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Curtis Harwell & Richard Neal Discuss How Protein & Carbs Build Muscle

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Workout Fuel

Insulin also helps muscles rebuild, but without adequate carbohydrate consumption, muscle cells can become insulin resistant. And protein consumed without carbohydrates is less efficient. That's why you should consume carbohydrates and protein during a workout.

By consuming carbohydrates during exercise, you can increase insulin production and reduce cortisol's response. With less cortisol produced, you'll have less muscle breakdown. Protein allows for sustained energy and helps the body recover faster. Liquid meals, such as a protein smoothie with fruit, are beneficial during this important rebuilding stage because they are easily digested.

Between workouts, carbohydrates and protein work together to fully replenish muscle energy stores and build new muscle. To reap the most benefit, consume carbs and protein at each meal and snack.

The protein recommendation for a strength athlete is 0.9 to 1.2 grams per pound of bodyweight. Different types of protein—whey and casein—help build muscle. Whey is fast acting and best consumed during and immediately following a workout. Casein is more slowly digested. It's great to take before bed to help minimize muscle loss during the overnight fast. (Learn more about the differences between whey and casein protein.)

Here are daily recommendations for all food groups, listed as a percentage of total daily calories:

  • Protein — 21-24 percent
  • Carbohydrates — 43-46 percent
  • Fat — 33 percent

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