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Should I Adjust My Diet When Strength Training?

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Should I Adjust My Diet When Strength Training?

So you’ve decided to embark on some strength training? Congratulations! Strength training, also sometimes called resistance training, is different to aerobic training such as running or cycling. It helps us build muscle strength and endurance and can involve either lifting weights when we exercise or exercising against our own body weight, such as during squats, lunges and press ups. 

Strength training doesn’t just help us to build muscle, it also helps us to burn fat, which in turn will help us change our body composition and become leaner, stronger and fitter. 

However, losing weight (and fat) and building muscle isn’t just a case of exercise. In fact, most of it, around 80% is the widely accepted estimate, is down to what we eat. But if we’re exercising to build muscle, should we think about our diet more than just as a healthy regime? Is there anything we should or shouldn’t be doing in order to support our strength training? 

Let’s find out…

It tuns out, it’s all about protein. Protein, along with fats and carbs, is a macronutrient. This means that it provides us with the calories that we need for energy. (Micronutrients on the other hand, include vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and provide no calories or energy, but are crucial for the biological functions that go on in our bodies all the time.) 

Protein and carbs provide 4 calories per gram, and fats provide 9 calories per gram. So we can see that if we’re considering our calorie intake, then we should focus on protein and carbs over fats. (Although some fat each day from healthy sources such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado and oily fish is essential.) 

Then we need to consider how proteins and carbs are broken down and utilised by the body. Proteins are broken down into amino acids that the body then uses for fuel, to create new proteins and build muscle fibres. Carbohydrates on the other hand, are broken down into sugars. The brain requires these sugars to run and we use them for energy, but any excess sugars cause our blood sugar levels to soar and are stored as fat. 

We absolutely need to eat carbohydrates, but if we’re serious about strength training and fuelling our workouts properly, then it makes sense to get the majority of our energy from proteins rather than carbs (or fats). We should also choose less sugary wholemeal carbs over the processed white versions of bread, pasta and rice. 

If we were to divide the ideal dinner plate for someone performing regular strength training exercise, it would look like this:

  • ½ vegetables
  • ¼ protein
  • ¼ carbs and good fats

Protein is present in good amounts in animal products including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. Just be mindful of the fat content of meat and dairy however, and choose lean white meat and poultry and low fat dairy products over red meat and full fat milk, yoghurt and cheese. 

Plant based foods can be just as rich in protein and include nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa and tofu and are generally low in fat. 

For more protein fuelled advice, head over to our article, How to Set and Hit Your Daily Protein Target

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