Your diet is without a doubt one of the most critical aspects of your total fitness bodybuilding routine. You can be consistent with your workouts, but if you don’t fuel your body properly you will NOT get the results you want. Period!Most fitness enthusiasts are meticulous with their training and are ever so careful when scheduling their workouts, doing a precise number of exercises, sets, and reps for each muscle group, etc. PART 1
But more often then not they get slack when it comes to nutrition. Do you think that you can reach your peak performance by eating only 2-3 meals per day?
The biggest excuse that people have is “I don’t have time to eat right”. But the real reason is simply laziness and lack of planning, because when done properly it doesn’t take anymore time to follow a healthy muscle building / fat burning nutrition plan then it does to eat a “see food” diet (i.e. eating whatever comes in front of your face).
In the first part of this article I’m going to outline the fundamentals of a very sound bodybuilding nutrition program. And then in the second part of this article I’m also going to give you some cooking and meal planning tips that will help you fit the program into your busy schedule.
Protein is the key component for providing your body with adequate amino acids to aid in building and repairing muscle tissue. Protein is the most important nutrient for bodybuilders. You should be consuming between 1 and 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight each day evenly spaced out over 5-6 meals. So for example, a 200 lb. man should eat between 200-300 grams of protein per day. Eating approx. 40-50 grams of protein per meal. Good protein sources include: lean cuts of beef, lean cuts of pork, chicken breast, turkey breast, fish, eggs, cottage cheese, and protein supplements.
You may be wondering about the range of 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day and which end of the range you should aim for. Well this is the way I look at it, if you are the type of person who is really serious about your training and you want to make progress as fast as possible then stick to the upper end of the range and eat 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight daily. On the other hand, if you are just working out to “keep in shape” and are not overly concerned about gaining as much muscle as fast as possible can then you can stick to the lower end and just eat 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight daily.
Another thing, if you are concerned that too much protein is “bad for you”, you needn’t be. It is not uncommon for young bodybuilders to be led astray by a well meaning doctor or dietitian saying that too much protein can cause kidney damage. But this is just a myth and outdated information, there has never been any study that shows a high protein intake causes any type of kidney damage in healthy individuals.
Carbohydrates provide a “protein-sparing” effect. When your carbohydrate intake is too low your body will convert protein into glucose for energy. This process is called “glyconeogenesis”. Eating adequate carbohydrates is important because if your body doesn’t have enough, it has to metabolize more protein and this depletes the muscles.
Eating too few carbohydrates will also leave your muscles looking and feeling flat. Muscle fullness largely depends on the glycogen stores within the muscle cells. Your muscle glycogen stores also greatly impact your strength and energy levels in the gym and whether or not you get a “pump” while working out. If you have ever followed a low carbohydrate diet for any length of time I’m sure you have also noticed a significant loss of strength in the gym during your workouts and your muscles feel flat as a pancake making it almost impossible to get any decent pump while working out.
Your carbohydrate intake will vary depending on your training goals. If your goal is to get bigger and gain muscular size then you’ll need to eat upwards of 3 grams of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight per day and maybe more depending on your individual metabolism. If your goal is to lose bodyfat and get leaner then you’ll need to eat around 1 – 1.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight daily. Good sources of carbohydrates include: oatmeal, cream of wheat, oat bran, brown rice, potatoes, yams, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, all kinds of fruits and vegetables.
Just like with protein, your carbohydrate intake should be spaced out over the course of 5-6 meals per day. But you can be a little more generous with the portion sizes with your breakfast and with your post workout meals. At these times your glycogen levels are lower and need extra carbohydrates to help re-fill them.
Fat is a very important part of a healthy bodybuilding nutrition program. Your body needs fat to function properly. Besides being an energy source, fat is a nutrient used in the production of cell membranes, as well as in several hormone-like compounds called eicosanoids. These compounds help regulate blood pressure, heart rate, blood vessel constriction, blood clotting and the nervous system. In addition, dietary fat carries fat-soluble vitamins — vitamins A, D, E and K — from your food into your body. Fat also helps maintain healthy hair and skin, protects vital organs, keeps your body insulated, and provides a sense of fullness after meals.
There are 3 types of fat – saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. You need to eat all 3 in the right balance in order to maximize your muscle growth, fat loss, and overall health.
You will get adequate saturated fat intake from your protein foods. Animal products such as beef, chicken, eggs, etc. all contain saturated fat.
Monounsaturated fat comes from foods such as seeds, nuts, olives, avocados, as well as various types of oils such as peanut oil, flaxseed oil, sesame oil, corn oil, canola oil, and olive oil.
Polyunsaturated fats are found in sea food like herring, salmon, mackerel, halibut, and fish oils.
By getting your protein intake requirements with animal products such as beef, chicken, fish, eggs, etc. and including nuts, seeds, olives, in your diet, as well as cooking with healthy oils such as olive oil you’ll meet the majority of your dietary fat needs.
It would be a good idea to also supplement your diet with fish oil capsules. Simply take a couple capsules with each meal. Fish oil is high in omega 3 fatty acids and it is also high in EPA and DHA fatty acids. These fatty acids are antioxidants and help with muscle growth and fat loss. They also have health benefits with anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have shown that taking 10 grams of fish oil per day can increase your metabolic rate by as much as 400 calories per day!
A little know fact about water is that the less you drink, the more likely you will become overtrained with your workouts. Muscle is comprised of over 70% water. Sweating from hard workouts causes you to lose body water. Eating a high protein diet increases your body’s need for water. And water is needed as a transport mechanism for various nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. If your water intake is too low, your ability to transport nutrients to your muscles becomes compromised, you’ll lose muscle fullness, and toxins will build up in the body.
To stay adequately hydrated you should drink 0.6 ounces of water per pound of bodyweight daily. To put this in perspective a 200 lb. man should drink 120 ounces of water over the course of the day. That’s about 15 glasses of water daily. While this may seem like a lot, it is not that hard to consume this much water. Simply having a glass or two with each meal would equal about 10 glasses. And then sipping water from a water bottle during the day and during your workouts can easily make up for the other 5 glasses. As I write this article I have a water bottle on my desk that I’ve been sipping from all morning. When I’m at the gym I always keep a water bottle with me at all times so I can take sips in between sets to keep myself hydrated.
(Note: this is an average water intake, if you live in a particularly hot climate or have a physically demanding job where you are working hard for long hours then you may need to drink even more water.)
In part 1 of the Basic Bodybuilding Nutrition Program I covered proper nutrient intake of protein, carbohydrates, fat, and water. And the amounts of each that you should be consuming daily based on your individual needs and fitness goals. In part 2 I’m going to outline some practical ways that you can fit a healthy eating plan into your busy lifestyle.
The whole idea of eating 6 well-balanced meals per day is by no means a new concept. Most of you who are reading this already have a good idea of how you should be eating. But for the majority of people the main excuse is they don’t have the time to eat properly.
But this is just not the case. Eating a “junk-food” diet probably takes just as much or more time then it does to eat a healthy diet. At lunch time getting in your car and heading on over to the fast food joint, waiting in line at the drive through, and then heading back to work takes a lot more time then if you had your food prepared in advance and ready to eat.
The key to successfully following a healthy bodybuilding nutrition program is planning ahead. When you cook your food always prepare for several meals. It doesn’t take any more time to cook larger quantities of food then it does to cook smaller amounts of food for just one meal. Purposely plan to have left overs that you can re-heat in the microwave, this saves time and makes it easier to have quick nutritious meals on hand. I’ll often grill several steaks at a time, cook several chicken breasts at a time, bake several potatoes at a time, cook up a large pot of rice, etc.
A Well Stocked Kitchen
In order to prepare and eat healthy nutritious meals you need to have the necessary kitchen supplies. Get yourself a good set of pots, non-stick frying pans, measuring cups and spoons, food scale, a good set of kitchen knives, blender, kitchen grill (such as the George Foreman grill), electric kettle, good spatulas and other cooking utensils like tongs, ladel spoons, etc. These are the basic tools that you’ll need to prepare your meals.
For packing and storing your food you will also need to get some plastic food storage containers. Get a half dozen smaller sized containers for packing individual meals. And also get a few bigger containers that you can use for storing left overs in the refrigerator. Make sure to get good containers with tight fitting lids so they will not pop open easily.
Get a couple shaker bottles for mixing up protein drinks and also get an insulated lunch bag or small hand held cooler for taking your food with you to work. You will be able to get all of these kitchen supplies at places like Wal-Mart for a fair price.
A Typical Days Eating
I’m going to outline a typical days eating that I follow pretty consistently on a daily basis. You can take the tips and suggestions that are outlined here and modify them to fit your schedule so you can quickly and easily prepare your meals for the day.
A quick and tasty high protein breakfast favorite of mine is oatmeal and egg whites. To start I’ll spray a non-stick frying pan with PAM spray and then pour in a cup of liquid egg whites and let them cook on the stove.(You can get liquid egg whites online at: http://www.leehayward.com/eggwhites/index.htm)
I’ll boil water in the electric kettle for my oatmeal. Then in a large bowl I’ll add a cup of dry oats, when the water is boiled I’ll add it to the oatmeal and place a lid on the bowl to let the oatmeal steam and cook.
When the egg whites are cooked I’ll then mix them in with my oatmeal, add a scoop of vanilla flavored protein powder, and I’ll also add some cinnamon and low calorie sweetener such as splenda. This is very tasty and satisfying meal and it takes less then 10 minutes to prepare. Before I sit down to eat my oatmeal and egg whites I’ll quickly toss 5-6 frozen chicken breasts on the Foreman Grill, add some spices and seasonings, set the timer, close the lid and just let them cook.
I’ll also bake 5-6 sweet potatoes in the microwave. Just wash them off with water, poke them a few times with a fork to let the steam out, and put them on for about 10 minutes.
By the time I’m finished eating breakfast, the chicken and sweet potatoes are cooked.
Then I’ll get 3 small plastic food containers and put a chicken breast and sweet potato in each one. I’ll also add some veggies such as pre-washed salad, baby carrots, or what ever I have on hand. Now I have 3 of my daily meals prepared. I’ll put these in my lunch bag along with a big bottle of water.
For my morning break I’ll eat a meal, have another one for lunch, and then another one for my afternoon break.
Note: I don’t always eat chicken and sweet potatoes. The foods will vary. I may have beef, pork, different kinds of fish, etc. for protein. And I may have rice, pasta, pita wraps, bread, etc. as my carbs. And I’ll vary the veggies and fruit that I eat. But the key is to prepare and pack the individual meals in advance so they are ready to eat when you need them. I always make sure to have a serving or protein, starchy carbohydrates, and veggies or fruit with each meal.
I go to the gym after work. So on my workout days I’ll mix up a post workout drink and take this with me in a shaker cup. I’ll mix up a couple scoops of protein powder and a couple scoops of carbohydrate powder (usually Gatorade) in 16 oz. of water and drink this right after my workouts.
When I get home from the gym I’ll have my supper. Depending on what I’m in the mood for I may just re-heat left overs that I have in the refrigerator, or I’ll cook up something like steak on the BBQ, or make a nice stir-fry meat and veggies dish.
Most people do not have much of a problem eating well for supper, as this is typically the biggest meal of the day for the average person. The main thing is to make sure to have generous portions of protein foods like beef, chicken, turkey, fish, etc. Wholesome complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, yams, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, etc. And also include some green veggies like a garden salad, steamed, or stir fried veggies.
Before bed I’ll usually have a cup of cottage cheese mixed with some fresh berries or a tablespoonful of fruit spread. Cottage cheese contains casein protein which is slow digesting and good to have before bed to help provide a steady release of protein throughout the night.
By eating frequently during the day I tend to not have a lot of hunger pains or food cravings, but if I am hungry and want to snack on something I’ll have things such as raw almonds, olives, low fat beef jerky, or a protein bar.
I try not to eat out all that often as it is hard to control what you eat in a restaurant. But if I do have to eat on the run I’ll try to go some place healthy such as Subway and have a meat and veggie sandwich on whole wheat bread. Or if I go to a restaurant I’ll try and order things like grilled steak or chicken, baked potato, and garden salad. The main thing is to avoid deep fried foods and foods that are cooked in thick sauces, creams, etc. as they are just loaded with excess fat and sugar.
Well there you have it, a typical days eating right from breakfast to bed. As you can see it is not that time consuming. The main thing is to plan ahead and prepare and pack your meals for the day. Don’t be like most people and wait until you are hungry before you think about what you are going to eat. This is what leads people to the vending machines and drive through windows where they load up on junk foods.
Avoid the temptations by being prepared. The rewards of feeling better, looking better, and making better progress in the gym are well worth the bit of discipline that it takes to plan your meals in advance.
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