Nutrition to build muscle: 4 essential tips + 4 common mistakes

If you want to build muscle mass, you should first train regularly. However, effective muscle building is not possible without the right nutrition in addition to weight training. Diet determines how quickly our body can regenerate. In the following you will find out which foods are particularly effective and which mistakes you should definitely avoid when consuming your food.

Muscle Building Basics

Muscle building is also called muscular hypertrophy in technical jargon and describes the increase in muscle mass . Every human being consists of muscles, but these are not naturally strong. This is because the body reacts to all external influences . So if our physical strain is not particularly high, no muscles are defined.

Muscle physiology

Every muscle in our body consists of several muscle fiber bundles , which in turn are composed of a large number of muscle fibers .

The so-called contractile elements actin and myosin together form the sarcomeres , which are the smallest functional unit of our skeletal muscles. Contractility refers to the ability of muscle tissue to contract. Thanks to sarcomeres, we are only able to move our muscles at all.

How muscle mass is created

When we do strength training and put intense strain on our muscles, we create a disruption in the structure of our muscle fibers. Our body reacts to this overload and irritation with an adaptation in order to protect itself from such disturbances and overloads in the future.

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In the regeneration phase after exercise, when we rest, the number of sarcomeres increases . This results in an enlargement of the muscle fibers and ultimately also of the muscle.

4 nutritional tips to build muscle

In order to support our body in muscle fiber enlargement during the regeneration phase, a needs-based diet is of great importance. With a simple and unbalanced mixed diet, the body will need a long time until it has built up the desired muscles – despite regular strength training.

Nutrition and muscle building are therefore closely related. That is why it is so important how much and, above all, when you eat.

If you want to achieve your goals effectively in the shortest possible time, the best thing to do is to eat foods that are rich in protein and carbon .

Without sufficient energy supply no muscle building

Without energy we can hardly do anything. A sufficient supply of energy is particularly important when building muscle, because it determines whether our body can regenerate effectively.

A distinction is made between the positive and negative energy balance .

Negative energy balance

If the energy intake is lower than the energy requirement , one speaks of a negative energy balance. This happens, for example, when an athlete eats a total of 1500 kcal, but uses twice that amount of energy. In this way, the energy reserves built up by the body will be used up and the athlete’s weight will decrease in the long run. This is called weight reduction – muscle building is not possible.

Positive energy balance

We can only build muscle if we have a positive energy balance. This means that the energy supply must be higher than the energy demand. So at the end of the day, there must be excess energy in our body. Incidentally, our bodies use up more energy than non-athletes through regular training, even when we are at rest. Therefore, a sufficient supply of energy through the right foods is also of great importance on regeneration days.

Note, however, that just a positive energy balance does not result in muscle building. It also has to be the right energy through the right nutrients . The three essential macronutrients or building blocks are called proteins, carbohydrates and fats .

Before exercise: lots of carbohydrates

Without energy during training, performance cannot be achieved and muscles can therefore not be built up. The right nutrient intake is therefore crucial for effective muscle building. If the body has no energy available, it draws it from the muscle mass.

Proteins, carbohydrates and fats generally provide the body with energy. However, it is primarily important that the food consumed is a wholesome meal – snacks are not enough. Since high-fat meals take a long time to be digested, a high-carbohydrate or high-protein meal is recommended . Carbohydrates provide quick energy and proteins ensure the supply of essential amino acids. These in turn support the body in muscle building.

How long it takes the body to digest food depends on each individual and the composition of the meal. A pre-workout meal about two to three hours before exercise is best .

After exercise: wholesome meal and protein shake

The regeneration phase of the body begins after exercise, which is why the right supply of nutrients is important here too. A mix of carbohydrates and proteins is best. On the one hand, these fill up the energy reserves again, on the other hand, the proteins ensure the development of new muscle tissue .

A balanced meal should be consumed no later than one hour after training . If you can’t do that, you can first resort to protein shakes . These provide exactly the energy and nutrients that the body needs for regeneration. However, a shake does not replace a meal.

Macro-nutrients are the foundation of muscle building

All food components that provide energy are called macronutrients. Our bodies need these nutrients to build weight or muscle . Vitamins and minerals are not macronutrients, but they are extremely important for a healthy diet and should not be ignored by strength athletes.

carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are made up of sugar molecules . After fats, they play the most important role in covering our energy needs. Carbohydrates are the most important fuel for the muscles and reach all cells via the blood.

Since the performance of an athlete is closely related to the abundance of his glycogen stores , a carbohydrate-rich diet is extremely important.

It is not possible to say exactly what amount of carbohydrates the body needs per day in order to exercise effectively and thus build up muscles. If you stick to the rule of thumb of 6-10 grams per kilogram of body weight , you can’t go wrong.

Proteins

The main component of our muscle tissue are proteins, also known simply as proteins . It is therefore not surprising that a particularly high-protein diet has an enormous influence on the development of our muscle mass.

Proteins consist primarily of amino acids , some of which must be obtained from food. Our body can sometimes produce amino acids itself.

According to the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), the average protein intake with normal physical exertion in everyday life should be 0.8-1 grams of protein per body weight . Athletes who want to build muscle should consume at least twice this amount . In fact, the protein intake of bodybuilders is sometimes three times higher than the amount recommended by the DGE.

fats

Few people realize how important fats are for our bodies. The prejudice that fats are the main reason for obesity is still stubborn. In fact, if consumed in excess, they only promote weight gain. Fats are the most energy-rich nutrients and fulfill important functions in our body.

Although fats are not important for muscle building, a lack of essential fats can mean poorer performance for athletes . So in order to be able to exercise regularly at all, athletes should never do without fats .

The DGE recommends that about 30 percent of the total energy intake should consist of fats. Athletes can also use the following rule of thumb: 1 gram of fat per kilogram of body weight per day.

Top foods for muscle building

Many foods are high in protein or protein. However, they are often not necessarily healthy or provide optimal energy. Here you will find a list of foods that not only have a positive effect on muscle building, but are also good for your health.

1. Drink enough water : Muscles are made up of up to 75 percent water. It should therefore be a matter of course for you to drink enough liquid every day . Especially if you are actively involved in weight training, you should drink between 1.5-2 liters of water a day. However, this is only a rough guideline. If you generally eat a lot of water-rich food such as salads, a lower water intake is sufficient.

2. Low-fat quark : With 12 grams of protein per 100 grams, low-fat quark is an extremely high-protein food. Compared to high-fat quark, low-fat quark has a lower fat content, but just as high a protein content.

3. Eggs : Eggs are also a high-quality source of protein, providing 8 grams of protein per 100 grams of egg. After whey products , eggs contain the highest concentration of essential amino acids. They are also easier to digest than milk for most people. Eggs, especially raw, have a positive effect on our muscle building. You can’t taste them mixed in a shake with other ingredients either.

4. Fish : One of the best sources of protein is fish. Sea fish , such as salmon, mackerel or herring , are also good sources of essential omega-3 fatty acids. Compared to meat from beef or pork, fish is of particularly high quality because it is much easier to digest and not as high in fat. One to a maximum of two meals per week is enough to cover the requirement. With around 22 grams of protein per 100 grams, tuna are the top protein fish species.

5. Soy products : With up to 40 grams of protein per 100 grams, soybeans are a valuable source of protein, and not just for vegetarians. Soybeans are often processed into products that serve as meat substitutes. A popular product, for example , is tofu , which basically consists only of soybeans, water and salt and can therefore be combined with almost all dishes.

6. Nuts: Not only are they high in protein, they also contain good fatty acids, calcium, magnesium and iron. Cashew nuts, almonds and pistachios consist of 18 percent protein, while peanuts are the front-runner among nuts with 25 grams of protein.

With 14 grams of protein, walnuts and Brazil nuts are also a good source to cover the protein requirements for muscle building. Note, however, that nuts are generally high in calories and fat and are therefore best suited as a snack between meals. In no case should they replace a meal.

7. Beans : Beans are one of the legumes that are known and loved for their high protein content. Their protein content per 100 grams is a good 21 grams. Beans are also particularly rich in zinc, which is extremely important for building muscle. Because only with zinc can muscle building, but also healing processes take place in the first place. Some of the zinc-dependent enzymes in our body are sometimes responsible for cell division and protein construction.

10. Oats : For a grain product, oats have an amazingly balanced amino acid profile. Its protein content is 14 percent, and due to the relatively high amount of carbohydrates, oats also provide enough energy to do high-performance weight training. Oat flakes can be perfectly combined with nuts, low-fat quark and fruit – which, by the way, is also an ideal meal 1-2 hours before weight training and provides the body with all the important nutrients.

Parmesan : Cheese is generally considered a good source of protein. The Parmesan, which consists of 36 percent protein, stands out in particular. The high content of vitamin B2, which has a key function in energy metabolism, also makes this hard cheese valuable .

Poultry breast: Poultry breast is particularly popular with athletes, which can be easily explained by its composition of 38 percent protein. It also has little fat and no carbohydrates, so it is easily tolerated, especially in the evening.

Protein-Shakes

It is not easy for everyone to cover their daily protein content and thus guarantee muscle growth. Protein- rich dietary supplements , for example in the form of a protein shake , can be a good alternative source here.

Protein shakes were specially developed to support strength athletes in their muscle building and can be consumed both before and after training. Most of these shakes also have all the essential amino acids . Anyone who eats a vegan diet and is therefore looking for a reliable, high-quality source of protein is sure to find what they are looking for here.

4 nutritional mistakes to avoid

When it comes to building muscle, it’s not just a matter of which foods provide a good boost, but also which ones don’t. If you eat the wrong foods , they can impede your muscle building or even completely inhibit it.

1. Alcohol : No food is as damaging to your muscle mass – and your body in general – as alcohol. It lowers testosterone levels while raising cortisol levels. This ensures that your muscle growth is inhibited and your fat storage is stimulated. Regular excessive consumption of alcohol also reduces your performance and causes poor sleep.

2. Sucrose : Also known as table sugar, sucrose provides no added value to the body. It is not surprising that the term “empty calories” is also used here, which causes the blood sugar level to rise quickly but drop again just as quickly. Tiredness and exhaustion can be the result, and the ability to perform during training decreases.

3. Trans fats : While most fats are healthy, not all are. You should particularly avoid the so-called degenerate fats, which are mainly produced in industrial production. Vegetable fat is heated to make it last longer.

You can find these “hardened” fats in ready-made products, margarine and especially in fried foods, for example in chips or chips. Trans fats are often only listed as vegetable fats on packaging. They cause an increased risk of fatal cardiovascular disease, worsen the blood lipid levels and clog the blood platelets, resulting in calcification of the arteries.

4. Light products : Light or diet drinks promise few calories and hardly any sugar. If you want to build muscle effectively, you shouldn’t fall into the trap here: instead of sugar, the sweet drinks often contain sweeteners that send the wrong signals to the body. The blood sugar level rises even though no energy is supplied. This is followed by cravings, feelings of exhaustion and tiredness.

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