When athletes want to put on additional muscle, they usually head straight to the weight room. Many make the all-too-common mistake of neglecting the kitchen and bedroom. Weight training is merely a stimulus for muscle development. To optimize the muscle-building process, you need to pay equal attention to sleep and nutrition.
Muscle growth actually occurs during periods of deep sleep between exercise sessions. If you are averaging six to seven hours of sleep per night, you're not giving your body enough time to recover. And if you're skipping breakfast or eating unbalanced meals, you probably won't have enough energy to push your workouts further. Before heading to the weight room today, make sure you follow these nutrition and sleep guidelines for major results.
Drink Plenty of Water
Make water your primary muscle-building beverage by drinking eight to 10 glasses daily (more during the hot summer months). Since muscles are comprised of about 75 percent water, drinking lots of water will help transport muscle-building protein, amino acids and nutritious carbohydrates to the muscles faster. Note that water-based fruits and veggies also count toward water consumption, so include plenty in your diet.
Drink Chocolate Milk
Studies show that chocolate milk has a perfect 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio, making it a terrific post-workout muscle-building beverage when consumed within 30 minutes after weight training. Drink chocolate milk only after workouts. If you drink it before or during exercise, it could ruin your training session by causing digestion issues. Although chocolate milk is available in supermarkets, you can make your own by mixing one or two tablespoons of cocoa powder with a teaspoon of sugar in a glass of milk.
Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals
Eat five to six small meals each day, one every two to three hours. Combine protein (from eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, meat, fish, nuts, seeds and beans) with nutrient-dense carbohydrates (from fruits, veggies and whole grains) to continuously deliver nutrients to muscles for repair and growth—on both lifting and non-lifting days. Frequent meals supply your body with constant energy and regulate your blood sugar.
Sample Diet of Small Frequent Meals
- Breakfast – Scrambled eggs, orange, handful of sunflower seeds, two glasses of chocolate milk and two buttered slices of whole-wheat toast (1,100 calories)
- Morning Snack – Apple with string cheese and almonds (350 calories)
- Lunch – Two tuna fish sandwiches, yogurt and a banana (700 calories)
- Afternoon Snack – Raisins, string cheese and peanuts (360 calories)
- Dinner – Six ounces of lean protein, two servings of a healthy carbohydrate like yams, potatoes or brown rice and a serving of vegetables or salad (500 calories)
- Bedtime Snack – Oatmeal with milk, chocolate chips and sunflower seeds (500 calories)
Sleep is extremely important for muscle recovery. Aim for eight to nine hours per night to promote muscle-building human growth hormone (HGH) and to optimize energy for workouts.
Get better sleep by:
- Turning off cell phones, TV and other distractions
- Keeping bedroom dark, cool and quiet
- Maintaining a bedtime routine
- Avoiding heavy meals or large beverages before bed. Heavy meals take longer to digest, and excessive beverages interrupt sleep with bathroom visits. Instead, opt for a small bedtime snack.
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