Gain Mass

Time Your Meals for Muscle Growth

Consuming food and supplements around your workouts helps you turn the tide in the war for more muscle.


There is a war going on, and it will never end. It’s a battle inside your body that determines how much muscle you build. on one side, you have muscle protein synthesis (MPS)—the process by which the body lays down new proteins to increase muscle mass. On the other side, there’s muscle protein breakdown (MPB), which occurs when the body sheds muscle protein. Both reactions are in conflict regularly, and the difference between the two (subtract muscle protein breakdown from muscle protein synthesis) is the amount of muscle you walk away with after all your hard training and disciplined eating. Maximizing MPS and minimizing MPB requires careful timing with the right foods and supplements. as a trainer and nutritionist to active clients of all kinds, including several IFBB pros and amateur bodybuilders, I’ve discovered that you can win the war for muscle protein synthesis using “periworkout” nutrition—consuming the proper nutrients immediately before, during, and after training.

Periworkout Nutrition At A Glance

40 Grams Protein (chicken, tilapia, whey isolate)

30 Grams Carbs (oats, cream of rice, sweet potato)

10 Grams Fat (butter, nut butter)

10-20 Grams Protein (casein, hydrolysate)

40-70 Grams Carbs (HBCD or Vitargo)

6-8 Oz meat

1-2 cups white or jasmine rice



Before training, you need to prime the body to build muscle (enhance MPS) while also giving it sufficient fuel to promote a workout intense enough to deliver a musclebuilding stimulus. As most performance nutritionists will tell you, a combination of protein and carbs is ideal for this. However, the ratio of each, the type of foods you choose, and the rate at which their nutrients are absorbed are all crucial. The meal should be eaten an hour before to allow you time to digest—any food left churning in your stomach can cause blood to be diverted from the muscles you’re training, harming your workout. (You may need to experiment with the timing—if you still feel like the meal hasn’t settled after an hour, wait longer before training and eat earlier before your next session.)

Allowing time to digest is one thing, but it’s still wise to avoid foods that are high in fat or fiber, or otherwise cause the digestive system to work too hard.

Protein in the form of a whey isolate shake, white fish, or a chicken breast is optimal. For carbs, the goal at this time is to spike energy, not insulin, so carb powders and white rice are not appropriate. Too many carbs of the high-glycemic variety can kill the fat-burning potential of your workout, and even leave you feeling downright sleepy when you get to the gym. Rather, slower-burning foods such as a bowl of oats or cream of rice are better choices. They’ll raise insulin slightly, protecting your muscles from excessive breakdown while preparing your body for an anabolic response post-training. As an extra insurance policy, I like to add a small amount of fat to my pre-workout meals as well.

A tablespoon of almond butter mixed into oatmeal slows down the digestion of the carbs a touch, going a step further in controlling blood-sugar levels. Aim for 40 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbs in your pre-workout meal, with another 10 grams of fat thrown in for good measure.