If you want to grow, it’s imperative that your nutrition is on the mark. You might have heard before that ‘muscles are made in the kitchen'
– and this is something that pretty much all fitness experts will agree on. You can give 110% to your training, but if your diet is rubbish – or inconsistent – your results will reflect this. Equally, muscles don’t come bottled; I’m sorry to break this to you, but Pop Eye’s little spinach trick was a massive exaggeration (WHAT?).
Recovery + Protein: The ‘Magic Bullet’ to Muscle Growth!
It’s not surprising that protein is at the forefront of any muscle building plan, and why protein powder supplements are considered a staple within the sports nutrition industry. The other macros – carbs and fat – are predominantly burned as energy, whereas protein is essential to the growth, repair and maintenance of structural tissues (including muscle).
This is why recovery is so important; it’s actually the periods between training that allow growth to occur. During intense exercise, muscles are subjected to trauma, which causes their fibres to become damaged as a result. This is a completely normal phase that with repetition, actually leads to an increase in mass. Thus, you need to make sure that your intake of protein is adequate, to kick-start the healing process.
Getting the Balance Right
What you’re aiming to achieve is a positive nitrogen balance; this basically the point at which protein intake exceeds loss, creating a ‘reservoir’ of sorts in the body. It’s a marker that you’re getting enough protein, which means the right conditions are in place for some nice gains (big smiley face) – or muscle hypertrophy, to be more technical.
So how much protein do you need? Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ formula, here; it might be a case of trial and error to find what works for you. However, as a rule of thumb, an intake of between 1.4-2g of protein per kg of body weight is said to promote muscle growth and repair in active (and otherwise healthy) individuals. Factors such as height/build, gender, and activity levels are the reason for the variance.
For example, you’re a 28 year old male, 5ft 10” tall, and weigh around 12 stone. You’re training hard, and your goal is to put on muscle, but you have an office-based job, whereby you sit at a desk all day. You’ll need around 1.7g of protein per kg of body weight, which equates to a daily intake of 210g (approximately). The best whey to achieve this (little pun – sorry, I couldn’t resist) is by including protein with all of your main meals (get accurate with your measurements where possible), and factor in supplements around this.
Timing – is it Really so Important?
Ah! The elusive, anabolic window. There is evidence to suggest that consuming whey protein immediately after you train (within a twenty minute time frame, thereabouts) is conductive to muscle recovery. This, I would agree with... on the whole. If though – for whatever reason – you don’t manage to do this, rest assured, your muscles aren’t going to suddenly deflate like a kiddie’s paddling pool. The trick is to ensure you’re getting a good supply of protein throughout the day, which is supportive of your recovery.
Whey has a high biological value (BV); it’s rapidly absorbed, which is thought to ‘shuttle’ amino acids to muscle cells where they’re needed – this is why it’s considered the ‘holy grail’ of post-workout nutrition. I’ll also stress the importance of BCAAs and intra-workout products, which can greatly impact muscle development, and should be considered separate to any protein supplements you’re using.
For those of you who want to maximise muscle recovery (and enjoy a little bedtime snack), I’d recommend a casein supplement. This type of protein is digested slowly, providing a slow ‘drip’ of amino acids to muscles, and helping to maintain an anabolic (muscle building) state. If you find traditional shakes too thick for your liking, try a dessert! These are just like eating a mousse; just add water/milk, allow to set in the fridge for a bit, and hey presto – a top notch treat and recipe for recovery in one!