YOUR GUIDE TO AN ANABOLIC DIET
If you've been working out for some time now you would have found that certain foods will help you gain more strength and more muscle than other foods.
For example: although foods like vegetables are completely essential in your diet, they lack a high caloric value and thus may not be the most important aspect of your diet (at least as far as it relates to increases in strength and size.)
Most people who step into the gym have one goal in mind - to increase muscle mass. In order to achieve this goal we not only need to train specific to hypertrophy (increases in muscle cell size) but also eat the correct food in order to influence as much growth as possible.
Think about this - what will provide you more energy for your workout, a chicken breast or oatmeal?
If you answered oatmeal you are correct. The question is not about recovery, it’s about energy. If you have goals of increasing muscle mass you need to always think about which foods will provide fuel that is calorically dense and can be readily used as energy in the body.
What are we getting at here?
Your diet has a massive influence on your overall performance in the gym. To a certain extent, a high protein diet will enable your muscles to recover from weight training, but protein is not an energy bound macronutrient. In order to become as anabolic as possible, you need to eat foods that not only enable recovery but provide sustainable energy all day long.
WHAT IS AN ANABOLIC DIET?
An anabolic diet is what we should all be aiming for when we are training. To be completely honest, you can train as hard as you want - unless your diet is in check you will not see the results you’re looking for.
An anabolic diet, by definition, has the sole purpose of influencing muscle gain and fat loss. These two factors in most cases will not occur together unless your diet and training are specific to this goal.
In order to maximize growth and take full advantage of the anabolic diet, there are a few, very important factors we need to consider.
ALWAYS EAT FOR GROWTH
This may seem pretty obvious but the idea here is to always eat foods that will provide your body with the potential for growth in muscle gains.
Your goal should always be to eat foods that are as calorically dense as possible, without eating a surplus of fat.
- Dark grains
- Lean meats
- High glucose fruits
These will provide your body with a complete source of nutrients balanced in protein and carbohydrates (your main sources of muscle growth).
Here is a more detailed breakdown of the foods you should be eating in order to sustain a complete anabolic diet.
MODERATE-HIGH PROTEIN INTAKE
Protein provides your body with the main source of recovery of soft tissue through a stimulation called muscle protein synthesis.
Protein, in its most simple form, is a macronutrient that assists in cell recovery. Without protein, your body would struggle to repair damaged nails, hair, skin and other soft tissue. Ingesting a high amount of protein will not only help your body to recover faster, but many protein sources will also contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that are secondary to growth.
To achieve an anabolic state you should eat lean protein sources like fish, chicken, beans and soy. Although beef is a great source of protein, the high saturated fats that come with the meat are generally not recommended for fat loss.
A moderate-high amount of protein in your diet should be calculated based on your bodyweight and activity requirements.
In general, you should try to consume 0.2-0.3g/kg of bodyweight.
CONSUME LOW FAT
Although high-fat diets have risen to popularity in the past couple years, when it comes to performance in the gym, a high-fat diet just can’t stack up. Yes, fats are essential to growth (just as the other macros are), yet a diet high in fat will not provide your muscles with the essential energy to work or recovery.
A low-fat diet (depending on your body type) means eating 15-30% of your daily intake of calories from fat sources - always doing your best to source unsaturated fats. The best foods to consume for an anabolic diet are fish, avocado, nuts and seeds.
Fat is important to your diet because it will serve as the major component to balancing hormones - which is crucially important when you are strength training.
EMPHASIZE HIGH CARBOHYDRATES
The lifeblood of performance and largely misunderstood macronutrient is carbohydrates. Many people believe that carbohydrates are a source of weight gain, yet in reality, without carbohydrates, you will struggle to perform under the bar.
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy to fuel working muscle. All carbs are eventually converted into glycogen to be stored in the muscle or liver. Muscle glycogen is then used to fuel muscular contractions - especially those at a very high resistance.
To grow stronger your diet should consist of at least 40-60% carbohydrates form a wide variety of sources such as dark grains, cereals, vegetables and fruit. Foods such as rye bread, ancient grains, oatmeal and other whole grains will not only contain good sources of carbs, but also protein and the respective amino acids.
For example Oatmeal contains just as much L-Leucine (per calorie) as beef.
PRO TIP: Although many bodybuilding communities will recommend white rice or white pasta as a primary source of fast digesting carbohydrates, the lack of fibre and other nutrients obtained through this source may limit your body’s ability to put on muscle mass.
We now know that there are many foods we can consume in order to achieve an anabolic diet. In essence, we always want to emphasize balance, yet at the same time if you want to be anabolic you must eat the foods that provide your body with as much energy as possible for growth.
This means eating a high carbohydrate and high protein intake. Both of these foods will provide your body with the energy and recovery needed to sustain growth, while a lower fat intake will help to balance and control hormones.
With all that said, can we be more specific than macronutrients? Are their supplements that we can take to help boost muscle mass and recovery?
SUPPLEMENTS THAT BOOST ANABOLISM
Having a well-rounded nutrition program will take your training game to the next level but there are potent supplements that will also help to put your body into a more anabolic state for muscle growth and fat loss.
One of the most underutilized supplements when it comes to muscle mass and recovery. Leucine is an amino acid that is readily found in BCAA supplements and protein-rich foods - yet when consumed in high amounts can help to increase the stimulation for muscle protein synthesis.
Consuming 3-5g prior to a workout will not only help to begin the recovery process but it will also help to provide your muscles with a quick source of energy for your training session.
Creatine is fuel for the muscles that need to be taken. If you consider yourself a serious strength athlete than you cannot miss the opportunity to supplement with a clean and potent creatine.
Creatine supplementation helps to provide the body with more potential phosphocreatine to draw from to resynthesize ATP (adenosine triphosphate). In other words, supplementing creatine is like having a larger pit crew at your formula one car - the more you have, the faster you can get back on the track.
Supplementing with 4-6g of creatine post workout can be one of the most effective (and cost-efficient) ways to decrease recovery time and grow stronger each workout.
Most, if not all good pre-workouts will contain a decent dose of citrulline - and for good reason. L-Citrulline is an amino acid that has been shown to reduce fatigue and recovery time for both long distance running and anaerobic (weight lifting) style exercise.
Supplementing 3-6g prior to a workout will also help to elevate the amount of nitric oxide in the blood - thereby improving your anabolic capacity.
Citrulline should be an addition to your pre-workout routine and pairs very well with stimulants like caffeine or taurine.
If you have aspirations of growing stronger, losing weight and cutting down on body fat than you need to approach your goals with a very specific touch. A diet high in protein and carbohydrates will help you to sustain muscle growth and provide you with the energy needed to train at higher intensities day in and day out.
Limiting your intake of fat and supplementing with specific ingredients will push your conditioning and strength potential to the next level.
The last step to becoming as anabolic as possible, growing stronger each day is to combine your diet with a complete training program that is built for progressive gains in muscle mass and fat loss.
This means combining high-intensity weightlifting with long-duration cardio in order to burn more fat and stimulate more muscle.
Remember, at the end of the day consistency is king. No one food will save you, no one supplement will help to increase size - a combination of all the key elements, over a period of time will lead to more growth and better results.