When it comes to working out, especially strength training, what you eat is almost more important than what you do in the gym. Your diet helps you work out harder, recover quicker and better, and is also responsible for how quickly you see and maintain results.
Whether you are a beginner or have been hitting the gym for a while, your diet is crucial. Here are a few diet tips that will transform your strength training and your body.
Basic Nutrition for Training
There are a few basics you need to understand when it comes to a strength training diet. What you eat and when you eat will either impact your performance or your recovery; therefore, it isn’t enough to focus only on one aspect.
First off, you need to drink water. Either purchase one of the many natural water filters or have bottles on standby; hydration is essential for any activity. Before you work out, carbs and protein should make up the bulk, or the entirety, of your meal.
Carbohydrates are needed for energy and longevity, while protein is needed to keep your muscles performing their best. Some of the more popular food items before a workout are eggs, chicken, steak, rice, and sweet potato.
During your workout, it is all about hydration. Water and electrolytes are essential to stop your muscles from feeling fatigued too quickly and to keep them pumped up and strong. Something as simple as adding a tiny bit of salt to your water bottle will make a huge difference, while many sports drinks offer the same benefits.
While there is some debate over when you should eat your post-workout meal, there is a lot of consensus over what you should eat. Carbs and protein are the name of the game again, as well as rehydrating properly.
One of the easiest ways to get protein and carbs in quickly is to have a protein shake, and many people tend to then combine this with a carb and protein-based meal an hour or two later.
As you can see, protein is one of the not-so-secret ingredients needed for strength training. It is the thing that helps build and maintain muscle, and it is absolutely essential if you are doing strength training.
Many studies indicate that for strength training, you need, at the very least, 1g to 2g of protein per pound of body weight. Chicken and eggs are two of the best sources of protein, with beef being a close third. If you are struggling to eat enough, once again, one or two whey protein shakes a day can easily get your protein levels up.
Carbohydrates are the fuel you need to work out harder and for longer. While this doesn’t mean you need to eat a loaf of bread before every workout, it does mean you should prioritize getting carbs into your diet.
As a general rule, 1g-1.5g of slow-burning carbs per pound of body weight is a good place to start. Whole-grain rice, oatmeal, and whole-grain bread are three great choices for this.
Fats are another crucial part of a strength-training diet, as healthy fats keep your cardiovascular system working at its peak. Healthy fat sources include salmon, unsalted nuts, seeds, and avocados; experts also recommend that 20-30% of your daily diet should be made up of healthy fats.
Recovery is something that should never be ignored, and therefore, what you eat after a workout is just as important as what you eat before it. A recovery meal is similar to a pre-workout meal but with one key difference.
Fast-burning carbohydrates boost your insulin levels, which helps your muscles absorb protein; this is why protein is also essential post-workout. While any fast carb will work, stay away from the ones high in fat; white bread is common and useful in this instance, but a Big Mac will do more than good.
Multiple studies have shown that dehydration can cause strength losses and hinder muscular gains. This is why proper hydration isn’t just needed in the gym; it is something to be aware of throughout the day.
Our bodies are also not very reliable when it comes to feeling hydrated; by the time you feel thirsty, you are most likely already partially dehydrated. Not only should you always have a bottle of water available, but you mustn’t just sip it throughout the day; 10-15 cups (not glasses) of water is a good amount to aim for.
Use a Shake
While it is all good and well to know what you need to eat, some people struggle with getting it all in. Eating 150g-200g of protein, enough carbs and fats, and all the water you need can be tough, especially if you are a beginner.
Therefore, a shake can be your best friend as drinking all your meals can be easier. While it is essential to note the ingredients of a shake, it can be the easiest way to get all the nutrients you need without eating a lot of food, or spending too much money.
While a strength training diet can get more complex, these are the basics that everyone should start with and follow. There are some alternatives, but if you need a helping hand, this post should tick all the boxes.