I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that getting that muscular, toned body is 80% nutrition and only 20% training, or that abs are made in the kitchen. A proper diet is vital to ensuring that you see optimal progress at the gym. Without adequate nutrition, not only does your body lack the fuel it needs to push through a tough workout, it is unable to effectively recover and grow after each session. This article will outline 5 nutrition hacks to ensure that you are getting the full benefits out of each session.
1) Ensure you are eating enough kilojoules
Consuming the correct amount of kilojoules per day is vital to ensuring you are seeing progress at the gym. Consuming too many kilojoules can cause your body to put on weight while under consuming kilojoules can cause your body to break down muscle for energy. This is every weight trainer’s worst nightmare! Your kilojoule intake depends on a variety of factors such as age, gender, resting metabolic rate and current training load. As a rule of thumb, you should consume 20% more kilojoules while trying to gain muscle, and consume 20% fewer kilojoules while trying to lose weight.
2) Don’t skip on that pre-workout meal
Once you have worked out your optimal kilojoule intake, the next thing to do is to tailor the timing of your meals and snacks around your workouts to ensure optimal performance and fitness progression. Eating correctly pre-workout prevents muscle glycogen depletion and reduces muscle protein breakdown. Thus, by ensuring that your body is adequately fuelled before your session, your body has the energy it requires to help you push past your training comfort zone and ensure that your current muscle is not broken down.
Pre-workout nutrition doesn’t need to be complicated. It simply involves consuming both protein and carbohydrates before you train. Ideally, you should consume your pre-workout meal between 30 minutes to 1.5 hours before you train. This meal should contain 0.25 g of protein and 0.25 g of carbohydrates per pound of your target body weight. For example, if you are eating 1.5 hours before your session, you could consume a solid meal such as a wholemeal turkey wrap or tuna and basmati rice. In comparison, if you are eating 30 minutes before your workout, you could consume something which is easier to digest, such as a protein shake.
3) Refuel after your workout
Likewise, fuelling your body correctly after your weights session provides your body with essential nutrients needed for growth and repair. Specifically, an adequate post-workout meal increases muscle protein synthesis, reduces muscle protein breakdown, replenishes muscle glycogen stores and reduces muscle soreness and fatigue. This meal contains the same two components as the pre-workout meal: 0.25 g of protein per pound of your target body weight and 0.25 g of carbohydrates per pound of your target body weight. Your post workout meal should be consumed as soon as possible after your workout, ideally within the hour. This ensures that your body is immediately getting the vital nutrients it needs to begin growth and repair. For example, you could consume a protein bar or shake after your cooldown or prepare yourself a grilled chicken sandwich.
4) Ensure you’re hitting your macronutrient ratio
A macronutrient is a form of food which the body needs in large amounts. The human body requires three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fats. The amount of each nutrient you should consume depends on what your fitness goal is. If your priority is building muscle, it is recommended that your diet consists of 40-60% carbohydrates, 25-35% protein and 15-25% fat. Higher carbohydrate to protein ratio is needed while building muscle to replenish muscle glycogen, the body’s primary fuel source. If, on the other hand your priority is weight loss, your diet should be higher in protein (40-50%), followed by fat (30-40%), followed by carbohydrate (10-30%). Higher protein intake facilitates weight loss by helping the body feel satiated for longer, while also preventing the body from breaking down muscle for energy.
5) Carbs are good – but choose your carbs correctly
Consuming carbohydrates while trying to build muscle is vital to helping your body grow. However not all carbohydrates are created equal. Carbohydrates can be categorised into simple or complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are those which are easier for the body to break down and utilise for energy. Examples include white bread and white rice. In comparison, complex carbohydrates such as legumes, sweet potato and dairy, take longer for the body to break down. Those trying to lose weight should stick to consuming complex carbohydrates. This is because they help to stabilise blood sugar levels, thereby helping to control your appetite. Complex carbohydrates are also an excellent source of fuel pre workout. This is because they are released slowly into the blood stream, giving your body a sustained supply of energy throughout your workout. In comparison, simple carbohydrates are good to have immediately post workout. This is because they are instantly absorbed into the bloodstream, thereby rapidly replenishing depleted glycogen stores and helping you recover more efficiently.
Therefore, whether your goal is to lose weight or build muscle, following these 5 easy nutrition hacks will ensure that you are seeing the best results from all your hard work at the gym.
Alana Willis is passionate about all things health and nutrition. You can usually find her at the beach, with a smoothie in one hand and a good book in the other, soaking up that great Aussie sun. She is currently completing the Bachelor of Science and Master of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Sydney and foresees herself one day running her own dietetics practice. With a major in psychology, Alana is fascinated by the relationship between food and our mental state, and how our psychology can be used to implement healthy eating behaviours.
Alana’s keen interest in health and nutrition is reflected by her writing. With her scientific background, Alana critically analyses everything she hears and reads, ensuring that her writing is current and evidence based. You can see more of her writing featured in the Dietitian Connection Newsletter and the Feel Great Challenge founded by biggest loser host, Hayley Lewis.