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Foods that Feed your Muscles...

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Somewhere in a dark office, a gaggle of marketing geniuses is plotting against you.

They know you're interested in building more muscle. And they know that if they can just feed you the right advertising lines, they'll have you mixing up their weight-gain powders and popping their supplement pills like a fitness addict.

It's tempting to believe the stuff you read in the bodybuilding magazines. But despite all the mumbo-jumbo about amino acids and "bioavailability," when it comes to padding your physique with muscle, you need to worry about only two things: what you eat and, as important, when you eat it. The right foods, timed precisely to maximize your workout gains, will give you more than any schlocky shake or suspect supplement ever could. Here's a no-nonsense, daylong plan for building muscle fast.

First Thing in the Morning

Here, you're looking for a quick blast of protein--to keep you energized and alert--and carbohydrates, which provide long-burning fuel for your muscles.

"To get both, make a quick shake in the blender," says Susan Kundrat, M.S., R.D., a sports nutritionist at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. "It's easy to digest. Even something as simple as a cup of milk, a banana and some ice cubes has protein and carbs, and it helps hydrate you. Or try yogurt, fresh fruit and orange juice." (Yogurt tip: Don't dump that liquid off the top--it's whey, and it contains calcium and protein, so stir it in.)

Follow that up with a large glass of water. "I tell athletes to drink a huge glass in the morning, and continue drinking throughout the day," Kundrat says. Research bears this out: In a study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, exercisers who were slightly dehydrated reached exhaustion 10 minutes earlier than those who were well hydrated.

Before You Leave for Work

We like breakfast so much, we have it twice. Here's why: If your morning is a mad dash to work, the last thing you need to do is sit and eat a four-course breakfast. Instead, slurp down that quick first meal, then grab a second one to go. And keep thinking protein. Kundrat's number-one pick: a peanut-butter sandwich (or graham crackers smeared with peanut butter) and a piece of fruit. "The thing you don't want to do is have just a bagel and juice," she emphasizes. "It's not going to give you prolonged energy, because it has very little protein and fat. The peanut butter gives you that."

Two Hours Before Exercise

If you work out on your lunch hour or after work, refuel about two hours before you hit the gym. And concentrate on complex carbohydrates, says Brenda Gross, R.D., a nutritionist at the Emory Clinic Sports Medicine Center in Decatur, Georgia. Aim for a 200- to 500-calorie snack. Good choices include cereal, juice, a bagel or toast, because they are easily digested.

*One note: When you're popping something in the toaster, don't grab just any piece of white bread. Go for whole-grain whenever possible. White breads, plain bagels and the like are made from refined flour--meaning flour that's had most of its important nutrients milled right out.

**One more note: Always try to eat about two hours before your workout. Don't try to fit in a quick meal right before you hit the gym, says Gross. Ingesting a lot of carbohydrates within 45 minutes of your workout could trick your body into overproducing insulin, the hormone that helps convert

blood sugar into fat.

During Your Workout

Sip one-quarter to one-half cup of water every 15 minutes. Sports drinks are okay, but "for workouts under 90 minutes, water is just as effective," says Gross. And we know we told you not to eat before exercise, but if you're going to be at it for 90 minutes or more, go ahead and have a piece of fruit or an energy bar. Gross says this can delay fatigue.

Right After Your Workout

Your muscles are primed to store carbohydrates, and ready to be repaired if you take in a little protein. Go for a sandwich with some turkey, chicken, roast beef or even (if you're addicted to the stuff) peanut butter. Throw in some fruit. And drink up: Despite your best efforts, you've probably lost some water. An easy way to track this is to weigh yourself before and after your workout, says Gross, and replace every lost pound with 16 ounces of fluid.

Within Three Hours After Your Workout

It's mealtime, and the main dish isn't protein, it's carbohydrates--potatoes, rice, bread, vegetables or pasta. "That will ensure that your muscles are replenished," Gross says.

While you're at it, Kundrat has one final piece of advice: Save room for ice cream. "When I see weight lifters who aren't getting results, usually it's not inadequate protein, it's inadequate calories--they're not eating enough," says Kundrat. Common sense tells us that intense exercise is going to require more energy, and research backs it up: One study at Penn State University found that adults who undertook a 12-week weight-lifting plan required 15 percent more calories than usual just to maintain their weight. And these weren't gonzo muscleheads, either. Study participants lifted just three days a week.

"Milkshakes can be a good choice here, because in addition to extra calories, they may pack up to 20 grams of protein," says Kundrat. They're also the indulgence that you earned and will keep you from pigging out late at night. Let your waistline be your guide, Kundrat says, and tinker with your diet accordingly. If you're still not happy, see a dietitian or a sports nutritionist for pointers.

Undercover protein

Meat isn't the only place to look for protein, says Benjamin Caballero, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Johns Hopkins University. But you'll have to do a little planning. "You can avoid meat and still consume all the protein you need," says Dr. Caballero. "Just eat plenty of vegetables from different sources and you'll get an adequate amount of protein."

Here is the protein content in grams for typical servings of common foods:

Baked potato, 3.0 grams

Bread, wheat, 1 slice 3.0 grams

Cheese, cheddar, 1 oz. 7.0 grams

Egg, fried, 1 large 6.0 grams

Green peas, 1/2 cup 4.0 grams

Kidney beans, 1/2 cup 7.5 grams

Milk, whole or 2 percent, 8 oz. 8.0 grams

Peanut butter, 2 Tbsp. 10.0 grams

Shredded Wheat, 1 biscuit 3.0 grams

Yogurt, 8 oz. 12.0 grams

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