What type of exercise is required to build muscle?
If you want to build muscle, resistance training is the type of exercise you would incorporate into your exercise regime. Resistance training refers to exercises that require your muscles to work against resistance and try to overcome it. Eventually, this is what enables your muscles to develop strength. An everyday activity such as carrying heavy shopping bags can be considered as resistance training.
As part of an exercise regime, resistance training can involve push-ups or lifting weights. Through incorporating resistance training at least twice a week, muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle breakdown. This then leads to increased muscle mass.
Why is nutrition important in building muscle?
It is important to ensure that resistance training is accompanied with adequate nutrition
- Protein: During exercise muscle protein gets broken down. Post resistance training muscle is building. Consuming adequate protein from your diet provides amino acids to the muscles to initiate muscle protein synthesis. Amino acids are essentially the building blocks of proteins.
- Carbohydrate: Another important aspect of adequate nutrition is to consume carbohydrate across meals. Carbohydrate is the main fuel used for workouts. If carbohydrate is not provided, muscle protein will be broken down. Also, a low carbohydrate diet can lead to fatigue and a delay in recovery for the muscles. However, the amount of carbohydrate required for your diet will depend on the training program and goals you set.
Can a vegetarian diet provide adequate protein?
A vegetarian diet is typically one that does not include meat or fish. However, it does include some animal products such as diary products and eggs. It is untrue that you cannot get protein from a vegetarian diet. There are plenty of protein sources in a vegetarian diet, including eggs, tofu, lentils and dairy products. What is important to consider is how ‘complete’ the protein is. A complete protein is one that contains all the essential amino acids that a person needs to get in order to build muscle protein.
Animal protein vs. plant protein
Most of the complete proteins are found in animal foods. However, some plant proteins such as soy, quinoa and amaranth grains are complete as well. Incomplete proteins can be combined with other proteins in order to get all the required amino acids. For example, cereals such as wheat are limited in their lysine content and legumes are low in methionine. But, combining these two incomplete proteins can provide all the essential amino acids to form complete proteins. It was once believed that the way the plant proteins were combined was important. However, recent studies suggest that the focus should be to spread out the proteins during the day to reach the adequacy and not so much combining the plant proteins in the same meal.
Is it helpful to have extra protein?
According to the International Society of sports nutrition, a daily protein intake of 1.4-2g of protein per kilogram of body weight (g/kg/d) is sufficient to build and maintain muscle mass. It is not recommended to exceed the requirement as excess protein just means excess calories which will get stored away as fat.
Milk is a mixture of high quality protein, carbohydrate, water and micronutrients such as sodium. It has also has the highest amount of leucine. The protein in milk helps promote synthesis in the muscle. Milk contains 80% casein and 20% whey protein. It is the whey protein content of milk that helps stimulate protein synthesis. In addition, the water content can help rehydrate you.
Timing of nutrition
- Throughout the day: It is important to have balanced meals throughout the day which include both carbohydrate and protein. It’s also a good idea to include 25-30g of protein in every meal and maybe a snack 1-2 hours before exercise.
- Post-workout: As mentioned previously, muscle is being built up after the resistance training. So, using this as a window of opportunity and consuming protein is most beneficial. Combining carbohydrate with protein stimulates the release of the insulin hormone. This hormone increases the amount of amino acids available to our muscles to use for building.
Carbohydrate and protein combination meal ideas:
- Tofu with vegetables and brown rice
- Low fat cheese and tomato sandwich with yoghurt
- Vegetable lasagna
- Vegetable frittata
- Lentil pasta
Snack ideas for consumption 1-2 hours before exercise:
- 200g tub of yoghurt
- Small bowl of cereal and skim milk
- A glass of low fat chocolate milk
It is important to maintain adequate hydration. According to the sports dietetic organisation, the hydration status of low to moderate intensity exercise that lasts less than an hour requires water only. This is because loss of water through sweat is low. Moderate to hard sessions that last longer than 1 hour, when sweat loss is greater, requires an isotonic sports drink or a home-made sports drink.
Food vs supplement
As previously mentioned, having a carbohydrate and protein combination meal post-workout can help in building muscle. However, sometimes you may not have an appetite for a big snack around the workout or you might be on the go. There are enough studies supporting the use of supplements to build muscle mass and help muscle rejuvenation post-exercise. Examples of supplements include soy, rice and whey. These can help activate muscle protein synthesis. Whey protein has been extensively studied as a useful supplement due to its high essential amino acid content – an important one being leucine. When the supplement is ingested it influences effective protein synthesis. Studies have found that consuming 48g of whey protein post resistance exercise can increase muscle protein synthesis by three fold within 45-90 minutes before the heart rate slowly starts to decline.
What form of whey protein should be consumed?
You should opt for a whey protein isolate over whey protein concentrate. Whey protein isolate digests quickly and has higher leucine content. Therefore, it is an ideal protein source. Recommended brands include Beneprotein – an instant protein powder and whey protein isolate by Pure nutrition. It can be used in a smoothie, added to yoghurt or simply added to milk or water.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian and nutritionist Juhi Bhambhaney. If you have any questions regarding health and nutrition, make an appointment with one of our dietitians. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.