Is there such a thing as the perfect work out? Yes, but there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach and every individual has a variety of different training needs.
However, it is possible to create a basic nutritional approach for the perfect work-out routine and the following advice can be adjusted to suit your training requirements.
We have discussed goal setting, work out planning, avoiding distractions, techniques for remaining focussed, the importance of sleep and work out adherence in other articles.
Therefore, for the scope of this article we will discuss the role of nutrition and supplements; these are a major platform for the perfect work out in relation to muscle size and strength gains.
#1 – Keep hydrated
Keeping hydrated plays a major role in the perfect work out! Think about this, your muscles are made up of around 75% water and if your hydration levels drop below 10-15%; there is massive reduction in athletic performance.
Therefore, if you are not fully hydrated, your lifting will be hampered and there will be a reduction in your muscle mass gains.
This reduction in performance can be coupled with symptoms of fatigue, headaches, gastric issues and constipation. Hence, if you are ill because of these dehydration symptoms; then you could miss the next training session, which is very bad news if you are on a tight training schedule!
A simple remedy is to drink at least 1 gallon of water on a daily bases, this will help to flush out all the toxins in your body and keep your vital organs functionally properly e.g. the brain is made up of 80% water.
This concept will help you with training focus and boost concentration levels during your sessions. Aim to drink at least 2 pints an hour before you start training and 2 pints after the training session.
#2 – Meal timings
The meal timings are important in you achieving your perfect work out. There is nothing worse when you feel flat during your work out because your blood sugars are too low or you are feeling bloated.
This happens because you have got your meal timings all wrong.
Many bodybuilders try to consume at least 6 meals a day which include three main meals and snacks.
This is important to ensure that you getting enough of the right calories throughout the day and that your body is an anabolic state.
Remember that you need to consume more calories than you expend, and pre & post work out meals are also vital in this process.
Pre work out meal
Eat this meal at least 2 hours before training, this will allow enough time for your food to digest, making the nutrients readily available and this should eradicate any bloating or discomfort.
The meal should be high in protein and complex carbs, as this will fuel your body making it ready for lifting. It will also enhance the availability of the essential amino acids during and after the session.
Post work out
After you have finished training, you have a 45 minute ‘window’ of opportunity to start eating; this will enable you to have the best results in terms of muscle gains.
Immediately after your workout the muscle is like a sponge ready to absorb all of the nutrients which help with recovery and restoring the glycogen levels.
During this ‘window’ you really want to facilitate a spike in your insulin levels; as this provides the transport to drive the amino acids in the exhausted muscle. This will massively help with muscle growth and whey protein combined with a fast acting carb is perfect for this post exercise.
Within 2 hours of stopping training, eat a main meal that incorporates whole wheat pasta, brown rice or oats.
A key point to remember is that not all carbs are bad; especially if you are trying to build muscle mass.
#3 – Supplements
The following section will discuss 5 key supplements to help you to create the perfect workout and to keep you on track with your muscle mass goals.
Please note that creatine should be added to your supplement list but is beyond the scope of this article, as there is a huge amount of information already out there.
Arginine is an amino acid that plays a vital role in cell division, removing ammonia from the body, immune function, hormone release, nitrate oxide synthesis, tissue growth and repair.
It has the ability to produce nitric oxide through vasodilation of the blood vessels and it is this mechanism that helps with an increase nutrient delivery to the muscles. Ultimately this process aids muscle growth and repair.
L-arginine increases carnosine levels in the muscle and the primary function of this amino acid is to buffer the hydrogen ions produced during working outs. This is achieved by neutralising the hydrogen ions which then allows you to pump iron harder for longer.
Add about 8g of L-arginine supplements into your diet plan, as this will definitely reduce your fatigue levels.
Leucine has anabolic properties and is a very important branched chain amino acid. It helps to regulate protein synthesis by activating the mTOR pathway.
This pathway is very sensitive to levels of leucine and reduced levels signal to the mTOR that there is not enough protein in the body, to create new muscle and is deactivated.
Conversely, high or adequate levels of leucine causes the activation of the mTOR pathway; resulting in the creation of new muscle tissue. The RDA for leucine for men who are resistance training is between 1.5-2.5grams.
Glutamine is the most common amino acid found in the body; its main roles are protein metabolism, transporting nitrogen into the muscle, increasing cell size, maintaining a healthy immune system, intestine health and anti-catabolism.
This anti-catabolism ability prevents muscle break down by counteracting the acidosis of anaerobic exercise, and the body uses the glutamine from the muscle to facilitate this.
Glutamine also helps with human growth hormone secretion (HGH); this helps with fat metabolism and supports new muscle growth.
After an intense training session, glutamine is hugely depleted in the body which may impact strength, stamina and recovery.
To replenish glutamine levels after an intense session could take up to 5 days, therefore this may impact protein synthesis, slow down muscle growth and increase muscle breakdown.
A suggestion is that you should take between 10-15 grams of L-glutamine in your diet, this is usually consumed within the protein shake formula; but is available in tablet form.
L-Carnitine is made in the body from the amino acids lysine and methionine. It plays a vital role in fat metabolism and 98% of carnitine is stored in the skeletal muscle.
L-carnitine is an essential amino acid which is needed for long-chain fatty acid transportation, skeletal muscle contraction, regulation of protein balance and helps to use triglycerides as its primary fuel source.
Although health and athletic benefits of carnitine were unsubstantiated, a recent study in the Journal of Physiology stated the following advantages:
- Speeds up the recovery from intense exercise and prevents oxidative stress
- Increased fat transport to cells, fat burning efficiency and energy
- Decreased visceral fat by increasing triglyceride and LDL cholesterol burning
- Quicker recovery time from exercise due to less pain, more energized, produce less and deplete lactate acid quicker
- May boost testosterone
Therefore, L-carnitine may enable you to pump a higher %1RM and more reps. The RDA is 2g of supplementation to help with your training schedule.