Workout Nutrition 101: How to Do it Right

A healthy body is made in the gym, but it's the time you spend in the kitchen that will have the greatest effect on your fitness and health. Be smart and eat right! Here is everything you need to know about workout nutrition the right way:

How Much to Eat

If your goal is to pack on the pounds of muscle (which will ultimately lead to more efficient fat-burning), you should strive to eat roughly 0.75 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight every day. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should be eating around 150 grams of pure protein per day. That may be easier said than done! Remember that not all protein-rich foods contain ONLY protein, but they also have fats, minerals, vitamins, and so on. You'll need to measure your protein intake carefully, reading the labels on everything you eat to ensure that you're getting enough protein in your diet.

How Often to Eat

You can try to eat up to six snacks/meals per day, or simply stick with the three big meals. Either way works, but what matters is how you get your protein. Many people start the day with a high-carb breakfast, but that's not the smart way to go. If you want to increase your muscle-building, your goal should be to eat at least 30 grams of protein in each of the three main meals of the day. Increase the protein intake in the meal immediately following your workout, as that will deliver the amino acids needed to make repairs to your body. If you want to eat six meals/snacks a day, make sure to get at least 20 grams of protein in each of the snacks. That will increase fat-burning, boost your metabolism, and give your body the amino acids it needs for muscle growth.

Before and After Training

If you're serious about building muscle, it's ALWAYS a good idea to consume protein 2 to 3 hours before a workout. Think a high-protein smoothie or high-protein meal! You'll have all the amino acids needed for muscle synthesis following your training session, and the high-protein foods will give you energy to get through your workout. Within an hour or two of finishing your workout, you should be eating another high-protein meal--preferably with fast-acting proteins for quick muscle recovery and slow-acting proteins for long-term repair. This will be the key to packing on the pounds of muscle!

What Type of Protein?

For the average bodybuilder, protein powder is one of the most important parts of their menu. Protein shakes make for a great snack, and they can provide the amino acids needed to repair and restore your body after a workout. They're also a good pre-workout supplement. However, you should also find natural food sources of protein, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, and soy. These foods are all rich in leucine, probably the most important of the essential amino acids. Add more of these protein-rich foods to your diet, and you'll get the necessary proteins for muscle growth.

Pair it With…

Protein alone won't be enough to build muscle. If you're serious about muscle growth, you'll need to add carbs and fats to the diet. Fat helps your body to release its grip on the fat it has stored around your frame, making it possible for you to actually burn body fat. Carbs will provide the energy you need to get through your workout, particularly the cardiovascular portion of the training. Eating carbs after a workout will replenish the energy you used during the workout, and will speed up the storage of protein in your body's cells.

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