Nutrition for Increasing Lean Body Muscle
by Raquel Torres
There are many reasons why one may want to increase lean body mass. After all, who doesn’t want to be stronger and more capable? Increased muscle mass also helps to support bones and reduce the chance of injury. The obvious answer to increasing muscle mass is to hit the weights! However, some nutrition aspects help when paired with resistance exercise.
Protein – When hoping to gain muscle, protein intake is incredibly important. The smallest unit of protein, amino acids are the building blocks for increasing muscle mass in our bodies. Our bodies are unable to synthesize essential amino acids, so we must consume them in our diet.
Be sure to include protein with each meal and snack throughout the day and aim for 3 meals, and 2-3 snacks per day. Not only will this help to keep your blood sugar levels stable, but it will also help you meet your daily protein needs, without having to get too into the weeds with tracking grams of protein per meal. Keeping blood sugar levels stable also helps decrease stress on the body, mitigating the release of catabolic hormones (which can cause muscle breakdown).
Quality of protein – Not all protein is created equal! Protein quality is determined by its concentration of essential amino acids; the muscle-building blocks required in the diet. The higher percentage of essential amino acids, the higher the protein quality. Animal proteins, and milk products are considered high-quality proteins. For athletes who do not eat animal proteins, diversifying plant proteins is the best way to meet essential amino acid needs. Plant proteins do not have a high percentage of essential amino acids, in the balance required for the human body. However, this can be ameliorated by eating a variety of plant proteins.
Certain proteins, such as those high in branched-chain amino acids like leucine, are better at promoting muscle protein synthesis.
While you can purchase protein powders or supplements that contain these amino acids specifically, you can also consume them in foods like milk and other dairy products. Whey, being a milk product, is also high in leucine and is effective at promoting muscle synthesis, especially post-exercise.
Nutrient Timing – Consuming protein after exercise will help to promote muscle protein synthesis and repair the muscle tissue that may have been broken down during strenuous training. Eating a snack with both carbohydrates and protein within 2 hours after exercise aids muscle protein synthesis.
For women, it is also a good idea to consume protein before exercise. Women are more prone to protein breakdown than men. One way to help mitigate this difference is to add protein to your pre-workout fuel.
Energy Balance – Energy must come from somewhere! If you don’t consume enough calories, your body will break down muscle to meet its energy demands. It is important to strike a balance with caloric intake; meeting your individual daily needs without getting too carried away and eating in excess, which will increase fat mass. When increasing weightlifting training, an uptick in general energy intake can help increase muscle protein synthesis. Adding an additional high-protein snack once or twice per day is an easy way to support the increased need for protein and calories.
Photo Credit: Curtesy of the author
Raquel Torres, MBA is a USAT Elite Certified Coach, Professional Triathlon Coach and Professional Triathlete. Raquel also writes blogs for several magazines and her team Athletic Mentors. Since May 2021 she contributes as a columnist with CNY Latino Newspaper. She shares true life stories with her experiences, also tips and tactics that helps anyone to be their best version. To read about her, head over to cnylatinonewspaper.com and search for her by her name. You can also send questions or comments about her column to the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org and go to her website at www.raqueltorres.org