blocks for GAINS!
For your body to build muscle it firstly requires adequate amounts of protein, as this is what muscles are formed from. Estimates vary from source to source as to what is the optimal amount of protein to consume in a day but most suggest at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. This estimate usually goes all the way up to 2 gram per pound of bodyweight.
A general rule I tend to follow is as long as you are eating a good protein source with every meal, (and typically gym goers supplement this with protein shakes), then you should be consuming enough protein. This would take you somewhere above the 1 gram per pound rule, although if you weigh a lot then you will have to concentrate on eating higher amounts of protein!
Best sources of protein:
Lean meats, eggs, fish, nuts, beans, whey, milk, cheese, Quorn.
Link: 10 Muscle Building Snacks
2 Carbs - The energy behind your workouts and GAINS!
So in order to build as much as possible your body also wants to be in a caloric surplus i.e. consuming more calories than you are burning. This means you will be consuming plenty of carbohydrates and healthy fats to fuel your body for its workouts and to build muscle. So after you have accounted for your protein the remaining calories need to be made up of carbs and fats. The split between these is up to you and your personal preference really depending on if you prefer a higher carb diet or a higher fat diet. I know that for me I prefer I higher carb intake.
Aim to have the majority of your carbohydrates either side of your workout as this is when your muscles need nutrients the most and so need an insulin spike to get nutrients and protein directly into the muscles. To understand insulin sensitivity check out my blog on it.
Best sources of carbohydrates:
Wholemeal bread, brown pasta, brown rice, sweet potatoes, fruits, vegetables.
3. Fats - Your Slow Release of Energy
The final macronutrient then is fat, which should make up the rest of your caloric intake. Fats are essential for muscle growth, but you need to be careful as they are the most calorically dense of all the macronutrients, hence why they get a bad reputation! So you want to make sure you are getting in adequate amounts without going over on your calories.
Some of the Best sources of fats are: