Working out seems like it's the only thing to do if you want to build muscle and get a ripped physique, but what a lot of people don't realise is that exercise is just a small part of the process, and that the bulk of the work comes down to your nutrition!
Here are top four tips for diet modifications that you can do to recover faster and create those dream abs:
1. Up your Omega 3 Fat Intake
Omega 3 is an essential fat that we need to get from the diet, and it comes in three forms: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaeoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA are found in oily fish and marine algae, and ALA is found in nuts and seeds like flax, walnuts and chia.
The reason that this is so important for those muscles, is that omega 3 has been shown to help reduce inflammation, improve delayed onset muscle soreness and enhance reaction time due to the improvement of cognitive function, thereby making sure you get the most from your workouts. Studies have even found that omega 3 intake increased muscle - building from exercise, and that it helped to burn fat faster.
It's important to note that our body readily uses EPA and DHA forms of omega 3 fats; however, ALA doesn't always get absorbed in the body as efficiently. If vegans or those adverse to oily fish want to get the benefits of omega 3s, they really need to be supplementing with a marine derived DHA supplement.
On another note, fried and hydrogenated fats like vegetable oils need to be totally avoided in a muscle- building plan, as they are inflammatory and can reduce this muscle recovery, competing with the omega 3 pathways.
2. Consume Healthy Carbs and Fibre
Sugar and refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, and wheat products increase your blood sugar, resulting in an enhanced insulin release, which subsequently leads to abdominal fat. One study has found that men who eat refined grains have greater visceral abdominal tissue. Additionally, including carbohydrates in a fibrous form, such as vegetables or whole grains like oats, have been shown to reduce abdominal fat and therefore encourage those muscles to be seen in all their glory!
3. Get Adequate Protein
Protein is absolutely essential for muscle growth, repair, and to build enzymes that enable your body to adapt to physical training. Every time you undertake some sort of resistance exercise, you partially tear and break down your muscles, and amino acids from protein are vital for them to rebuild. The amount of protein you'll need varies according to the type and frequency of exercise, yet 20 grams of protein has been found to be the recommended amount post-workout in order to build muscles. What's interesting to note though is that your body can only absorb a limited amount of protein at any one time, and 90 grams at one meal will provide the same benefit as if you were to consume just 30 grams.
4. Pack in your Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are needed for exercise recovery and muscle building. When you exercise, your body actually produces free radicals, so it's vital that you eat foods antioxidant rich foods to neutralise the potentially damaging effects. Studies have even shown that overweight and obese people have lower levels of antioxidants in their body, suggesting a link between weight and nutrient depletion. We all know that green tea is another great antioxidant, and research has recently shown that the polyphenols in the drink can effectively reduce abdominal fat (10). Smaller waistlines are also linked with an intake of vitamin C rich foods like leafy green veg, citrus fruits and camu camu. Additionally, in order for fat to be broken down, the body needs an amino acid- like compound called carnitine, which is formulated using stores of vitamin C.
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