By Jess Hillard
There is nothing more disheartening than putting copious amounts of effort in the gym and not seeing results.
There could be myriad reasons, from the time you’re spending in the gym, progressive overload, to your type of training, but the most likely culprit is how you’re fueling your body. Paying close attention to what you are putting into your body can have a huge impact on the results you yield from your gym sessions. To help identify where you could be making mistakes, Muscle and Health caught up with Jess Hillard, nutritionist from sports nutrition brand Warrior who reveals the hidden reasons that could be tarnishing your results.
1- Cutting Out Carbs
Carbohydrates are often feared, but they are the key to a good workout. Our body relies on carbs as a vital energy source, filling muscles with the glycogen they need to move. Carbohydrates are the only macronutrient that can be broken down fast enough to provide energy during high-intensity workouts, whether that be lifting weights in the gym, or a HIIT class. Research has also found that ingestion of carbohydrates increases recovery between sets, which can be beneficial if you are doing a longer cardio session such as spinning or a bout on the treadmill.
2- Not Eating Enough
Creating a calorie deficit is beneficial if your goal is to lose weight, however, without enough fuel, the body can’t grow new muscle. In fact, without enough energy, you will be dipping into your protein stores just to fuel exercise, leaving the body with nothing left to build or repair muscle. It’s important to ensure you are having enough calories to complete your workout to a high standard.
On the other end of the scale, eating too much can similarly contribute to the reason you aren’t seeing results. An easy trap to fall into, when energy consumed is larger than your total energy output, the body stores these extra calories as fat, meaning your hard-earned muscle is hidden under a layer of fluff. It’s easy to fall into the mindset of ‘I’m training, so I need to eat more’, which is correct, however finding the balance between eating enough to fuel your workouts, without overindulging on too much of the wrong foods because you ‘worked out today’ is key. Translation: sidestep the packet of biscuits.
Protein is essential for muscle growth and recovery. Without it, the body can’t recover sufficiently, and you will notice a plateau in progress. There’s ample speculation that you must consume protein immediately after your workout, which for the most part, is now considered inaccurate. It is, however, beneficial to incorporate well-spread protein distribution throughout the day to encourage optimal muscle protein synthesis (rebuilding of muscle fibers).
Protein has a cap for muscle protein synthesis (MPS), meaning if we have a low protein consumption at the beginning of the day, we can’t ‘make up for it’, later by overly consuming protein, because the body can’t utilize all of it to build and repair muscles. Leucine is the main amino acid (building blocks for protein), needed for MPS, however, the capacity for amino acids to initiate MPS is capped at 0.25-0.4 per kg of body weight, per sitting. Therefore, if we want to see the best results in the gym in terms of muscular growth and repair, we need an evenly distributed protein intake throughout the day. Quantities per sitting vary for everyone, but should contain between 15-40g of protein, spread throughout meals and snacks.
If you’re struggling to get enough protein, protein bars are a tasty and convenient option. Warrior CRUNCH bars or Warrior RAW flapjacks, contain up to 20g of high-quality milk protein, less than 3g of sugar per bar, and come in a variety of delicious flavors, available from www.teamwarrior.com.
5- Timing of Food Consumption
Ensuring you’re eating the correct foods before and after your workout, will not only enable you to be sufficiently fueled for the duration of your session, but with the correct planning, will optimize muscle growth and recovery. Think: ‘what exercise am I doing today?’ For HIIT or a weightlifting session, consuming quick-release carbs like dried fruit or Soreen bread before your workout, helps get energy in fast for a spike in sugar levels. If you plan a longer, cardio-based session, a carbohydrate-based meal an hour or two before you train, such as a bowl of porridge with fruit and nut butter will ensure you are getting enough energy to reach your full potential.