As I mentioned earlier, my primary goal at the moment is to increase my strength. I am training for a Tough Mudder obstacle course in September, and I need to be able to pull my own bodyweight out of the water or over a wall. In most cases, in order to increase strength you also need to increase muscle mass. So this week I’m going discuss how I’m using my diet to help me build muscle.
There are two main ways to stimulate muscle growth: Resistance exercise and eating protein. Research has shown that simply eating 20g of protein causes an increase in muscle protein synthesis (muscle building). You get a slightly better response if you consume 30 or 40g of protein in one meal, but more than that does not lead to a greater response. Most people can only process 40g of protein or less at a time, so having a massive 50g protein shake is really a waste of money.
As this is the case, you are better off spreading you protein intake throughout the day. If you have three meals and two snacks a day where you get at least 20g of protein, that’s five times your muscles have been stimulated to grow. This is why many bodybuilders and weightlifters follow a strict schedule of eating every 2-3 hours. In my case I usually have breakfast at 8am, lunch at 12pm, a pre training snack at 3pm, train at 4pm, a post workout snack at 5:30/6:00pm, then supper around 8pm.
As I’ve discussed, studies have shown that eating 1.5 to 1.8g of protein per kilogram of body mass per day is enough for most strength athletes. Eating more than 2.0g of protein/Kg/day does not result in more muscle mass, you simply pee out the excess protein. So for someone my size (about 63 Kg or 140 lbs) the maximum useful amount of protein is only 126g. Even if I were a 90 Kg (200 lbs) male body builder, I still wouldn’t need more than 180g of protein per day.
To increase the amount of protein that actually makes it to your muscles, make sure you pair it with some carbohydrates. The insulin spike caused by the carbs tells your muscles to absorb both glucose (a simple sugar) and amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). This is particularly important right after exercise. Remember, simply doing resistance exercise stimulates muscle growth. However, if you want to get the most from this, you need to provide your muscles with the right materials to build that new muscle. Current research suggests 0.4 to 0.5 g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight immediately after exercise is the way to go. A 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein in the recovery meal is ideal.
So what does this look like in practice? Below you’ll find a typical day’s meal plan for me at the moment. You’ll notice that I’m getting just under 124g of protein (1.9 g per Kg of bodyweight) spread out pretty evenly over my five meals. I’m also getting over 30g of that protein in my recovery meal, which is 0.47g per Kg of bodyweight. And most meals have roughly a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein.
Totals for typical day:
|Calories burned through exercise:||375|
What I ate:
|07:45||Centrum Multivitamin, Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg|
|Soft boiled eggs, 2 large||115g||150||14.49||0.00||0.00||0.00||10.35||2.88||0.00|
|Free From pure oats||50g||171||6.40||30.30||0.60||4.30||2.70||0.50||0.00|
|made with boiling water||250mL||0||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00|
|Tesco mixed frozen fruits||100g||40||0.90||7.90||7.90||2.00||0.20||0.00||0.00|
|10:00||Fresh ginger tea with a splash of lemon juice and 1 tsp honey||250mL||25||0.00||6.25||6.25||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00|
|12:15||King Prawn stir fry with carrots, broccoli, peppers, onions, mushrooms, ginger and sweet chilli sauce||285g||157||20.91||21.25||11.36||3.32||1.01||0.44||0.00|
|topped with cashews||20g||116||3.64||5.38||1.18||0.66||8.78||1.56||0.00|
|Brown basmati rice||130g||150||3.75||30.83||0.51||1.44||1.23||0.29||0.00|
|15:00||Activia natural yoghurt||150g||96||7.50||9.90||9.90||0.00||2.90||2.00||0.00|
|Natures Path Mesa Sunrise cereal||50g||195||5.00||40.00||6.50||5.00||1.65||0.25||0.00|
|17:30||MaxiNutrition Lean protein powder, chocolate||40g||140||20.00||13.00||12.00||0.00||0.90||0.30||0.00|
|Genius brown bread, two slices toasted||61g||153||1.53||27.45||1.46||6.10||4.03||0.31||0.00|
|Sunpat crunchy peanut butter||36g||219||8.93||5.22||2.41||2.63||17.53||3.31||0|
|19:30||Pork loin steak, grilled, fat removed||80g||157||15.92||0.00||0.00||0.00||10.30||3.77||0.00|
|Steamed sweet potato||199g||178||2.20||38.60||16.80||4.20||0.60||0.20||0.00|
|Gravy made with 10g Bisto Best pork gravy granules in 100mL boiling water||about 75mL||25||0.43||5.00||0.17||0.06||0.35||0.04||0.00|