Macros for Building Muscle
Macros for Building Muscle
A common question from our patient-athletes is usually something along the lines of “What should my diet look like for my sport?” This can be a difficult question to answer since different sports come with very different needs. An offensive lineman is going to need different foods than a marathon runner. Someone who works out every day will need a different meal plan than a weekend warrior. For today’s post, we will be focusing simply on building muscle and improving recovery time.
First, let’s look at the macros in the Standard American Diet. The average American eats a diet consisting of 50% carbohydrates, 15% protein, and 35% fats1. Now, keep in mind that there is a huge difference between the carbohydrates we SHOULD eat and the carbohydrates most of us DO eat (fruits & vegetables vs. soda, desserts, and other empty calories). Most people eat or drink far too many of the empty calories, but that is a discussion for another article. An athlete needs nutrient dense foods, full of vitamins & minerals to get the most out of their hard work!
In order to optimize muscle-building, you need to increase protein and fat intake. Carbohydrates are still important though! Many bodybuilders, dietitians, and nutrition coaches recommend a more even split of your macro intake. Mike Roussell, Ph.D. in Nutrition, recommends an ideal macronutrient split of approximately 40% carbs, 30% proteins, and 30% fats2. An important thing to note is that each meal you eat will not necessarily follow these macros. For example, someone who works out first thing in the morning can benefit from a higher carbohydrate breakfast to replenish the glucose used by the muscles in that workout. For about 2 hours after a workout, insulin sensitivity increases to allow for this recovery3! A meal such as oatmeal mixed with protein powder, nuts, and fruits is great for this purpose.
Later in the day, the body needs more fats rather than carbohydrates. Fat provides satiety, or the feeling of fullness, along with a whopping 9 calories per gram (carbs and proteins only have 4 calories per gram). If your metabolism is a campfire, think of carbs as the kindling to get it jumpstarted and the fats as the logs that burn throughout the day and keep the fire going long-term. This is also why people who eat a high carb diet (upwards of 65% carbs) are constantly hungry throughout the day. They constantly have to throw more kindling on the fire so it doesn’t burn out (sugar crash). Fats are also essential for joint health and growing healthy connective tissue to improve performance!
Finally, your protein intake should remain steady throughout the day. If you work out regularly, your body is constantly building new muscle and repairing current muscle. The rda for protein intake is 0.8g/kg/day to maintain muscle mass in an adult with normal activity levels. Athletes should bump this number up to 1.5-2.5g/kg/day depending on workout intensity! While timing isn’t everything, it can be an important part of maximizing the benefits of your workout regimen. To summarize, eat a heavier carb meal soon after your workout and eat less carbs and more fat throughout the rest of the day. Protein intake should remain steady to allow muscles to recover and continue to grow more strength.
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