I typically perform a strength based workout around lunchtime 4 times a week. When lifting heavy it is important to ensure that you have the energy to perform the workout, and you also take in fast acting nutrition post-workout in order to aid both recovery and muscle growth.
Working out isn’t enough to get into great shape, and in my opinion the nutrition aspect is way more important. Your nutrition strategy also needs to be closely tied to your goals.
My goal is to remain lean (low body fat) while increasing strength and potentially size. Therefore I have chosen a carb-cycling routine and on regular workout days a fairly specific routine. For five and a half days a week I run on a low carb plan. This encourages the use of fat as an energy source and removes any chance of an insulin response turning excess calories into body fat.
On Friday evening and Saturday I ensure that I get a good level of high quality carbs – this replenishes my glycogen stores as well as giving me an end of week treat. I’ll cover carb cycling in a later post.
It is also important to note that I am mostly vegetarian (I occasionally eat fish)
On a workout day I have the following structure
- Breakfast – eggs and maybe cheese or some other protein source
- Mid-morning snack – low carb pita with natural (sugar free) peanut butter
- Pre-workout – Whey/casein protein shake with creatine. Small espresso shot.
- Post-workout – Whey protein shake with L-Glutamine
- Lunch – Egg salad in a wheat wrap (I usually also discard most of the wrap to reduce the carb intake)
- Post work snack – usually a low carb pita with a high protein low carb veggie burger, cheese and veggies or salad
- Evening meal – protein source, vegetables.
This gives me the calories I need and gives me a steady rate of calories during the day.
The pre-workout shake is vital. Now that I am adapted to operating on low glycogen levels (or under ketosis) I don’t need the carbs but I do need a level of energy and to be able to fuel the muscle repair as quickly as possible.
The creatine helps push water into the muscles making for a more effective workout and the caffeine from the espresso also helps up the workout intensity providing an energy boost. Note that caffeine only really works if you are not desensitized to its effects. That is the only coffee I have during the day and so it works for me.
The post-workout shake kicks off the recovery process. It is important to remember that muscle is not build in the gym, but rather at rest when the body repairs the micro-tears in the muscle after the workout. To fuel that process you need to get nutrients, and specifically protein, into the system as quickly as possible to facilitate that repair. A protein based meal could work but it takes a while to digest. The protein shake gets the nutrients in quickly.
You’ll notice that my pre-workout shake contains Whey and Casein protein. This is to provide a prolonged protein release – casein is slower acting than whey, and therefore I get the benefit of the shake for longer. My post-workout shake is intended to get protein in my system as quickly as possible hence why only quick-acting Whey is used.
I also add the amino acid L-Glutamine to my post workout shake to further aid recovery and provide a much needed boost to my immune system after a grueling workout.
As far as products, I really like Natures Best Isopure protein. It is high quality, tastes great, mixes easily with water (I can stir it in a small cup with a spoon for an easy shake) and is zero or low carb. My favorite flavors are Dutch Chocolate and Cookies and Cream. Yum!
Good stuff, Mark. I have to look into operating at lower carb levels. My current nutrition plan is semi-paleo, but pound food whenever I’m hungry. I guess that’s good for muscle building, but won’t be much use when I’m up against something like selection.