Nutrition - The Basic 5 Rules
Nutrition is a long and in-depth subject, it plays such a large role in how our body functions in day to day life both in the short term and the long term. Nutrition is always important, but if you wish to gain the most from your body physically it will have to become the most important element of your day - for as long as you wish to remain in and/or obtain top shape.
1. Protein is Vital
There are 20-22 amino acids that your body utilises, of which there are 9-10 your body cannot synthesise, these are known as dietary 'Essential' Proteins. All essential Proteins must come from your diet. All essential proteins are vitally important for muscle growth, repair and maintenance. Not getting enough will result in little to no muscle growth, and most likely result in muscle loss rather than muscle gain. Your body cannot store amino acids like it can store Fat or Glucose, so Protein intake needs to remain high all the time - which means you must keep a steady stream of essential Proteins coming in with every meal. The highest amounts of essential Proteins are found in animal sources i.e. meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, fish. Most vegetable sources only contain trace amounts of essential Proteins, which can limit the amount of muscle growth and/or maintenance you can obtain from a purely vegetarian diet.
2. Fat Is Just As Important
All living cell walls, animal and plant, contain 'Lipid Bi-layers' which are made of Fat. They prevent leakage of vital cell chemicals and insulate the cell nucleus. Cholesterol is an important component of these Lipid layers and must be included in the diet in appropriate amounts in order to be maintained and to grow. Diets very low in Cholesterol will result in limited growth and repair of cells. The best form of Fat is Saturated Fat from animals, without it the body will suffer both hormonally and muscularly. You must never be afraid of eating Fat, as it is absolutely fundamental to your physical growth; Fat will help you regulate optimal Hormone levels, provide you with the most energy efficient fuel source and enable your muscle cells to grow larger, given adequate Training stimulus.
3. Carbohydrates Don't Build Muscle
Contrary to popular gym culture, Carbs are mostly unimportant for muscle growth itself. While Carbs (Glucose) can be stored within muscle cells and provide energy for training and recovery, the structure of muscle cells do not contain any Glucose whatsoever. Carbs are used as a secondary energy source alongside Fat, and can actually be synthesised in the body without any dietary involvement at all. However, it is not recommended to cut out all Carbohydrates but keep them at a controlled level so you feel energised during training. Glucose stores are full a lot of the time, so any excessive dietary Carbs are likely to be stored in the Energy overspill reservoir - your fat cells. Most Trainees function best on approximately 20-30% of their total Nutrition making up Carbs, which should come mainly from vegetation. If you are gaining Fat too quickly then you are most likely eating too many Carbohydrates, although intake of other macro-nutrient intake must also be carely monitored.
4. It's Not About Calories, It's About Nutrition
The Fitness Industry goes on about Calories a lot, but thinking about Nutrition in the form of calories is simply misleading. Not all Calories are created equal, your body will react differently to a Calorie of Glucose than it will a Calorie of Protein or Fat. Think about your food as Nutrition and you will gain a better understanding of how to eat properly. It doesn't take a certain amount of Calories to Lose body fat OR gain muscle mass, it takes a certain ratio of Nutrition. So, what is the Perfect Ratio of Nutrients? It can be slightly different for everyone and for different levels of progression, as well as if you want to gain muscle or lose Fat. See here for a basic guide to building a diet plan.
5. Meal Timing Is Important
While overall Nutrients need to be tracked daily, when we consume them is also relevant to the results we wish to get. A general rule of 3-4hrs in-between meals should be practiced. This will give your meals time to enter into the 2nd + 3rd stages of digestion unimpeded before more food is added to the first stage. Eating too often will impact the way your body absorbs and digests the food. Try to only eat 4-5 meals per day, spaced roughly 3hrs between each other, with 1-2 very small snacks. That way your body will not be stressed with food constantly in all stages of digestion. Most of your Carbs should be taken in after your workout on Training days to help prevent fat gain.