5 Winter Essentials to Stacking on Lean Mass
It’s that time of the year again where gym warriors start their annual ritual of ‘bulking up’. With little opportunity to display the lean, chiseled six-pack forged over summer, winter has become a popular season for stacking on mass, building strength and a seemingly good excuse to be more relaxed with the diet. However, this ideal is often plagued with multiple challenges. Statistics have shown that the colder, gloomy months also promote a loss of workout motivation, an over-indulgence in carbohydrates, alcohol and comfort foods, as well as an increased likelihood of falling sick.
As such, keeping on top of your game over winter is crucial. Often, this can mean more than just working out and increasing your overall macronutrient intake. Because of the way foods are grown, manufactured and packaged nowadays, there is a loss of vital micronutrients, like vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, that play a pivotal role in our muscular development and optimal health. The lack of these dietary essentials can stagnate your muscle-building efforts in the gym and set-you back for the upcoming summer.
So, if you are looking to avoid muscle-building plateaus and maximize your gains in the coming months, you will need to ensure that your diet continues to include a good balance of essential nutrients. Here are 5 key essentials that are guaranteed to help you build lean mass, optimize fat burn and keep you motivated in the weight room.
This vitamin has been identified to have receptor sites within all of the body’s cells, making it crucial for life itself. In addition, research has also shown that supplementing your diet with vitamin D can help increase the size and strength of type 2 muscle fibers (these are fast-twitched muscle fibers most prone to growth), boost testosterone levels in men and maximize the body’s ability to build lean muscle mass. Vitamin D additionally helps in the elevation of mood, which is why we feel so much more motivated to train when it’s nice and sunny outside.
As Vitamin D is produced by the body’s response to direct sunlight, it’s more than likely that we will not produce enough of this vitamin throughout the winter moths. Ensure your levels are topped up and maintained by consuming a vitamin D supplement, two to three times per week and in larger doses.
Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, and has been shown to boost immune health, a factor that is directly correlated to one’s ability to build muscle. What’s more, by adding a minimum of 2 grams of vitamin C to your post workout shake, you can effectively reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) and aid muscle recovery. Numerous studies have also linked supplementation of vitamin C to increased levels of testosterone production, making it not just an anti-catabolic, but also an anabolic agent.
It is estimated that about 70% of our neurotransmitters are manufactured within our gut. From Serotonin, which regulates our mood, appetite and sexual function, to Neuropeptide Y, which influences our food choices and overall motivation, our gut is central to our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. By maintaining optimal gut function with a good, resistant probiotic, we are able to facilitate effective absorption of nutrients for muscle growth, as well as maintain a high level of motivation for training.
Many of us do not consume enough zinc, especially from our diets. Zinc has a pivotal role to play in effective digestion and nutrient absorption. It also greatly influences the production of testosterone, a primary muscle-building hormone. Furthermore, zinc also acts as a primary aromatase agent, preventing free testosterone from converting into estrogen, a female hormone, within the body.
Carnitine is responsible for transporting fat into the cell to be used by the mitochondria (energy producing centres of the cell) in the production of energy. The increase of muscle carnitine levels has been shown to decrease visceral belly fat, improve performance by clearing lactate levels and maximize the body’s anabolic processes. It also helps with the body’s ability to handle sugar, and can thus acts as a buffer to the sugar spikes caused by those heavy carb meals over winter.
Acetyl-L carnitine, among other forms of carnitine, is the only form of carnitine to cross the blood-brain barrier and is best used as a brain energiser and mood elevator.
A carnitine supplement is best consumed pre-workout, and works best when it contains at least two different forms of carnitine so as to ensure optimal absorption and utilization by the body. Additionally, if you are aiming to fat burn, take in equal proportions of carnitine with an omega-3 oil, like a high quality fish oil.
Founder and Master Strength Coach
Australian Strength Performance
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