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How To Gain Muscle By Eating Well Part 1 - Carbs

Updated on June 25, 2013


So - you want to know how to build muscle mass and lose fat, sculpt your body and generally look and feel good? You've started working out, but it's not going to plan. You're actually losing weight, when what you're trying to do is bulk up. What's going wrong?

You're not eating enough. Working out with weights is only part of the process. You also have to eat more, better food, and get adequate rest, to give your muscles ample recovery time and the means to rebuild and grow. And one of the best foods for muscle building is carbohydrate, especially post workout.

Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of glucose. Glucose is a simple carb that is stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen, the principal source of energy for your muscles. If you don't eat enough carbohydrates, your body will start breaking down muscle tissue for glucose. You don't want that.

Healthy foods high in carbohydrate include fruits, vegetables, bread, pasta, beans, rice, and cereals. Carbohydrates play an important role for bodybuilders in that they give the body energy to deal with the rigours of training and recovery. Carbohydrates also promote the production of insulin in the body, the hormone that enables cells to get the glucose they need and also carries amino acids into cells and promotes protein synthesis. If you don't eat carbohydrates, you can't build muscle mass.

Carbohydrates should make up most of what you eat when you start a body building program. Eat unprocessed complex carbs like vegetables, whole grain breads, oatmeal, and brown rice, and avoid simple carbs like sugar and white flour.

The natural complex carbs are made of long chains of sugar and are digested very slowly. These slow burning carbs promote consistent blood sugar levels, which help to offset fatigue, while promoting the release of insulin, the body’s principal anabolic, or muscle-building, hormone. High-glycemic carbohydrates, on the other hand, cause a sharp insulin response, which places the body in a state where it is likely to store additional food energy as fat.

Lean and Toned.

Want To Know How To Build Muscle?

Exercise is one third of the story. Eating well is another third, and just as important. When you start weight training, the food you eat makes a huge difference as to how effective it is.

Just in case you were wondering, the other third is rest. Miss out on any one of the three and you'll have a hard time building muscle.

There are three main food groups: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. These, along with water, are all you need in the way of nutrition. Get them all from a normal, balanced diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, dairy products, and seeds and grains. Stay away from processed foods as much as you can.

Rule of thumb: if it comes from the ground and still has dirt on it, or you picked it from a tree, or it's a recognizable part of an animal or fish, eat it. Maybe cook it first. The closer your food is to natural sources, the better it is for you.

Divide Your Carb Meals Into Six Servings...

If you divide your carb meals into six servings and eat them at three hour intervals throughout the day, this stimulates a steady release of insulin to create an anabolic, or muscle building, state - which is exactly what you want.

If you eat too many carbs in one sitting, fat-storing enzymes kick in and you lose the lean and hard look you’re aiming for.

However, bodybuilders frequently do ingest some quickly digesting sugars after a full body workout, the thinking behind this being that it helps to replenish glycogen stores within the muscle, and to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. The old training advice, therefore, would be that you eat a lot of simple carbs after a workout, like sugar and white bread, because they're digested quickly and easily. DON’T DO THIS.

Watch and Learn

Avoid Sugar.

Current thinking is that avoiding refined sugar for two hours after training maximizes the benefits of exercise-induced growth hormone. Why?

First, we know that refined sugar in the diet makes the body produce extra insulin to deal with the additional sugar in the blood.

This increase in insulin causes an increase of another hormone called somatostatin. And somatostatin shuts down growth hormone.

In other words, if you do a high-intensity workout and increase your level of exercise-induced growth hormone, but then stuff your face with a chocolate bar, you’ll lose the benefit of that high-intensity training.

What Kind Of Carbs Should I Buy?

Oatmeal is really healthy, as is bread made from wholemeal flour. Vegetables - sweet potato, carrots, parsnips, swedes, any root vegetable. Fresh fruit, but maybe keep it to one or two pieces a day on account of the high sugar content. Berries are particularly good for you, crammed with antioxidants and delicious on cereal or in yogurt. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage have other health benefits too, including cancer-beating phytochemicals called isothiocyanates, which stimulate your body to break down potential carcinogens, and a reputed ability to beat oxidative stress caused by free radicals in the body.

Stay away from simple carbs. No white flour, no white sugar. This alone will improve your blood sugar levels and eradicate mood swings. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream have a high Glycaemic Index. Carbohydrates that break down slowly, releasing glucose more gradually into the bloodstream, have a low Glycaemic Index, and these are the ones you want in your diet. Google GI ratings and see what comes up for low GI rated carbs.

Best advice?

Best advice? Eat complex carbs in small meals throughout the day, and especially shortly after your workout, but stay away from simple carbs. And remember to eat more generally throughout the day. If you want to get big, and build muscle mass through weight training, you have to eat more. Most hard gainers don't have a training problem - they just don't eat

In a weird way, this can be the hardest part of bulking up. Even if you enjoy your food, eating to grow rather than eating because you're hungry can get to be a chore. Use various tactics to get around this, like replacing meals with protein shakes.

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