For those who strictly want the "keys to the kingdom of muscle", go straight to the formulas starting at the end of this article. For those interested in understanding how and why, start here.
Many years ago, it was a widely accepted belief that if one trained hard and focused on diet and supplementation, they could expect to put on 5 kilos of muscle a year. If that rate of body change appeals to you, then no need to read any further. However, if you want to maximize your progress and take advantage of truly cutting edge information that has recently emerged, and if you want to break through plateaus, optimize recovery and accelerate muscle gains (with or without body fat loss) then read on. The following article will feed your mind and teach you how to feed your body, allowing you to make gains you dreamed of but never thought possible.
Daily exercise-induced changes in muscle occur at an imperceptible rate (app. � kg of muscle every two weeks would yield 28-35 grams a day). Measurable changes to skeletal muscle fibers (type and diameter) require repeated exposure to the stimulus of progressively more challenging exercise over a significant period of time (six to eight weeks). 1,2,3 Surprisingly, recent research has confirmed that it is the immediate post-exercise period when the greatest changes in muscle protein synthesis and tissue structure occurs, making this a critical aspect in the building process. 4,5,6
Muscle protein synthesis can be stimulated in many ways and the various mechanisms may interact and have additive effects. The secret to naturally achieving one's full potential for muscle size and strength, without gaining unwanted body fat (or better yet, gain size while losing body fat) requires the following: Matching the proper training with a food and dietary supplement plan that optimizes one's internal physiological environment. The areas that can be manipulated and optimized to ensure ideal recovery and growth include:
- Dietary factors such as the amount and proper timing of calories, protein, carbohydrate and fat (the macronutrients)
- Specific dietary supplements such as the amino acid (AA) leucine, glutamine, specific AA mixtures and creatine provided to muscle cells at ideal times
- Exercise type and amount
- Hormonal environment (especially insulin modulation)
- Cell volume changes and vasodilatation can enhance an anabolic environment and maximize the flow of nutrients into, and waste products, out of muscle
All of these elements may contribute independently and/or synergistically to muscle protein synthesis and related adaptations to training. In the following text we focus on the above manipulations, minus exercise, that can be employed to maximize the internal hormonal, nutrient, recovery and protein synthesis environment of the body.
Diet and Insulin
Proper diet manipulations can dramatically and positively affect the muscle building hormone production. Accomplishing the proper hormone balance for muscle building, without increasing body fat, is a function of carbohydrates, proteins and fats being supplied in proper ratios, forms and at specific times. This is in relation to training periods while remaining within the caloric allotment necessary for the body composition goal. Using diet to harness the body's most powerful muscle building hormone, insulin, will reduce muscle catabolism (breakdown) and increase muscle anabolism (buildup), leading to maximum net increases in muscle synthesis.
Manipulated insulin to maximize muscle building
In addition to stimulating muscle protein synthesis, insulin also plays a major role in minimizing the damage caused by exercise. Strength training triggers the release of the catabolic hormones cortisol and epinephrine, which work to breakdown glycogen (stored carbohydrate that fuels muscle action) and muscle proteins to supply energy and produce work. However, this process also leads to muscle damage. Although you need to be able to train hard enough to stimulate growth, if you can minimize the tissue damage during and after exercise, your body will spend more time and incoming nutrients building new muscle rather than constantly repairing it, allowing you to avoid training plateaus. In other words, the goal is to add new muscle, not just repair the old.
We now know there are certain times, primarily immediately post-workout, when muscle building is at its peak and we refer to these times as "metabolic windows". This is a short period of time (60-90 minutes) when muscle cells become highly receptive to the incoming nutrients responsible for muscle building; therefore, if there are no or low nutrients, there's low or no muscle building. Insulin is the hormone that starts the cascade of muscle-building events during these short specific periods. By stimulating insulin at specific times with the proper carbohydrate and protein intake before (in order to help blunt cortisol thus muscle breakdown), during and after exercise, you can significantly enhance and accelerate muscle building (anabolism). 7 Through simple but accurate dietary management, we can unlock all of insulin's many muscle-building properties in order to turn on and keep running all of the body's "muscle building machinery".
Summary: by managing insulin through proper carbohydrate and protein intake at all meal times (see sample menu), one can maximize the "metabolic windows" of muscle building. Insulin positively affects other anabolic hormones (testosterone, IGF-1, etc.) while blunting catabolic (cortisol) hormones creating a perfect muscle building storm. And as long as we have the right nutrients and control of the insulin, we get bigger, faster and/or stronger from every workout � read on.
Metabolic windows of growth
Immediately following exercise, muscle cell nutrient uptake is at its highest point of the day and therefore this small "window of opportunity" requires a well designed, fast- acting formula 8 to satisfy the muscle's exercise-induced demands.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that the inclusion of "immediate" pre- & post- training, fast-acting carbohydrate/sugars and protein feedings can stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS) 9,10 and reduce muscle damage to a far greater extent than normal feeding patterns. 11,12 In other words, no matter how well you eat throughout the day, you recover faster and build more muscle and strength by including these quickly absorbed pre and post exercise formulas (see figure 1). 13,14
As stated above, carbohydrates will play an important role in your performance, recovery and insulin levels. While trying to increase muscle size, carbohydrates (CHO) should make up 45-60% of your total caloric intake. Without adequate CHO, ideal insulin activation will not occur, recovery from intense workouts will not be ideal, and muscular stores of energy for the next workout will be suboptimal. None of this contributes to maximum muscular gains. Protein, which mistakenly receives the greatest focus by many exercisers, needs to be high enough to allow for tissue growth. For even the hardest training bodybuilder when calories are not severely restricted*, a protein intake of up to 2 gram per kilogram of bodyweight is more than enough to allow for increased needs due to intense workouts and adding muscle. Higher protein intakes are not necessary and may even impede progress if it takes the place of dietary carbohydrate. Healthy fats will complete the picture, making up the remaining calories and generally supplying 15-30% of total caloric intake. To summarize:
- Calories: ideally total calorie intake should be slightly above needs so that the extra nutrients/calories would be deposited into muscle tissues, allowing one's body fat percentage to naturally "drift down" as weight goes up. If simultaneous body fat loss is desired, then the calorie deficit should be no greater than approx. 15% of calorie maintenance or maximum muscle building will be compromised
- Carbohydrates: approx. 45-60% of total caloric intake*
- Protein: approx. 15-30% of total caloric intake (max of 2g/kg of bodyweight)*
- Dietary fat: approx. 15-30% of total caloric intake
Pre- and post-exercise/activity energy and recovery supplementation
Because of the length of time it takes to digest and absorb the nutrients from traditional meals, whole/traditional food meals cannot deliver the required nutrients within a timeframe that allows maximum results induced by exercise. This is when compared to the proper use of quick digesting specialized formulas.14,15
The proper pre-/post-workout formula
There is no longer a debate whether pre- and post-workout feedings enhance exercise-induced results. Volumes of peer review literature and studies continue to not only validate this now established fact, but also document the proper formula.16,17,18
The formulas used in scientific studies are all relatively the same: within the range of 1.5-4 parts carbohydrate (CHO) (made up of primarily glucose polymers) to 1 part protein and low to no fat. The CHO range is based on the activity being studied � the longer the workout the higher the carbohydrate/sugar content. This formula produces the desired results i.e. quick lasting energy, faster recovery and more muscle and strength gains from your workout.
Although recovery primarily takes place after the workout, you can help speed and enhance the process before you start exercise by ingesting the same formula 10-40 minutes before the workout (always make sure your pre-training full food meal is eaten 2-3 hours before exercise unless you train first thing in the morning and time does not permit). The pre-workout feeding is important because it stimulates insulin production. Remember, insulin is our body's most hormone thus "king" when it comes to building muscle.7,19,20 As mentioned, not only does this hormone start and continue the entire muscle-building process, but insulin also helps minimize the damage caused by exercise 7,19,20 by blunting the exercise-induced production of the catabolic hormones. These hormones "tear down" muscle tissue.7,19
The proper formula should be ingested as close to immediately after training as possible. Very recently it was discovered that although the post-training metabolic window is active for as much as 60-90 minutes, its maximum activity (greatest nutrient uptake and protein synthesis capabilities) takes place immediately at the end of the training session.14 From that point on, the longer you wait to supply the proper nutrients or the more time they take to get to the affected tissues, the less muscle building or recovery takes place during this period and can't be made up for at any other point in time (see figure 1). Simply put, the post-workout feeding activates the muscle building mechanisms that take place in this window of opportunity.
Figure 1: Training results from 23 experienced recreational bodybuilders resistance training for 10 weeks with all things (diet, supplements, training, etc.) equal except the addition of pre/post feedings yielded significantly greater gains in body mass, LBM, strength and reduction in fat mass for the pre/post feeding subjects.14
By ingesting the proper exercise formula before training, you not only supply workout energy but also kick off the necessary insulin/hormone release that will work to mitigate exercise-induced damage. When you repeat the process immediately post-workout, you quickly restore energy (glycogen), supply muscle building nutrients when most needed, and stimulate a renewed insulin release. This initiates and enhances the entire muscle-building hormone process/cascade, thus recovery and results.
Protein and the Bodybuilder
When bodybuilders are in the off-season energy balance phase, they should follow the same protein recommendations as strength athletes. 21 However, during negative energy balance en route to competition-level body fat, protein requirements may dramatically increase.
To reach competitive levels of body fat, calorie intake is continually lowered while exercise�including cardiorespiratory, weight training and posing�is increased. (Competitive levels of body fat are generally unhealthy and impossible to maintain for prolonged periods.)
Each component of this regime may have additive effects on protein requirements. The body's survival mechanisms, related to energy expenditure in excess of energy intake, are probably highly active during this period, forcing a continued reduction in food intake to achieve the goal. 22,23 However, due to anabolic requirements, protein intake cannot be lowered. In fact, protein intake may have to be increased in the final few weeks before competition.
During this period, the body is torn between the use of food components for energy expenditure and the support of muscle tissue. The athlete is forcing the body to achieve abnormally low levels of body fat for competition. When overall energy intake is significantly less than energy expenditure, the hormonal milieu dictates the breakdown of muscle protein for energy supply. When carbohydrate availability is limited, this effect is even more pronounced. Thus, it can be quite a challenge to balance these drastic measures with an appropriate mix of protein and carbohydrate intake. This highlights the importance of the use of dietary supplements for staving off the loss of lean body mass while low body fat is a primary goal.
The final component to maximizing size and performance gains is the integration of dietary supplements. To keep calories within an appropriate range that does not contribute to unwanted fat stores, the primary goal of incorporating dietary supplements into food planning is to supply specific compounds that are used during energy, force production (muscle exertion and subsequent damage) and are needed for recovery/building. Additionally, these specific compounds must be supplied in greater amounts than are used so that a portion of their intake will be deposited into the damaged or depleted structural tissues. This will lead to the desired increase in muscle size.
By isolating these nutrients/compounds from the food form, we can supply them without the calories in order to control body composition. And because they're manufactured in proper forms, dosing dietary supplements allows the user to deliver the needed nutrients into the body at the exact times necessary to take full advantage of periods when muscle cells are most nutrient-sensitive. This is established by training, sleep and meal times.
So, there you have the facts - and below you have the general recipe to create the "perfect muscle building storm".
Menu plan and eating instructions
I am posting my nutrition plan which lays out my exact eating plan with timing. My pre-workout snack is meal 4.
Arrange your meals around your activities
Although the meals will appear in a breakfast, lunch and dinner fashion, you must arrange the meals around your training session(s). Space your meals no more than 3-4 hours apart. Other than your pre-event meal and pre- and post- snacks, you may eat the remaining meals in any order that fits your lifestyle or venue.
Early morning training
If you train soon after rising and have no time for complete digestion of a large meal, make sure you consume your pre-training meal (or something very similar) as your final meal of the day, (yes, before bed and yes carbs) as late as possible, and consume only the pre-workout snack before your early morning workout.
Pre and post training feedings
The pre/post feedings or snacks will usually be shown in a liquid form, but you may substitute based on preference, venue and/or convenience, any of the appropriate Muscle Science drinks. In other words, you may choose a bar (SupaShape) as the pre-workout portion and a shake post-workout or vice-versa.
Dietary Supplement program
Follow your pre- & post-workout feedings as described in the below supplement plan, and include the following recommendations:
- Creatine - A supercharged creatine formula to improve upon the well-known size and performance enhancing effects of creatine-monohydrate. Designed to deliver increased strength-endurance, intensity much greater cell volume, all leading to greater strength, size and performance gains
- Xplode - Contains a blend of compounds that increase muscle blood flow, cell volume ("the pump") and mental focus. Greater blood flow to muscles increases the delivery of oxygen, energy and rebuilding nutrients as well as speeding up the removal of waste products. This leads to improved strength, less muscle breakdown and increased muscle size and performance (Contains creatine, caffeine, etc.)
- Whey Supreme - This product has the ideal mix of essential amino acids shown to enhance muscle gain and recovery. It delivers the ideal blend of nutrients to take advantage of post-training "metabolic windows of growth" adding to the muscle building results produced by the pre- and post-exercise feedings. The unique blend of AA are quickly assimilated into muscle tissues
- Muscle Defense - Provides the branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), leucine, isoleucine and valine in an ideal ratio with the goal of reducing exercise-induced muscle damage while enhancing recovery, minimizing soreness leading to increasing muscle, especially during low calorie or intense training phases (take as directed with meals and your pre-post workout snack)
- L-Glutamine is the most abundant free form amino acid in muscle cells. During times of stress, the body's requirements for glutamine may exceed what it is capable of producing. When muscle glutamine levels fall, muscle cell volume decreases resulting in muscle catabolism (muscle loss). Supplementing with glutamine during times of stress (ie, during illness, intense weight training cycles, calorie restriction) may therefore help prevent this drop in glutamine levels in muscle tissue thereby providing a potent anti-catabolic effect by maintaining proper cell volume/hydration
We have presented a significant amount of information to digest. Read it, re-read it and put the information into practice. If you diligently follow the recommendations outlined in this article, you will be amazed at the pace at which your body increases muscle size and strength. If you have been at a plateau and thought adding muscle was no longer possible, then rejoice in the knowledge that you have an arsenal of weapons at your disposal that can allow you to naturally maximize your muscle building physiology. Remember how bodybuilders used to think adding 5 kilos in a year was progress? Doing everything correctly, this should be possible in a matter of three months even for the most seasoned athletes, and certainly in less time for the younger population. Now get out there and train hard, and eat smart and continuously.
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