If hungry muscles aren’t fed, the body will burn them for fuel. So it’s imperative you get something in your system sharpish.
However, a cheeseburger won’t cut the mustard (or the ketchup, or anything else on it). To hit your training goals harder and faster, follow this breakdown of the best snacks to eat at every time of the day.
To Sate Hunger
Absent-minded eating is the enemy of any diet. US research shows we consume as much as 40 per cent of our daily calorie intake from snacks. Since we don’t think about the odd biscuit, we don’t log its 200kcals in our mental food diary.
To stave off eating on autopilot, keep almonds on your desk and eat 10 at mid-morning and 10 more in the afternoon. They’re high in protein and healthy fats, both of which curb appetite. So you can forgo when the birthday cake comes out.
To Burn Fat
As Morrissey’s personal trainer brother might put it, heat is murder on fat stores. A substance in chilli peppers called capsaicin, which creates fire in your mouth, does the same for your love handles. Spiciness boosts the body’s metabolism, according to research in a journal published by the Public Library of Science, increasing fat oxidation.
A study in the journal Appetite by the Department of Food and Tourism Management also found that adding chilli to a meal reduces calorie intake. It’s time to put down the garlic and herb.
To Build Muscle
If the aim is to bulk up, you need to eat like a bear preparing for winter. Gainers should be on up to 3,500kcals a day, with at least 150g of protein. The body can only process around 30g per serving, according to research at the University of Texas, so as well as chicken breast three times a day, pack in high-protein snacks to keep muscles fed.
Beef jerky offers protein and not much else, which you’ll appreciate when you get sick of chugging half a dozen raw eggs every day.
For Pre-Workout Energy
Forget what the #eatclean brigade says – carbs are not the enemy. In fact, they’re energy. Without some in its system, the body won’t put in a PB performance in the squat rack. Normally, simple carbs like white bread are a no-no – the body burns through them so fast you get an energy lull that drives you to the biscuit tin.
However, that quick release is precisely what you’re after on leg day. Scoff a peanut butter sandwich 30 minutes before and stay fuelled until that last superset.
For Post-Workout Muscle
In order to get the best results and keep the body from lagging, it’s important to refuel with the right food immediately after training. Protein shakes are the most efficient choice – whey-based drinks like PhD’s Recovery 2:1 are absorbed quickly, getting nutrients straight to muscles.
Again, carbs are a friend here – sugar spikes insulin, which accelerates how quickly fuel gets where it needs to go. If drinking a meal feels too bro-science, try natural yoghurt with whole fruit.
For Before Bed
The body rebuilds itself at night, so the sooner you can get to sleep the more chance it has to heal the muscles torn in the day. If you struggle to either drop or stay in the land of nod, try two kiwis before bed (the fruit, not the bird. There’s a limit to the protein thing).
Research from the University of Taipei found that their high serotonin content can help you fall asleep 35 per cent quicker and then keep sleep cycles regular, so you don’t sleep like a baby – waking up every hour crying.