Strength Training Diet 101

woman working out

( If you are an athlete who strength trains as part of your training program, you require the right fuel and fluids to make the most of your muscle and power building sessions. Knowing what to eat and how to stay properly hydrated are essential to creating a strength training diet that can help you reach your fitness goals. Follow these nutrition guidelines to make the most of your workouts.

Fueling up is key to any Strength Training Diet

Aim to go into your workout well nourished and well hydrated so that there is enough energy available in the bloodstream and muscles for an effective workout. Plan a pre-workout snack or meal. Fuel your body with foods that are high in carbohydrates and contain a lean source of protein for sustained energy. Some tried and trued protein and carbohydrate combinations include:

  • homemade smoothies made with milk, soy milk or yogurt and fruit or fruit juice
  • low fat cheese and crackers
  • carbohydrate based energy bars and granola bars
  • yogurt and fruit½ whole grain bagel or bread with nut butter

Make fluids a priority throughout the day by drinking a cup of water with each meal and snack. To ensure your body is hydrated two to three hours before training, drink two to three cups of water at this time. Follow that by drinking an additional cup of water 10 to 20 minutes prior to your workout.

Give your muscles solid recovery fuel

Post-workout nutrition is an equally important part of any successful strength training diet. As with pre-workout nutrition, timing is just as important after a workout when it comes to recovering your muscle energy. Studies show that eating carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes of completing a strength training workout is an effective way to restore amino acids and carbohydrate in the muscles. Get energy back to the muscles within 30 minutes and again within two hours to help rebuild muscle energy. Remember your fluids for recovery. Drink at least two cups of water after your workout to help replace the water you have lost in sweat. 

Building Muscle: Protein vs. Carbohydrates

In keeping with conventional wisdom regarding nutrition, athletes traditionally devour plates of protein-rich foods. The theory was that if athletes ate a lot of protein, they would build a lot of muscle. There is a problem with this tradition, however. Extra protein does not build muscle bulk. On the other hand, a challenging strength training program, coupled with an increase in total daily caloric intake, will build muscle.

Carbohydrates are fundamental for strength training because unlike protein, carbohydrates are readily stored in your muscles for fuel during exercise. Adequate protein is important for building and protecting your muscles, but excessive amounts do not enhance gains in muscle or muscle strength. If you strength train on a regular basis, you should digest 0.5 to 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day (1.2 to 1.7 g/kg). You can do this by simply eating balanced meals and snacks that contain a source of protein such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy products and fortified soy products, eggs, nuts, tofu and dried beans.

Bottom Line: Remember to feed and water your body regularly to get the results you want. A solid strength training diet is just as important as a training plan when it comes to building strength to power up!

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HealthCastle, founded in 1997, is the largest online nutrition community run by Registered Dietitians. Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or dietitian. Information and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.