Good nutrition is very important, no matter what your goal is.
It seems the rules change weekly. One week you should only eat açai berries, the next is a case study showing that Matrix protein powder will turn you into Superman (ok we made that one up).
So how do you work out what to do?
To cut through all the confusing advice, James Pickering has come up with the top 10 rules of good nutrition.
1. Rule your insulin by monitoring your carbohydrate consumption
Focusing the majority of your carbohydrate intake around your workouts (pre, intra and post) and omitting them at certain parts of the day or for certain meals, will increase your insulin sensitivity.
Good insulin sensitivity is important because when you eat carbs and/or protein, insulin is produced by and released from the pancreas which enters the bloodstream and travels to various tissues, including muscle. These muscle fibres (or cells) are lined with insulin receptors, which resemble a docking station – or a key and lock scenario. Once an insulin molecule “docks” onto the receptor, it signals the muscle cell to open “gates” that allow glucose, amino acids and creatine to enter the muscle.
The more amino acids that can efficiently pass through into the muscle cell, the more amino acids that are available for growth, thus having good insulin sensitivity can help optimise muscle growth.
2. Eat protein
Probably a no brainer for those of us involved with bodybuilding.
Ensuring you are regularly supplying your body and muscles with protein (more specifically the amino acids in that protein) is a very important part of maintaining an anabolic environment for which to repair and build muscle.
Arguably the most important time to get this protein is during the heavily disputed ‘anabolic window’ which refers to the 45 mins – 2 hours post workout ‘window’. There is plenty of research for and against this anabolic window, whether it really makes a difference and also how long the window actually is.
I always like to replenish my glycogen stores with some carbohydrates from my postworkout meal, I add some protein and veggies and make it into a meal, that way I have covered all my options. Shoot for fast digesting protein post workout such as whey, chicken, turkey or fish.
3. Drink water
Water consumption is massively overlooked within the bodybuilding industry and you would be surprised how many people neglect this simple nutritional need. Here are just a few of the many reasons as to why water is so important:
• Prevents cramps and sprains – Proper hydration helps keep joints lubricated and muscles more elastic so joint pain is less likely.
• Flushes out toxins – Gets rid of waste through sweat and urination which reduces the risk of kidney stones and UTI’s (urinary tract infections).
• Promotes fat loss – Drinking water boosts your metabolism and can help reduce hunger cravings as the body often tells you it is hungry when it is actually thirsty.
• Aids digestion – If your body has a healthy digestive system then it is better prepared to digest and use the nutrients from your food.
• Reduces water retention – Water retention can make the skin appear puffy and loose.
4. Eat more
Quite simply for many people one of the main reasons their bodies don’t build as much muscle as they should is simply because they don’t eat enough. The phrase ‘eat to grow’ is actually a very important and strangely overlooked concept.
If you want your body to grow to massive proportions you’re going to need to pack away a large amount of calories from traditionally very low calorie but nutrient dense foods. Stick to low G.I carbohydrates, healthy fats and unprocessed protein sources with a good amino acid profile like chicken, beef, turkey, eggs and whey.
5. Drink green tea
Green tea does the following:
• Contains polyphenols like flavonoids and catechins, which function as powerful antioxidants that fight against free radical damage to cells.
• Boosts your metabolism (perfect for shredding fat)
• Lowers cholesterol
• Gives healthy skin
• Has been shown to increase testosterone levels
6. Eat your micro-nutrients
If you are training at high intensity regularly, your body is being put under a lot of stress. Free radical damage to cells can occur as a consequence of increased oxygenation of the blood and metabolite build up from consistently reaching and pushing into the lactic acid threshold.
A good way of fighting this free radical damage is to ensure you’re getting adequate amounts of fruit and vegetables.
Not only are vegetables full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and essential micronutrients, they’re also full of fibre which is very useful for digestion. If you are training regularly and with intensity. you are putting stresses on your body that you are not used to, you will be sweating more regularly which leads to a loss of salts and minerals and you will be putting more stress on your Central Nervous System (CNS) than you’re used to. If you don’t eat appropriately then your immune system will suffer and you will become ill.
Finally, cruciferous vegetables such as leafy greens can inhibit production of oestrogen and therefore boost testosterone, a hormone which is crucial for muscle growth.
7. Eat (some) saturated fat
Saturated fat in our diet helps increase testosterone which is a primary muscle building hormone. Too many bodybuilders get carried away with ‘clean’ eating and think that eating saturated fat will lead to excessive weight gain. If saturated fat is permanently restricted from the diet then testosterone levels will inevitably fall.
With that being said, over consumption of saturated fat, especially in conjunction with a high G.I carbohydrate diet can cause many health issues; the bottom line here is moderation.
8. Don’t skip breakfast
Breakfast is an important meal because your body has just been asleep for 7+ hours. Whilst you are sleeping your body is in a partially fasted state i.e you’re not able to eat anything whilst you’re asleep.
As such it’s very important to eat something upon waking. Some breakfasts may look slightly different to others depending on in the individuals goals, but these changes are primarily concerned with differences in fats or carbs but as a general rule of thumb every breakfast will involve protein so be sure to get some protein in your morning meal.
9. Eat Eggs
Eggs are unimaginably good for you, they are zero carb, around 6g protein per egg and full of healthy fats. They’re also very easily absorbed by the body and thus have a high biological value. Biological value (BV) is a measure of the proportion of absorbed protein from a food source. Eggs Biological Value is: 93.7
10. Eat before you workout
Pre-workout nutrition is very important for training. Firstly you must ensure you have adequate amounts of amino acids in your bloodstream. This can be accomplished by ensuring you drip feed your muscles with protein throughout the day from varied sources and by including a good amount in your pre-workout meal, preferably from relatively fast digesting protein sources such as chicken so you don’t feel like it’s about to jump out of your mouth half way through your deadlifts.
Secondly, it’s beneficial to consume some carbohydrates. Carbohydrates will provide glucose for the upcoming workout and help replenish glycogen stores. Try consuming low G.I starchy carbohydrates as they might just give you the energy you need – rather than relying on false energy and constantly taking a pre-workout formula.