This article is about two of my favorite topics: Twice-a-day training and nutrition for optimal body composition!
If you get optimal nutrition and program your workouts correctly, twice-a-day training is a superior method for increasing strength, size, and power. Research shows that twice-a-day training can help you lose fat and increase muscle mass, but you have to eat and supplement with precision to get the most out of your efforts.
Two-a-days are not just about fitting in an extra workout at the end of the day when you are depleted. Best results come when you can devote yourself to training, but even if you have other responsibilities, you can still get benefits as long as you prioritize recovery and preparation.
I suggest planning two-a-days by using three five-day cycles:
• During the first two cycles, you train twice a day.
• On the third cycle you unload with five days in which you train once a day and do half the volume of the double sessions.
• If this is your first time doing such extreme volume, you may need to take a few days off to allow your body to recover and see the full body composition gains of your hard work.
It’s best to start twice-a-day training on a Saturday so that you can nap during the first two days of the cycle. This will help you recover and adapt to the volume. I suggest planning training sessions four to six hours apart. A shorter time spread will leave you too fatigued and with a longer one you will negate the nervous system activation of the morning workout.
Nutrition is paramount with twice-a-day training because the most common error is not getting enough nutrients and caloric intake during supercomensation to restore tissue and neurotransmitters. You may feel over-trained but really you are under-recovered. This article provides my top 10 nutrition tips to ensure you recover maximally from twice-a-day training.
Tip #1: Eat the Poliquin Meat and Nuts Breakfast
Eat a different kind of meat and nuts every morning for breakfast in order to elevate your energizing neurotransmitters for the day. Best results will always come if you raise the stimulating chemical messengers dopamine and acetylcholine first thing in the morning by eating high-quality protein.
The high-protein, low-glycemic profile of the Poliquin™ Meat and Nuts Breakfast
will provide sustenance to get you to the end of your morning workout, at which point you’ll start refueling for the afternoon workout.
Tip #2: Use Caffeine To Elevate Fat Burning and Drive Before Both Workouts
Enjoy coffee, green tea, or a caffeine supplement with breakfast and again before workout #2 because the caffeine will elevate the body’s use of fat for fuel by as much as 15 percent. Caffeine has been shown to increase focus and precision in athletes and surgeons who are sleep deprived. Plus, both coffee and tea are filled with antioxidants, which have been shown to speed recovery from training by clearing away inflammation.
If you are worried caffeine will over stimulate your brain, take 2 grams of vitamin C with your post-workout shake because this will accelerate caffeine clearance. You can bump that dose up to 10 grams a day or take the smaller dose multiple times because vitamin C is an important antioxidant to enhance the immune system and help you deal with the added physical stress.
Some trainees like to drink their caffeine in the morning and save the supplement for before the second workout because it gives them that extra boost they need for peak drive and focus.
A bonus tip is to take caffeine with the supporting amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine because the boost motivation. Tyrosine especially has been shown to treat severe physical and mental stress in military troops. One study showed that it improved mood and reversed stress-induced performance decrements, making it the right addition for two-a-days.
Tip #3: Take Fish Oil and Get a Lot of Omega-3s From Meat and Fish
Make sure you are getting a large dose of omega-3 fats from high-quality sources because they support the immune system and assist with muscle recovery and growth. I suggest eating foods with omega-3 fats or taking fish oil with all meals because it will improve energy use and insulin sensitivity. It also makes the genes that are involved in protein synthesis more active.
Tip #4: Take A Brain Supplement With Ginkgo, Bacopa, Huperzine, and Alpha GPC
Take a brain-boosting supplement before both workouts to elevate your focus and neural drive for a greater training effort. These nutrients have antioxidant properties and the help the body deal with the stress of intense training, but they also help you dial your focus in so that you can single-mindedly achieve your physical goals.
If you’ve never taken a brain-boosting supplement before, you will probably be surprised to find that they can actually be much more energizing than caffeine or other stimulating nutrients. The reason is that these antioxidants act to restore connection between chemical transmitters in the brain, and they help detoxify it of heavy metals and oxidative stress.
Alpha GPC is particularly effective because it boosts growth hormone when training and raises acetylcholine—that neurotransmitter that gives you energy and boosts your mood.
Tip #5: Take Antioxidants: Veggie/Berry Blends, Carnitine, and R-form Lipoic Acid
Get a mix of antioxidants because they have an anti-catabolic effect by quenching free radicals formed during intense training. They will also enhance the immune system because they provide the building blocks for the body to make the enzymes needed to fight off stress, bacteria, or pathogens.
You want to get as many different antioxidant nutrients as possible: Green tea, coffee, dark green vegetables or a green drink powder, red and purple berries or a berry powder, dark chocolate or cocoa, olive oil, carnitine, and r-form alpha lipoic acid are all excellent antioxidant-rich suggestions that are especially effective when engaging in intense training phases. Coffee, tea, chocolate, and carnitine are best taken pre-workout, whereas the rest can be used before and after both workouts.
Tip #6: Bring Cortisol Down After Both Workouts
After both workouts you need to bring cortisol down to minimize its catabolic effect. Take phosphatidyl serine because this nutrient will help clear cortisol without affecting growth hormone. Research suggests that taking much more than 800 mgs a day may bring cortisol down too much, so it’s recommended that you take 400 mgs after each workout.
Additional strategies for clearing cortisol are based on shifting your ratio of DHEA, which is the androgen hormone from which testosterone is made, to cortisol more favorably. Nutrients that do this include using a milk protein called casein tryptic hydrosylate, which was found to lower blood pressure and decreases cortisol in a group of human volunteers who were facing successive mental and physical tests.
“Tonifying” Chinese herbs such as schisandra (a medicinal berry), asparagus root, and ginseng will also settle and calm you mind, bringing cortisol down and restoring androgen activity.
Tip #7: Relax and Bring Neurotransmitters Down After Both Workouts
After your first workout, you want to do everything possible to recover without shutting the central nervous system down since you need to train again and part of the benefit of twice-a-day training is to take advantage of CNS activation in the second workout. After the second workout, the goal is to shut it all down and get recuperative sleep.
Here’s how to do it after each workout:
• Take 500 mgs of magnesium with your post workout feed for recovery and to help you rest after both workouts. Magnesium regulates nerve and muscle tone and is often overlooked for its role in muscle contractions. It also helps clear catecholamines, which are stimulating hormones and transmitter that are produced by training.
• To help you sleep at night, use topical magnesium—it should knock you out. You may benefit from a topical if you intend to nap after your first workout, but some people prefer the magnesium capsules.
• Be sure to take a magnesium that is bound with a highly absorbable chelated form such as glycinate—I cover the benefits of glycine in tip #9.
• Take 3 to 6 grams of taurine after both workouts because it helps rebuild muscle glycogen and will activate GABA, a calming neurotransmitter so that you can relax and recover.
Tip #8: Eat “Yin” Protein Post-Workout
After both workouts eat “yin” or more calming proteins than red meats. After workout #1, opt for white meats such as chicken, turkey, or white fish with antioxidant-rich vegetables. This will give you high-quality protein and slow-digesting carbs, while providing a more relaxing rather than energizing effect.
After your second workout, go for yin protein again, but focus more on boosting serotonin to prepare you for the ultimate recovery: sleep. White meats, beans, brown rice, whole milk proteins, sesame seeds, peanuts, and almonds will all boost serotonin.
Include fruits and vegetables that elevate the hormone melatonin in your evening meal to help synchronize circadian rhythms and regulate the sleep-wake cycle: Tomatoes, grapes, cherries, walnuts, and the many seeds such as flax, fenugreek, sunflower, fennel, and mustard seeds.
Tip #9: Post-Workout Shake Tips: Whey Protein, Glutamine, and Glycine
Liquid whey protein is ideal post-workout because it’s digested quickly to support protein synthesis and repair tissue. Pea or rice protein blends are alternatives if you are intolerant to whey—of course, BCAAs should be used during and post-workout as well, especially if you are not taking whey since the alternative proteins don’t provide as many amino acids per gram.
Your carb needs will be dictated by assessing the combination of training volume, body fat percentage, and goals. If you’re not super lean, you may not need carbs in your post-workout shake. Rather, you’ll get them from the diet, but with twice-a-day training, it may be necessary to modify the usual rules if you are severely depleting glycogen during training.
Add glycine and glutamine to your post-workout shake to elevate the immune system and speed recovery. Strength gains from training are correlated with the strength of the immune system, and these two amino acids are the building blocks of glutathione, which is commonly used to measure the strength of immunity. Glutathione is a “sticky molecule” that is produced inside the body and detoxifies everything from heavy metals to benzene to BPA to bacterial pathogens.
In addition to being turned into glutathione, glutamine helps repair the stomach lining and is stored in muscle tissue to enhance overall growth and recovery. Best muscle-building results have been seen with 40 to 80 grams of glutamine a day. Take it in 10 gram doses throughout the day.
Glycine will help lower cortisol and is an effective anti-inflammatory, making it essential when training hard and heavy.
Tip #10: Boost Insulin Health and Prevent Depression
Focus on supporting insulin health during to two-a-days because this will help you get the greatest muscle growth out of the nutrients you take in. First, you need to eat for insulin sensitivity with adequate omega-3 fats and slow-digesting carbohydrates.
Second, support glucose uptake with a supplement that contains the herb fenugreek and other nutrients that help the body move blood sugar into cells. Third, take a supplement that helps clear insulin by making the cells more sensitive to it. The nutrients heartwood and acacia can improve insulin health, and getting antioxidants such as those in green tea and cinnamon will help modulate something called kinases to avoid cell damage from insulin.
In addition, some people feel depressed during twice-a-day training phases because it is very physically and mentally stressful. If you feel depressed, increase your DHA fish oil dose to 9 grams taken three times a day. Good recovery results have been seen by taking inositol before bed because it help restore brain signaling by aiding cell membrane health.