What to Eat for Fast Strength Gains [EXPERT GUIDE]
There are far too many of us that rely solely on the workouts we commit to for strength gains. Yes, to a certain extent you may not grow stronger unless you can commit yourself to intense workouts on a frequent basis – but your diet and lifestyle will play a huge role in how much muscle you actually put on.
Think about it – you can’t seriously believe that those who eat fast food and junk food you eat will help to put on muscle in the same way as those who eat all their food from whole-food sources.
It’s just not possible. Not only do whole foods provide a much more complex spectrum of nutrients that can be used to grow stronger but they are also much easier on your digestion and allow for the highest bioavailability of nutrients.
Eating a wholesome diet may just be the last missing link in your lifestyle.
Without complete nutrition you could be putting all your work into the gym and not seeing any concrete results. In this guide, we are going to walk you through the most effective ways to eat and the best foods to eat for fast strength gains.
What to Eat for Fast Strength Gains
The first aspect you need to consider before even addressing good foods is how you should be eating. Many aspects may come to mind; frequency, meal timing and macronutrient spectrums are the main aspects we want to discuss.
When it comes to bodybuilding and strength training it is important to remember that when you eat you are fueling a machine – your body. Depriving it of nutrients for a long period of the day (like fasting) could result in a loss of muscle mass when not completed correctly.
We suggest going for 3-4 meals a day as this will help to maintain the best possible frequency and allow you to spread your various macronutrient profiles out throughout the day.
An important aspect to consider when you are trying to recover faster. All of your meals should be centred around when you are actually training. For example, if you trained in the evening you would want to have a small carb-rich meal prior to the workout and a larger carb-rich meal with plenty of protein following the session.
This specific meal timing will help to allow you to best accomplish your goals in a timely manner. Growing stronger is about providing your body with the energy and nutrients it needs at the correct time.
This is a tough one. So many factors come into play when you are trying to determine which macro spectrum you should be using.
Although there are many different kinds the most popular for strength is 50% carbs, 30% protein and 20% fat.
Those who are looking for optimal body composition may want to increase protein and drop carbs – but this will depend on your specific goal.
You may also find that depending on where your bloodline has come from in the world that you have a variable ability to deal with carbs. This is called the equator rule. Generally, the closer you blood relatives were to the equator (where you can grow lots of carb-rich grains) the better your bodies ability would be to absorb and readily use carbs as fuel.
Finding the right macro spectrum for you will take time, but once you lock in on the amounts that your body works best with you will see massive strength returns.
Best Foods For Strength
Now that we know how we should be eating and when we should be eating here are some of the best foods you should be consuming for strength gains.
Starting off with the king of all carbs. Oats are not only high in complex carbohydrates but also fibre, protein, and many other micronutrients while being low in fat. Oats should serve as the basic fundamental nutrient in your diet. Consuming oats in the morning or after a workout will be the best times to provide needed energy in the form of glycogen to the body.
Perhaps the best source of protein your body can utilize. Human bodies are very well adapted to consuming the protein and fats found in fish – plus they also contain omega fatty acids which have been shown to be good for body composition and cognitive health.
Not very many of us eat all the veggies we should be eating, but if there was one category which would allow us to get away with our veggie intake it would be cruciferous vegetables. Veggies like kale, spinach, broccoli – these all fit into this category and will serve as the best sources of fuel for vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy carbs.
The best source of protein for anyone who doesn’t eat meat. Not only do beans contain a very high amount of protein, but they also contain a good source of fibre and a moderate source of fat. Beans should be a staple in your diet whether or not you eat meat.
Hands down the best source of dietary fat you can consume. Nuts like pistachios and cashews contain a very balanced source of fat, good protein and very low carbohydrates – making them the perfect food for a filling afternoon snack. Nuts also contain a very good source of essential minerals like zinc and magnesium.
The king of the fruit kingdom. Although berries may not have a direct influence on strength, they do have the unique ability to lower oxidative stress. This makes berries one of the best foods to consume with your post-workout formula. Berries will go perfectly with your other foods and can help to relax the body and muscles to allow for faster recovery.
What Not to Eat
This might rustle some feathers in the strength community but there are some foods you should look to avoid altogether or limit to the best fo your ability.
We all love it, but the reality is it’s just not necessary unless you’re a baby. In fact, the high calcium content can actually block other nutrients like zinc, which in turn can limit testosterone production. Yes, dairy products do generally contain a good source of fat and protein, but these are macronutrients which can be found in other sources without a problem.
Although they are very high in protein and have a very good amino acids spectrum this is a food you will definitely want to limit. There are decades of research that shows that foods that contain a high amount of saturated fats are linked to increased cholesterol and heart disease.
Limiting your consumption of red meats means finding alternative protein sources (like beans) but it also means you’ll have a much happier heart – which is best in the long-run.
Eating for Strength
When it comes to eating for strength and bodybuilding there are many important factors to consider, many foods you can consume and many methods for success.
Above everything, the most important aspect to keep in mind is to be completely conscious of the foods you are consuming.
Ask yourself – does this burger help me grow stronger? Is this muffin really going to help me put on muscle?
Taking a more conscious approach to your health and nutrition will do nothing but help you along your path and lead to the best possible success in bodybuilding and weightlifting.
Gabriello is a writer and strength expert best known for his science-based and practical approach to Exercise Physiology, Nutrition and Strength. After serving in a directors position for The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology Gabriello moved towards writing to help more people understand the importance of living a healthy life. Gabriello’s writings have been published in several languages on some of the largest health and fitness websites helping people learn, grow and understand the complex components of optimizing human performance in a simplistic way.
Gabriello also takes on specialized, high-performance athletes who are in need of strength, mobility and conditioning programming to optimize their fitness through his Earned Fitness program.
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