If you never learn anything else from me about food and how it relates to muscle growth…
I would be remiss if you didn’t take away this one thing.
When you eat is more important than what you eat.
If you’ve been experiencing hiccups in your gains and have hit a wall, simply tweaking when you eat what is an easy way to maximize your muscle growth.
Here are four ways you can do just that:
1.) Have protein at breakfast.
Along with some fruits and/or veggies. I have no clue what it is about American society, but we just love carby breakfasts. Pancakes, french toast, sugary cereal, instant oatmeal...you name it.
All of these things, while satisfying and tasty, are not only disastrous for your hunger hormones, but don’t really help with muscle growth. Including protein in your breakfast like eggs, chicken sausage, canadian bacon, cottage cheese, yogurt or even just a well-construction protein shake can be a game changer for muscle growth.
That’s because, not only does protein help keep you full until your next meal, but you break down muscle in your sleep. By including protein in your breakfast, you are feeding your muscles to stop this breakdown and, by stopping muscle breakdown, you are able to maximize its growth.
At least 30-45 grams is recommended to maximize muscle growth and keep you full. Beware though, the source matters. Chowing down 45 grams of protein from pork sausage or bacon is going to do your body more harm than good because, while you’re getting protein, you’ll also get some inflammatory fats. This we don’t want.
2.) Eat high quality protein no more than 1 hour after your workout
Science on this is pretty well-established. The longer you wait after a workout to get in protein, the worse your muscle breakdown will be.
So, if after the gym you still need to go home, pull out your cookbook, do the dishes, prep your meal, cook it, find something on Hulu to watch and next thing you know it’s been 4 hours since your workout and you’re only just NOW eating your high-protein meal? You’ve missed your chance.
Finally, studies conclude that whey protein is the best form to consume post-workout.
3.) Your dinner matters, but it's not the priority.
Don't eat the bulk of your protein requirements at dinner which is a practice I see all too often.
This is because an overwhelming amount of science shows that people who distribute their protein intake evenly throughout the day gain more muscle than those who do not. Recent evidence even says that protein consistency is more important than post-workout protein.
It can also help sleep! In one study, it was found that having a high-fiber, higher protein dinner helped adults fall asleep faster than those who ate low-fiber meals high in saturated fat and sugar. They also found that the quality of sleep was better in the first group.
4.) Don’t eat too close to bed time
Building off the last point, try not to eat anything in the final 2 hours before bed. No, it has nothing to do with weight gain, but the digestive process uses up a lot of energy and studies suggest it may keep you awake at night. This is because, right before bed, our bodies are trying to slow things down in our metabolism to prepare for sleep.
I won’t talk about it here because there’s a separate blog for that, but quality sleep is also the overlooked major player in muscle growth and recovery. If you REALLY need to eat because you’re starving before bed, a small snack (no more than 150 calories) is just fine to have.
The bottom line?
It’s these simply tweaks that can be the difference between minimal gains in the gym and pretty noticeable results. Nutrient timing is a pretty complex topic, especially as an athlete whose schedule can get super hectic, but if you can get it right it can be a game changer for your body composition.
If you want to learn how to build muscle the right way, check out my program The Athlete's Method.