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A Solid Foundation: Ten Keys to Building Quality Mass Through Targeted Nutrition

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Ten Keys to Building Quality Mass Through Targeted Nutrition

Of all the requirements needed to build a stage-ready or beach-worthy physique, there is one that by far surpasses all of the others combined: nutrition. Placing nutrition ahead of other important determinants of training success – such as the training itself, rest, and mental attitude – is a bold claim to be sure, but it is one that becomes increasingly apparent the longer we spend in the training trenches. The energy to train with the intensity needed to create sufficient growth-signaling muscle damage; the raw materials required to re-build damaged muscles and promote further size gains; the neurochemistry desirable to foster motivation, focus and clarity of mind; the pre and post workout rocket fuel designed to promote optimal training aggression and an anabolic environment conducive to extreme muscle growth; the good health and vitality essential for proper recovery and a winning mindset: all depend on quality nutrition. Indeed, without proper nutrition, including supplementation, even the perfect combination of additional training factors would produce few, if any, appreciable gains. 

 

without proper nutrition, including supplementation, even the perfect combination of additional training factors would produce few, if any, appreciable gains. 


While training may be viewed as a spark with which to kick-start the muscle growth process, nutrition could be seen as the gasoline which creates the fire, or the continued gains we, as devoted bodybuilders and fitness adherents, seek. While poor training and quality nutrition is likely to produce some gains (as even a small stimulus is better than no stimulus), quality training and poor nutrition will likely produce zero results (no building blocks means no growth, period). Ideally we should achieve the perfect balance between the big two (training and nutrition) and other training variables, but our fitness foundation is and will always be a solid nutrition plan. Training success is largely a case of supply and demand: our muscles (following any training stimulus) demand nutrients to recover and grow and we must supply them through targeted nutrition (the quality of our physiques will then be reflected in how hard we have trained but, more importantly, our meal scheduling).   

 

Training success is largely a case of supply and demand: our muscles (following any training stimulus) demand nutrients to recover and grow and we must supply them through targeted nutrition


So how might those dedicated to bodybuilding and fitness lifestyles ensure that the fundamental prerequisite of sound nutrition which governs all they strive for best be accommodated? Follow the ten keys outlined below; by doing so you can be rest assured that your gym efforts will not be in vain. Let the countdown begin. 
   
Key 10: Determine your macros 
Because you are serious about your physical development, proteins, carbohydrates and fats will comprise the bulk of your nutrition, and the consumption of all three must be accordingly scheduled for. Forget those extreme, radical diets wherein one macronutrient is prioritized ahead of the others (for example, those where carbohydrates are all but banished, and others which demand regular 1-2 days of fasting). Of equal importance to the muscle building process are all three macros and how much of each are to be included in your eating plan will depend on your training goals and body type. Though through trial and error an ideal macronutrient balance can be achieved (after all, we all metabolize foods at different and genetically determined rates and we must therefore determine which combination of foods is best for our individual requirements) a 45/35/15 (should fats be 20? you’re missing 5%) daily percentage ratio of carb, protein, and fat calories respectively, is a generally held within fitness and bodybuilding circles as an acceptable guideline. While protein (30 to 50 grams per serving), the builder, may be spread equally across each of our six daily meals, the majority of our carbohydrate and fat intake might be included earlier in the day, with the first three meals heavy on these energizing nutrients and the final three a little lighter to prevent any possible fat storage when aiming to shape up (again, experiment with various ranges, monitor your physique and determine what works best for you – those with a faster metabolic rate may, for example, require more carbs in the evening to offset muscle catabolism).           

 

Key 9: Increase the protein 
While the one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight rule continues to work well for many bodybuilders, a new breed of iron devotee has taken to consuming 1.5-2g, or more. Due to the recovery demands of intensive training, the poor quality of many protein sources, and the energy required for nutrient assimilation it would make sense to err on the side of more protein rather than less (indeed while too few protein grams may result in a negative nitrogen balance and poor muscle recovery, excessive consumption may ensure we achieve enough of this muscle building nutrient with the remainder being excreted as waste). Also, to ensure our protein balance is optimal we might choose to vary our protein intake by consuming a wide range of meats and other animal sources, dairy products, supplements such as whey isolate, and vegetable proteins. A good rule for protein consumption is to begin at 1g per pound of bodyweight and gradually increase this level until the prefect range is determined (usually no more than 2g per pound of bodyweight).      

Key 8: Carb up  
Despite the protestations of many modern day bodybuilders, extreme carbohydrate reduction is not needed to achieve super shredded conditioning. Even those wanting to get lean for the beach are nowadays likely to cut the carbs in the hopes of peeling off that final layer of body fat. The problem with carb reduction is that by going too low we may interfere with protein synthesis and subsequent muscle growth; whenever muscle growth is negated our metabolic rate is decreased and a sluggish metabolism promotes, you guessed it, body fat retention. By supplying much of our readily useable energy, carbs allow protein to perform its own unique role: muscle building. Insufficient carbs may not only dilute the energy we need to train to full capacity, to provide the stimulus needed to encourage muscle growth, but the protein levels required to translate our gym efforts into muscle tissue may also be compromised. Though excessive carbs can promote fat gain, it is usually the kind of carbs we eat that result in such negative results. Ensure your diet is comprised mostly of the complex and fibrous variety (sweet potatoes, brown rice and broccoli being among my personal favorites) and is low on the simple sugars (among which include sweets, fruits, and baked goods).          

Key 7: Don’t fret the fat  
Like carbs, fats have an underserved reputation as being, well, fattening. Yes, excessive fat consumption can lead to unwanted weight gain, but this is not to say its intake must be curtailed. In fact, most fat, including saturated (but most certainly not the trans-fats which must for health purposes be eliminated from our diet), is essential for our health, wellbeing and muscle building gains. While saturated fats have been shown to promote testosterone production, essential varieties such as the omega 3s contribute to improved cardiovascular health, brain function and nerve conduction. Provided your protein and carb intake is optimal, and training (both cardio and weights) is sufficiently intensive, we may consume up to 20 percent of our daily calories in the form of fats (saturated from meat and dairy intake, but mostly the essential type, from nuts, seeds and cold water fish).       


Key 6: Eat for good health 
Muscle growth, fat loss, and physical performance all are enhanced through a diet heavy on healthy foods and supplements. As all good athletes and fitness people know, the body recovers faster and performs better when our cells are well nourished with plenty of good, wholesome foods. For protein synthesis to properly ensue we must consume not only quality, high grade proteins but also a range of micronutrients from a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and other health-giving foods. Acting as glue to facilitate the successful construction of a solid cellular foundation, an anabolic environment conducive to improved health and wellness, a varied diet comprised of a wide range of beneficial nutrients (including but not limited to ‘super-foods’ such as blueberries, salmon and green tea) will have you looking great and performing at your full potential.             


Key 5: Supplement wisely 
Phenomenal physical development is unlikely to be achieved on an exclusively whole foods diet. Given the poor nutritional quality of many of our foods, the methods used to cook them, and the slow rate at which many are assimilated, smart athletes and gym goers are today fully cognizant of the importance of nutritional supplementation (essentially, the basic constituents of food presented in potent, nutrient dense and easily digestible forms). Through supplementation we may also attain the nutrients we need in a more convenient manner; a quality protein shake with added glutamine, creatine and waxy maize carbs, and handful of amino acid capsules, a multi vitamin/mineral, and a high strength fish oil product will, with minimal preparation and ease of digestion, provide an anabolic edge to produce quality gains in muscle size and strength, fat loss and sports performance. Together with a nutritious diet, these supplements, and others, will round out our dietary needs to keep us functioning at and looking our best.       


Key 4: Stay anabolic
Staying anabolic (a state in which cellular growth, including that of our muscular, cardiovascular and skeletal systems, is constant) is, in today’s age of increasing pollution and toxicity, difficult for the most health conscious among us. Aside from following the remaining nine tips featured in this article, the fitness minded can, to ensure they remain anabolic, eat before sleeping and rest after eating, two key growth determinants that are surprisingly seldom followed. By consuming a final late night meal (something high in sustainable protein, like cottage cheese or micellar casein, 30 grams of either) before zoning out for the night we may offset the catabolic effects of the enforced fasting that occurs when we sleep (since the body uses energy when we sleep we must ensure that it does not leech it from our protein reserves). Also, by resting after we have eaten (any of our meals) we give the digestion process time to fully engage; blood will not be used to power our limbs, but rather it will be used to process our the foods we have eaten. A 30 minute rest should help.        

 

Key 3: Curtail the junk  
The more junk foods we introduce into our systems the harder it is for the quality nutrients we consume to compete for proper assimilation. Every worthless junk calorie consumed (from cakes, fried foods, sweets etc) takes the place of a beneficial macronutrient calorie or other valuable performance co-factor (for example, one of many micronutrients: including the vitamins, minerals and enzymes needed for the repair and proper functioning of our many bodily systems). Just as you would not waste your time lifting baby weights in the gym, do not make the mistake of feeding your body the wrong raw materials. Eat only those foods which promote faster growth, better performance, and excellent health. Following this one rule alone will produce immediate fitness results. 


Key 2: Schedule pre, intra, and post workout feedings 
Yet another way to stay anabolic to boost performance and recovery is to supplement before, during, and after training. To keep energy levels high and to negate muscle protein degradation bodybuilders and the fitness minded have taken to including both whey protein and a high molecular carb such as waxy maize before, during and after training. Also, heavy hitting compounds such as creatine monohydrate, L glutamine, BCAAs, beta alanine and electrolytes can be strategically employed before and during training to provide an anabolic boost to support muscle growth.       

 

Key 1:  Be consistent
Once you have established your perfect diet, you must, above all else, be consistent in your nutritional habits. Missing meals and backing off certain nutrients is becoming common practice among modern day fitness enthusiasts. We hear of carbohydrate staggering (to volumize flat muscles and enhance fat loss), cheat days (to supercharge the metabolic rate), and periodic, or intermittent, fasting (to cleanse the system and boost growth hormone levels). Though worth a try, each of these, and other more radical dietary approaches, are best avoided if exponential growth and high physical performance is your goal. For example the increasingly popular practice of intermittent fasting has been shown to decrease the highly anabolic protein insulin-like growth factor (IGF 1) which, in turn, suppresses the mTOR (another protein) pathway to increase blood cortisol levels. Provided your diet is well balanced (a nutritionist may help you to design one that is right for you or you may want to determine your own through trial and error) with a wide range of nutrients and enough proteins, carbs and fats to encourage good health and foster and internal anabolic environment your training, and quality of life, will be immeasurably improved.      

Are you covered?
Covering all of the nutritional requirements necessary for improved health, recovery, growth and performance is the single biggest determinant of fitness success. By compromising on any of the 10 key stipulations listed above you may find yourself struggling to achieve the physique and the fitness life you have worked so hard in the gym for. Indeed, to allow the training and recovery necessary to prompt gains in lean muscle mass to do its job and to foster the motivation needed to keep you pushing yourself to reach your goals each and every day, a solid nutritional foundation is imperative. Let the advice provided here be your guide as you lay your own personal foundation for fitness success.      


References 

Brady, D. (2013). SportsScience.co. Are intra workout supplements worth it? [Online] http://www.sportsscience.co/supplements/are-intra-workout-supplements-worth-it/ Retrieved on 9/1/14

Kiefer, J. FLEX.  Intermittently Wrong. [Online] http://www.flexonline.com/nutrition/intermittently-wrong Retrieved on 9/1/14

Medline Plus. (2013). Protein in Diet. [Online] http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002467.htm Retrieved on 9/1/14

New York Times. (2014) Health guide: Fat. [Online] http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/nutrition/fat/overview.html  Retrieved on 9/1/14

About Rodney Jang

Status Fitness Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, has been involved in the fitness industry his entire life. With his passion for fitness and education, Jang leads Status’ respected cast of contributors in producing the World’s Best Fitness, Bodybuilding, and MMA Magazine.