So you've started going to the gym (good on you!) and you really want to build some muscle mass. To get motivated and not feel apprehensive about the equipment you decide to take up the offer of that free personal training session. You explain to your trainer your that your goal is to tone up and he surprises you by saying that there's more to it than simply lifting weights: your nutrition. The gym is attached to a supplement store and your trainer starts listing off all these expensive shakes that you need to invest in to achieve your goal: creatine, BCAAs, whey protein, casein, L-arginine, peptides... You cave and buy all of the supplements you can get your hands on! Until you get home and your partner asks, do you really need these? And you think... sh*t, do I?
The 1,2,3 of building muscle
Step 1: Protein
Now getting enough protein into your body after a weight session is clearly essential. Protein intake helps to optimise gains by increasing production of anabolic hormones, reducing protein breakdown and supplying amino acids for protein synthesis. But does it need to be a shake to be considered effective? Remember, protein comes in many different varieties including bread, cereal, rice, pasta, meat, yoghurt, cheese, legumes, milk - not just in powdered form. How the protein is presented to you isn't the most important consideration, it's how much you are having that matters. The Australian Institute of Fitness recommends consuming 10-20g of protein post-workout. This recommendation is based on protein-dose-response evidence which suggests that 10-20g maximises muscle protein synthesis, and that ingestion of any more than 20g shows no additional benefit.
Step 2: Carbohydrates
Now it's important to remember that it's not all about the protein. During exercise sessions, stored carbohydrates in the form of glycogen can become depleted and it is essential for us to replenish these stores after training. Often our performance is dependent upon our ability to recover from one session and do it all again. Slow or incomplete restoration of glycogen stores can lead to general feelings of fatigue and reduced performance. The Australian Institute of Sport recommends consuming a snack providing 1g of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight.
Step 3: Timing
Evidence suggests that the body is most effective at promoting muscle repair and growth and replacing carbohydrate stores in the first 60-90 minutes after exercise, and will continue for an additional 12-24 hours. The Australian Institute of Fitness recommends eating a snack providing 1g of carbohydrate/kg body weight and 10-20g of protein within 30 minutes following a session.