Feeding our muscles: A key to smart training

10 06 2011

June M. Lay

Today we discuss “feeding our muscles” since the fuel we give our muscles plays an important part in being able to “smart weight train” and it’s also an important factor in avoiding an injury.

So, whether our goal is to tone, get strong, gain muscle, heal from an injury, or participate in a sport activity, we need to feed our muscles!

Many of us think that if we eat lots of protein, we’ll get lean, strong and we’ll build muscle. Let me say now that it is the carbohydrates that we eat that gives us the energy to push the weights, to use the protein we do eat to build muscle.

Those of us who participate in endurance sports such as running, cycling etc. know the importance of eating a diet high in carbohydrates with some extra protein. But did we know, for instance, that carbs are the foundation to our performance, whether to power our tennis game, aerobic workout, or bodybuilding routine?

So, here are a few sport nutrition rules to “Feed our muscles”:

Eat enough and often enough

When we eat enough calories and we eat often, we fuel our muscles, not just for getting around, but for all the additional activities, especially if we are active in sports.

When we restrict our calories too much (this goes for us dieters) over a period of time, we send a signal to our body that a famine is coming. The body may then adjust our metabolic rate to slow down to conserve calories. Result? Most likely less strength, less energy, and even higher body fat!

Eat carbohydrates

Yes, let’s eat the dreaded starches! When we eat enough carbohydrates, we give our muscles the fuel to work out hard. This in turn will give our body the need to utilize all that protein we’re taking in to make more muscle (when we tone we add muscle fibers too, so this is not just for bodybuilders).

Carbohydrates also feed our brain, so when our blood sugar levels are low from not eating enough carbs, we will impair our energy, focus, and performance.

When we are in short supply of carbs, the process of turning protein into fuel for our muscles and brain is costly to our body. We impair our performance, our ability to build and repair muscle, our health and even our ability to lose weight (ever get constant sugar cravings after eating mostly protein?).

Lastly, high-protein diets can cause dehydration. This is deadly to our energy.

Drink water

Water is stored in our muscles with carbohydrates. This is the energy source for our muscles. When we need to produce energy, the stored carbohydrates are used and water is released during the process.

We need water to make and release energy. Guess what happens when we are dehydrated? We get fatigued easily. Water aids stamina and performance, and it helps to ward of those muscle cramps during intense exercise.

Eat a balanced diet

This means that for those of us who eat lots of protein, we also need to eat enough fruits, veggies and grains. And for those of us who are vegetarians, it is important to get enough protein, iron, calcium, B12, and Vitamin D. Supplements, sports bars and sports drinks are not a substitute for real food.

Eat wisely

I call this being choosy about what kind of calories we eat. If I want a tough workout, I will choose a nutrient-dense food over a junk food. Of course, there is always room for a little junk — I recommend no more than 10% of our total daily calories (that’s about 200 calories for most of us).

So, if we want to look good, feel energetic, and perform well, let’s “feed our muscles.” Have we eaten enough carbohydrates; eaten often enough; eaten wisely and had enough water? If the answer is yes, we’re off to a good start.

As founder and director of The Nutrition Center, located at Sparta Strength and Conditioning Center in New York City, June M. Lay provides dietary/nutritional counseling in several specialized areas including health risk assessment, weight loss/weight management, and sports nutrition. For more information, visit www.junefit.com.





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