How to Feed Your Muscles

In order to build lean muscle mass you need to combine an adequate calorie intake with a solid muscle strengthening program. A large number of calories are needed to fuel both workouts and tissue building. While getting enough calories is important, it is also important to get the right kind of calories.

Carbohydrate

Carbohydrate is the predominant energy source for strength training. Stored as glycogen in the muscles, it is the fuel used to supply energy for short, intense bursts of power. The harder and longer you work out, the more glycogen your muscles require. Once these stores of glycogen are gone you energy level will drop and you will have to stop exercise. So Carbohydrate should be a major concern of athletes doing strength training exercise in the hopes of building lean muscle.

Experts recommend at least 500 to 600 grams of carbohydrate per day to keep your muscle glycogen stores high. You can base your personal requirement on the following formula:

3.6gr carb x body wt(lbs)= grams carb/day

For a 140 pound person this is about 504 grams per day or about 2,000 carbohydrate calories and 720 grams or 2,900 carbohydrate calories for a 200-pound person.

Protein

Protein is the basic building material for muscle tissue, and strength trainers need to consume more than the non-exercisers. However, most strength athletes still overestimate their protein needs. Daily protein recommendations for serious strength athletes are about 0.6 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight. That’s about 90 to 115 grams of protein/day for the 140-pound athlete and 128 to 164 grams for those weighing 200 pounds.

Fat

After you’ve met your carbohydrate and protein needs there is room for fat. Fat is an essential nutrient, however, you require a small amount of it to remain healthy. Less than 30% of your total daily calories should come from unsaturated fat.

Water

In addition to the regular eight glasses of water every day, you need to drink to replace fluids that are lost during exercise. To be confident that you are well hydrated before workouts, drink 2 cups of fluid 2 hours before exercise. During your workout, drink 4 to 8 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes. After exercise, replace any further fluid losses with 16 ounces of water. If you want to be precise, you can weigh yourself before and after workouts. For each pound lost during exercise, you should be drink 16 ounces of fluid.

Sports drinks

Energy bars and sports drinks may be helpful if exercise lasts longer than 1 hour. Carbohydrate supplements can be useful to help fit adequate carbohydrates into a busy day if you don’t have time to eat a meal. Consuming a meal-replacement beverage just after muscle-building exercise is convenient but you can do the same thing with a tuna sandwich, a banana, a bagel or other real food snack. You should try to consume some protein and carbohydrate after your workout in order to fuel muscle growth and replenish glycogen stores for your next workout.

Supplements

Most supplements that are supposed to help build muscle don’t work. But some, such as creatine, fluid and electrolyte replacers, carbohydrate supplements, and liquid meal replacers may offer some benefits to strength training athletes.

Creatine

When combined with a good diet and strength training program creatine has the potential to produce slightly more power during workouts. Research has also found that loading creatine into the muscles may help speed up muscle gain. While many creatine supplements are available at a price, meat is the best dietary source of creatine. Typical dose for creatine loading is 5 grams of creatine monohydrate four times per day for 5 days. A maintenance dose of 2 grams per day can follow. Taking more than the usual dosage of creatine offers no added benefit. Also, users should be aware that creatine and other popular supplements are subject to little government regulation, so there is no guarantee that they are pure.

Consult a registered nutritionist, physician or other health care provider for personal nutritional counseling. This information is not intended as a substitute for appropriate medical treatment.

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