Strength training is an important part of being active. Far too often, people think that strength training means huge muscles, big weights, and tons and tons of protein powder. They picture steroid-riddled bodybuilders on Venice Beach and don’t understand why they should incorporate strength training into their exercise plan if they’re just looking for basic fitness.
In reality, strength training as a workout can vary from body resistance training, like push-ups and squats, to band-resistance training, to weight training using weights such as dumbbells and bars. No matter how you strength train, there are many benefits to adding it to your routine. These include strengthening your bones and muscle mass to protect against things like arthritis and osteoporosis, maintaining healthy heart tissue and body weight, improved balance and coordination, and even an improvement in your energy levels and sleep.
To maximize and expedite these benefits it is important that you are fueling yourself with the right nutrition. Here are some tips for proper nutrition on days that you strength train:
1. Protein- The first thing is that you do need your protein. Protein is essential for driving muscle growth and protecting your muscles as your muscle fibers need to recover from the work you are making them do. Without recovery, they won’t strengthen and protein aids in that recovery. The muscles must be fed a constant supply of protein in order to rebuild and grow stronger. Whether it is from a powder, an egg or a lean piece of meat, make sure that you have protein after your strength training. You won’t believe the difference it can make.
2. Carbohydrates- Carbohydrates are the main fuel used by the muscles during a weight-training workout. Carbs are stored in your muscles as glycogen, which is one of the primary fuel sources you use when strength training. You’ll need to restore your glycogen or else you’ll run out of energy and you’ll miss out on a great opportunity to increase your muscle growth and enhance muscle recovery and recuperation. Pre-loading with slower absorbing carbs or having faster absorbing carbs within 30 minutes of exercising is a good strategy here.
3. Fat- Fats aid in your recovery after strength training as well. Higher fat intake will aid in higher testosterone levels, allowing your muscles to grow. Fats also actually help you stay lean and help your joints recover. For joint recovery, healthy monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, mixed nuts, avocados, and peanut butter are good options. Don’t be afraid of healthy fats!
5. Calories- Caloric intake is important as calories equal energy. You need ample calories each day to fuel workouts. You need enough calories to make sure you eat more than you burn while working out. If you burn more than you eat, your body will be in starvation mode, which doesn’t allow for adequate muscle regeneration, growth or strength gains.
Kimberly Feeny is the Former Head Women’s Volleyball Coach at Chestnut Hill College