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Who better to ask about how to get optimal nutrition for your workout routine than International Protein’s co-founder and Aussie Muscle Guru, Christine Envall? Christine is a 3 x World champ in bodybuilding contests, and she’s qualified in Food Science & Nutrition so she knows all about what it takes to stay lean and build muscle.
When to Take Protein
We all know that we need protein to help our muscles recover from our challenging workouts. The amino acids can help our muscles repair and build so that we don’t lose muscle mass. That’s why first of all, we asked Christine about when to take protein to best achieve the results you’ve been searching for.
What happens to your body when you’re working out is that the process of recovery starts as soon as you complete the first exercise. The first deadlift, the first leg press, whatever it is! That’s why protein consumption prior to working out can be essential for growth.
Ideally, you should be taking a time-release protein such as a mix of whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, egg albumen and casein, 1 – 1 1/2 hours before your workout. This multi-phase release of protein can assist in muscle recovery over a longer period of time and will increase the recovery of muscle tissue throughout your workout.
Avoid using only faster-releasing proteins prior to a work-out, such as whey protein isolate (WPI) especially if your workouts last more than 60 minutes. Instead, reach for a blend that includes Casein and even includes free form or peptide BCAA’s to prevent your body from breaking down your muscles and to give you energy during your workout. Forcing your body to use its own muscle tissue for energy can slow your gains.
Make sure that you do take the slower release protein at least 1 hour before your work out as less time, like 30 minutes, is not enough for it to start kicking in.
Protein Synergy is the ideal protein to take for your pre-workout. It contains a range of amino acids and rapid release proteins with slower release ones in there too. Protein powders with a blend of proteins are good as they will release at different times, providing you with energy for longer.
You could have a meal before your workout, but most people find it hard to function at their peak when they have food in their stomach. That’s why protein powder is usually what people go for.
WPI is rapidly absorbed, making it a common protein to take post-workout. Take this directly after a hard session, or within 30 minutes of your workout. You can take protein in the next 2 hours but the longer you wait, the less effective it becomes. Many people load their shaker, throw it in their gym bag and consume a WPI, immediately after finishing a workout; It absorbs instantly.
It’s best to follow this up with a meal of solids, such as pasta, rice, sweet potato/potato or even wholegrain bread within the following 60 – 120 mins so you’re ensuring an intake of essential carbs.
Usually, you have to travel home, take a shower, and then make the meal to consume enough protein to be effective, so preparing a Shaker of International Protein’s Amino Charged WPI is the ideal solution. To get some quick carbs in during that first 30 minutes, International Protein’s Extreme Carbs is designed to be used with the Amino Charged WPI.
Alternatively, go for a portable carb source like fruit such as an apple or a banana. Recovery does require carbs as well as protein and adding in fruit can increase absorption of protein as well.
The Importance of Nutrition
If you continue working out without the right nutrition, then you can lose size and muscle. When you’re not eating right it’s easier to over train and this can lead to injuries and burn out. Don’t underestimate the power of nutrition. Even with consistent training, your body will look different when you’re training for a competition because of your nutrition, even if you don’t change up your workout routine! Generally, your exercise regime will stay consistent and it’s nutrition that determines whether or not your abs and other muscles can be seen.
Nothing happens in isolation and what you eat today impacts tomorrow’s workout. If you feel depleted, you may have stressed your body too much or eaten food that’s not helpful for you.
Another part of the equation is when to take rest days and what to eat on those days. Just because you’re not training doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be eating less. You may just need a day to recover by eating foods which are good for recovery. This can help get your body back to top performance.
On rest days you don’t need to change your nutrition, but you may want to switch up your supplements. For example, you won’t need a pre-workout supplement because you won’t have an outlet for that energy. Continuing to take protein is fine because your body is in recovery mode, but you won’t be working out so you might skip either your usual pre or post-workout protein shake, or just eliminate the carbs you would have consumed post-workout and just take in the protein. I’m a big fan of keeping the protein the same on your rest day to ensure you optimize recovery on that day.
There is a difference in nutrition if you’re focusing on your look for a competition or if you’re just focused on being healthy. If you are all about competition, you may want to eat less on rest days to ensure a calorie deficit. It all depends on your goals and if you want to increase your weight or look leaner.
Techniques to Drop Body Fat
Here are just a few of International Protein’s top tips for dropping body fat if you need to look leaner for a competition or get down into a certain weight class.
1. Eat evenly across the day
Try to eat 5 or 6 meals evenly across each day. Fasting is not such a great idea as if you’re fasting for 16 hours, you’re only eating for 8 hours of the day and you risk putting your body into a negative nitrogen balance that can lead to muscle loss. You need delivery of nutrients throughout the day to feed your body. 3 of your meals could be slightly larger but try to maintain consistent calories for each meal. For example, if you’re eating 3000 calories, you could do 6 meals at 500 calories per meal. Changing it a little is fine, like one meal being 300 calories and another 700. However, they shouldn’t fluctuate too much.
2. Plan Your Meals
Take the time to plan out your meals and how many calories each of them adds up to. Many people diet by dropping out a food group like carbs, but this isn’t scientific and doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll lose weight. it’s all about the maths of your food and eating everything in the right proportions. For Christine’s 5 daily meals, she eats a balanced meal with a combination of protein, carbs, and fats. She would never eat all protein or all carbs in any given meal.
3. Keep Track of Calories in Your Food
Christine loves a good spreadsheet, and she uses that to add in the nutritional information of any foods that she regularly eats. This gives you something to go off when you’re planning your meals. Packaged foods in Australia now have nutritional tables anyway which helps find out how much sugar, protein, and other elements are in your food.
4. Weigh Your Food
A big mistake that many people make is not weighing their food. You may think that you can figure out how much you’re eating by looking at it, but that’s harder than you’d think. Even with a measuring cup, it’s a bit of a guestimate. Instead, use food scales to weigh your food. Then you know that you’re taking in exactly the right amount of the foods you need.
Thanks for reading this International Protein article about nutrition and how to get the best results in the gym. Please ask any questions you have about nutrition in our comments section below.