Whether you are new to the gym or have been training for a while, whether you are looking to lose fat or build muscle, diet and nutrition is key. You could do hours in the gym per week, but if your diet and nutrition aren’t in check, then you will find it hard to get the right results.
Bulking up or slimming down, it is important that you are getting the right amount of calories for your needs and in taking enough protein to feed your muscles. Carbohydrate intake depends on invidual goals, but there isn’t a recommended minimum intake of carbs, so if you want to go without them entirely, you can (although I probably wouldn’t recommend it).
On gym days, in general you should take in 1.5g of protein per pound of body weight. This can be made up of shakes, lean proteins (the bulk of it) such as chicken, tuna, turkey and eggs, but be sure to break the intake up over the day, as 30 – 35g of protein is about the max that you can process in one go, before it turns it into urea (flushed out in your urine).
Carbohydrate consumption should be kept as much to ‘complex’ type carbs as possible. The more complex they are, the longer they take to release fully and turn into glucose, an example being brown pasta, sweet potato etc etc. An example of simple carbs would be biscuits, cakes, sweets, pizza, candy etc etc. Carb-rich meals are also good after your workouts, as they help with recovery time (hence sports drinks being high in certain types of sugar).
Creatine is also something you can think about when training, especially (but not exclusively) you guys that want to increase strength and get a bulked up physique. It is not one of these fly-by-night supplements that will take all your money with no results – it is tried and tested and is used by athletes the world over. I would advise loading (taking a higher dose for the first few days of the cycle) and then dropping the dose down to keep topped up. I personally felt my muscle strength, size, density and recovery rate improve dramatically while I used creatine monohydrate, but everyone is different. It is available as powder, tablets and even as part of your protein shakes, so I would definitely recommend trying it.
Vitamin and things like Omega 3 fish oils are very important for general well being and health. Be sure to evaluate your eating plan and see if you are getting enough, if not – you can always pop to your nearest health store and grab some all-in-one tablets to top yourself up.
The most important thing is balance, make sure you get everything you need, don’t fall into the trap of just focusing on protein and low-calorie foods, take the time to write up a plan for yourself and I would definitely recommend keeping a food diary so you can see what works and also what doesn’t.