Pre, Intra And Post Training Nutrition: Muscle-Building

Start-A-Bodybuilding-Workout-PlanIn the first edition of this final edition(s) series, I discussed pre, intra and post-training nutrition when fat loss is the primary goal. In the second installment I discussed the best course of action to take in order to perform at a high level in the gym and to maximize our day-to-day workout strength, be that in the gym, sports, or competition (although I haven’t discussed the specifics of nutrient timing in regards to competition, be that in a sport, bodybuilding contest, or even a photo shoot. These are times when peaking is the plan, and I intend to write about this at a later date).

Today it’s time to move on to pre, intra and post-training nutrition when building muscle is the primary goal. I’ll be getting back to hormonal optimization again in this article, as I strayed from it in the strength and performance post, as hormonal optimization regarding nutrition is of lesser importance when strength and perfomance is concerned. That isn’t to say that those involved in these pursuits aren’t interested in maximizing hormonal output, but there are always more than one way to achieve that goal (which brings me to another side subject – I’m going to be covering how this is done, and how it can be related to any type of training shortly).

Now that I’ve set up a few future articles, let’s get started with pre-training nutrition when maximum muscle mass is the goal. This isn’t going to be as straight forward as the previous two examples, as I’m going to give you a choice as to which option you’d prefer to follow. The reason being is that in the case of muscle hypertrophy training there is no clear-cut winner as to what will build more muscle. The first method that you can use it to consume either a pre-workout meal two hours prior to training or a pre-workout shake an hour before training. That is a choice you can make yes, but not the choice I’m referring to.

The choice you get to make specific to these two options is the content of these two pre-workout options. 6a00d8341bf90553ef013483271e68970c-800wiYour choice that you need to make is whether you want to include carbohydrate. Protein in both cases is a given. As I mentioned above there is no definite advantage to either course of action regarding the final result. If you choose to not include carbs, then your levels of circulating testosterone will be higher. The advantage there is that your strength in theory will be greater, and your recovery abilities will also be greater in between working sets.

Conversely, you can make the exact same argument for including carbs. Initially, and for some time, your testosterone level will most certainly drop, but your insulin levels will increase. This is yet another example of homeostasis in action. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction in order to keep the delicate balance of hormones in check. The advantage of having that carbs available apart from the nutrient delivery advantage that insulin will provide, is that your energy levels will be higher. This in theory should translate into greater strength, which in theory should also translate into a greater hormonal response due to the increased load.

Notice I said in theory regarding both options, and notice I said that both options will provide similar results? This is where experimentation comes in. I have found my strength to be greater when pre-training carbs are ingested, but it is an extremely delicate balance. female-bodybuilding-image-1The number of carbs and the type are very specific. If you want to know what works for me, about 30 grams maximum of simple sugars mixed in with whey, an hour before I hit the gym floor is my recipe. Any more than this and I feel sluggish. Any different type of carb and I feel bloated and slow. I also opt for the first choice just as often, and go with no carbs to keep my testosterone levels at the their highest. Like I said in the intro, there is no definite sure-fire guaranteed best method, so it will be a matter of personal choice for you.

As far as intra training nutrition is concerned, you have two choices as well. Three really and they are; water, bcaa’s, or bcaa’s and carbs. Simply opting for water will mean that you will most likely receive the best anabolic response from lifting. Using bcaa’s means that protein sparing will be optimized, meaning that muscle retention is maximized, and bcaa’s and carbs means muscle retention as well as heightened glucose availability, which means possible greater strength during training.

The final decision that is ultimately yours involves whether or not you’re going to use carbs in your post workout meal or shake. Regarding timing, I still suggest waiting an hour to let your post training inflammation begin the recovery process unimpeded. The choice as to whether you include carbs in either your shake or meal post-training is dependent on whether you want to keep your testosterone levels, as well as any possible fat burning that may be taking place high, or whether you want to utilize insulin to speed the delivery of nutrients to the muscle to begin the recovery process.

I’m going to touch on the period of carbohydrate uptake that follows weight training briefly. You’ve all heard that post training is the best time to replenish depleted glycogen stores due to intense training, right? This ideal window of opportunity is only available for two hours as I’m sure you all know. What I’d like to point out is that during your conventional bulking period, consumption of carbohydrates tends to be rather high. This means there is no real need to concern your self with topping up glycogen levels, as they will be already filled throughout the day. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t opt for post-training carbs, but your choice doesn’t need to be concerned with glycogen top up.

The choice is yours in all of the above-mentioned scenarios. femalegymtrainingI recommend finding out what works best for you. I look at training as a lifelong choice, and that means that it is worth setting aside weeks during your training cycles for trial and error. You may be surprised to find that you hit on a combination that is ideal for you that you had never tried before simply because you had never explored the available options and variations.

Happy Lifting!

This article was researched and written by 

All the information contained within these World Wide Web Pages is Copyright LifestyleandStrength.com

6 comments for “Pre, Intra And Post Training Nutrition: Muscle-Building

  1. David
    February 28, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    I learned a lot from these posts. I’ve used your site many times to help me and my clients and I will be using this for sure too.

  2. February 26, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Thanks again Matt, really well done. For the post workout nutrition, if you do choose to go with carbs as well would you say it’s better to do a simple carb or a complex carb source? I always hear simple is the way to go. Currently with the carb backloading I’m doing and getting my one main carb source usually an hour after training. It’s always a complex carb, but then again I’m more concerned with fat loss right now than anything else.

    • February 26, 2013 at 4:35 pm

      If you want a fast insulin spike to shuttle those nutrients into the muscle cells, then yes fast works best. For fat loss what you’re doing is ideal though. The carbs don’t necessarily have to be fast digesting though, as that will immediately lower your circulating testosterone levels. It depends on what your overall goal in bulking is. Is it to manipulate your hormone levels, or is it to get your insulin levels up (insulin is after all a very potent anabolic hormone, but it will also lead to fat gain).

      This all leads me to something I’ve been playing around with that is working pretty unbelievably well – backload bulking. After I lost 8 lbs in 4 weeks doing backloading, I started experimenting with backload bulking. The results have been very dramatic. I’ll get into those details at some point in the future. I don’t even know when I’m going to get back to fat loss as I’m going to ride this for a while. Fat free mass gains are not very typical, but that’s what I’ve hit on and I’ve never heard of anyone else doing this before…

      • February 26, 2013 at 6:11 pm

        It’s wild you mention this because I was actually just thinking this very thing, seriously. I was thinking, if carb backloading works well for fat loss and muscle retention, why wouldn’t it work if you were to try to bulk but stay as lean as possible? Just eat the same stuff, but more of it. Definitely interested to hear what comes of it for you!

        I’m still losing a pound or two per week while retaining muscle so I’ll keep this going at least through March. Very curious to see how lean I might get. I’m already a pound away from my original starting weight. I’m going to cycle off creatine in March and after that I haven’t quite figured out what I’m going to do yet but I’m excited either way! Never had so much fun experimenting with nutrition!

        • February 27, 2013 at 4:49 pm

          It’s not quite the same as the backloading you’re doing now, as the macro split is very different due to the high calorie totals. I’m at around 4000 cals minimum now, and yes, I’m gaining fat free mass. I’m well aware I can’t rewrite the laws of thermodynamics, so I’m going to keep this experiment going for some time to see the long term results. I have some explanations as to why the high cals and no fat gain, but I need a larger sample size to see what, if anything, changes.

          I just deleted a couple of paragraphs where I was explaining things further before I realized I was writing the article. I can’t help myself sometimes…

          • February 27, 2013 at 5:25 pm

            Ha I understand that! Very excited to see what comes of it. Keep me informed! 😉

Leave a Reply