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Monday, April 3, 2017

Muscle Building Meals and Snacks for Athletes

Your ability to build muscle depends on a number of factors (some beyond our control) including genetics and age. As we age, it can be more difficult to gain and maintain muscle mass due to lower testosterone levels in males and lower estrogen levels in females. Engaging in physical activity, particularly strength training, and proper nutrition can help prevent loses and help you build muscle as well.  As an athlete, you may be looking to build muscle for performance benefits.

A strength training routine must be in place to provide the stimulus to promote muscle growth. Also important is providing your body with the proper nutrients to repair and rebuild muscle as well as provide fuel for workouts. Building muscle requires extra calories to support this muscle growth. See below for tips on how and when to get the nutrients you need.

Pre-workout Nutrition – Carbohydrates with a moderate amount of protein before a workout will provide the fuel you need. The types of carbohydrates to have before exercise will depend how close to training you are eating. Avoid anything too high in sugar, fibre or fat close to a workout as this can lead to indigestion. Some good examples of pre-workout meals or snacks include: Fruit and oatmeal, rice or quinoa and some chicken, toast with peanut butter and a banana.

Recovery Nutrition – Don’t be fooled and think that protein alone is enough to recover from your workouts. I often see clients mixing just whey protein with water. However, you need some carbohydrates in your post workout nutrition to repair muscle. After a strength workout, a ratio of 3:1 or 2:1 grams of carbohydrates to protein is recommended. Whey protein is a good choice and is a convenient option, such as Infinit Raw. Whey protein is rapidly digested and absorbed by muscles, and is high in the branch chained amino acid leucine. 2-3 g of leucine post workout has been shown in research to stimulate protein synthesis and promote muscle growth. This amount of leucine is found in a serving of whey protein, chicken or Greek yogurt that provides 20-25g of protein (to name a few). If your go-to is whey protein and water post workout, use milk in place of water and add fruit and raw oatmeal as well.  

Balanced Meals - Aim to consume three balanced meals daily. Avoid skipping meals or backloading all of your calories at the end of the day. Spacing out your meals allows your body to use the fuel more efficiently. Include fruits/vegetables, whole grain or starchy vegetables as well as a serving of protein. An amount of protein to aim for per meal is ~0.25-0.3g/kg body weight.

Energy Dense Snacks - You likely will need some high calorie, nutrient dense snacks to help you feed your energy needs. These should contain protein, carbohydrates and fat. Fat is more energy dense and provides 9 calories per gram, whereas carbohydrates and protein provide 4 calories. Some snack ideas:
  • ½ cup trail mix. It is best to make your own using a variety of raw nuts and seeds and some dried fruit such as raisins and dates. A few examples of good choices are: walnuts as they are high in omega 3, an anti-inflammatory fat that will aid in managing inflammation, pumpkin seeds as they are a source of zinc and iron, and almonds because they are a good source of fibre.
  • Smoothies. Smoothies are a great option for those who have trouble meeting their calorie needs since they are less filling than solid meals. Add frozen fruit like bananas and mangos, healthy fats like nut butter, avocado or whole nuts and carbs like raw oats, cooked beets or sweet potatoes to help bulk up the smoothie. Use milk in place of water for more calories and protein.
  • Peanut butter banana roll up with hemp seeds. Spread natural nut butter on a large whole grain wrap, sprinkle on 1-2 tbsp of hemp seeds for protein and healthy fats, top with a banana and roll it up for an easy on the go snack.
  • Parfait made Greek yogurt (contains more protein than regular), mango chunks, sliced almonds, chia seeds and granola

By searching for the #30daysofwhey series on the Infinit Nutrition blog you will find many smoothie, bar and energy bite recipes.

Pre-bed high protein snack - Whey protein is recommended post workout because it is quickly absorbed. Casein is another type of protein that is found in milk and is slow digesting making it better to eat before bed. A night time snack with casein and some carbs (cottage cheese is a good source of casein) can help reduce muscle breakdown that happens overnight. Other high protein foods before bed are still good options, such as leftover chicken from dinner with crackers or sweet potato, greek yogurt and fruit, or crackers and cheese.

As you can see from these tips there are a lot of opportunities and times you should be eating. Your body can only use so much protein and nutrition at one time so you must be eating throughout the day regularly. This often takes extra planning and preparation ahead of time. Check out these meal planning tips from another article I wrote. Try some of them out so you aren’t left skipping a meal or choosing something to eat that is suboptimal and unsupportive of your goals.

Andrea Docherty is a Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist and Owner of Andrea Docherty Nutrition in Windsor, ON.  To learn more about her and her practice, visit www.andreadochertyrd.com



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