Optimize muscle growth by eating at the right time
Bodybuilders and those wishing to bulk up believe that eating large amounts of protein is the key to building muscle mass. According to nutrition expert Nancy Clark, MS, RD, protein is important, but eating at the right time is the key to gaining muscle weight. "Although you do want to eat adequate protein, your body doesn’t store excess protein as bulging muscles," Clark says. "You need extra calories, and those calories should come primarily from extra carbohydrate rather than extra protein."
Clark addresses eating at the right time to gain muscle weight in Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 4E. According to Clark, it is important to eat strategically, and taking certain actions helps to optimize muscle growth:
- Fuel up before you strength-train with a carbohydrate-protein snack, such as a yogurt or a bowl of cereal with milk. The snack will digest into readily available glucose for fuel and amino acids to protect muscles.
- Refuel immediately afterward with more protein to heal and rebuild muscles and more carbohydrate to refuel depleted glycogen stores.
- Eat frequently throughout the day. Eat at least every four hours: breakfast, lunch, a second lunch (if you train in the afternoon, split this meal into pre- and postexercise snacks), dinner, and an evening snack as desired. This even distribution of calories ensures that the muscles have a steady supply of glucose for fuel and amino acids for growth. When the amino acid levels in the blood are above normal, the muscles take up more of these building blocks; this enhances muscle growth. If you go for long periods without eating, your body will break down muscles for fuel; this happens to dieters and is counterproductive to reaching your goals.
Clark says eating several protein-containing meals and snacks is preferable to eating one big dinner at the end of the day. "A simple way to ensure that a source of high-quality protein is readily available is to drink milk with meals and eat yogurt for snacks," Clark says. Other examples of carbohydrate-protein combinations are chocolate milk, cereal with milk, a turkey sandwich, a fruit smoothie, or any number of commercial sports foods.
With over 500,000 copies sold, Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook has become the all-time best selling sports nutrition guide. An internationally known specialist in sports dietetics, Clark offers sound nutritional advice for active people.
For more information, see Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.