Sleep is not considered a food group so why am I talking about it in my nutritional column you ask? The reason why sleep is going to be discussed here is that it is essential in gaining lean mass. Your body repairs and recovers from your workout as you sleep. During this time, your muscles grow! Remember this, if you aren't sleeping you aren't growing and getting stronger. Think back to a time when you couldn't get optimal sleep either during university exam time, or another time when sleep was of the essence.
Think back how your strength level was, or how you were actually losing size. So how much sleep do you need per day? You should be getting at least 8 full hours of sleep per day. If you can get a 1-2 hour nap per day on top of this it would be even better. Getting proper sleep is a must for muscle growth. Without it, you can kiss gains in strength and size goodbye!
Consume Enough Protein
"I eat enough protein. I probably ate around 50 grams today." Now if this sounds like you, we are in some serious trouble. That is unless you are a 60-pound child whose major energy expenditure for the day is playing with your Tonka Trucks. Ok, down to the serious stuff here. If you don't eat optimal amounts of protein, you will never put on the muscle mass that you so much desire. You are also hindering your strength gains as well. If you are going up a weight class and you aren't eating the proper amount of protein, guess what?
You will put on a nice extra layer of fat around your waist, instead of gaining lean muscle tissue. When trying to put on size, you have to make sure you constantly supply your body with essential amino acids throughout the day. You should consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. I have some of my athletes consume between 1.25-1.5 grams of protein per pound when trying to pack on size. If you just jack up your carbs and fat without supplying your body with the protein that it needs, you will end up looking like "Mr. Marshmallow" instead of a strength athlete.
Amino acids are the building blocks that you will need to gain lean muscle tissue and to ensure that going up a weight class will be muscle, not fat. Protein helps in the recovery of your muscles from the intense training you perform as a powerlifter. As you probably already know, protein is the main nutrient responsible for increasing lean muscle tissue. You can work out all day long but if you don't eat the right amount of protein for your specific needs and activity expenditure, than you will never reach your peak in strength, that's guaranteed!
Maximise Your Carbohydrate Intake
Carbohydrates…you got to love them. Yes we all know that they are definitely the tastiest of all the macronutrients, but how do we incorporate them in putting on size. Make sure that when you are trying to gain solid weight, you consume plenty carbs. Now don't think that there is only one way to do this. I have had great success with my clients using diets that include both carbs on a daily basis, and plan that restrict them for a certain number of days and then are super compensate for a specific number of days. What you need to know is that there is more than one way to get the job done.
Now when trying to put on size with a nutritional plan where carbs are going to be consumed on a daily basis, you should consume 1.5-3 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight per day. You must be thinking, how can I eat all that? This doesn't all have to come from food, as there are many good glucose polymer drinks available that can help you fulfill your daily requirements. One glucose polymer drink can supply 100 grams of carbohydrates in as little as 12-16oz of water. I just made this a lot easier didn't I?
The majority of carbohydrates that you should consume when you are trying to go up a weight class should come from complex carbohydrates. These include oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta, potatoes, yams, brown rice, ancient grains including quinoa, amaranth, millet, and teff. I gave you an in depths look into these ancient grains in the last issue of PL USA. What's nice about these grains is that they provide variety in your diet and are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates.
Let's not forget your fibrous carbs including your salads and vegetables. These are very important and should be consumed with at least 3 of your daily meals. Fiber is very important in the digestion process and eliminating toxins from the body. If you are not getting adequate amounts of fiber in your nutritional plan, it is now time to increase your daily intake. It's hard to pack on size if you have a severe case of constipation. You may laugh, but this is one of the first things that happen to someone trying to gain weight. Many individuals increase their caloric and protein intake yet; they forget to do the same with their fiber and water.