What Are Things You Can Do To Optimize Newbie Gains?

November 18th 2019

Powerlifters and those who compete in strength-based sports seem to always be on the lookout for methods that allow them to maximize gains as quickly as possible. Oftentimes, those who are new to lifting seek out ‘shortcuts’ for obtaining one rep maxes and PRs, whether it’s using the best supplements on the market or following the most intense training regimens that flood social media that day. 

Those new to lifting and even those who have years of experience with strength training should realize the best way to reach their full potential and surpass their goals is not through the use of brand name supplements or popular training regimens but instead through ensuring they have adequate sleep along with proper nutrition and meal timing. It is often said at the highest level of athletics that it’s the smallest details which enable the biggest results to happen and this is extremely applicable in the case of avid lifters who use sleep and nutrition to their advantage in optimizing meet performance and maximizing long term gains. 

How To Maximize Newbie Gains As A Beginner

Two things beginners can do to immediately have an impact on their training is to rest properly and to eat enough great foods. Beginners will make progress regardless of what they do but you want to make sure you are not hindering your body during its period of highest growth.

Sleep More to Lift More

One of the first steps that those new to lifting can take in order to see their lifts go up quickly is to sleep more each night. Many people assume that in order to lift heavier you must lift more often and for hours on end but in most cases, this is just not true. Social media influencers in the health and fitness industry tend to hype up the idea that everyone should be training twice a day, every single day, multiple hours per day to make sure that every single muscle group is hit at least once a week. Although genetic freaks of nature might be able to pull this off without major physical repercussions most people are bound to fail on this path and this mindset towards training will halt progress from the very beginning of their lifting journey. 

Instead of focusing on the amount of time spent training, those new to lifting should focus intently on recovery and how much time they can dedicate to sleep each day. Physical performance is optimized when the brain and CNS (central nervous system) are functioning at their highest level, which can only be accomplished through obtaining adequate rest. The Human Performance Project has recommended that world-class athletes and those who compete at the Olympic, professional or NCAA level to obtain 9 hours and 15 minutes of sleep every single night. If the best athletes in the world are sleeping this much shouldn’t those aspiring to be the best or those seeking to become their personal best want to sleep this much as well?

It has been found that those who sleep 6 hours or less per night for multiple days in a row are affected not only by slower cognitive function but also impaired glucose metabolism. Having delayed cognitive function as well as slower, less efficient glucose metabolism will take away from the overall focus and intention during lifting as well as lead to less energy output from a lack of readily accessible ADP. Even worse for male athletes, those who are sleeping less than the amount recommended by the Human Performance Project are at much higher risk for a reduction in testosterone production and thus lower their ability to build muscle and gain strength. Something those male athletes should keep in mind when trying to decide whether to sleep more or lift more is that most of the body’s muscle repair and muscle growth takes place during sleep and not during their lifting session. This means that all that time spent lifting in the gym is almost worthless when it’s not combined with adequate sleep and time for repair. New lifters need to remember that sleep and recovery take precedence over additional training and those who disrupt their sleep schedule to get extra training sessions in will compromise not only muscle repair and maintenance but also their strength gains. 

Meal Selection and Meal Timing for Heavier Lifting

Perhaps just as important as sleep regarding the maximization of strength gains is an athlete’s meal selection and meal timing. It is highly recommended that strength athletes consume the following macronutrient quantities per day to properly fuel their training as well as aid recovery post lifting: 4–7 g of carbohydrates per kg of body mass and 1.0 - 1.2 g of protein per kg of body mass consumed in the form.25 g protein per kg of body mass per meal. 

Carbohydrates should be timed around lifts with strength athletes consuming at least 1 g of carbohydrates per kg of body mass prior to lifting and 0.5 g of carbohydrate per kg of body mass during their lift. Glycogen stores are best replaced when those who lift consume on average 0.8 g of carbohydrates per kg of body mass per hour.

Additionally, strength athletes should aim to consume protein immediately following their lifts in order to maximize muscle protein synthesis. It is generally advised that strength athletes should consume between 20 – 30 g of protein per meal to stimulate the process of muscle protein synthesis and that they should also aim to consume 0.4 g of protein per kg of body mass per hour in conjunction with their recommended carbohydrate intake to enhance glycogen replacement.

In order to meet the above macronutrient recommendations, strength athletes should utilize fast-digesting, easily accessible food sources. One of the best sources of protein for strength athletes is whey protein. Whey protein has been found to stimulate muscle protein synthesis at a higher rate when compared to casein, soy, and other protein sources and is an amazing source of protein for those looking to maximize strength. Those who combine whey with casein protein throughout the day have been shown to maintain a higher anabolic state when compared to those who rely on a single protein source alone. Whey protein is quickly digested and utilized post lifting whereas casein digests much slower and can be used by the body steadily throughout the course of the day. Along with easy to digest protein sources, those who lift should also have easily digested carbohydrates sources on standby for post-workout meals in order to increase their overall rate of glycogen resynthesis. Carbohydrate sources that would best fulfill this role include dextrose and maltodextrin.

Want to Lift More? Sleep More and Eat the Right Foods at the Right Time!

Strength athletes are best able to maximize their gains when they shift their focus from time spent in the gym to time spent resting and refueling. Selecting the right supplements and lifts will enable athletes to make strength gains, however, overall strength can only be maximized when both sleep and nutrition are made a priority. Without recovering properly, the training process is practically futile, and it is always best for athletes to spend more time sleeping and planning their meals instead of using that same amount of time towards additional training when looking to make the best strength gains possible. 


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