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A: What if I told you your success or failure in the gym has very little to do with what you do in the gym. You would probably look at me like I was crazy. Guess what, nutrition is by far the most important factor to making progress on any fitness program. Why have the so called "experts" made nutrition so confusing? I am going to attempt to take some of the confusion out of this subject and simplify things for you. First, lets start off by getting rid of the word "nutrition" and call it eating.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I BE EATING?The first determination we need to make is how many calories should we be consuming each day? Unfortunately, everybody does not have the same caloric demands. Therefore, we must come up with a caloric figure to meet your specific demands. To determine what your caloric intake should be, simply take your current body weight and multiply by 12. The number you get will be the amount of calories you need to maintain your current weight (assuming you are training regularly). If you would like to gain weight, simply multiply your current body weight by a factor of 15. If you would like to lose some weight, simply multiply your body weight by a factor of 10. (Example: Maintenance, 200lb male X 12 = 2400 calories per day).
Remember, everybody has a different metabolism. Therefore, you may need to adjust these factors slightly to fit your specific demands. Basically, these figures serve as an ideal starting point to figure out what your personal caloric demands are.
HOW MANY GRAMS OF PROTEIN, CARBOHYDRATES AND FAT?I am a strong proponent of the high protein, low carbohydrate and low fat way of eating. I even go as far as putting some of my clients on regimens consisting of 60% protein, 30% carbohydrate and 10% fat. For purposes of this article I will suggest that 50% of your calories come from protein, 30% from carbohydrates and 20% from fat. A gram of protein is equal to 4 calories and a gram of carbohydrate is also equal to 4 calories. Each gram of fat is equal to 9 calories. Now, take the above formula and figure out how many grams of protein, carbohydrates and protein you should be consuming each day. (Example: Maintenance, 200lb man requires 2400 calories, 300 grams of protein, 180 grams of carbohydrate, 53 grams of fat).
WHEN DO I EAT MY MEALS?I suggest that you consume a meal every two and a half to three hours throughout the day. The easiest way to calculate when to eat your meals is to plan it out in advance. Therefore, write down what time it will be three hours from your first meal (breakfast) and then every three hours thereafter. Basically what I am saying is to eat when the clock tells you to, not when your stomach tells you. (Example: If you ate breakfast at 8:00 a.m., your next meals would be at 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., 5:00p.m. and 8:00 p.m.). Attempt to eat each meal using the 50% protein, 30% carbohydrates and 20% fat breakdown. Also, if your caloric demand is roughly 2400 calories per day try to get in about 500 calories at each meal. Eating in this manner makes it very easy to stay disciplined.
WHAT ARE THE BEST THINGS TO EAT?I guess this one depends upon what you like to eat. Remember, I am trying to make this eating concept easy for you. First, let me give you some examples of what protein, carbohydrates and fats are. Examples of good protein include: red meat, fish, chicken, turkey, milk, eggs and whey. Examples of carbohydrates include: rice, potatoes, breads, grains, fruits and vegetables. Examples of good fats include: flax seed oil, safflower oil, borage seed oil, fish oil, conjugated lineic acid and MCT oil. Obviously there are many more examples of the food groups I have mentioned, however, these are the most common.
Using the foods I have mentioned above in the right quantity would give you all you ever needed to succeed in the gym. The problem is preparing food during your busy day is not convenient. Therefore the solution is using meal replacement powders. These powders come in convenient packs, are easily mixed with water and the nutritional breakdown is great. There are many companies such as Met Rx, Myoplex, Perfect Rx and Rx Fuel which make decent meal replacements. I highly recommend that you incorporate one of these products into your daily eating program. I suggest eating three regular food meals and two meal replacements per day. If you are trying to lose weight you may want to eat three meal replacements and two regular food meals. If you are trying to gain weight you may try eating three regular meals and three or even four meal replacements.
MEAL SUGGESTIONSThe most common complaint about eating properly is not having enough time to prepare good meals. We have already discussed the convenience of meal replacement powders, so I will give you some dishes that are easy and enjoyable. I usually start my day off with a bowl of oatmeal mixed with egg whites, a scoop of whey protein powder, and a tablespoon of flaxseed oil. To spice it up I will add apple filling, cinnamon or equal packets. This recipe is quick, easy, tastes good and yields about 50 grams of protein (8 egg whites and one scoop of whey protein), 35 grams of carbs, 14 grams of fat (flaxseed oil) and roughly 500 calories. As you can see, this concoction fits exactly into my nutritional profile.
Another meal I eat frequently for lunch or dinner is a mixture of white rice, boiled egg whites and tuna (chicken may be substituted). I simply cook about 3 oz. of white rice and boil six eggs. I mix the rice together with six egg whites and one yolk. I then add in a can of white chunk tuna, flaxseed oil and some garlic powder (or your favorite spice). This recipe yields about 60 grams of protein, 30 grams of carbs, 15 grams of fat and roughly 500 calories.
EATING ERRORS 101
NOT GETTING ENOUGH PROTEINProtein is essential in your quest to build quality muscle. The question is how much protein should you be consuming? A good rule of thumb is to consume 1.5 - 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. The easiest way to get enough protein into your body is with a good whey protein supplement. In addition to your meals, mix two scoops of whey protein with some water. Also, try to mix up your protein sources throughout the day. For example, eat tuna at one meal, chicken at the next and eggs at the next meal. No matter what you do, consume at least your minimum protein requirement everyday.
NOT GETTING ENOUGH WATERTry to sip on water constantly throughout the day. Water may be the most underrated piece of the bodybuilding puzzle. As we know, the body is made up of approximately 67% water. Water is desperately needed to cleanse the body and help to regenerate muscle cells. As a rule of thumb, try to consume at least one gallon of water per day.
NOT KEEPING A DAILY JOURNALThe first thing I tell my bodybuilding clients is to write down everything that goes into their body. Writing down what you eat is the only way to analyze any changes that need to be made for future progress. It is very hard to make changes in your diet if you don't know what time you eat, what kind of protein you eat and how many grams of protein, carbs, fats and calories you are ingesting. The more detailed your log is, the easier it will be for you to go back and analyze it.
TOO MANY SIMPLE CARBOHYDRATESYes you need carbohydrates in your body. The question becomes are all carbs created equal. The answer is no. Without getting into too much detail, simple carbs cause a high insulin spike because they have a high glycemic index. This is usually not a good thing when trying to keep fat off of your body. Simple carbs are basically your sugars, sweets and fruits. Try to stick to carbs like potatoes, rice and vegetables. The best time to consume simple carbs is within two hours after training. During this period your muscles are very receptive to simple sugars.
NOT CONSUMING ENOUGH GOOD FATYes, you read that correctly. Fat is not always the enemy. There is nothing wrong with consuming moderate amounts of fat in your diet. In fact, research has shown that fat is essential to growth, recovery, skin and connective tissue. A good rule of thumb is to stay away from hydrogenated oils, "shelf oils" and vegetable oils. These are the fats found in potato chips and snacks. Also, limit your saturated fat intake to that which is found naturally in the protein you eat. Finally, make sure you are getting a sufficient amount of essential fatty acids in your diet. You should definitely be taking an omega-3 fatty acid supplement such as Pure Omega-3, by Performance Biomedical Labs.
ESSENTIAL SUPPLEMENTSThis is one of the most confusing areas for most people, but I will simplify it for you. I have already mentioned a few necessary supplements such as meal replacement powders (Met-Rx) and essential fatty acids (Pure Omega-3). These two products along with a vitamin and mineral complex are essential. If you are hitting the gym on a regular basis I would strongly suggest a product that contains a mixture of creatine and glutamine (Effervescent Creatine Plus) for muscle volume and recovery. If you consider yourself a little bit more advanced and are hitting the gym about five times per week, I would suggest a nitric oxide product such as NOS Matrix to help you increase blood flow and build muscle. Finally, if you are thinking about taking it to another level and have a competitive physique I would suggest a more advanced supplement such as hGH-PH Complex to help increase testosterone levels and increase IGF-1 levels. If you need further information on any of these products go to www.PerformanceBioLabs.com.
DON'T WAIT ANOTHER MINUTEWhat are you doing? You should be looking at the clock to see if it is time to eat again. As I stated earlier, eating is the key to your success or failure in the gym. Once you begin to gain more of an understanding of what your body's demands are, you will be able to customize a more intricate eating plan for yourself. For now, keep a detailed journal and watch your body change for the better.