Seasoned bodybuilders know you don’t grow muscle until the workout has ended. So how do you get the most growth potential out of your training? Pack your muscles with the right nutrients. Here’s how.
Packing on muscle may seem like a difficult, complicated process, but you can really break it down to three elements:
The details, of course, matter greatly. Your efforts require consistency and patience. Without those qualities in place, you won’t get the results you want.
A lot of beginning bodybuilders make the mistake of emphasizing training over nutrition. What they don’t realize is that muscles don’t grow in the gym. Golden Era guru Vince Gironda famously said that nutrition was 85% of success in bodybuilding. Muscles grow during the recovery process. And the recovery process is especially important in the one-hour window after an intense weight workout.
The Post-workout Window
After you train, your muscles are inflamed and hungry for nutrients that will repair the tissue you’ve damaged. The nutrients you ingest post-workout will help you stimulate growth and get the most out of all that work you did in the gym.
So what nutrients should you take? Let’s start with the most important.
Protein is essential for muscle growth. You have a wide choice of protein supplements to choose from, unlike the Golden Era bodybuilders. But athletes in the time of Arnold and Zane knew that dairy packed a powerful punch. Only now, you can take a more refined, purer version of what they used. Starting with…
Beef in the form of steak, hamburgers, and other dishes were extremely popular in the Golden Era. Later, bodybuilders moved more towards chicken (especially chicken breasts) for numerous reasons, including ease of preparation, costs and lower calories from fat. But Arnold and the gang loved to sink their teeth into a nice, hearty cut of beef.
These days, bodybuilders are more likely to reach for a whey or casein shake than a cut of beef. While beef has all the amino acids you need for building muscle—particularly the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine—it’s not as quickly digested as dairy-based protein shakes.
Bottom line: beef is a great whole-food source of protein, especially free-range and hormone-free cuts, but can be expensive and hard to digest.
Bodybuilders from the ‘60s and ‘70s drank milk by the gallon, and you can’t argue with the results. Whole-milk proteins provide both the benefits of whey and casein proteins. Casein actually makes up 80% of this whole milk. Since they keep a steady surge of amino acids the to muscle cells, this is a good protein for most times of day, such as between meals and especially before bedtime.
Egg protein, another Golden Era favorite, is one of the highest quality proteins you’ll find. For many years, eggs were considered the perfect food, largely because it had the highest score on the protein efficiency ratio (PER). Eggs have a particularly high amount of branched-chain amino acids, which are essential for health and muscle growth. If you’re not big on dairy shakes, eggs and chicken breasts are an ideal post-workout meal.
Ingesting carbs after a workout naturally spikes insulin levels, which switches your metabolism into a muscle-building state. Studies suggest that consuming carbs along with protein after an intense workout may increase your recovery response by 38% as compared to consuming protein alone.
Simple carbs reloads glycogen and stores them in target muscles, helping shuttle growth-inducing nutrients into your muscle cells. Your body won’t store carbs after your workout: your body burns them. Not just any old carbs will do, though. You’ll want to consume fast-digesting carbs.
For best results, take in 80 g of fast-digesting carbs with 40 g of fast-digesting protein in the one-hour post-workout window. Examples of food sources of simple carbs include sports drinks, fruit juice, or white potatoes. Good supplement sources of fast-digesting carbs include dextrose, maltodextrin, and Vitargo.
Branch-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
BCAAs are crucial for muscle building. Three amino acids make up the BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Leucine is by far the most important. Leucine is the only dietary protein that has the capacity to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. It’s an essential amino acid, which means that humans cannot synthesize it. You need to ingest it.
While leucine is an ingredient in protein, you’ll gain a lot more benefit by taking a BCAA recovery supplement to stimulate muscle growth. Look for a cutting-edge product that has a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine to isoluceine and valine.
The amino acid glutamine is the most prevalent amino acid in the human body, and provides numerous benefits postworkout. Glutamine helps prevent fatigue; increase growth-hormone (GH) levels; decrease muscle breakdown; and improve digestion and immune function. Make sure you take at least 2 g after training.
Creatine provides a quick source of energy that muscle fibers use during weightlifting, but it also hydrates your cells for optimum nutrient absorption after training. It induces muscle-cell swelling and helps minimize muscle breakdown. Creatine has also been shown to have anti-catabolic effects. Take at least 3 g after training.
Here’s a good guide for what you should have loaded in your post-workout supplement arsenal. Put it altogether in one shake, or take a quality post-workout product with your protein and carbs.
Vintage Build, the 3-in-1 Essential Muscle Builder, contains all of the nutrients listed along with the protein and carbs. Take it post-workout with your macronutrients to get the best bang for your buck after intensive training.
40–60 g protein
60-80 g fast-digesting carbs (sugar)
3 g creatine
5 g BCAAs
2 g glutamine
Remember: Patience and Commitment are Key
You’ll want to adjust these nutrients if you’re a hardgainer or find yourself having problems digesting these nutrients. But you can’t miss the opportunity to push these proven muscle-building powerhouses into your muscle cells. You want to make your training count: This nutrition plan will do that for you. Stay patient and consistent, and you’ll get the results you want.
What is your post-workout nutrition plan? Do you agree with Vince Gironda that nutrition is 85% of bodybuilding success? Let us know in the comments below!