Cycling Nutrition with Monique Ryan: Eating for Resistance Training

Depending on your current training cycle, resistance training or weighttraining is often part of the program, while the goals and emphasis ofthe resistance session may progress from an endurance to a power emphasisduring your season. Following specific nutrition guidelines for weighttraining can make the most of these muscle and power building sessions.Hormones in your body, specifically growth hormone, testosterone, insulin,and insulin like growth factor, largely control muscle growth. Nutritioncan very effectively support your efforts to increase lean body mass byaffecting these hormone

Depending on your current training cycle, resistance training or weight training is often part of the program, while the goals and emphasis of the resistance session may progress from an endurance to a power emphasis during your season. Following specific nutrition guidelines for weight training can make the most of these muscle and power building sessions. Hormones in your body, specifically growth hormone, testosterone, insulin, and insulin like growth factor, largely control muscle growth. Nutrition can very effectively support your efforts to increase lean body mass by affecting these hormone levels and providing your body with the nutritional tools that is required for optimal muscle building. Much of the nutritional strategies for muscle building center not only on your daily training diet but also on the intake of certain nutrients timed specifically around your weight training sessions. Some of the keys to optimizing muscle building efforts include:

Consuming enough calories so that your body has the energy required to build muscle tissue. This includes your basic daily calorie needs, caloric intake to replace fuel during regular training sessions, and adequate fuel to support the resistance-training session.

Consuming enough carbohydrates so that you meet the fuel demand for both resistance-training and carbohydrate needs for your regular training.

Consuming enough total protein in your daily diet. Timing your nutrient intake before and after resistance training, particularly for protein.

Consuming fluids and carbohydrate during your workout.

Calories and carbohydrates
During weight training sessions, the stored fuels of creatine phosphate and muscle glycogen serve as important energy sources. When combined with other components of your training program, resistance training can provide a further drain on your body carbohydrate fuel stores. While you may typically think of increased protein intake in relation to strength training, you should also focus on consuming adequate energy to build muscle tissue. Because of the increased energy it takes to build body tissue, falling short on your calorie requirements will impair your rate of muscle building. An additional 350 to 500 calories daily are needed to gain one pound of muscle mass per week.

Further increases in muscle building require additional calories. Once you gain the muscle and strength that you desire for your body composition goals and performance, it also takes an adequate amount of energy to maintain this increased weight. Keep in mind that these additional calories are the calories required above your energy needs for regular training and recovery. Muscle glycogen is an important fuel source during weight training, and an intense session may deplete 30-percent of your muscle glycogen stores. Clearly when this type of training is combined with your endurance training, muscle glycogen stores can become significantly depleted in one day or over several days.

Regardless of how quickly you deplete these stores, it is important that you replenish glycogen stores adequately after training, whether in the weight room or after endurance training. While strength training requires that you pay attention to your carbohydrate intake, just as you do for your regular training, protein of course is an important construction material for the repair and growth of your muscle fibers.  Strength training causes the breakdown of muscle fibers, which respond by making bigger and stronger muscle fibers to protect against further stress.

Protein is one of the major construction materials for this repair process. While this means that athletes who strength train have higher protein requirements than sedentary individuals, the amount of protein that your consume for your regular training in your daily diet is likely more than adequate to put you in positive protein balance for muscle building but what seems to be especially important is the timing of your protein intake.

Timing your nutritional intake
After weight training, your body synthesizes new muscle protein and replenishes muscle glycogen. Several research studies indicate that your nutritional intake in the hours before and the hours after weight training can have a significant impact on supporting your muscle building efforts. Consuming a combination of carbohydrate and protein both before and after weight training is more effective in improving protein building than just increasing your overall daily protein intake to build muscle.

Consuming some protein prior to your resistance training efforts is probably the most important nutrition strategy to facilitate improved protein synthesis, and may be even more effective than what you consume after training. Aim for about 15 to 20 g of protein, emphasizing high quality sources such as skim milk dairy products, whey protein, and protein from animal foods, as essential amino acids are the most potent stimulators of muscle protein synthesis. Combine this protein with 35 to 50 g of carbohydrate. You can also include both carbohydrate and protein in the next snack or meal that you consume after weight training to continue to facilitate the recovery and muscle building process.

Carbohydrate and protein consumed after resistance training should also work to stimulate both muscle glycogen synthesis and protein synthesis. This form of supplementation increases blood levels of insulin and growth hormone, both of which are tissue building agents. High glycemic carbohydrates can be emphasized after resistance training, just as they can after your regular training sessions. Aim for 15 to 20 g of protein and 50 g of carbohydrates or more in your recovery snack or meal.

Often your nutritional choices before and after weight training maybe related to the practicality of your food and fluid choices and availability. Keep snacks on hand to consume both before and after resistance training. Aim for convenience choices like a low fat shake or smoothie. Pack protein containing snacks such as yogurt with fruit, a peanut butter and honey sandwich, or low fat cheese and crackers. You may find that a commercial sports supplement containing a mix of carbohydrate and protein is convenient and meets your nutrition requirements in the hour before weight training.

What you consume during resistance training may also be beneficial to your recovery and the quality of your training sessions. While ATP and creatine phosphate in the muscle are your primary fuel sources while weight training, muscle glycogen can become somewhat to significantly depleted between training sets, depending on the intensity and duration of your training. Between sets, your muscle will use the glycolysis energy pathway to regenerate ATP stores. Consuming a sports drink for the carbohydrate it provides can help you maintain muscle glycogen stores and provide energy during your workout. These drinks also provide fluid and assist you in maintaining adequate hydration levels. Of course, consuming plain water during resistance training is also recommended. As with any training session,try to start your workout well-hydrated.
Protein supplements and weight training
Protein supplements are a convenient way to consume protein before and after resistance training workouts. As discussed previously, this nutritional strategy can optimize muscle building as timing of protein intake is key. Currently, there are a variety of protein supplements on the market.Whey protein is an increasing popular protein supplement. Whey is the component of milk that is separated when making cheese and other dairy products. It is a high quality protein and easy to digest. Whey protein can also be lactose free in the form of whey protein isolate.

Soy protein is also an excellent source of protein, especially soy protein isolate. It is also a high quality protein choice for vegetarians and is lactose free. Casein is another protein obtained through cheese production. It does not have a strong as an amino acid profile as whey protein, but is still a good protein source. Egg protein is obtained from egg whites and it considered the reference standard which to compare other proteins. Eggs may not be as convenient a protein source as other supplement depending on the timing of your training. Of course, high quality protein can be obtain from real food sources, such a milk and yogurt, tofu and other soy products, and poultry and lean meats. Like many other sports nutrition strategies and choices, use of protein supplements before and after resistance training may be a matter of convenience.

These products should be taken with a carbohydrate source such as juice. Often, only a relatively small portion of these concentrated protein supplements are needed to provide the required 15 to 20 g, though higher doses maybe encouraged on the label. Some practical protein and carbohydrate combinations to be consumed before and after weight training include homemade smoothies that use a variety of quality protein ingredients such as soy milk, yogurt, and dairy milk. Fruit juice or fruit can be added for carbohydrate. A generous serving of yogurt with fruit can make a good protein and carbohydrate combination. Low fat cheese is also a high quality protein source that can be consumed with fruit or a granola bar.

Monique Ryan
Monique Ryan
Monique Ryan, MS, RD, LDN is a nationally recognized nutritionist with over twenty-two years of experience and is owner of Personal Nutrition Designs, a Chicago based nutrition consulting company that provides nutrition programs for endurance athletes across North America. Monique consults with the Chicago Fire Soccer Team, and was the nutritionist for Saturn Cycling from 1994 to 2000. She has also consulted with the Volvo-Cannondale Mountain Bike Team, the Gary Fisher Mountain Bike Team, and the Rollerblade Racing Team. Monique has consulted with USA Cycling, and was a member of the Performance Enhancement Team for the Women’s Road Team leading to the 2004 Athens Olympics. She has also provided nutrition consultation services to USA Triathlon for coaching clinics, athlete clinics, and for the resident athlete team and was a member of the USAT Performance Enhancement Team for the 2004 Athens Olympics. Monique is the author of “SportsNutrition for Endurance Athletes,” 2nd edition (March 2007), from VeloPress,which provides sports specific nutrition for road cycling, mountain biking, running, triathlon, swimming, rowing, and adventure racing. She is also author of “PerformanceNutrition for Winter Sports” (PeakSports Press), “Performance Nutritionfor Team Sports” (PeakSports Press), and “Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition. Monique is a regular contributor to VeloNews, Inside Triathlon, Outside, and ACE Fitness Matters. Please send your questions to