"There's no such thing as a dumb question," said your cheerful kindergarten teacher. But she was deeply mistaken; ask a dumb question at the gym or, God forbid, on an Internet message board and you could be in for a world of hurt. So if you want to know more about how to eat right build muscle and lose fat, keep your mouth shut and read up. We've got your essential nutrition queries covered with our answers to your top 10 questions.
1) How many meals a day should I eat?
Eating six smaller, bodybuilder-friendly meals a day rather than 3-4 larger meals is an absolute must for those who are serious about adding muscle. Frequent eating spread throughout your waking hours encourages the body to store greater amounts of carbohydrates within muscles. This fuel reserve, called muscle glycogen, promotes mass gain by energizing muscles, giving them the fuel they need to recover. By topping off six or so times daily, you provide your muscles with a constant supply of glycogen; eating only 3-4 meals a day deprives you of this fuel source. In addition, greater glycogen stores increase water retention inside muscles, encouraging growth and tissue repair.
Eating more often also provides a nearly nonstop influx of nutrients and protein. Muscles use amino acids -- the building blocks of protein -- to repair damage caused by hard training. The result: Muscles grow larger. Amino acids also help manufacture important hormones that regulate growth and support the immune system. A strong immune system plays a vital role in recovery from a hard workout.
2) What does "eating clean" mean?
Eating clean means avoiding foods that are not conducive to adding muscle mass, such as fried foods, butter and refined foods, including snack foods and fast foods. By "clean," bodybuilders often mean "natural" and "low-fat." Clean foods include fish, fowl, lean red meat, eggs, low-fat dairy products, potatoes, yams, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, oatmeal and fruit. Clean foods are generally more nutrient -- dense -- they have lots of vitamins, minerals and/or fiber --and they're prepared with little or no added fat.