The primary purpose of a weight-training program is to tear down muscle tissue so that it can rebuild as a stronger
unit. Exercise, rest, nutrition and the utilization of fat, carbohydrate and protein are crucial variables if
development of muscular growth is to be achieved. In fact, it is rest and especially appropriate nutrition that
primarily help damaged muscle tissue rebuild to allow bodybuilders to handle loads of progressively greater intensity.
Serious bodybuilders have learned that nutrition, not specifically training itself, is the priority factor for growth.
The most efficient way to deliver adequate amounts of nutrients for optimal use is to divide the day's total caloric
intake among six meals spaced approximately every two and a half to three hours apart. For decades, this approach has
been the bottom line for the majority of serious bodybuilders. If you're not growing, chances are you probably aren't
consuming enough calories or eating with enough frequency. If that's the case, what should you do? Keep reading this
article, of course!
OPEN THE WINDOW
If you wish to maximize your metabolic potential for growth, minimize overtraining and prevent injuries, it's time
you thought about "protein windows." A protein window is the period after training or before rest during which a
specific amount of protein can be digested and utilized most efficiently. The purpose or use of protein windows varies
depending on which window we're talking about: Protein is ingested either to prevent cannibalization of lean muscle mass
or to enhance tissue repair and growth.
One of the most significant protein windows of the day follows a workout. Many nutrition authorities say that it is
imperative to ingest carbohydrate within 45 minutes of training to stimulate elevated insulin release. (This is crucial,
to be sure, since insulin will stabilize blood-sugar levels.) I feel the post workout protein window may be even a bit
more important than the authorities suggest, however, because it can immediately establish protein reserves for anabolism,
which induces muscular growth.
While the body maybe fairly lenient when it comes to insulin sensitivities, it is heartless when it comes to protein
needs. After an hour-and-a-half weight- training session, muscle tissue and its amino-acid components have been broken
down and require nutrient absorption for tissue repair and growth. The muscles have just gone through an intense period
of expansion and contraction, accompanied by elevated blood and oxygen flow into and out of the functional tissues.
Muscle tissue demands immediate nutritional assistance to prevent catabolic syndromes and to maintain a balance of repair.
If you ingest adequate amounts of protein throughout the day, there's every chance that you'll be fine following a workout,
assuming a proper meal is eaten within a specific time frame. However, if you're like most bodybuilders who barely ingest
enough protein and calories to maintain current lean mass - when the real goal is to increase lean mass - protein deficiency
becomes a critical issue and the post workout protein window becomes an extremely crucial opportunity.
Ingesting protein within two hours of the completion of a workout-sooner, if possible - allows your system to establish
an anabolic state by delivering essential amino acids and nutrients to muscles for tissue repair. Providing protein at
this juncture will allow the body to focus on performance rather than survival. This protein window simply can't be missed
if you're truly serious about bodybuilding and metabolic muscular growth.
In addition to the post workout protein window, an equally important window occurs at night while the body is at rest. Most
bodybuilders consume protein consistently throughout the day, yet they are generally protein-deficient at night. Current
research indicates that eating patterns in the evening shift toward complex and simple carbohydrates, such as pasta and fruit.
Carbohydrates aren't necessarily bad choices, but emphasizing them late in the day may be a mistake. In bodybuilding
nutrition, timing is everything.
In order to ignite your metabolic furnace, it is better to start the day with substantial amounts of carbohydrates combined
with moderate amounts of protein. As the day progresses, a standard diet should generally include a reduction in
carbohydrates and an increase in protein and fibrous vegetables throughout the late afternoon and evening meals.
Metabolic testing has documented that the best time for tissue repair and recuperation is at night while the body is at rest.
Arguably, metabolic pathways efficiently distribute protein to the tissues better during rest or sleep than at any other
time during the day. If carbohydrate ingestion has been reduced prior to sleep, the body may enter a mild hypoglycemic state
during sleep, creating an elevated metabolic fat- utilizing response through the release of growth hormone and other associated
chemicals and enzymes. This response is especially enhanced if cardiovascular activity is performed late in the evening.
While asleep, the body has the potential to utilize extreme amounts of bodyfat and release an abundance of subcutaneous fluid.
This rest response, as it relates to cortisol and aldosterone levels, can create a platform from which the body can more
efficiently utilize the protein that was ingested throughout the day, particularly the protein consumed in the evening hours.
Based on this information, it makes sense to ingest a significant amount of protein at night, just before bedtime, in part as
a response to metabolic stressors, like aldosterone and cortisol, and to sporadic catabolic syndromes, if they have not been
When I provide nutritional counseling to athletes, I often attempt to assess a bodybuilder's typical sleep pattern to ascertain
when rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occurs, a physical response that signals the onset of deep-sleep dreaming. If I find that a
client approaches the REM sleep state at a particular time each night - say, 2 am - I might suggest that he or she get up 15
minutes after that time to eat a small protein meal - something quickly ingested, so as not to disrupt the sleep pattern excessively.
Doing this can enhance the metabolic utilization of protein to increase tissue repair and stimulate muscular growth.
As I noted earlier, understanding the proper use and function of protein windows can spell the difference between continued
anabolic muscular development or a catabolic syndrome. Overtraining is often misunderstood as spending too many hours in the
gym. Actually, this metabolic red flag may indicate improper nutrition. Over trained athletes lessen their chances of repairing
and enhancing muscle tissue, increase the likelihood of injuries and diminish the confidence needed to maintain a high performance
Remember, if you're kicking ass in the gym, fuel your body correctly; train smart and eat smart. Maximize your body's individual
metabolism to its fullest potential. Be aware of your daily protein and carbohydrate regimens. Do not let lifestyle considerations
compromise your eating patterns. Ingest food as if it were the fuel used to power a Formula One race car: Eat enough to get through
the race and use only premium fuel in the correct amounts to enhance your metabolic muscle machine.
Your diet must be consistent with your training patterns and physique goals. Keep a diary to document your food consumption and to
suggest which nutritional system works best for you. And don't forget the importance of protein windows.