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Should I be consuming protein or carbs after a workout? Or both? Which macro is more important for muscle building or are they equally?

Protein is by far the most important macro for muscle building, which is why people can build muscle on a ketogenic (high fat, low carb) diet.

But while the hype is always around post-workout nutrition (recovery and protein shakes), in my opinion it is your pre-workout nutrition that’s more important. What you consumer before your workout will be in your system and available when it’s needed.

There isn’t a requirement for food directly after training it should be said. When you train, you up-regulate protein synthesis (the building of new protein in the muscle) but this lasts for hours post training so there is no urgent or frantic rush to down a protein shake as soon as you finish.

That said, to optimise results I would have the protein serving before training (30-40g between 60-90 mins pre training) and then have the same again within two hours of finishing training. It makes sense to add some carbohydrate to the post-workout feed to aid muscle repair and restore muscle glycogen but is not essential.

Archie Williams
Bodyscan Consultant
Body Transformation

Here are three ways to kick-start your healthy weight loss plan this summer:

1. Make realistic diet changes

You can say that you’ll cut all sugar and processed food from your diet forever, but is this a realistic goal? Your fat loss plan needs to be sustainable and something you can continue long after summer is over; if your diet plan is too strict, it’s unlikely that you’ll stick to it. Most importantly, if you have an overindulgent day you should want to get back on the diet plan instead of giving up. 

2. Don’t go hungry

Weight loss isn’t about starvation, the focus should be on making healthy food choices that actually keep you feeling full. Short term calorie deficit might give you a lean stomach for a short while, but your weight will pile right back on when you start eating normally. Start with some simple changes, such as whole-wheat pasta instead of white, fruit instead of processed sugar.

3. Focus on measurements at the gym

When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s easy to become fixated by the number on the scales. Muscle weighs more than fat, so you might actually see your weight increase despite the hours you put in at the gym. Get an accurate body fat measurement before starting your fitness regime, and focus on making this number smaller. If you’re looking for the best way to measure body fat, then look no further than a DEXA body composition scan.

A lot of Bodyscan clients looking to build muscle mass say they do their gym workout fasted but this is something I advise against.

Protein is the building block for muscle. Therefore it is an advantage to have it in your system and available during your workout. This will avoid extra protein breakdown and promote recovery straight away.

No one wants to work out on a full stomach, so an easily digestible source, such as 30g of whey protein in a shake would be ideal, consumed about 60-90 minutes before your session. If you train in the morning (which is why most people train fasted) then the window will necessarily be smaller.

Carbs and fats are not essential and down to personal preference. Weight training doesn’t require a huge amount of glycogen like endurance training does, so there isn’t a requirement for carbohydrate intake beforehand. Some people find that eating carbs before training makes them feel less energetic (“carb coma”) whereas others find that pre-training carbs make them feel stronger, so consume as required.

If you’re one of those for whom carbs make you sluggish but you want some more energy, you could look into adding some fats to your pre workout meal. This could be 20 grams of nuts or 90% dark chocolate.

One substance I would definitely recommend before hitting the gym (in the morning, at least) is caffeine. It has been shown to improve strength and concentration,  so it’s no surprise that caffeine is the main ingredient in most pre-workout supplements. A cup of coffee or a caffeine pill is much cheaper (and usually just as effective) than those hugely expensive tubs of flavoured powder.

Somewhere between 100-400mg of caffeine is a good dose depending on your build and tolerance. See what works for you. [As a guide there are 270mg of caffeine in a Costa flat white, 160mg in one at Starbucks, 80mg in a 250ml can of Red Bull and about 60mg in a Nespresso capsule.]

Stimulants in the evening are not a good idea as they can negatively impact sleep. The half-life for caffeine is roughly 6 hours (varies from person to person) so avoid caffeine about 6-8 hours before bed.

Archie Williams
Bodyscan Consultant
Body Transformation

I typically start my Bodyscan consultations with the question “Why do you want to have a scan?”, to which the answer is usually “I want to lose body fat and check my progress until I reach my target.”

When I ask if the client has some sort of plan to achieve the fat-loss, the client invariably says they are going to do one or more (or even all!) of the following:

  • Join or get back to the gym
  • Start running
  • Walk to work
  • Do more exercise
  • Sign up with a personal trainer
  • Follow an exercise programme they found online
  • Increase cardio
  • Do the ‘4-Hour Body’

After which, I usually say the F-word out loud.

FOOD!

​Because in perhaps 95% of cases, the client never mentions food at all.

And that’s not a good start because, whatever anyone tries to tell you, exercise and activity is NOT the best strategy for shedding body fat. It certainly helps and it’s something we should all do more of. Certainly, we were not made to sit at desks or in cars for most of our waking hours, and being sedentary is a huge contributor to the woeful statistics on obesity and its related diseases.

Further, exercise has been shown to improve mood and sleep, reduce anxiety, keep us mobile for longer and enhance overall wellbeing. Plus, of course, by doing exercise, we become fitter, stronger, more flexible and burn more calories, which can contribute to a calorie (energy) deficit over time. A calorie deficit occurs when we consume fewer calories than we expend. A sustained calorie deficit is essential for losing body fat.

But as a PRIMARY strategy for reducing body fat, exercise is not nearly as effective as focusing on nutrition (ie, ‘what’ but more importantly ‘how much’ we eat) because it takes a hell of a lot of exercise to burn even a relatively small number of calories.

Consider this – an hour’s running on a treadmill may burn 400-600 calories. But there are 525 calories in a Pret BLT sandwich and 600 calories in just one small bag (100g) of ‘healthy’ almonds. So an hour of hard slog can be wiped out with a quick snack.

Equality in action

​​When it comes to efficiency, it is far easier and quicker (instant, in fact) to reduce calorie intake via food (by eating less of it) than it is to exert yourself for long periods. Moreover, particularly if you are not used to it, having done the vigorous exercise, you may feel hungrier than if you had not. In that sense, using exercise as your prime weapon against body fat could be self-defeating.

(At this point it may be worth drawing a distinction between cardiovascular and resistance exercise. Bodycan clients’ best fat-loss results come from a combination of calorie-cutting and weights-based training. It is still true that the exercise does not burn many calories (an hour of weights in the gym may burn around only 300 calories) but the muscle-building effect of resistance work improves the ‘quality’ of the weight loss – in other words, most if not all of the weight loss is fat. We recently had a client who lost 21kg of weight and a staggering 20kg of it was pure fat. Achieved through aggressive calorie-cutting and a disciplined resistance programme five to six days every week to preserve muscle.)

While exercise itself may not burn many calories, we are not for a moment suggesting you don’t do it. Far from it! Exercise is good for you. Whether you schedule formal exercise in your day, play team sports or simply walk rather than drive, moving is good for mind, body and soul. But if you are looking to lose body fat, use nutrition as your primary weapon to reduce your energy intake, do some weights to maintain lean mass and use exercise to increase the gap between the number of calories you consume and the number you expend.

When it comes to F-words, focus on food for faster fat-loss!

Philip Chant

It’s obviously good to be enthusiastic, determined and committed to your fat-loss plan. But many people approach the task with an all-or- nothing mentality that is totally at odds with their current lifestyle.

It is not uncommon for a Bodyscan client who barely exercises and makes terrible food choices to commit themselves to a plan which involves exercising for more than an hour every day and a nutrition plan that requires them to spend the same amount of time cooking.

It makes no sense to embark on a plan that doesn’t fit with your lifestyle. If you rarely get up before 8.30am, being in the gym every morning at six is never going to work!

When diets and health-kicks fail, the most popular excuses are that “life got in the way” and “I travel a lot for my job”. Which are other ways of saying you completely ignored your lifestyle and embarked on a programme that was never going to work.

When are you going to prepare a week’s meals and get to the gym for five hours a week?
If you have a busy job and a family, you need a food plan that you can feed to your kids instead of cooking two sets of meals.

If you travel frequently (or never cook) you need to make good food choices from what’s available. You don’t have to have dessert or drink all those fine wines in business class.

A well-designed fat-loss strategy should achieve your goal by becoming part of the way you live your life – avoiding doing things you really don’t enjoy, making it easy to keep below maintenance calories and including exercise that you can commit to easily for the long term.

Your plan should enhance and complement your life, not adversely impact it. Don’t make things hard for yourself. You’re far more likely to succeed if you fit your plan to your lifestyle rather than attempt a handbrake turn.

Archie Williams
Bodyscan Consultant
Body Transformation