Developing your physique is a matter of consistent, intense, training with proper nutrition, right? It would seem like that is the answer, but often times hard training and eating right do not deliver the gains you might expect. That is because, unfortunately, you may be overlooking some important intangibles. Here are 3 factors that play a crucial role in your physique development and how you can optimize them.
Your ability to build muscle
and develop your physique directly relates to your body's ability to breakdown, digest, and process the foods that you eat. This makes optimizing digestion a vital piece of the puzzle. Many protein powders
on the market today contain digestive enzymes to accelerate the digestion of the protein in the shakes.
[Editor's Note: For overall nutritional purposes, ProSource's Super Enzymes product contains a comprehensive blend of the most effective digestive enzymes available, including betaine, pancreatin, papain, cellulose, bromelain, and papaya.]
Repopulating your gut with healthy bacteria will help you better extract all the possible nutrients from the foods you eat. Certain beneficial bacteria can counteract the anti-nutrient factors found in foods like beans and certain grains. Here are more ways to get more healthy bacteria in your diet.
Supplement with probiotics
Taking a supplement that contains a blend of beneficial bacteria is the easiest way to repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria. The key is to be consistent with your supplementation as bacteria have a quick turnover. In addition, you will want to keep your supplement in the refrigerator at all times because these are live organisms.
Eat foods with live cultures
Yogurt, cottage cheese, and fermented dairy products like kefir are all excellent ways to get both protein and probiotics.
Fermented non--dairy foods like sauerkraut and kimchi are two more ways to get beneficial probiotics in your diet. Sauerkraut and kimchi both have another unique benefit as they are fermented cruciferous vegetables (sauerkraut being cabbage and kimchi being Napa cabbage). Cruciferous vegetables contain indole--3--carbinol which is a bioactive compound known for the binding and excretion of estrogens in addition to interfering with the synthesis of estrogen receptors. The side benefit of regularly eating these foods may be a lower impact of estrogen on your muscle building
Eat a high antioxidant diet
Antioxidants like anthocyanins found in red grapes, pomegranates, and blueberries are poorly absorbed by our digestive tract, but that does not mean that our bodies do not use them. Instead, they serve as rocket fuel for the good bacteria in our gut. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants is a little known why to optimize your gut and digestion.
[Editor's Note: ProSource's AX-12 is a potent, wide--spectrum antioxidant designed with the needs of advanced athletes in mind. Its comprehensive formulation contains green tea, milk thistle, quercetin, curcumin, grape seed, and pine bark extract, all standardized for the highest recommended potency.]
Sleep is where a bulk of your growth and recovery happens. I've written extensively about sleep in the past (click here to read Dream Big)
. But there are several key components to optimizing sleep that are worth reemphasizing.
1. Get Enough
Getting enough sleep is a make or break strategy when it comes to getting big and staying lean. Ample sleep optimizes leptin levels which regulate your metabolic rate. Sleep = growth, so why skimp on it? You could probably get away with 7 hours a night, but 9 is much better. Researchers from Stanford found that increasing the amount of time you sleep by about 1 1/2 hours led to significant increases in performance (including sprint times) and focus, in college basketball players. Although this study was carried out with basketball players, it has direct application to physique athletes. If you are more explosive and focused in the gym, you'll lift more weight, and get bigger. Increasing sleep duration and quality is a really simple way to kick start muscle growth while improving nutrient partitioning.
2. Do Deep
While sleep duration is important the quality of the sleep you get is also very important devices like the Fitbit, Lark, and Zeo Sleep Manager allow you to easily quantify your sleep quality so you can see how you are doing. I like to use this simple 3 pronged approach for maximizing sleep quality and deep sleep. First -- Take ZMA before you go to bed. These minerals are often depleted during hard training and underdosed in multivitamins. More importantly magnesium can act as a relaxant helping you get to sleep faster.
[Editor's Note: As we've said many times here at ProSource, the industry's gold standard for ZMA comes from SNAC Systems, who pioneered ZMA research and development in the 1990s. ProSource ZMA contains 100% ZMA sourced from SNAC Systems.] Second -- Supplement with tryptophan. Tryptophan has been shown to increase the amount of deep sleep that you get -- allowing you to maximize muscle growth. Finally, keep your room cool. When you move into deep sleep your body stops regulating its body temperature. By keeping your room cool and at a consistent temperature you will not experience temperature changes that can interrupt this important muscle restoring stage of sleep.
Muscle building is a 24 hour a day endeavor and we are beginning to understand more and more how the effects of chronic stress can put the brakes on this. It is important to differentiate between the stress of a training session and the accumulation of life stressors. The former is good and a requirement for growth. The latter is bad and will inhibit your growth and physique development. When looking at stress and how it impacts muscle growth it is important to realize that all kinds of stress play a role -- work stress, stress from not getting enough sleep, physical stress, emotional stress, etc. All these factors have hormonal repercussions. In the short term your body is equipped to handle stress through hormones like epinephrine but epinephrine cannot be a long term solution for your body. A study from the University of Texas showed that students who reported the highest level of "life event stress and perceived stress" also exhibited the poorest ability to recovery from a lower body weight training session. Other research shows that people undergoing stressful events in their lives do not experience similar improvement in bench pressing compared to people with lower stress lives. Chronic stress impacts normal hormonal processes like testosterone production
and potentially even insulin sensitivity.
[Editor's Note: One good option for managing stress is L-Theanine, a stress-reducing neuro-nutrient that has the ability to help increase certain neurotransmitters that decrease nervous agitation. ProSource L-Theanine is formulated from Suntheanine, the highest quality source of L-Theanine available.]
The importance of proper sleep was covered above and it plays a significant role in your body's ability to manage and cope with stress. Other relaxation and attention focusing techniques like mindfulness meditation have been shown to reduce psychological stress and cortisol in just minutes per day.
If you find that your efforts in and out of the gym aren't delivering you the body you should have look at optimizing each of these areas and watch your process and muscle growth begin to accelerate again.