We all know that to build nice looking physique or just muscle mass exercises are required. And the more you train, especially with weights, the nicer or bigger you can get. This is only true when proper nutrition is provided. Exercises only start the process. Furthermore, you may have heard that weight lifting pumps up muscles, but most of all, actually damages cells/fibres in them. It’s the overall diet and supplementation that have an impact on how quickly you can build muscle mass and whether you’ll just bulk up or get bigger and ripped at the same time, as the nutrients you provide with food decide whether your muscles can be rebuild or not. Without proper diet your body cannibalise one muscle group to feed another, then, after next workout, sacrifice the ‘another’ group to rebuild the first one. And so on. And a diet means everything you eat, not necessarily a strict routine/habits of eating. One more useful thing: while supplementation is very helpful, it shouldn’t replace proper diet and shall actually be what it is called: supplementation, an addition to what you already provide.
Many claim that the food provided determines how we look in about 80%. The other 20% is exercises and supplementation. Whether the percentages are right to one digit, it’s hard do judge, however it really shows how important the quality food is and it’s hard to argue with overall sense of that claim. Let me use an example: if you want to build a house and have just few bricks, no matter how hard you work, you won’t build it! You’d be able to finish one room, but the very next day you’d need to disassemble it just to build a room next to the one you’ve just disassembled! And so on! Although building great physique is a similar process, unlike building a house, it actually never ends, I’m afraid… it means that once on the right tracks you need to keep to it 24/7 all year long. It requires persistence and patience, but in long term, contributes with great looking and healthy body!
When thinking of building muscle mass you at least should think of proteins. They are very important nutrients used to build muscles. The general rule of thumb is that you shall provide 1.5-2.0 grams per a kilogram of your bodyweight per day. Simply multiply your weight by 1.5 (or 2.0) and this will give you the amount of proteins you shall provide per day. If you weight yourself in pounds, simply multiply your weight by the factor of 1.5 (or 2.0) and then divide the result by 2.2. Some people may have stomach/digest problems as a result of too much proteins. If that’s the case you need to decrease the amount. If you’re fine with the initial rate, take the amount one step higher, check your stomach and results. If your stomach is fine and you’re progressing with muscle mass than you’re on the right tracks, you can assimilate higher amounts of proteins. To maximise results and find the sweet stop, keep adding proteins in your diet as long as you are fine with it. Once the best results are achieved, stay there.
Despite the bad reputation fats and oils are also important in the diet. Yes, they provide twice the calories per gram than protein and carbohydrates do, but they are vital source of lipids and fatty acids. It is important to divide the overall daily fat intake into three equal groups: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (names of the groups taken from fatty acids these fats and oils contain).
Carbohydrates are the fuel for the body. They are a quick energy source. Without them or with ‘just’ a deficiency, you may feel powerless, which will have an impact on your overall performance, especially during workout. Although they provide half the calories fats do, they are the ones that have the tendency of being stored as the body fat! Many bodybuilders treat this nutrients group as the one to play with, to achieve their goals, ie. stay big and ripped. This is why low carb diets are so popular among athletes. Depending on your goals you may require various sources of carbohydrates during the day. For instance, fast carbos around the training, and slower ones and less of them throughout the rest of the day. Vegetables are preferred source of carbohydrates, as they provide less of them (comparing to fruit), but they also provide vitamins and fibre. Alternately you can switch between veg (and/or fruit) and grain products, unless you’re sensitive to grains/gluten.
Fats and Carbohydrates don’t really go along together very well. The combination of both push body to store even more energy as the body fat (comparing to carbohydrates alone). Once it’s stored it’s quite challenging to get rid of it! One pound (almost half a kilogram) of body fat stores an equivalent of about 3.5k (kilo)calories (kcal). To get rid of it, say in a week time, you need to either reduce calories intake by 3.5k calories (that’s 500 kcal, one proper meal, a day!!) or burn those calories by increasing your weekly activity (an average marathon runner burns about 3000 kcal during the entire run! Ultimately you can do both at the same time to speed the process up.
Why is it so important to eat less but more often? Well, it’s all about the efficiency of the body. You shall provide quality food every two to three hours. Please bare in mind that the portions you eat this often should reflect your activity. Imagine a bucket. If you overfill it everything spills, ie. whatever your body cannot digest in one go is stored. Quite obviously the more you exercise the more calories you burn, hence the calories allowance per meal increases. Another general rule of thumb: positive calories intake lets you gain, negative lets you lose weight. Please note it’s weight not necessarily muscle mass. Positive and negative calories intake refers to the basic calories intake that balances calories burnt by basic activity. GDA usually refers to 2500 kcal per day for men and 2000 kcal per day for women. This guide does not include calories needed for workouts.
Eating well is crucial to grow, stay ripped and to maintain nice physique. But it’s not just about aesthetics. When you look as you want, you simply feel better and more confident! When your body is provided with correct amounts of necessary nutrients (not only proteins!) it can function much more efficient, your brain is sharp, your overall health can be better, yo can perform better in the gym and other areas of life. It takes some effort to switch and to stick to the new plan but it’s worth it. Eventually it becomes a habit and then it actually stops being an effort.