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When it comes to bodybuilding, training is just as important as diet. To build your muscles you need to consume more calories than you burn so your body has energy to burn muscle. The general bodybuilding nutrition principles remain the same regardless of what time you train; however, if you work out in the evening, it's crucial you have enough energy to perform at your peak in the gym. This comes from getting your nutrition perfect throughout the day.
The first matter to consider is calories. You need an excess of calories to build muscle -- around 20 to 22 calories per pound of body weight, according to nutritionist Dr. Jim Stoppani of Bodybuilding.com. For evening training, aim to have roughly two-thirds of these calories during the day. This will mean you're not feeling stuffed by the time you hit the gym, but won't be hungry either. Incidentally, Stoppani recommends reducing your calorie intake to 18 per pound on nonworkout days.
Optimal meal frequency for bodybuilders is around every four to six hours, according to nutritional scientist and bodybuilder Dr. Layne Norton. While in theory you could eat at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m., train and then eat afterward at 7 p.m., you may find you lack energy with such a big gap between your last meal and your training session. Aim to have a small meal around two hours before you hit the gym to give you an energy boost without making you feel bloated.
The Pre-Workout Meal
A good pre-workout meal is vital for maximizing performance in the gym and priming your muscles for growth. Protein is vital pre-workout because it fuels your muscles and can actually aid in fat burning if you're on a low carb diet, states sports nutritionist Dr. Mike Roussell. Have a serving of chicken, fish, beef, eggs, milk or a protein shake from a reputable manufacturer before you train and combine it with a small serving of carbs. People tolerate carbs differently -- you may find you have lots of energy after a huge plate of pasta or a few sandwiches; likewise a smaller portion of a faster digesting carb such as fruit or a sports drink may make you more focused and alert. Experiment and find what works best for you.
Many people avoid carbs at night, believing them to be fattening, but this isn't the case. Carbs eaten at night are no more likely to lead to fat gain than carbs eaten at any other time, says nutritionist and trainer Anthony Colpo. Carbs after a workout will help restore your blood sugar level and speed your recovery, though. Combine a serving of carbs from pasta, rice, bread, sweet or white potatoes or fruit with a portion of lean protein such as meat, fish, or dairy and plenty of green vegetables.