Recoil - - Contents - BY RYNE GIOVIANO

Nutri­tion and Sup­ple­ment for Strength and Size Gains

Ad­mit it, you want to be big and strong. We all do. And with all of the hype around strength train­ing sup­ple­ments and di­ets, it seems like it’d be the eas­i­est thing, right? Take this col­or­ful drink or only eat pro­tein, and you’re well on your way to be­com­ing the next Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger. If you’ve been train­ing for any appreciable length of time, you know that it’s much harder than it ap­pears. Those quick fixes never work. So, with all of this mis­in­for­ma­tion on the In­ter­net, where do you start? Let’s talk about nutri­tion and supplementation to start see­ing some huge gains in the gym.


At the end of the day, a mus­cle will re­spond to de­mands. When we ask our mus­cles to lift weights, their re­sponse in the longer term is to get stronger. And the op­po­site is also true — place no de­mands on them, and they’ll get weaker and smaller. These de­mands we place on mus­cle tis­sue causes dam­age, and while re­pair­ing this dam- age, the re­sult is get­ting stronger and big­ger. In other words, the mus­cle adapts to the stres­sor.

It’s im­por­tant to vary this stres­sor, and the sim­plest way is through pro­gres­sive over­load. This equates to in­cre­men­tally putting more weight on the bar, in­creas­ing the amount of reps, or in­creas­ing the amount of sets over time. Of course, a com­bi­na­tion of these three will also work.

Be­cause this is a nutri­tion-cen­tered ar­ti­cle, let’s dis­cuss what it has to do with mus­cle growth and strength. Mus­cles re­spond to calo­ries. In ad­di­tion to proper train­ing, it takes an ex­tra 3,000 calo­ries (above and be­yond your nor­mal daily re­quire­ment) to build one pound of mus­cle. Mus­cle tis­sue is con­stantly be­ing bro­ken down and re­built ev­ery 7 to 15 days. More ac­tiv­ity al­ters this process. So when you hit the gym and start lift­ing weights, you’re break­ing down mus­cle tis­sues. With­out ad­e­quate nutri­tion (and re­cov­ery in gen­eral), you’re go­ing to have a hard time get­ting big­ger and stronger.


There’s a cor­re­la­tion be­tween a mus­cle’s cross-sec­tional size and strength. Gen­er­ally, the stronger a mus­cle gets, the big­ger it gets. When the mus­cle is put through a strength-train­ing work­out, and it re­cov­ers ad­e­quately, an adap­ta­tion is for it to get stronger. Now, there are def­i­nitely some dif­fer­ences be­tween train­ing for one ver­sus the other, but know they’re cor­re­lated. So one way of get­ting stronger is to build more mus­cle and vice versa.

One of the dif­fer­ences be­tween mus­cle growth and strength is that strength also has a pretty sub­stan­tial neu­ro­log­i­cal com­po­nent. It’s not just about the mus­cle, but also your brain and the con­nec­tions be­tween brain and mus­cle. One of the adap­ta­tions to strength train­ing is in­creased neu­ral drive to the mus­cle, mean­ing there’s greater ac­ti­va­tion of that mus­cle lead­ing to more strength. Es­pe­cially when lift­ing heavy weight with lower rep­e­ti­tions, such as in train­ing for strength, the neu­ro­mus­cu­lar as­pect of train­ing be­comes more im­por­tant. In our case, how­ever, we’re fo­cus­ing on eat­ing right for the mus­cle’s abil­ity to get stronger and big­ger.


As dis­cussed ear­lier, proper nutri­tion is paramount if you’re go­ing to be see­ing progress in the gym. This is non-ne­go­tiable and re­quires an un­der­stand­ing of your caloric needs, in­clud­ing a break­down of pro­teins, car­bo­hy­drates, and fats.


When we ex­er­cise, our body’s hor­mones are af­fected, and how they af­fect mus­cle growth and strength are heav­ily de­pen­dent on our nu­tri­tional sta­tus. It’s likely you’ve heard you need more pro- tein when you start lift­ing weights. The main rea­son is to in­crease the amount of pro­tein syn­the­sis rel­a­tive to the amount of pro­tein break­down. We want our bod­ies to be mak­ing more pro­teins than break­ing them down if we’re go­ing to build more mus­cle. But you need to eat enough pro­tein for this to hap­pen.

How much? Twelve to 15 per­cent of calo­ries from pro­tein is the min­i­mum, which would equate to about 1g per kilo­gram of body­weight. From there, you can in­crease that to about 1 gram per pound of body­weight. There are so many dif­fer­ent choices when it comes to pro­teins, but a lot of that will de­pend on your per­sonal preference. Meat is eas­ily the most com­mon, but if you’re a veg­e­tar­ian or ve­gan, there are other choices like beans, legumes, or soy, as well as some pro­tein sup­ple­ments dis­cussed later. To make this mea­sure­ment of pro­tein eas­ier, think about it as two to three palm-sized por­tions of pro­tein per day for men, and one to two per day for women.


Re­cently, car­bo­hy­drates have be­come the en­emy of many diet pro­grams, but don’t shy away from them quite yet, es­pe­cially if you’re look­ing to get big and strong. Carbs are pri­mar­ily a source of en­ergy for the cells in your body. Not to men­tion, they cause a re­lease of a hor­mone called in­sulin, which is the most an­abolic (build­ing tis­sues) hor­mone in the body. In­sulin is re­spon­si­ble for tak­ing nu­tri­ents like amino acids (pro­tein build­ing blocks) and carbs and putting them into mus­cle cells to al­low growth. You can get car­ried away, though, as in­sulin also stores nu­tri­ents in fat cells too. So, too much in the carb depart­ment can lead to some fat gain as well.

How much is too much? Well, that de­pends on nu­mer­ous fac­tors such as: how big you are, how much lean mass you have, how ac­tive you are, in­take lev­els of pro­tein and fat, ge­net­ics, and what foods you pre­fer to eat. Men should start with roughly two to three cupped-

hand­fuls of healthy carbs per meal, and women should start with one to two.

You then would adjust from there. As for choices, there are many. So stick to healthy op­tions like fruits, legumes, root veg­eta­bles, quinoa, brown rice, and whole grains to name a few.


Fat is a ma­jor fuel for low- to moderate-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise, and for most peo­ple, it’s the most read­ily avail­able form of stored en­ergy. The bet­ter you are at us­ing, the more you’re able to spare stored carbs. This is a great thing for longer-du­ra­tion ac­tiv­i­ties that re­quire a ton of en­ergy use like a marathon.

Be­cause fat goes through a more com­plex process to break down, it’s not typ­i­cally an im­me­di­ate source of en­ergy for the body, and, there­fore, it’s not an en­ergy source we’re con­cerned with for strength-based ex­er­cise. It’ll take a few hours for fat to en­ter the blood­stream. While fat takes a while to break­down, it eas­ily makes up for it in the much larger amount of en­ergy it pro­duces as com­pared to pro­teins or carbs.

So how much fat should you have?

For men, two thumb-sized por­tions per meal is a great start, while one thumb per meal is good for women. You’ll be look­ing to get your healthy fats from nu­tri­tious sources like av­o­ca­dos, raw nuts and seeds, fatty fish, and healthy oils like av­o­cado, olive, or co­conut.



We all know about pro­tein be­ing a great food that should make up a sub­stan­tial amount of your to­tal caloric in­take, but there’s an­other op­tion be­sides reg­u­lar food: whey pro­tein. Why use a pro­tein pow­der? Here are a few rea­sons. Eat­ing more pro­tein in your diet with­out the bulk of food

You don’t like meat or an­i­mal prod­ucts. Con­ve­nience of trans­porta­tion

Ease of prepa­ra­tion

When con­sid­er­ing a pro­tein pow­der, you’ve sev­eral sources in­clud­ing whey, rice, egg, pea, hemp, and soy. Which source is right for you? It’s tough to say, and it re­ally de­pends on your per­sonal preference, al­ler­gies, your stance on food, and sev­eral oth­ers. For most peo­ple, a milk-de­rived pro­tein pow­der called whey is a great choice as it may im­prove immunity, is very well-re­searched, and is a great source of branched-chain amino acids, which help with mus­cle growth and preservation.


25-50g per serv­ing is a good place to start de­pend­ing on your needs.

Check the nutri­tion la­bels and avoid ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers, such as su­cralose, ace­sul­fame po­tas­sium, and as­par­tame. Ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent forms and brands to de­ter­mine which you tol­er­ate best.

Mix with fruit, av­o­cado, and spinach for a very sim­ple and very nu­tri­tious break­fast.


When you’re per­form­ing bouts of high-power out­puts (last­ing less than 15 sec­onds) sep­a­rated by 20 to 60 sec­onds of rest, you’re pre­dom­i­nantly us­ing some­thing called the ATP-PC sys­tem of en­ergy. An ex­am­ple could be a short sprint up a hill. This sys­tem re­plen­ishes the stores of adeno­sine triphos­phate (ATP), which pro­vides en­ergy to work­ing cells. Since your mus­cles have a small amount of ATP for mus­cle con­trac­tions, it needs to be re­plen­ished reg­u­larly and quickly. In or­der to use this ATP, one phos­phate is re­moved to cre­ate

en­ergy, which will make it adeno­sine diphos­phate (ADP) as there are only two phos­phates now. We use a cre­a­tine sup­ple­ment to give ADP an ex­tra phos­phate, mak­ing it ATP once again. And the cy­cle con­tin­ues.

Cre­a­tine is an amino acid that nat­u­rally oc­curs in the body in the liver, kid­neys, and pan­creas, but you can also get it from food. In sup­ple­ment form, cre­a­tine is typ­i­cally taken as cre­a­tine mono­hy­drate be­cause it’s more able to pass through cell mem­branes, mak­ing it more us­able. Typ­i­cal im­prove­ments as a re­sult of cre­a­tine supplementation range from about 2 per­cent in in­creased mus­cle mass, about 11 per­cent in mus­cle strength, and roughly 8 per­cent in high-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise.


Use the mono­hy­drate form of cre­a­tine. Drink plenty of flu­ids when tak­ing cre­a­tine.

Don’t in­gest dur­ing ex­er­cise.

Af­ter an ini­tial five-day load­ing phase of 10g per day, con­sume 3-5g of cre­a­tine per day.

Drink cre­a­tine in a warm bev­er­age, prefer­ably com­bined with carbs and pro­tein to pos­si­bly in­crease the mus­cles’ re­ten­tion of it.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, cy­cle off cre­a­tine for three to four months.

Don’t take this if you have a pre­ex­ist­ing kid­ney dys­func­tion or are at a high risk for kid­ney dis­ease.


Now that you’ve got the ba­sics of nutri­tion and supplementation cov­ered, it’s time to hit the gym and start see­ing some se­ri­ous progress. You have noth­ing to lose and quite a bit to gain.

goro­denkoff/ When look­ing to add mus­cle strength and size, look no fur­ther than heavy move­ments in­volv­ing mul­ti­ple joints and mus­cle groups.


Carbs are very im­por­tant for strength and size goals. Make sure to get the rec­om­mended amount. If you no­tice you’re gain­ing too much fat, start re­duc­ing carbs be­fore any­thing else.

wun­dervi­su­als/istockphoto.comBoth cre­a­tine and pro­tein pow­der are in­ex­pen­sive ways to getan ex­tra edge in the gym. Just un­der­standthey’re sup­ple­ments meant to com­ple­ment a healthy diet. You’ll get more from nu­tri­tious food than you willfrom any sup­ple­ment.

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