To gain a competitive edge and be a formidable player right out of the gate next football season might require putting on bulk. Through my work with Division I football players, I’ve noted several misconceptions among college athletes about eating to build muscle. Correct them with the following four tips.
Eat breakfast (but maybe not when you think)
As you know, breakfast in the morning sets the stage for the rest of the day with respect to metabolism and muscle building. Bottom line: don’t ever skip breakfast.
But if you work out early, you might not be able to stomach food beforehand. Or maybe you need to put on quality weight. In these situations, have a substantial snack the night before, at least an hour before bedtime. Quality selections include:
- A bowl of cereal with fruit
- Peanut butter and jelly on wheat toast
- Peanut butter smoothie
- A few handfuls of trail mix
If you’re working out the next morning, eat a mainly carbohydrate granola bar or a large banana at least 30 to 45 minutes beforehand.
Eat before your workout
You’ll defeat the purpose of your workout if you go into it on an empty stomach. Instead of building muscle, your body will break down muscle to use for energy. Never start a workout having eaten. About 60 minutes before you warm up, have a snack consisting of mainly carbohydrate with a small amount of protein. Examples:
- Jelly and nut butter sandwich
- Yogurt and fruit
- Tuna and crackers
Eat after your workout
Your workout is useless if you don’t refuel after, especially if you don’t hit it during the post-workout recovery window. In the first 30 to 60 minutes after a workout, consume something liquid like low-fat chocolate milk or Rockin’ Refuel.
Stay away from commercial protein shakes and powders. Most are too high in protein and provide little or no carbohydrate, the exact opposite of what you want in a recovery shake. (See Trent Richardson’s Post-Workout Fueling.)
Eat a nighttime snack
Sleeping is the key to recovery because it is when most body composition changes occur. But you can eat to fuel better sleep and support faster muscle growth and recovery. About 60 minutes before bed (no later), eat a substantial snack (examples listed above). Remember to take in mainly carbohydrate along with some protein. (Read Secrets for Better, Muscle-Building Sleep.)