Should I be consuming protein or carbs after a workout? Or both? Which macro is more important for muscle building or are they equally?
Protein is by far the most important macro for muscle building, which is why people can build muscle on a ketogenic (high fat, low carb) diet.
But while the hype is always around post-workout nutrition (recovery and protein shakes), in my opinion it is your pre-workout nutrition that’s more important. What you consumer before your workout will be in your system and available when it’s needed.
There isn’t a requirement for food directly after training it should be said. When you train, you up-regulate protein synthesis (the building of new protein in the muscle) but this lasts for hours post training so there is no urgent or frantic rush to down a protein shake as soon as you finish.
That said, to optimise results I would have the protein serving before training (30-40g between 60-90 mins pre training) and then have the same again within two hours of finishing training. It makes sense to add some carbohydrate to the post-workout feed to aid muscle repair and restore muscle glycogen but is not essential.
A lot of Bodyscan clients looking to build muscle mass say they do their gym workout fasted but this is something I advise against.
Protein is the building block for muscle. Therefore it is an advantage to have it in your system and available during your workout. This will avoid extra protein breakdown and promote recovery straight away.
No one wants to work out on a full stomach, so an easily digestible source, such as 30g of whey protein in a shake would be ideal, consumed about 60-90 minutes before your session. If you train in the morning (which is why most people train fasted) then the window will necessarily be smaller.
Carbs and fats are not essential and down to personal preference. Weight training doesn’t require a huge amount of glycogen like endurance training does, so there isn’t a requirement for carbohydrate intake beforehand. Some people find that eating carbs before training makes them feel less energetic (“carb coma”) whereas others find that pre-training carbs make them feel stronger, so consume as required.
If you’re one of those for whom carbs make you sluggish but you want some more energy, you could look into adding some fats to your pre workout meal. This could be 20 grams of nuts or 90% dark chocolate.
One substance I would definitely recommend before hitting the gym (in the morning, at least) is caffeine. It has been shown to improve strength and concentration, so it’s no surprise that caffeine is the main ingredient in most pre-workout supplements. A cup of coffee or a caffeine pill is much cheaper (and usually just as effective) than those hugely expensive tubs of flavoured powder.
Somewhere between 100-400mg of caffeine is a good dose depending on your build and tolerance. See what works for you. [As a guide there are 270mg of caffeine in a Costa flat white, 160mg in one at Starbucks, 80mg in a 250ml can of Red Bull and about 60mg in a Nespresso capsule.]
Stimulants in the evening are not a good idea as they can negatively impact sleep. The half-life for caffeine is roughly 6 hours (varies from person to person) so avoid caffeine about 6-8 hours before bed.
When are they going to prep a week of meals and get to the gym for an hour each day?
It's obviously good to be enthusiastic, determined and committed to your fat-loss plan. But many people approach the task with an all-or- nothing mentality that is totally at odds with their current lifestyle.
It is not uncommon for a Bodyscan client who barely exercises and makes terrible food choices to commit themselves to a plan which involves exercising for more than an hour every day and a nutrition plan that requires them to spend the same amount of time cooking.
It makes no sense to embark on a plan that doesn't fit with your lifestyle. If you rarely get up before 8.30am, being in the gym every morning at six is never going to work!
When diets and health-kicks fail, the most popular excuses are that "life got in the way" and "I travel a lot for my job". Which are other ways of saying you completely ignored your lifestyle and embarked on a programme that was never going to work.
When are you going to prepare a week's meals and get to the gym for five hours a week?
If you have a busy job and a family, you need a food plan that you can feed to your kids instead of cooking two sets of meals.
If you travel frequently (or never cook) you need to make good food choices from what's available. You don't have to have dessert or drink all those fine wines in business class.
A well-designed fat-loss strategy should achieve your goal by becoming part of the way you live your life - avoiding doing things you really don't enjoy, making it easy to keep below maintenance calories and including exercise that you can commit to easily for the long term.
Your plan should enhance and complement your life, not adversely impact it. Don't make things hard for yourself. You're far more likely to succeed if you fit your plan to your lifestyle rather than attempt a handbrake turn.
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