To build your best body, you need to think outside the hour-long workout. What are the other 23 hours of the day doing to support your goals? A whole lot, if you follow these five steps to building around-the-clock 24-hour fitness.
Step 1: Increase Your Protein Intake
The current recommended daily allowance for protein—0.8 grams per kilogram of body mass—is the minimum amount you need for good health. A comprehensive review published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism shows that to build muscle, especially if you are exercising or working to lose weight, you need a lot more.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that to build lean muscle, exercisers need 1.2 and 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. That translates to 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight, or for a 160-pound adult, 80 to 128 grams per day. Solid protein sources include meats, eggs, dairy, soy, legumes, and protein powder.
Step 2: Hit Your Macros at Every Meal
Carbs, protein, and fat—our intake of each macro tends to vary greatly throughout the day. We tend to go crazy with carb-heavy cereals and pastries at breakfast and mow down steaks at dinner. But for optimal fitness, (24-hour fitness, that is), you need to balance your intake at every meal.
“The uniform distribution of protein intake stimulates muscle growth more effectively than a distribution that is skewed toward the evening meal,” explains chemist Neerav Padliya, Ph.D., vice president of research alliances at Qurr. According to the *Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism *review, you need 25 to 35 grams of protein at every meal for optimum muscle health.
Meanwhile, research in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition shows that insulin, which the pancreas releases every time you eat carbs, helps your muscles absorb amino acids from protein to effectively build muscle. And, to round things out, steady fat intake helps keep your levels of hormones, including muscle-building testosterone, where they need to be.
Step 3: Focus on High-Intensity Strength Training
You don’t get fit during your workout, you get fit afterward—as your body adapts and gears up for your next workout. That’s when your muscles grow bigger, your heart gets stronger, and if you plan your workout right, you burn a ton of extra calories.
When you perform high-intensity strength training, your body must work overtime to recover, burning extra energy in what’s called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), says exercise physiologist Pete McCall, M.S., C.S.C.S. He notes that EPOC can temporarily boost your resting metabolic rate—the number of calories that you burn sitting on the couch—by up to 15 percent.
While the verdict is still out on exactly how long that metabolic boost can last, one Colorado State University study found that young women’s resting metabolic rate remained elevated for 16 hours following a high-intensity resistance training session.
To make your calorie burn last as long as possible, McCall recommends opting for heavy lifting sessions involving either large, compound movements such as squats and power cleans; or alternating upper- and lower-body moves. In both cases, limit rest between sets.
Step 4: Consume Casein Before Bed
A protein form naturally found in dairy, casein digests slowly, meaning it can help you build muscle all night long and maintain 24-hour fitness.
“Research has shown that after consuming casein, amino acid levels in the blood peak after 300 minutes, or five hours,” Padliya says. (Compare that to whey, which leads to an amino acid peak after about 90 minutes.) In one Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise study, ingesting casein protein immediately before bed successfully elevated exercisers’ levels of circulating amino acids for a full 7.5 hours while they slept.
To build muscle while you sleep, turn to Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or casein-based protein powder. In the study, subjects consumed 40 grams of casein, but as little as 25 grams can stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
Step 5: Get More Sleep
Speaking of sleep, you need more of it. 24-hour fitness is great. However, staying in the gym for 24 hours is not. Research from the University of Chicago shows that as few as six nights of sleep deprivation negatively affects levels of human growth hormone, which your body produces during your sleep.
Growth hormone promotes muscle strength and recovery and ups your body’s ability to burn fat for fuel—so you definitely want to keep your levels in check. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults ages 18 to 64 get seven to nine hours of solid shuteye per night.