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Countless supplement sellers want you to buy their muscle-building supplements, and not a few sports nutrition experts have detailed advice about what to eat to get maximum benefits from minimum workout time.
Muscles bulk up with glycogen they make from glucose and water. They rebuild muscle fibers, the part of the muscle that actually does the work, with amino acids from proteins.

Amino acids are especially well absorbed for about two hours after you exercise. That is because muscle cells are temporarily about 50 times more responsive to insulin, which is involved in transporting not just sugars but also amino acids. Consuming some carbohydrate (if you are not a type 1 diabetic) stimulates your pancreas to release insulin, and the insulin helps muscles receive both the glucose they need to build bulk and the protein they need to build strength. If they don't get these nutrients during the two hours after you exercise, they recover much more slowly later because the sensitivity to insulin wears off.

man_eats_junk_food.jpgThe faster the protein is digested, the more readily the amino acids travel through your bloodstream to your muscles. Generally, serious athletes consume whey protein (isolated from milk) or pea protein (isolated from various peas and lentils). These powders, mixed with some sugar and water to make a recovery shake, provide the nutrients muscles need to benefit from exercise. You don't absolutely have to have them to build muscle after exercise, but you run the risk of tearing down muscle if you work out before your muscles have a chance to recover. Recovery drinks you make by mixing whey or pea protein with glucose and flavorings into water after a workout help you workout more often with better results.

But there is no food or combination of foods that is even 5% as effective as getting a good night's sleep and at least 12 hours without meals or snacks for stimulating growth hormone. Eating the "right" workout foods is essential to muscle growth. They help stimulate growth hormone a little. Getting good sleep and avoiding constant eating stimulate growth hormone a lot.

So what are the best foods for a workout?

•    Before and during your workout, stay hydrated. A no-calorie drink with electrolytes would be best (and that could be as simple as water with a pinch of salt).

•    During your workout, if feel nervous, dizzy, or shaky, stop and eat a small amount of a high-carb food. Weight lifting burns enormous amounts of carbohydrate very fast and may make some people hypoglycemic.

•    After your workout, replenish sugars and protein with a modest amount of a whey or pea protein energy drink. A good rule of thumb is to consume no more than 3 calories per pound (or 6 calories per kilo) during the six hours after you workout. Don't wolf down raw eggs, hamburgers, steaks, or whole apple pies after you go to the gym. Hydrolysated proteins are absorbed faster than "regular food" proteins, but only about 10% faster. If you are not on a professional sports team, you probably don't need the small amount of faster absorption.

•    Give your body a chance to rest and recover. Get good sleep every night. Pulses of growth hormone up to 2000% higher than your daytime levels repair muscles and keep the rest of your body humming.

•    Take a break from eating at least every day or two for at least 12 hours. If you don't eat constantly, your body gets the message that it needs to preserve muscle mass with growth hormone. But don't do a heavy workout during your fasting period.

The people who sell energy bars, protein bars, and sports drinks would like you to use more, more, more. It's best to use just enough for rebuild your muscles after workouts and then to eat sparingly the rest of the time. Always give your body a chance to recover—up to 48 hours for each muscle group—when you work muscles hard.