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How to Get Better Results from Workouts

Are you working out hard – but not getting the results you expect in terms of increasing muscle mass and decreasing body fat? You're not alone. 

I hear that complaint from someone at nearly every one of my speaking engagements. And, yet, there's a simple solution - which you're about to discover.

Not Getting Results

To illustrate the reason why you may not be getting the results you want, let me share a real life story. See if you can identify with it. 

This busy executive gets up at 4:30AM, catches the train at 5, and arrives at the gym just before 6AM. After working out intensely for an hour, he showers, and heads into work to catch up on emails with a large cup of coffee. About an hour later, now around 9AM, he eats a 200-calorie bar containing 20g protein. 

And, that’s all he eats until lunch many hours later. So, let's think about this...from last night's dinner until lunch the next day (15-16 hours later), the only food he's eating is a 200 calorie bar. And, this bar is hours after his workout. 

What about you? How are you eating before and after your workout? Think it doesn't matter? (Hint...it does).

Perhaps you're thinking, "So what? Maybe he just wasn't hungry for anything more. Besides, he's probably eating plenty at lunch and dinner."

That makes sense...until you learn about the biological process of building muscles. 

Two-Step Process to Build Muscle

First, realize that while aerobic exercises such as running, biking, or swimming will build muscles, their primary role is to strengthen the heart and build endurance.

To build stronger muscles, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends during resistance exercises with weights (using your own body weight counts) two to three times a week. And, this should work on eight major muscle groups. 

 If you’re looking to get optimal results while working out intensely, it’s important to realize that results don't come just from the weights or resistance workout. We don't build muscles from working out alone.

Building muscles is a two-step process:

  1. Break muscles down. During the workout we stress our muscles which actually breaks them down
  2. Rebuild them stronger. In order for the body to be able to build up your muscles stronger, you MUST provide the body with the materials needed to do that rebuilding - around the time of the workout. 

Here’s an analogy to help you to understand how to maintain this muscle mass – and build more.

Building Muscles is Like Building a House

There’s a lot of construction going on in my neighborhood. What do you think would happen if all the workers showed up, but none of the building materials gets delivered?

How many homes could those workers build? NONE! They can't do the work of building that house if they don't have the raw materials available, can they?

Same with building muscles.

In order to build muscles, you need to do the work/exercise AND provide the material needed – either shortly before or shortly after the exercise....so it's available for rebuilding after the workout. 

And, what raw materials are needed?  Protein, plus...and this is very important....adequate calories to do the hard work of building the muscles stronger. 

First, Let's ConHere’s What Your Body Needs

To start seeing optimal results, keep these tips in mind:

  • Eat 20-35g of protein an hour before or an hour after exercise. Refer to nutrition information on your food labels or the list below.
  • Eat 20-35g protein at each of the other meals. Did you know that 1-2% of your body proteins regularly breaks down every day and needs to be replaced. Insulin, antibodies, and red blood cells are all proteins. Plus there’s protein in every one of our cells.

The recommendation to eat 20-35g protein at each meal is clear for all of us – not just for body builders. Protein helps us to replace our daily losses, plus it helps us to feel full throughout the day.

Getting Adequate Protein to Build Muscles

Here are some food options to get you started on meeting your 20-35g PER MEAL protein needs:

  • 3-5 ounces of cooked chicken, fish, shellfish, beef, or pork (4-7oz uncooked). Think of this as a portion that's the size of a deck of cards or two. 
  • 3 eggs OR 2 eggs + 1oz lowfat cheese
  • A large bowl of a high protein cereal such as Kashi with milk (dairy or soy). Read the label for exact measures.
  • Protein powder mixed with frozen fruit and milk or juice for a smoothie). Refer to the nutrition info for details. For example, one cup milk with a protein powder containing 20g protein will provide 28g of protein.  
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt (around 15g protein) mixed with some higher protein cereal or a couple tablespoons of nuts will provide the bare minimum of 20g of protein. 
  • Whole grain English muffin with 3 Tablespoons peanut butter and 1 cup milk provides 20g protein
  • Veggie burger (Boca original veggie burger @ 13g protein) + 1/2 cup black beans (6g protein) + 1/2 cup brown rice (2g protein)

Don’t Skimp on Calories Either

Remember the executive I talked about earlier? He refueled after his workout with a 200-calorie bar containing 20g protein. And, then ate nothing else until lunch many hours later. While that bar meets the minimum protein requirement after working out, unfortunately, very little of that protein will go towards rebuilding stronger muscles. 

Why is that? Let me explain.

We don't just burn calories when we exercise. In fact, the majority of the calories we need in a day (about 60-75%) is just to stay alive.

Most of the calories we burn is what gives the body the energy for our lungs to breathe, our heart to pump all that oxygenated blood throughout our body, and for our brain to coordinate all this activity.

We're all different in our calorie needs. But on the lower end, take your current weight and multiply it by 10. For example, someone weighing 160 pounds would require a bare minimum of 1600 calories a day. That's around 66 calories an hour...on the low end. We require even more calories if we are active. 

Think about this. The brain and red blood cells alone require about 800 calories a day to stay alive. 

So, remember that 200-calorie bar the executive ate a couple hours after his workout? The only calories he ate during that 16 hour period of time from dinner until lunch the next day?

Will it be enough to build muscles after his workout?

No.

The body will always prioritize keeping the body alive over building muscles.

That 20g protein and the 200-calories will go straight to meeting the crucial life-saving needs of the human body…rather than the “optional” nice-to-have desire of increasing muscle mass.

Timing Matters

Sure, you can build muscles at anytime of the day...but you'll get better results if the body has the raw materials available in the bloodstream within an hour or two after working out. 

And guess what? Eating lots of protein late in the evening isn’t going to help your morning workout either.

So, in summary, aim to get at least a third of your total daily calories during the morning hours. In other words, if you need 2400 calories a day, your breakfast and morning snack should be around 800 calories – especially if you worked out during the morning.

 
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