The Importance of Nutrition for Muscle Growth

Are You Eating for Muscle?

Eating right for muscle growth is essential. Unfortunately, there are a few things often misunderstood in the process. Creating muscle definition is hard work and requires excellent sports nutrition to make it happen. Avoiding common mistakes will allow you to develop a proper nutrition plan and achieve those lean mass gains. 

The Problem

Muscular Fit Man Exercising in a Gym
Muscle Growth Requires Excellent Sports Nutrition. GCShutter / Getty Images

Going on a diet: Dieting is probably the worst mistake made when trying to build lean mass (muscle). In fact, the body will seek out energy sources to consume when calories are restricted. Guess what, muscle tissue is seen as fuel to the body and will provide energy when calories are down. When we don't eat enough to sustain our muscle, we are unable to grow lean mass. In addition, starvation mode will increase fat stores and leave you wondering what the heck happened.   

Not eating enough protein: Protein is an essential macronutrient needed for muscle growth and repair. Not consuming enough can leave lean mass (muscle) screaming for attention. 

Restricting carbs: Carbohydrates are important macronutrients and our primary energy source. Carbs provide needed energy for those tough workouts and also replenishing muscle glycogen (energy stores). Taking carbs out of your daily food intake will diminish your athletic performance and leave your muscles struggling for nutrients. 

Not eating fats: Healthy fats help boost metabolism and regulate hormone function. Keeping healthy fats from your nutrition can rob your body of peak performance and diminish function to grow muscle and lose fat. The old saying “eating fat makes you fat” is a myth and definitely not any friend to improved muscle definition.

The Solution

Toss the diet and eat for muscle. Our bodies need healthy food to function efficiently. The physical demands of an added exercise program will require even more calories. This is no time to consider a diet leaving your muscles flat and energy tanked. Eating like a bird and following fad diets is not going to develop the muscle definition you desire. Lean mass gains require us to eat a wide variety of macronutrients. In order to achieve a muscular body, it will be essential to consume lean proteins, healthy carbs, good fats, and drink plenty of water consumed throughout the day. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) indicates eating too little metabolizes (eats away) muscle while storing fat.   

Eat protein to support your muscle mass. Protein is made up of amino acids that help with cellular function and muscle repair. Amino acids need to be available for muscle metabolism (energy) and for ongoing anabolism (muscle growth). It will be the sufficient amount of protein intake keeping our bodies in a positive amino acid balance to build muscle. A decline in the balance will mean a breakdown in muscle tissue. The American College of Sports Medicine has addressed protein requirements for optimal muscle growth and maintenance in addition to a complete physical activity program guideline.

Eat carbs to fuel muscle building workouts and keep blood sugar levels even all day. Consuming quality carbohydrates like veggies, fruits, and grains in proper portions is essential for muscle growth and reducing fat. Healthy carbs provide superior fuel for hard workouts and well-defined muscle. There is a difference between good and bad carbohydrates and nutrient dense carbs are recommended. Carbohydrate (CHO) requirements increase to meet exercise demands. They have a very important job of restoring muscle glycogen (stored form of energy) after exhausting workouts. 

Eat healthy fats to help hormonal function, especially testosterone for growing muscle. Did you know fat supplies 70 percent of our energy at rest? Also, essential fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are obtained by eating healthy fat. Fat should not get a bad rap and has an important function of padding and protecting our vital organs. Our bodies do not run efficiently without an adequate fat intake. Similar to carbs, when physical demands from workouts increase so does our need for more fat. Eating healthy fat in proper portion doesn't make us fat and is an important macronutrient the body requires to build lean muscle. 

Sources:

American College of Sports Medicine, Protein Intake for Optimum Muscle Maintenance, 2015

American Council on Exercise, How Eating Too Little Will Eat Up Your Fat-loss Goals, 2015

Eric R Helms et al., Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation, Journal of the Internation Society of Sports Nutrition, 2014

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