So, you’re ready to build some serious strength and pack on the muscle? Food will be your friend in this goal, so let’s talk about some gainz, bro.
The first, and most important, consideration when endeavoring on a muscle gain program is calories. In order to grow super awesome muscle you need to be in a caloric surplus (i.e. consuming more calories than you burn). Calories are energy and your body is going to need the extra energy while building bigger muscles. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at how carbohydrates in particular can help you out during your muscle mass mania.
Before we get into how to use them, lets discuss some carbohydrate and calorie context. Carbs are the body’s preferred energy source, and the calories from carbohydrates are the primary fuel for the systems that keep you running like a well-oiled machine (heart beating, breathing, nervous system, etc.). This is why carbohydrates are important; your body likes to have them around for fast, efficient use in order to power all the necessary functions of life! Since these systems are essential to life, they are prioritized in terms of where energy is utilized in the body. Unfortunately for us, muscle building is lower down on that list of energy priorities, hence the reason we need an excess of calories.
So, we need to have an excess of calories, but what is the importance of having adequate carbohydrate consumption? The answer is protein.
Muscles are made up millions and millions of proteins. Muscle structure, however, is not the only function of protein. Proteins are also vital for the body to function. While carbohydrates power many of the body’s systems, proteins make sure all the systems are running properly. Protein can also be used as an energy source, similar to carbohydrates, if there isn’t enough energy being consumed via food. In that case, your body will convert protein into an energy form to fuel those reactions needed to keep you alive. What does that mean? Well, in short, if you aren’t consuming enough calories and carbohydrates, your body will to turn to proteins and break down some of your muscle for energy. When this happens muscles get smaller, not bigger. No bueno, compadre.
We need carbohydrates to power our body’s systems, thus preventing proteins from being used for energy, sparing our precious muscles. We need excess carbohydrates to make sure there is enough energy left over for our body to turn proteins into bigger, more awesome muscles.
Here’s an analogy to hopefully illustrate this process. Say you wanted to build a super sweet tree house in your back yard (bigger muscles). In order to do this, you’d have to acquire some lumber (proteins) and the right tools to do the job (your training program and hard work). In order to get these things you need cash (carbohydrates). Since building a super sweet tree house isn’t necessary, no matter how awesome it is, you have to have extra cash (excess carbohydrates) to make sure all your bills are paid, rent is taken care of, and the car has gas (priorities of keeping your body alive), before you can buy all the wood and tools you need for your tree house. Once you have the extra cash though, you can purchase all your lumber and tools and build the most epic, kick ass tree house of all time that will make you the envy of all your neighbors!!
To build muscle and get jacked you have to eat extra calories, especially in the form of carbohydrates! This does not however mean that you have the green light to get your frequent flyer card to Union Square Donuts, unfortunately. The best sources of carbohydrates for you during the muscle building process will still be those closest to nature. Carbohydrate sources like whole grains, fruits, potatoes, and beans are still going to provide the most bang-for-your-buck, as they are higher in vitamins, minerals, and fiber than the more processed options.
Going forward, a great place to start with your diet in order to start building some muscle is to begin adding more carbohydrates into all of your daily meals. On days you workout, in the 1-2 hour windows before and after you train, consider eating some fruit, which is a more sugary carb. The higher sugar content of fruits make them especially good for boosting energy before your workout, and then to refuel immediately after. During the meals that fall outside of the 1-2 hour pre- and post-training window, and days you don’t train, aim to use the starchier carb options, such as the whole grains, beans, potatoes, etc. These sources of carbs are slower to digest, and will therefore be a better option for sustained energy during the day!
Learn more about getting fit with the Unify Approach, a new, four-part fitness methodology.