Building a bigger, but leaner physique requires a demanding combination of hard work and quality calories. Your workouts and meals should be planned in advance so that you aren’t spending more than an hour lifting weights in the gym. After about 60 minutes, your glycogen reserves are going to be depleted. In this situation, you could end up sacrificing amino acids from muscle to power your lifts which will be counterproductive to your goal.
Please keep in mind that gains take time, perseverance and a synergistic routine of working out, eating well and correct supplementation. Here are a few principles to keep in mind:
- Do short, intense workouts
- Make certain you are getting adequate sleep
- Never miss a meal
- Keep a food diary to monitor how much protein and carbs you’re consuming from whole foods daily
It is normal for many to have three regular meals throughout the day, but for those training hard it might be advisable to look at trying to increase the number of smaller meals and/or ensure sufficient snacks are consumed. To keep muscle growth fuelled with amino acids from protein and to keep energy levels up with carbohydrates, you should aim to eat a smaller than normal meal every 2 to 3 hours throughout the day. In essence, you’re dividing the traditional three meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner into 6 or 7 smaller meals, some of which could include protein bars and shakes.
When planning your diet, the emphasis must be on complete proteins and complex carbohydrates. A complete protein includes all 8 Essential Amino Acids. Since your body can’t produce them, they must be consumed through diet. Red meats, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products are good sources.
Cutting back on carbohydrates has become a popular strategy to lose fat, but taken to the extreme, can leave you lacking energy to workout. Carbs are your body’s preferred power source and are essential for fuelling both physical and mental effort. The trick is to choose complex carbohydrates packed with nutrients and dietary fibre. Complex carbohydrates digest slowly to provide sustained energy. Examples include sweet potatoes, asparagus, oatmeal, nuts and whole grain bread.
Classically, lots of information refers to a specific percentage of carbohydrate, fat and protein that is required in the diet. This is hard to do, and more current guidelines prefer to suggest amounts of carbohydrate and protein based on individual body weight e.g. 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. Unfortunately, these guidelines are not easily transferred into practical meals, so for many, it is much easier to emphasise that they should be consuming carbohydrate and protein within all meals. Low glycaemic index carbohydrates are better consumed during main meals, whilst high glycaemic carbohydrates are consumed in the immediate periods before, during and after training.
Hydration is another area that requires focus. The amount that any individual will sweat is highly individual and dependent on several factors. Dehydration is known to reduce training intensity, so maintaining a regular fluid intake throughout the day is essential. Urine colour is the simplest way to monitor hydration status, with urine that is yellow/colourful suggesting a dehydrated state.
Your exercises should focus on basic compound movements that utilise several muscle groups allowing you to load the barbell or dumbbells with 70% to 85% of your one rep max (the heaviest amount of weight you can lift for one rep). Keep your reps in the 6 to 8 range per set, and don’t perform more than 3 sets of any exercise. Please note: These rules don’t apply to isolation exercises for the abdominals, calves and forearms.
To give your muscles 48 hours to recover from an intense whole body training session similar to the example offered here, plan your workouts every other day: Monday, Wednesday and Friday with Sunday as a day off; or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday if that fits best into your schedule. For maximum results, you shouldn’t keep doing the same workout routine week after week either. Add weight, increase the reps, change the order of exercises or split your routine between upper and lower body movements so you’re training two days in a row, followed by a day off.
The training diet is largely about ensuring that the timing of food is good enough to prepare and then subsequently recover from training. It is important to recognise that a perfect physique needs to maintain low levels of body fat. Therefore, the description of carbohydrate ‘clever’ is perhaps a good term – meaning that carbohydrate is important, but the choice and timing is what matters. Ideally, carbohydrate intake should be supported around training, and then controlled in the latter stages of the evening.
Increasing Lean Muscle Mass
To gain lean muscle mass you have to feed muscle rebuilding and recovery regularly. Planning and preparation are extremely important and it is likely that increasing the number of meals consumed will be the most effective. Calories consumed as fluids e.g. protein shakes to reduce the “volume” of food are a simple way to aid this process and support the 5/6 meals required per day.
Losing Body Fat
Alongside building lean muscle mass, many are keen to reduce the amount of body fat they carry. In this instance, a sensible approach is important. Carbohydrate should not be avoided, but planned around training and controlled in the evening. A focus on portion size and a reduction in poor snack choices are where the biggest wins can be made.
Caffeine use for competition may be beneficial to increase focus, alertness and reduce fatigue. The ingestion of 1-3 mg/kg body mass of caffeine 60 minutes before a workout is advised for those who have slowly built up in training first. Caffeine sensitive individuals should start on the lowest doses.
Most athletes who are eating a well-balanced diet will consume sufficient vitamins and minerals to meet their nutritional requirements without the need for additional supplements. However, a good multi-vitamin can provide a useful insurance policy, particularly during the winter months.