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.
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.
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:
Here’s an analogy to help you to understand how to maintain this muscle mass – and build more.
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.
To start seeing optimal results, keep these tips in mind:
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.
Here are some food options to get you started on meeting your 20-35g PER MEAL protein needs:
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?
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.
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.