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Muscle Growth Nutrition

The role of nutrition in muscle growth is to provide the nutrients to repair and rebuild the muscles and to provide energy for weight training. In addition, it is used to minimize muscle tissue breakdown. The truth is that building muscle is very low on the body's priorities, and the body will only do it if all basic needs are satisfied. In addition, muscles are convenient supplies of amino acids to make enzymes and glucose, and the body will quickly break down muscles if supplies of vital nutrients are unavailable. For these reasons, anyone who is serious about increasing muscle mass must provide his or her body with all of the major classes of nutrients. It is equally important for these nutrients to be provided in a consistent stream, which is best achieved by eating many small but balanced meals.

Providing Energy for Training
Providing adequate energy for training means having enough carbohydrates stored as glycogen, along with having a stable blood sugar level. This is because carbohydrates have the quickest conversion rate to usable energy of any caloric nutrient. Although much of the end products of anaerobic glycolysis get recycled back into carbohydrates between sets(see related article), much of the intermediates get oxidized in the Krebs cycle. Glycogen is composed of branched chains of glucose and is stored primarily in the muscles and in the liver. Also, although muscle glycogen can only be used in the respective muscle, liver glycogen can be used in any muscle and can even be used to replenish blood sugar levels. Glycogen is replenished very slowly and it can easily take up to 20 hours to replenish glycogen levels. As a result, it is important to eat properly the day prior to a workout in addition to eating properly on the workout day. Also, glycogen replenish rates are highest immediately after a workout so consuming a high carbohydrate source within 1 hour after the workout is very helpful. Drinking adequate amounts of water is another crucial factor in maintaining energy for training. Not only is water necessary for proper cooling during high energy exercise, it is also necessary for the transport of nutrients throughout the body. In addition, water is necessary for conversion of ATP into usable energy.

Providing Nutrients for Repair and Growth
Growth is the central process of gaining muscle mass, and it can only happen after the muscle is repaired. There needs to be adequate amounts of all of the major classes of nutrients for this to happen. However, the nutrient of primary interest is protein. Protein is essentially the packaging for amino acids and it is important that it contains all of the essential amino acids (complete protein) if it is to fuel muscle growth. Another factor that affects the effectiveness of protein is the rate at which it is absorbed. Rapidly absorbed proteins such as whey protein are best when consumed right after a workout when the muscles are most receptive to protein. At other times however, a slowly absorbed protein is better for providing a steady stream of amino acids to the blood stream. The reason for this is similar to the reason why a low glycemic index carbohydrate is better for maintaining stable blood sugar levels than a high glycemic index carbohydrate.

Nutrition for Minimizing Muscle Breakdown
If there is ever a need for the body to break down muscle tissue, it will quickly override any stimulus for muscle growth. As a result, it is essential that we provide the nutrients to prevent starvation, and eliminate any other need to break down muscle tissue. This means supplying a constant stream of vital nutrients to maintain normal functions, and to meet the demands of strenuous exercise. In addition, someone who is at a minimum body fat level will need to provide enough calories to prevent going into a caloric deficit. This is because the body will not allow any more fat loss in this extremely lean state, and will use muscle instead of fat to satisfy the deficit. The main nutrients of interest in preventing or minimizing muscle breakdown are carbohydrates and protein. As previously mentioned, carbohydrates are necessary for maintaining adequate liver glycogen and blood sugar levels. If either of these is low, the body will break down muscle protein in order to make glucose for fueling the brain, kidneys, and red blood cells, which require an average total of about 130 to 150 grams of glucose per day. As a result, a shortage of carbohydrates can cause muscle breakdown at an even more rapid pace than a shortage of protein. This explains the protein sparing effect of carbohydrates. With that being said, protein is absolutely critical to preventing muscle tissue breakdown. Protein supplies the amino acids which are constantly being used for enzymes, maintaining vital organs, and many other functions which are much more important than muscle growth. If there is a shortage, the body will quickly take protein from the muscles in order to provide for these vital functions. When combined with the increased demand created by exercise, there is no question that adequate protein intake is vital. These requirements can be up to .82 grams per pound (1.8 grams per kilogram) of lean mass. Although a quickly absorbed protein is better right after a workout, a slowly absorbed protein is much better for preventing catabolism throughout the rest of the day. Slowly absorbed proteins include casein, egg albumin, meats, and other natural sources.


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