When you’re working hard to lose fat and build muscle, you know that it’s essential to get the right balance of a healthy diet and regular exercise. It isn’t always easy to know what types of foods will boost your muscle building efforts, whether you should eat before or after you exercise, or whether the timing matters at all. Find out why timing your meals is so important for muscle building and learn how to plan the optimal diet and exercise plan for you.

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Which Nutrients Can Help Build Muscle

You’ve probably heard that increasing your protein is essential for building muscle. But you might be wondering how much protein you actually need and whether you really need to eliminate carbohydrates and fats.

For women, determining daily protein needs is relatively easy. As a rule of thumb, aim to consume 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight each day if you’re working out regularly and striving to build muscle. That means if you weigh 150 pounds, you’ll want to consume 150 to 225 grams of protein every day you hit the gym. While some men might consume protein at higher rates, especially if they’re trying to bulk up, adding more protein than necessary to your diet won’t result in overnight muscles. Your body simply stores excess protein as fat.

Though working extra protein into your diet can help you build muscles, you need a mix of carbs and fats in your daily diet, too. Plan to get no more than 20 percent of your calories from fats and about 45 percent of your daily calories from carbs. Always strive for healthy sources of every type of nutrients, including whole grains, lean meats, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Why Timing Muscle Building Foods Around Exercise Is Essential

It’s essential to plan your calorie intake carefully no matter what your weight-related goals may be, but it’s especially important to do so when you want to build muscle. After all, you need healthy foods to fuel your workouts, and you need to replenish nutrients after you’ve exercised and burned off energy.

Most nutrition experts recommend consuming a small meal or snack before your workout, typically one to three hours before you hit the gym. Eating right before a workout could result in poor performance and a stomachache, while eating several hours before working out could mean that you’ve already burned off the energy by the time you hit your stride. Experiment with pre-workout snacking to find out what’s best for you.

Remember that your pre-workout snack should factor into your daily calorie count, and you should aim for something that has a balance of protein and carbs. Try a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a bowl of whole-grain oatmeal with fresh fruit.

After your workout, it’s even more important to refuel your body, as consuming the right mix of nutrients will help you build muscle more quickly. Naturally, this is when your muscles need help rebuilding and replenishing the glycogen they’ve just burned. Go for a small meal with a mix of protein and carbs, such as yogurt with fruit or a turkey and vegetable wrap. Again, make sure this snack is part of your daily meal plan and not extra calorie consumption that you haven’t accounted for.

Why the Anabolic Window Is Much Wider Than You Might Think

Over a decade ago, nutritionists and exercise enthusiasts alike promoted what’s known as the anabolic window. Essentially, they believed that after a strenuous workout, everyone has a narrow window of time during which they should consume protein and carbs. Consuming a predetermined amount of nutrients within 15 to 30 minutes after a workout, they believed, was key for building muscle.

While it’s true that your body needs nutrients to replenish tired muscles after a workout, more recent studies have shown that the anabolic window isn’t nearly as small as researchers once believed. If your ultimate goal is long-term results instead of immediate positive effects, then there’s no need to worry about a narrow anabolic window.

In many ways, these newer findings represent good news. Rather than rushing to down a protein supplement shake, a quick glass of milk, or an energy bar immediately after a workout, you have much more time to give your body the nutrients it needs. In fact, you might be able to skip the shakes and supplements altogether. If you’ve already done weekly meal prep, you’ll have plenty of time to go home and make a healthy, balanced meal after your workout while still seeing the gains you want.

How the Right App Can Help Maximize Muscle Building

As you build muscle mass and start to make the gains you want to see, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the right nutrients. A healthy diet plan will make sure you’re sustaining your body and getting the right mix of proteins, carbs, and fats. Tracking your macronutrients and monitoring your calories isn’t always easy, especially if you lead a busy life or if you need to make weekly or monthly adjustments to your nutritional needs.

Rather than doing the math in your head or carrying around a notebook, use an app to make sure your macro breakdowns are right for you. With this app, you can choose your preferred muscle building diet plan and start tracking your daily food consumption and exercise habits. Every time you use the app to update your day, you’ll immediately see how many more calories and nutrients you need to meet your goals. The app will even let you know if you need to up your protein intake so you can build the muscle you want.

Building muscle is a goal that’s completely within your reach, as long as you strive for a healthy balance between working out and eating right. With the right app and a solid diet and exercise plan, you can easily monitor your energy expenditure, macro breakdown, and gains to ensure you’re on track toward meeting your goals.

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