We’ve all been around those rare specimens in the gym and athletics that seem to make every damn thing look so easy. They’re super strong and seem to always get stronger without hitting plateaus, they’re powerful, fast and do things that make you scratch your head and wonder, how in the heck can they do that so easily?
Those lucky bastards have the genes of Greek Gods and seem to defy all the rules of nature. But this article is not about those individuals. Even though what lies ahead can and should be utilized by everyone, this is for us mere mortals on Earth who have to follow the laws of the universe to get the most out of our workouts and recovery as fast as we can so we can get back into the gym to continue to see those gains!
The down and dirty on macronutrients
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I am often questioned about what exercise should I do to get this, what foods should I be eating for that, or what can be done to give me that extra edge? The plain and simple answer is to work your butt off like an animal in the gym, eat good nutrient dense foods, and know what it takes to recover the best so you can repeat and do again.
Before we dive into the meat and potatoes of this article I want to talk about two important concepts to think about for the strength athlete. Have you been getting adequate amounts of calories from various macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) to get the most out of your workout or sport, and are you eating the right stuff at the right times?
Contrary to popular media beliefs, the strength athlete requires carbohydrates, and lots of them if you’re really kicking butt in the gym. No ifs, ands or buts about it, carbs are the primary fuel for a strength athlete to get their job done.
So again, are you taking in an adequate amount and are you eating them at the right time? Nobody really has issues with proteins, though some say too much is bad (another article in itself), but protein molecules are the building blocks to rebuild the wear and tear you place on your body from the workout. Are you eating enough and optimizing the timing of this macronutrient around gym times?
Fat, on the other hand is not so much of a factor when it comes to strength gains and recovery for athletes; although when carb intake is low, say on an off day, you can increase your intake of good healthy fat to replace those missed calories from carbohydrates. Now with that out of the way, let’s get into how to manipulate those nutrients to your advantage to get the most out of your workout and recover fast.
Optimizing nutrients for gains and recovery
I am of the mindset you’re either going to do it right or not do it at all. That’s the way I approach nutrition when it comes to my sessions in the gym. In general a strength athlete’s meals should be well-balanced with a good amount of protein, carbs and healthy fats.
A general plate may look like 6-8 ounces of some sort of lean meat (fish, beef, chicken, pork), a cup or so of some type of clean carb (rice, oatmeal, potatoes, veggies etc) and maybe 1-2 tablespoons of some sort of healthy fat (olive oil, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, etc).
This a typical meal outside of the window of workout time that you should probably be consuming. Some people say 6 or so meals a day are adequate for the strength athlete to maintain and gain in their endeavors. I generally stick with my good old 3 square meals a day with various snacks in between (nuts, certain fruits, protein shakes, etc). Now you maybe wondering, well how much of each macronutrient should I consume within a day? It’s a good general rule of thumb that you should at least take in anywhere from .8-1 gram of protein per pound of your bodyweight. So for instance if you weigh 200 pounds your upper end of protein intake should be about 200 grams per day.
Now in general for carbs you should probably take in anywhere from 1-3 grams per pound of your bodyweight a day depending on your training volume, sport, etc. So in this instance that 200 pound person mentioned earlier can take in an upper end of 600 grams of carbs per day. If you’re wondering, there really are no guidelines for fat consumption other than you’d probably want to keep it low on high carb days (training days) and higher on low carb days (off days).
To get the most out of the training session or sport, nutrient-timing is key. In the 2-3 hours leading up to the gym or sport you should probably if anything eat a modest meal mimicking that of a typical meal we talked about earlier. Next let’s say in the 30 minutes prior to the event you should be taking in a protein rich shake, preferably a blend of whey, egg protein and casein so you can jump-start protein synthesis as well as maintain it with these proteins of various digestion rates (whey is fast, egg protein is medium, and casein is long).
Throughout the workout you should have a carb rich drink, preferably dextrose (due to the fast speed of its digestion) to give you the fuel to complete the task at hand. As for post-workout, now you should take in another protein shake blend like mentioned above as well as some more fast digesting carbs because at this point your insulin levels are primed to take it all in.
I usually chow down on sugary cereals at this point or a few rice krispies treats. The rest of the meals thereafter should mimic the typical meal discussed earlier but with more starchy carbs because the glycemic load of these foods are low.
Finally, before bed you should consume a casein rich protein shake to maintain protein synthesis or muscle building through the night in your fasted-state of sleep. Following these simple guidelines along with hard work and dedication in you training efforts should guarantee continual gains along with good recovery to keep with your plan.
Bringing it all together
The tips mentioned in this article will optimize workout gains and recovery through their nutritional efforts. Although going hard in the gym is a must, if you don’t have the right fuel and building blocks to give to yourself, your efforts will mean absolutely jack (unless the blood of Zeus and Hercules is pumping in your veins of course)!
So all in all, getting adequate amounts of various nutrients and optimizing them at precise times are crucial to continual gains and speedy recovery. Hope this article finds you racking plates up on a barbell and going hard! So until next time my faithful readers, live life in motion, eat well and enjoy all the little things in life that we take for granted!