Muscle tissue is sensitive to any muscular activity; carbohydrates, protein and fat intake; and hormonal fluctuations. The interactions of those variables determines the balance between muscles synthesis and muscle destruction. If I increase my protein consumption, I will achieve a positive protein balance (my muscle gain will be greater than my muscle breakdown. Positive balance can be achieved using the following strategies.
***Strategy Number One: Consume a mixture of carbohydrates and amino acids before (30-60 minutes) and immediately after strength workouts
Here is some good examples:
-Greek Yogurt, Berries and almonds.
-Unsweetened oatmeal, fresh fruit, almond milk and whey-plant based protein.
-Egg or Tofu sandwich made with whole wheat bread (you can add some fresh vegetables to increase vitamin, fiber and mineral intake)
-Bowl made with grains or legumes (rice, quinoa, beans, lentils, etc.); lean protein (chicken, fish, salmon, tofu, tuna,etc.), fresh vegetables and healthy fats (avocado, nuts, olive oil, etc.)
-Smoothie made with fruit, whey-plant based protein powder, Greek Yogurt, Chia Seed, etc. You can add some greens, make sure you always include protein and carbs.
-Protein Bar (select those made with natural ingredients, avoid those with high content of fat and sugar) and Fruit
***Strategy Number Two: Replenish glycogen store (carbohydrates inside of the muscles) immediately after workout.
When I was in college we made a study and we found out the best ratio is 2:1 (Two units of carbohydrates for one of protein). This formula seems to work pretty well to estimate how much protein and carbs you need post workout:
-Approx. Grams of Carbohydrates Post Workout= weight kg x 0.8.
Example weight of 65 kg x 0.8=Approx. 52 g of carbohydrates post workout.
-Approx. Grams of Protein Post Workout= weight kg x 0.4
Example weight 65 kg x 0.4= Approx. 26 g of protein post workout.
If you don't know how to calculate your weight in kg, here is how = weight in pounds/ 2.2.
Example my weight 130 pounds/ 2.2= 65 kg
***Strategy Number Three: Meet Daily Carbohydrates needs and avoid high protein diets.
Pre-Training and Post Training carbohydrate supplementation allow greater strenght and body composition improvements and also allow protein synthesis to occur, due in part to an improved anabolic hormonal environment. Carbohydrates are central to this process, given their ability to elevate insuline levels. The amount of protein necessary to boost a positive effect appears to be only 6g. Further, recent data suggest that high protein diet might inhibit muscle synthesis. Additional evidence shows that low carbohydrates diets reduced muscle hypertrophy.
***Strategy Number Four: Eat enough healthy Fats
Several hormones play a critical role in an exercise in general and strength training in particular. Testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) provide strength and muscle growth stimulus; cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine and glucagon control access to fat and glucose fuels by manipulating the release of stored fuel when needed in addition to other important functions; and insulin provides the storage impetus for the fuels derived from the food we eat. A lot of this hormones are made from the healthy fats we consume (like avocados, nuts, peanut or almond butter, etc.); if your goal is to increase muscle mass you want to make sure to include enough fat in your diet, they also provide a good source of dense calories (what is perfect you have a small stomach and you cannot handle too much food) and make you feel satisfied for longer.
***Strategy Number Five: Get from 7-10 hours of sleep daily
A poor sleep pattern does not provide an optimal environment for anabolic processes to occur. Human growth hormone is at its peak during deep sleep. Interrupted or poor sleep could be a contributing factor to a less than optimal muscle and strength response to exercise.
***Strategy Number Five: Increase Calorie Intake 200-500 kcal per day
Easy way to do it is just increase 200 to 500 kcal a day from what you normally. Example, if you eat normally 2,000 Kcal, start your gain muscle protocol eating 200 kcal extra per day and check how your body respond. I recommend take body fat and weight 2 times per month and according to your results, estimate how many calories you have to add to get closer to your goal. When I'm working on building muscle mass, I usually go for 500 kcal; when I do so, I gain weight quickly and mostly similar amounts of fat and muscle, if you want to gain less fat, increase calorie consumption gradually. I add one more snack or a before bed meal, I select healthy, colorful and organic foods; high sugar, high fat and high sodium foods don't help to create lean muscle and to promote a general good health necessary to increase your muscle gains.
***Strategy Number Six: NOT skipping meals and keep a proper meal timing .
Eating 4-6 good meals (with good carbs, lean protein and healthy fats and fresh veggies) every 3-5 hours during the day through the day will help to put the body in an optimal anabolic state and preserve the existing lean muscle mass.
*My own thesis: "Sport Nutrition Fundamentals" University Evangelical of El Salvador, El Salvador San Salvador, 2011
*NASM essentials of Sport Performance and Training", 2015