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A Special Recipe for Muscle Mass: Part 2 – Diet/Nutrition

Apr 21, 2019
Ashley Lawrie

Author: Riley Pearce
Social Media Director
Personal Trainer – Byward Market

Last week we explored the ways that our muscles adapt to exercise and how those adaptations can lead to either sarcoplasmic hypertrophy or myofibrillar hypertrophy.

As with just about every protocol in the fitness industry, it is impossible to ignore the effects of nutrition/diet. For part 2 of our special hypertrophy blog, it is time to see how what we eat can influence how we grow.

Quality vs. Quantity

It takes about 2,800 calories to build 1 pound of muscle but where you get those calories should matter to you. Specifically you want to be focusing on the kinds of protein you are consuming. This is because in a rested state, our bodies are breaking down more muscle protein than it is building new muscle protein. So if you want to gain muscle, especially while you’re training, then you should be aiming for at least 15% of your calories to come from protein.

If you are restricting calories (fat loss and muscle gain program), then you should be aiming to eat 1.5g-2.0g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.

What About Carbs?

In any article about diet and nutrition, it is important to talk about carbohydrates.

Research suggests that insulin may have a role in muscle synthesis. How do we raise our insulin levels? WIth carbohydrates.

This is why many post-workout supplements will combine essential amino acids with a high-glycemic index carbohydrate to rapidly elevate the insulin in the body as it begins to repair the muscles. Is there any merit to this advice though?

The International Society of Sports Nutrition released their official statement on the concept of nutrient timing in 2008. It came to a few conclusions about carbohydrates and proteins in relation to protein synthesis and resistance training.

  1. Consuming both carbohydrates and proteins before resistance training can increase muscle protein synthesis post exercise
  2. Consuming a combination of proteins and carbohydrates during a bout of resistance training can decrease muscle damage, and increase endurance – prolonging the workout
  3. Consuming protein (specifically the essential amino acids) within 30 minutes of exercise leads to maximum protein synthesis post-workout. But combining carbohydrates and essential amino acid could potentially lead to even more muscle protein synthesis.

4. Supplementing with creatine while following the above-mentioned protocols, can lead to even more protein synthesis.

You can read the rest of their position statement here

Creatine – Doesn’t That Make You Gain Water Weight?

Not necessarily. Creatine simply draws more water into the cell so that the breakdown of creatine-phosphate can occur and thus give you energy for your workout. Research has shown that supplementing with creatine may account for less than 1lb of weight gain.

What About Fat?

As it stands, consuming dietary fat has more of an effect on heart muscle growth than skeletal muscle growth (they are two different types of muscle tissue). As far as skeletal muscle hypertrophy goes, there are limited studies on how fat affects muscle hypertrophy and what the specific recommendations are.

There is one study, however, that observed whether rats on a low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet would experience the same hypertrophy or not after exercise. The results show that a low-carb, keto diet would not impair short-term or long-term muscle hypertrophy after resistance training.

What this means is that consuming a lot of fat would not decrease your ability to put on muscle, but it may not increase that ability either.

Supplements

Supplements are just that – supplements to the diet. You do not need supplements to gain muscle, but they can be included in your hypertrophy nutrition protocol to advance your gains.

We have mentioned a few times in this article that essential amino acids are an important part of promoting muscle protein synthesis during and after exercise. Just 6g of essential amino acids can increase muscle protein synthesis.

Protein powder is also a popular post-workout supplement. Although not necessary, especially if you are eating whole foods that are high in protein, protein powders usually provide these essential amino acids. The exception would be some vegan proteins (although most are now formulated to have all of the essential amino acids), and collagen protein.

Although collagen protein is a great protein supplement, especially for your joints and skin health, it only has 8 out of the 9 essential amino acids, and is therefore not a complete protein source.

As mentioned before, creatine is also a great supplement to take when you are looking to encourage protein synthesis. It is one of the most researched supplements and has been shown time and time again to help with muscle protein activity. Just 5g of a good quality creatine will do the trick.

Magnesium and zinc are also very important. Commonly sold in a ZMA format, these two micronutrients are critical for muscle health and are typically missing, or are consumed in insufficient quantities, in people’s diets.

As far as what will work best for you, that is for you to figure out. Experiment with protein sources and content and take note of how your body responds. Every* body* is different and will therefore respond to different foods and amounts of protein and carbohydrates in their own way.

Our next article in this series will discuss the genetic component of muscle hypertrophy and just how individual hypertrophy can be.

Articles in order of appearance

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-muscle-growth

Is Carbohydrate Needed To Further Stimulate Muscle Protein Synthesis/Hypertrophy following resistance exercise? (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3850644/)

International Society of Sports Nutrition position on nutrient timing (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2575187/)

A putative low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet elicits mild nutritional ketosis but does not impair the acute or chronic hypertrophic responses to resistance exercise in rodents (https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00837.2015)

Effects of Zinc Magnesium Aspartate (ZMA) Supplementation on Training Adaptations and Markers of Anabolism and Catabolism (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2129161/)

International Society of Sports Nutrition position on nutrient timing (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2575187/)

A putative low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet elicits mild nutritional ketosis but does not impair the acute or chronic hypertrophic responses to resistance exercise in rodents (https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00837.2015)

Effects of Zinc Magnesium Aspartate (ZMA) Supplementation on Training Adaptations and Markers of Anabolism and Catabolism (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2129161/)

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