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9 Nutrition Rules to Build More Muscle

Maximize muscle growth naturally with these tips and techniques

It’s straight forward. You want to build more muscle… and fast. You don’t want to add a pound of fresh beef each year – you want more! You want a thick, striated chest, peaked biceps, sweeping quads and a “bat wing” V taper! To accelerate your path to the ultimate physique, here are 9 steadfast nutrition rules to build muscle fast.

Rule #1: Eat a LOT of protein

Muscle is made of protein. To build muscle, you need to boost muscle protein synthesis, as well as decrease muscle breakdown. Research in the lab and the gym confirms that the best way to do this is with a diet that gets you a minimum of one gram per pound of bodyweight (a little over two grams of protein per kg of bodyweight) and closer to about 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight (about three grams of protein per kg bodyweight). Some do even better with even more than this amount by getting closer to two grams. This is especially true for those following a more intense training program.

So, for a 210 pound lifter that wants to get to 225, you will need 225 pounds x 1.5 g/pound = 337.5 g of protein per day. This is calculated based on your goal weight, not your current weight.

Rule #2: Eat frequently

Lately there are some experts who claim that eating more infrequently, such as waiting five or six hours to your next meal, may be better than eating every two to three hours. This is all based on the fact that when you wait longer between meals, it spikes protein synthesis higher. That’s fine and dandy, but when you go longer between meals, you also increase muscle breakdown. And that may actually be the more critical factor in muscle growth. Sure, muscle protein synthesis is very important, but if it’s just playing catch up after the muscle has gone through protein breakdown, then it sort of just evens out and you haven’t actually accrued any muscle mass.

Come experts tend to complicate things more than they need to. We’re all for making our recommendations better by using the current science, but only if that current science crosses over and shows real results in the gym. Decades of experience shows bodybuilders who eat more frequent meals build more muscle. In fact, data on thousands and thousands of real men and women shows this to be the case. And a recent study helps to confirm this. The study showed that consuming a smaller dose of whey protein every three hours led to better net protein balance (muscle protein synthesis minus muscle protein breakdown) than a larger dose of whey every six hours.

This is it is recommended to eat about six meals on rest days and about eight meals on workout days. That equates to eating meals about every two to three hours. It works! If you are having a pre-workout meal right before the workout and a post-workout meal after and the workout lasts only 60 to 90 minutes, then that’s one time when you are eating even sooner than the two- to three-hour window. And same with the meal that follows your post-workout meal. It is recommended getting in a whole-food meal about an hour after your post-workout protein shake.

Rule #3: Get ample fats

One mistake people make when trying to keep lean is to avoid fat as much as possible. That is a bad idea for numerous reasons. For one, there are essential fats your body needs, such as omega-3 fats from fatty fish like salmon. These fats have recently been found to be critical players in muscle recovery and growth, as well as keeping body fat off, aiding joint health, protecting from heart disease, boosting brain function, and a host of other health benefits.

Then there is monounsaturated fat. This is not an essential fat, but it is a healthy fat due to the fact that it provides numerous health benefits and is readily burned for fuel rather than being stored as body fat. On top of that, research shows that male athletes consuming more monounsaturated fat maintain higher testosterone levels. Actually, the research shows that male athletes consuming more monounsaturated fat AND saturated fat maintain higher testosterone levels. Yes, you actually WANT to consume some saturated fat (albeit in lower amounts) versus trying to avoid it at all costs. Good sources include beef, dairy (full fat or reduced fat, but not fat-free), and whole eggs.

The only fat that you want to avoid as much as possible is trans-fat.

The simple rule for fat intake is to consume 40% your bodyweight in pounds (or about your entire bodyweight in kg) in grams of fat. So, if you weigh 200 pounds (90kg), you would consume about 80 grams of fat per day with about 40% being monounsaturated fat, 40% being polyunsaturated fat (mainly omega-3 fats), and 20% being saturated fat each day.

Rule #4: Manipulate carbs

Since you want to make sure you’re eating ample protein and ample fats for maximizing muscle growth, the amounts of these two critical macronutrients should stay about the same regardless of where you are in your diet or your goals. That means to gain more mass or to lose more fat, you should be changing up your carb intake. The body can make all the glucose (blood sugar) it needs from protein and fat. So there are no essential carbs you need from the diet, unlike fat, which there are essential fats you need to consume, and protein, which there are essential amino acids you need to consume because the body doesn’t make them.

We suggest you start off somewhere around 1.5 to 2.0 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight to maximize mass gain while minimizing fat gain. Then you can either increase this amount if you find you are not gaining mass rapidly enough and are not gaining any body fat. Similarly, you can also gradually lower this amount if you find that you are gaining too much body fat. Everyone’s body is different, and your body will respond to carbs differently. So you need to experiment with carb intake. If you find the right carb intake for your body, you can actually gain plenty of muscle while actually losing body fat – it is possible with the right diet and training program.

Rule #5: Consider calories

The advice here is to not be a huge stickler on calorie amounts. Yes, calorie intake is somewhat important, but as long as you are hitting the proper amount of protein and fats, and have your carb intake dialed in for your body, then how far over or under your energy needs you are doesn’t really matter… to a point.

As mentioned in Rule #4, you can gain muscle while losing body fat. That being said, to really maximize muscle mass gains, you should be eating more calories than you are burning each day. And to maximize fat loss, you should be burning more calories than you are consuming. However, it is possible to burn slightly more calories than you are consuming, yet gain muscle due to the fact that you are eating ample amounts of protein and fat. We know one gram of protein provides four calories, as does one gram of carbs. We also know one gram of fat provides about nine calories (8-10 calories, depending on the type of fat).

If we build a diet from the macronutrients up and want to be sure to get in 1.5g protein per pound of bodyweight and 0.4g of fat per pound of bodyweight, then that right there is about 11 calories per pound of bodyweight. If we shoot for anywhere from about one to two grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight, then we know you should be eating at least 15-19 calories per pound of bodyweight to build muscle. If you find you need a good three grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight, then you need about 23 calories per pound.

Rule #6: Use a mixed protein powder

Decades of research recommends focusing on using whey protein powders. And that advice remains the same but with a little tweak to it. That tweak is to add bio-active peptides to your whey. Bio-active peptides like those found in BIO-GRO and 100% BIO-ACTIVE WHEY are shown in human studies to improve the rate of recovery or protein synthesis, helping you build muscle faster. Whey is definitely the king of protein. For one, it is rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s). It also provides special peptides and microfractions that other protein sources or straight-up aminos can’t. In fact, a recent study comparing whey protein to an amino acid mix that provided the same exact amino acids whey provides showed whey outperformed the amino acids.

Whey also happens to be the fastest digesting protein you can consume, which means it delivers its critical BCAA’s, peptides, and microfractions to your muscles quickly. This is important for energy during the workout and for muscle growth after. So yes, the first protein you want to concern yourself with is whey protein, especially before and after, and/or during workouts, as well as in the morning and at any points between meals where a protein shake will do.

The second protein source to drink is a slow-digesting protein, such as casein, and particularly micellar casein. Micellar casein is casein in its natural form found in milk. It has been shown to provide a slow and steady supply of aminos for as long as seven hours. This is due to the fact that casein forms a clot when it is in the stomach. To visualize this, consider when you mix a whey protein powder compared to when you mix a casein protein powder. The whey tends to mix very easily, yet the casein tends to form clumps in the fluid. This is similar to what happens in your stomach when you consume casein. Although the clumps of casein may be bad for palatability when drinking a casein shake, it provides benefits when these clumps form in your stomach. These clumps decrease the surface area of the casein available to digestive enzymes. The enzymes must digest the casein clumps one layer at a time, much like peeling the layers off an onion. This means casein provides a slow and steady supply of aminos. That has been shown to keep protein synthesis extended for longer, and it has also been shown to decrease muscle protein breakdown.

Remember muscle grows when protein synthesis is greater than muscle breakdown. Casein actually works on both ends to promote muscle growth by increasing muscle protein synthesis and decreasing muscle protein breakdown. One easy way to get micellar casein you may not have realized is from protein powders and drinks that provide milk protein isolate or milk protein concentrate.

Make sure you are using both a fast-acting protein like whey in the morning and around your workout, while utilizing micellar casein before bed and one other time each day. You can also mix up your protein source with a protein like egg from time to time to deliver a different amino acid profile and rate of digestion.

Rule #7: Use fast carbs right after workouts

During workouts, you are burning through muscle glycogen like a rap star burns through his bank account. Glycogen is the stored form of carbs. In simplified terms, when you consume carbs, most are broken down into or converted into glucose, which is what blood sugar is. Glucose can either be used fairly immediately for fuel or stored, mainly in muscle fibers and the liver. It is stored in the form of glycogen, which is just long, branched chains of glucose connected together. The glycogen in your muscle cells and liver is broken down into glucose and used as one of the main fuels to fuel your workouts. At the end of a workout, your muscle glycogen levels are depleted. If your muscle glycogen levels are not restored, your performance in the next workout can suffer, and muscle growth may be compromised.

One way muscle growth can be compromised is due to the fact that muscle glycogen levels serve as a barometer for how much energy the body has stored. If energy levels are low, as it seems when muscle glycogen is low, then the muscles may not want to expend energy building muscle. Building muscle requires energy, and bigger muscles require more energy to maintain. If your body is unsure that you have adequate energy to fuel other, more critical processes, and to maintain more muscle mass, it may choose not to go gangbusters building muscle.

Another way muscle growth may be compromised is due to the fact that glycogen pulls water into the muscle fibers. The more glycogen, the more water in the muscle fibers. More water makes the muscles fuller. This makes your muscles appear significantly bigger. If your muscles are low in glycogen, then they are also low in water, and that means they look flatter and smaller than they could. Having muscles that are fuller due to more glycogen and water can also instigate muscle growth. There is evidence that having more water in the muscle fibers places a stretch on the muscle membranes and that stretch instigates chemical pathways that increase muscle protein synthesis, which can lead to greater muscle growth.

The best way to fully replenish muscle glycogen is with high-glycemic or fast-digesting carbs. These carbs make it into the bloodstream and to your muscle fibers almost as quickly as you ingest them. Research confirms that the quicker you get carbs to your muscles after workouts, the faster and better the muscle glycogen replenishment. One of the best sources of fast carbs is dextrose, which is glucose. This form of sugar requires no digestion and is absorbed pretty immediately into your bloodstream. You can use straight dextrose/glucose powder or Wonka Pixy Stix (100% dextrose) for example. White bread and white potatoes are also good sources since they are mainly starch, which is branched glucose molecules bound together that break apart rapidly upon ingestion.

We’re not saying eat a lot of sugar or white bread, but after your workout is a good time to get 20-40g of simple sugar. These fast carbs also spike insulin levels. After a workout is the ONE time of day when you want to spike the anabolic hormone insulin. Research shows that insulin is critical for pushing creatine and carnitine into muscle fibers. Without a big spike in insulin, creatine and carnitine uptake are not optimal. Insulin also helps amino acids, such as beta-alanine, BCAAs, and the other critical ones from your protein shake get taken up by the muscle fibers. And let’s not forget about the glucose from those fast carbs, which insulin helps to gain entry into the muscle fibers. For more info on these supplements, see Rule #8 below.

Some people worry that eating carbs post-workout will blunt growth hormone and testosterone levels after the workout. Here’s what they don’t understand. Growth hormone and testosterone levels rise during the workout and peak toward the end of the workout, depending on the workout. After the workout is over, the levels of theses hormones begin to drop sharply so they are back to resting levels about 60-90 minutes after the workout is over. The release of these hormones have already peaked before you consume those carbs. After the workout is over, it’s too late for the carbs to have a negative effect on hormone levels.

Some people worry that consuming fast carbs after workouts will lead to diabetes. This is due to the media’s demonization of all sugars. Yes, if you are eating sugars while sitting on the couch all day, it will increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But someone who trains regularly is already preventing the metabolic damage that leads to type 2 diabetes. And right after a workout is when those carbs are going straight to the muscles and restocking the muscle glycogen, as well as the liver glycogen levels. So there is no risk to consuming fast carbs after workouts. It’s what your body needs.

Although the amount of fast carbs you consume after a workout depends on your weight and the intensity and length of the workout, a general recommendation is to shoot for about 20-40 grams worth of fast carbs such as dextrose within 30 minutes after the workout is over. Research shows that for optimal absorption by the intestines, 60-70 grams of one type of carb is the maximum before absorption by the intestines becomes limited. A second reason that you don’t want to consume too many fast carbs is that it can make you feel like crap after it’s all been quickly taken up by the liver and muscles and your blood glucose levels drop. This is known as hypoglycemia and can make you feel dizzy, lethargic, and just generally crappy. If you find this happens to you even with smaller amounts of fast carbs, then we suggest you mix your post-workout carbs so you are getting some fast carbs and some slow carbs, such as fruit, oats, whole-wheat bread, sweet potatoes, etc.

Rule #8: Combine BCAA’s, beta-alanine, betaine, creatine before AND after every workout

Branched chain amino acids are critical to have during and after workouts due to their ability to turn on muscle protein synthesis, much like a key turns on an engine. It’s leucine that is the key player here. But when you take BCAA’s before a workout, the real benefit is the energy they provide your muscles and their ability to blunt fatigue, so you can train with greater intensity for longer. When you take a dose after workouts, the benefit is their ability to promote muscle growth.

Another amino acid you want to get in before and after every workout is beta-alanine. The research on this special amino acid is really piling up in its favor as there are more and more studies proving its ability to promote better workouts by increasing muscle strength and power, endurance, and even muscle growth and fat loss. You can find the patented form of beta-alanine (Carnosyn®) in PRE-GRO MAX. Taking two servings of PRE-GRO MAX will deliver ample amounts of this critical ingredient.

Second, one of the more critical supplements to take before and after workouts is creatine. Creatine literally has hundreds of studies supporting its ability to promote increased muscle strength, power, and size. Again PRE-GRO MAX delivers research proven doses of creatine monohydrate (MonoCre™) and creatine magnesium chelate (Creatine Magna Power™) to help maximize your results.

Most people only consider boosting blood flow before and during the workout for greater energy and bigger muscle pumps. But having more blood flow going to the muscles after a workout aids recovery because more blood flow delivers more oxygen, nutrients, and hormones (like testosterone and growth hormone). More oxygen is important because after workouts your body is in a state known as oxygen debt. That means it needs more oxygen to replenish ATP and phosphocreatine stores to name just a few things it is needed for. More nutrients means that more of those aminos, creatine, and glucose are getting to the muscles for better replenishment, recovery, and muscle growth. More anabolic hormones can stimulate greater muscle protein synthesis, for greater muscle growth. When you have more blood flowing to muscles, you also have more blood flowing away from muscles. This aids recovery by removing more of the waste products that were produced during the workout.

When it comes to the BCAA’s, for pre-workout benefits, we suggest you stick with a BCAA product that uses a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine: isoleucine: valine like that found in AMINO-GRO. This is because during workouts you also want ample amounts of valine and isoleucine for increased energy levels and decreased fatigue. After workouts, a 2:1:1 product works well again to deliver leucine to trigger muscle protein synthesis yet still get enough isoleucine and valine.

Not only are the BCAAs important for energy during the workout and muscle growth after, but they increase insulin levels, which helps the other supplements taken with the BCAAs get into the muscle cells. Research shows that insulin is critical for getting creatine and carnitine into the muscle cells. Insulin also helps increase the uptake of amino acids, like the BCAAs, beta-alanine, and even betaine.

Same goes for creatine. In fact, research done on creatine shows that subjects gain more muscle mass and strength when taking creatine pre- and post-workout versus other times of day. Creatine monohydrate works well for many and can be combined with other forms like Di-Creatine Malate, Creatine Anhydrous and Creatine Alpha-Amino-N-Butyrate to help improve overall absorption and delivery of creatine. These forms of creatine can be found in the unflavored CREATINE A5X formula, which can be added to any pre, intra or post-workout shake or drink.

Rule #9: Find what works for you

The 8 rules covered above will work very well for the majority of hard-training people. However, maybe you are that one percent who doesn’t respond so well to a few of these rules. Maybe your schedule doesn’t allow for frequent meals. Maybe you’re a vegan, and dairy-based protein powders are not on your diet. Whatever it is, use these rules as a guideline, but stick only with the ones that work for you. Take these rules and adapt them to your schedule and your body. Tweak them to make them yours, or find ones that work better for you, or create your own. We all have a unique biochemistry, and not all of our bodies react the same way to food or training. Be your own guinea pig and experiment on yourself. If something works for you, it doesn’t matter whether or not it works for anyone else.