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You will need to eat protein, this type of macronutrient helps repair your muscles after training and is the foundation and building block for developing muscle.
Protein comes in a number of forms, all of which are beneficial to your health. These include chicken, turkey, beef, fish, eggs and dairy. This type of protein also provides your body with a number of nutrients including essential amino acids, which your body cannot produce on its own.
Good Quality Carbohydrates
Although protein is the most important macronutrient to eat when building muscle, carbohydrates come in a close second.
Carbohydrates are stored in your muscles and are used as an energy source for your training. Many people are cautious or intimidated by carbs, however, when eaten from the best source and at the right time they are integral in optimising your training.
Slow digesting carbs such as whole grains, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, beans, fruit and vegetables are ideal for a slow release of energy and make you feel fuller for longer.
Ideally you should be consuming 1.5g of protein and 2-3g of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight. But, you need to find the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat to suit your body and training.
Monosaturated and Saturated Fat
There are a lot of mixed messages about fat, the research into its positive and negative impacts on the body has been extensive and there have been a number of varied and contradicting conclusions.
However, we now all know that fat is actually a vital part of a healthy diet, and this includes saturated fat, especially when it comes to training.
Saturated fat helps maintain testosterone levels, a hormone integral in building muscle. Testosterone also directly inhibits the creation of fat cells, therefore sustaining a healthy testosterone level will help aid and maintain fat loss.
You can get your saturated fats from red meats such as minced beef and steak. Monounsaturated (good fats) can be found in peanut butter, avocados and olive oil and should make up 20 – 30% of your total daily calorie intake.
Eat frequently and don't under eat. You will only be able to optimise your training to help you build muscle if you fuel your body with the right foods, think of it like this...If you filled your petrol car with diesel, it will damage the engine and be unable to run. It's the same with your body, fuel it with the right foods and this will not only be used for energy it will be the platform for which you can develop and build fitness and muscle. Fill it with the wrong fuel, it will have an adverse effect on your energy levels, muscle repair and development.
Missing meals forces your body into survival mode, it holds onto fat as your source of energy. Therefore, you will actually retain fat and put on weight faster.
Make sure you eat the right things and regularly as this will speed up your metabolism, helping you to burn fat, quicker. If you have little time to prepare your meals or are out and about during the day, unable to grab a quick bite then protein shakes are always a good option as they will fill you up until your next meal. The best time to have your shake is just before or after your workout as this either prepares your muscles for your training session, or repairs muscles and gives your body a head start on recovery.
Last but by all means not least, make sure you eat before you go to bed. When you are sleeping, you are technically fasting. To ensure that muscle recovery and development is retained whilst sleeping, the best thing to consume before hitting the hay, are slow digesting proteins and fats as these help slow digestion and supply your body with those vital amino acids. Casein or whey protein powder mixed with Greek yoghurt are both great options if you are looking for a quick and easy way to get your final meal in.
Building muscles isn’t that easy for women, so if you are wanting to tone your body and add definition, be sure to follow these simple guidelines alongside your training!
Hannah is currently the Female Ambassador for the rapidly growing nutrition company Cardiff Sports Nutrition. As a Masters in Journalism graduate from Cardiff University, Hannah has been able to combine two major passions in life, writing and fitness. During her year in university she founded and edited the magazine Barbelles, a women's weightlifting magazine for women, which has recently been short listed for the BBC Worldwide 2015 Magazine Awards. In Hannahs spare time, she is a CrossFitter. After competing in the 2014 CrossFit Regionals as a member of the RCFC team, she has had a taste of competition and is striving to compete at this level again in the future.