How to spread your protein intake, and how often should you eat?
You want to time your eating so that it works with your workout, but also aim for three regular meals and a couple of snacks – making sure that they are balanced with both carbohydrates and protein. That way, you can provide your body with the fuel it needs from the carbohydrate, as well as a steady supply of protein to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
What to eat before a workout?
You want to start your workout well-hydrated and well-fueled. For fluids, drink about 2 cups of water 2-3 hours beforehand, then have another cup about 15-20 minutes before. The length of time between the time you eat your meal and the time you work out will dictate the type of meal you have:
- If you have a few hours to digest, then a “regular” breakfast that might include foods like eggs, yogurt, whole-grain toast, whole-grain cereals, milk/soy milk, and fruit would be appropriate.
- If you’ll be eating fairly close to the time you work out, then something like a protein shake will take less time to digest. Just be sure your shake includes not just protein but a source of carbohydrates, too. So, in addition to a protein powder and/or milk or milk alternatives, include foods such as fruits and vegetables (such as carrots or sweet potato); you can even toss in some rolled oats.
What to eat after a workout?
After you exercise, your muscles need some healthy carbohydrates and about 10-20 grams of high-quality protein to help them repair and recover. A carton of yogurt, a turkey or nut butter sandwich, a smoothie made with fruit and milk or soy milk, or a bowl of cereal and fruit are all good recovery foods after a session of strength training.
What are good snacks in between meals?
Snacks should include the same healthy balance of protein and carbs. Some snack bars have a good balance of protein and carbohydrates and are convenient to carry with you. Other quick snacks include a hard-boiled egg with some whole grain crackers, some yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit, or some raw vegetables and hummus.
How to gain muscle without putting on fat?
In order to build muscle, your body does require additional nutrients and calories, but that doesn’t give you license to eat as much as you want. If you take in more calories than you burn – whether from unhealthy, fatty, sugary foods or from a healthy well-balanced diet – those calories will get stored as body fat.
Choosing lean proteins, such as fish, poultry, low-fat dairy products, beans, and tofu, will help ensure that your body gets the protein it needs without excess calories. Similarly, choose healthy carbohydrates – fruits, vegetables, whole grains – over sugars and refined starches, so you can reap the benefits without the extra calories.