Do you work out hard – but don’t see the results? This blog will help you build muscles easier, stronger.
I hear that complaint at nearly every one of my speaking engagements. At today’s event, I met an exec who gets up at 4:30am, catches the train at 5, and arrives at the gym an hour later. She works out, showers, then heads into work and catches up on emails. THEN, she eats a bar. And, that’s it until lunch many hours later. So, from bedtime to lunch (more than 12 hours), she only consumes a 200 calorie bar.
Two-Step Process to Build Muscle
If you’re looking to get optimal results while working out intensely, it’s important to realize that it’s a two-step process:
- Break muscles down. During the workout our body’s muscle mass breaks down
- Rebuild them stronger. BUT, in order for the body to be able to build them up stronger, this requires that you provide the body with the building blocks in order to be able to do that rebuilding.
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 someone forgot to ship the building materials? How many homes could those workers build? NONE!
In order to build muscles, you need to do the work (exercise) AND provide the material needed (protein, plus adequate calories) – shortly after the exercise. Eating lots of protein late in the evening isn’t going to help your morning workout – and vice versa.
Here’s What Your Body Needs
To start seeing optimal results, keep these tips in mind:
- Do resistance exercises twice a week with weights. This is NOT the same as running, biking, swimming or any other aerobic movement. Aerobic movements are good for building endurance. We need to do resistance exercises with weights in order to build muscle.
- Eat 20-35g of protein an hour before or an hour after exercise. This includes meat about the size of a deck of cards or another protein option…refer to nutrition information on label and read more in the article below.
- Eat 20-35g protein at each of the other meals. Realize 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 protein needs:
- 3-5 ounces of cooked chicken, fish, shellfish, beef, or pork (4-7oz uncooked)
- 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.
- 1 scoop of most protein powders (mix with frozen fruit and milk or juice for a smoothie). Refer to the protein powder nutrition info for details.
- 1 cup of Greek yogurt (around 15g protein) mixed with some higher protein cereal or a couple tablespoons of nuts
- Whole grain English muffin with 2 Tablespoons peanut butter and 1 cup milk
- 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
In the example above, the executive refueled after her workout with a 200 calorie bar containing 20g protein. And, that’s all she had until lunch many hours later. Unfortunately, much of that protein wouldn’t go towards muscle rebuilding. We need calories just to stay alive – 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.
Most of us need 1500-3000+ calories a day. That’s anywhere from 60-125 calories or more an hour. The brain and red blood cells alone burn through 800 calories a day to stay alive. So, unfortunately, that 200 calorie bar will go straight to meeting these crucial needs…rather than the “optional” need of building muscle. 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.