There is a lot of information out there about nutrition and supplements, and as a beginner it can be hard to master it all. Here is a guide for beginners about the basics of what to eat and what to supplement.
What Should I Eat?
High protein levels will be necessary when using muscles. Generally protein should range from making up 10 to 20% of a person's daily food intake, when you are lifting weights this can go up to 35%. Protein provides the building blocks for your muscles, and is necessary for recovery and to keep improving your training.
When you beginning weight training, you will be using a higher number of calories than normal, both due to the exercise itself as well as the higher amount of muscle tissue you'll gain. Depending on your body size, you may need to adjust the amount of energy you're eating. Carbohydrates are necessary to provide the body with energy and to replenish stores after exercise, and should make up 45 to 65% of your daily intake. The advent of low or no carb diets means many people have a phobia of eating them, but they are equally necessary as any other component of your diet.
Fats are also needed by the body, and should total about 20 to 30% of your daily energy needs. By volume though this will be a lot lower, since fats are very energy dense. Try to make sure these are healthy fats, rather than the saturated ones found in processed and take away food.
Fruit and vegetables should make up the same amount of percentage in your diet as carbohydrates, but very few people actually get this amount. It is equivalent to approximately 7 servings, 5 of these should be vegetables and 2 fruit. The vitamins and minerals are needed by your body to keep you feeling energetic and healthy.
There is no set diet plan that will work for every person. You have to listen to your body, and judge your healthy weight by how you look and not by the scales. Remember, muscles weigh more than fat, and so you can put on weight and yet appear leaner. If you are under or over weight simply eat more or less calories in the same ratio as above.
Should I Use Supplements?
Supplements can be a useful tool in helping your body build muscle, burn fat, recovery and stay healthy. Particularly when weight training it can be difficult to meet your daily nutrient requirements. Here is a brief overview of the supplement world; for more information and available types of each supplement click on the headings.
Protein is an essential part of the diet, but it can be difficult to meet the daily requirements when you are participating in resistance exercise. Without adequate protein intake your ability to repair and strengthen your muscles is severely hindered. It can also have benefits for fat loss, since it can make your feel fuller and won't create fluctuations in blood glucose.
There are a wide range of protein supplements available, and it is one of the most commonly used supplements, as well. They are split into categories based on how long it takes to absorb them – faster absorbed proteins are more useful for immediate benefit after a workout, whereas slower absorbed proteins can be used on non-training days or before bed for long term growth and repair. For a more technical article than the one above, try 'choosing the best protein supplement'.
Creatine is another very commonly used supplement in the weight lifting world. It is used in the muscles as a form of energy, and supplementation can allow increased muscle growth and strength, since you will perform better during your workouts. It requires taking every day in order to build up a store in the body, to gain the full benefits.
Amino acids are supplemented in order to make sure your body has the necessary levels needed to grow and repair muscle, since they are the original building blocks that your muscles are made of. There are different types of amino acids that will provide slightly different benefits; overall they support lean muscle growth and hasten recovery post workout.
There has been an explosion of new fat burning ingredients in recent years, and there are many options to choose from here. Using a general fat loss supplement can assist your body in shifting unwanted fat, through speeding up your metabolism, enhancing ketogenesis or fat burning, increasing your body temperature, or preventing uptake of fat or carbs in the intestines.
Pre-Workouts are designed to be taken before you hit the gym; they generally contain a fast hit of energy, caffeine or other stimulants to keep you motivated, as well as nitric oxide boosters. Nitric oxide is what provides your muscles with a 'pump', where they feel swollen and you can work out for longer. They will also generally contain amino acids and creatine for muscle growth, and some fat burning ingredients.
There are now several products that can assist with the balance of hormones in your body, promoting an anabolic or muscle building environment. These can work by inhibiting estrogen, increasing testosterone, or increasing human growth hormone. These products will only work within the natural parameters of your body and cannot artificially increase levels in the way that steroids do, so there's no need to worry about becoming ridiculously muscular or gaining masculine features.
There are also a range of general health supplements such as multivitamins and vegetables extracts that are good for maintaining your health and vitality. These are often used by the general population, and with training your need for the nutrients is higher than most.