Eating the right foods at the right time is important for maximizing your bodybuilding success. Carbohydrates and fats provide fuel for the most effective workouts. Proteins provide amino acids important to the muscle regeneration process that happens when you damage muscle lifting heavy weights. After you lift, you’ll need to replenish the calories you’ve burned, build stores for later workouts, and provide the nutrients your muscles need to grow stronger and larger.
Eat more carbs with some protein within 60 minutes of your workout
Eat within an hour of your workout to help your body assimilate important nutrients quickly, recommends fitness nutrition author John Berardi. Your muscles best absorb carbohydrates within one to two hours of exercise. Your damaged muscles begin repairing themselves as soon as you stop exerting them, so give them the amino acids that help this process soon after you stop lifting.
Replenish the glycogen you used during your workout by eating carbohydrates after your workout. Eat 8 gm of carbohydrates for every 2.2 lbs. you weigh. Eat about half that amount of protein. You can learn how many grams of protein your favorite foods have with a simple Google search. Avoid fat, even healthy ones, immediately after workouts because they slow down digestion and absorption of carbs and proteins. Hydration is also important to building and maintaining muscle, so include water in your post-workout meals. Contrary to popular belief, water does not interfere with digestion, according to Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, Dr. Michael Picco.
In short, your menus should add more calories on lifting days, with 2:1 carbs-to-protein ratio. Eat more carbs closer to workouts and more lean protein after lifting.
If you like to lift in the morning, understand that it’s not a good idea to work out on an empty stomach. Your body needs fuel to burn during your lifting — if it doesn’t have enough, it will look for a quick energy source and actually metabolize muscle tissue to create the glycogen it needs.
Get carbs from whole grain pancakes, waffles, English muffins or bagels. Serve them with a sugar-free fruit spread. Oatmeal is another good source of carbs. Add protein with lean ham, turkey bacon, fat-free cream cheese, lox, yogurt or a cold cereal, like Kashi Go Lean, Special K or Grape Nuts, with milk. Make omelets from egg whites to get the protein you need without the cholesterol. One egg contains more than 72 percent of your daily recommended value of cholesterol, all of it found in the yolk of the egg. Add veggies to your omelet for carbs and serve with baked, not fried, home fries and toast.
Get your fish on during lunch, with healthy coldwater choices like salmon, tuna, sardines and trout. Tilapia and catfish might be high-protein, but have more unhealthy Omega-6 fats than Omega-3 fats. Get carbs from vegetable soups, salads and crusty breads. Use fat-free dressings on salads. Pastas are another good source of afternoon carbs, served with a marinara sauce with heart-healthy canned tuna instead of fatty hamburger. You can skip the sauce and serve pasta with a garlic sprinkle and a protein source such as salmon, chicken breast or turkey meatballs.
Sandwiches let you combine carbs and proteins in one convenient dish. Use fat-free mayo or mustard to moisten sandwiches. Use plenty of veggies along with lean cold cut choices. Smoothies and shakes are good choices for post-workout meals. If you have a juicer, you can create nutrient-rich drinks that concentrate more vitamins and minerals in your drink. Using a blender, you can still create healthy post-workout drinks using your favorite fresh ingredients and any supplements you’re using, such as whey powder. A commercial sports drink that emphasizes carbohydrates is also a good choice.
A stir-fry with vegetables, rice and meat, fish or poultry is an easy, one-pot dish that lets you control the amount of carbs and protein in your meal. Use a wok or non-stick pan that requires less cooking oil. Try a baked potato, but skip the high-fat sour cream, cheese and bacon bits. Top with a dab of fat-free sour cream for protein, or salsa, for more carbs. Pair with a lean chicken breast or leaner cuts of beef that you broil or bake. Serve with low-fat tortillas or whole grain breads. Pizza is another good choice if you stay away from fatty meats such as sausage, pepperoni and bacon, and use low-fat cheese.
BodyBuilding.com: The Importance of Post-Workout Nutrition
USA Today: Experts Stress Post-Exercise Nutrition
Think Muscle: Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition to Maximize the Training Effect