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Simplified Nutrition for a Better Body
I have no doubt that you have been inundated with information on how to eat to improve your physique and/or performance. There are enough nutrition books in your local bookstore to wire every single one of your brain neurons for months on end. At least for the purposes of this article, I’ll spare you nutritional complexities like the latest information on Glut-4 transporter translocation and just give you the generic Cliff’s notes (or Dr. Clay’s notes) on how to group meals and food. plans to help you reach your fitness and/or performance goals.
It is fairly accepted that a protein intake of about 1.5 grams per pound of body weight is sufficient to support muscle protein synthesis. (For the record, you could go up to 2 grams per pound or up to 1 gram per pound of body weight. Personally, I just stick with 1.5 g/lb.) While you could certainly choose to eat seven to ten smaller meals. , most people find that six meals a day is much more doable. For simplicity, let’s say I weigh 200 pounds. That would make you eat 300 grams of protein a day. Divided into six meals and you have 50 grams to eat. Easy enough, right?
So what exactly can you eat to give you 50 grams of protein? Funny you ask. Below is a list of food options that have approximately 50 grams of protein for building muscle. These should be considered your “core” protein sources.
50 grams of protein
Chicken breast: 6 ounces (170 grams) – baked or grilled / 8 ounces (225 grams) – raw
Lean meat (95%): 7 ounces (200 grams) – well cooked / 8 ounces (225 grams) – raw
Fish: 8 ounces (225 grams) – baked or grilled / 10 ounces (280 grams) – raw
Turkey breast: 6 ounces (170 grams) – roasted / 7 ounces (200 grams) – raw
Egg whites: 2 cups – raw
Cottage cheese: 15 ounces (425 grams) – (also contains about 20 grams of carbs)
So, simply drop one of the above servings (which are conveniently provided in ounces and grams) onto your plate and you’ll have met your protein requirements for this meal. Of course, you can also use a protein powder supplement. Since most types contain about 20 grams of protein per scoop, 2 ½ scoops will generally provide your dose of 50 grams of protein. Check the product label for the exact serving size.
Knowing exactly how many grams of carbohydrates to consume is a bit more complicated and variable than protein intake. On the one hand, consume too many carbohydrates and they will have a lipogenic (fat-forming) effect. On the other hand, eat too few carbs and you’ll end up weak, flat, unpumped and with little or no vascularity. Also, chronically consuming an inadequate carb intake will, if you’re lucky, prevent you from growing; you will most likely end up cutting back.
That being said, let me give you some guidelines for carb intake. I’ll be the first to admit that these guidelines aren’t based on some fancy study done at a top university. Instead, they are based on my personal experience gained from doing it myself and helping others for over a dozen years.
If gaining muscle mass is your primary goal, shoot for two to two and a half grams per pound of body weight. So our hypothetical 200 pound male would consume 400-500 grams of carbs per day. For the purpose of slowly losing body fat while maintaining or slowly gaining muscle mass, one to one and a half grams per pound of body weight should hit the nail on the head. Again, that’s 200-300 grams for those of you who haven’t majored in math. Lastly, if at the top of your to-do list, our 200-pound man should consume 100 grams of carbs per day, about ½ gram of carbs per pound of body weight.
Another point worth mentioning when it comes to carb intake is timing. Both experience in the trenches and university studies agree that the bulk of your daily carbohydrate intake should be consumed first thing in the morning and after your workout. Essentially, the nutrients consumed in the few hours following your weight training session dictate whether or not (and/or how much) one recovers. However, some research has shown that we tend to metabolize carbohydrates better in the early part of the day than in the latter part. This is fine and dandy if you work out in the morning. If you can’t train until the evening, I would still consume your pre-workout drinks and at least one carb-containing meal post-workout. Unless you have a really crazy workout, I guarantee your starving muscles will “soak up” those carbs. (For the record, I “split the difference” by working out around noon or 1 p.m., since I’m far from a “morning person.”)
As with the proteins above, I’ve provided basic carb sources and serving sizes that yield 50 grams of carbs below. Feel free to mix and match these carb sources. For example, you’d probably want to have (for both flavor and physiological reasons) a mixture of rice and beans rather than one or the other. (Especially because 12 ounces of beans wouldn’t make you fun to be around, if you know what I mean.) Try 4 ¼ ounces (120 grams) of cooked rice and 4 ¾ ounces (135 grams) of cooked beans to meet your requirement of 50 grams of carbohydrates.
50 g of carbohydrates
Potatoes (white): 8 ounces (225 grams) – baked / 11 ounces (310 grams) – raw
Sweet potatoes: 8 ounces (225 grams) – baked / 10 ounces (300 grams) – raw
Pasta: 2.5 ounces (70 grams) – uncooked / 7 ounces (200 grams) – cooked in water
Oatmeal: 3 ounces (81 grams) – uncooked / 18.5 ounces (520 grams) – cooked in water
Bread: Usually about 4 slices
Beans: 12 ounces (340 grams) – cooked
Rice: 2 ¼ ounces (65 grams) – uncooked / 7 ounces (200 grams) – cooked
A “serving” or piece of fruit usually contains between 20 and 25 grams of carbohydrates. Because of the potential lipogenic effect of excess fructose (fruit sugar), I would not normally advise consuming 50 grams of fruit carbs in one sitting. For these reasons, I will list carb servings of fruit in servings that contain 20 to 25 grams of carbs.
Again, if you use your noggin a little, you’ll realize that you could have a piece of fruit and one of the starchy carb servings above to meet a carb requirement of 70-75 grams per meal. If you’re paranoid about fructose, keep in mind that fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients, and good fiber. As a friend of mine says, “Just eat the damn fruit!”
20 to 25 grams of carbohydrates from fruit
Banana: 1 medium
Orange: 1 large
Apple: 1 medium to large
Pear: 1 medium
Kiwi: 2 medium to large
Cantaloupe: ½ medium or 1/3 large
Strawberry: 11 ounces (300 grams)
The exact amount of fat to consume is as debatable as whether or not global warming is real or political propaganda. Consuming too much fat can, interestingly enough, make you fat, even more so if you consume too much trans and/or saturated fat, or if you have high insulin levels. Too little fat will wreak havoc on testosterone levels, unless of course you “supplement” with testosterone. Even in a “highly anabolic” athlete, adequate dietary fat will facilitate muscle growth in a number of ways. Is; however, it is fairly well accepted that as carbohydrate intake decreases, dietary fat can (and usually should) increase somewhat.
In my opinion, the only thing that is pretty definitive about fat intake is that it is beneficial to consume between six and nine grams of fish oil per day. (Choose a product that has ample—30% or more—DHA and EPA.) Otherwise, simply try to mix your fat sources so that you’re consuming about 1/3 monounsaturated, 1/3 polyunsaturated, and 1/3 of saturated .
As far as guidelines for how much fat to consume, I think a good starting point is between 0.3 and 0.5 grams per pound of lean body weight. So if you weigh 200 pounds, have 20% body fat, then your lean body weight is 160 pounds. Therefore, you should consume between 48 and 80 grams of fat per day. If you are eating more carbs, I would lean towards the lower end of these guidelines and vice versa. Below I list sample portions of fat that contain 15 grams each. Simply adjust portions as needed.
15 grams of fat:
Oil (olive or flax): 1 tablespoon
Olives: 5 ounces (140 grams) can ripe (black) / 3.5 ounces (100 grams) can green
Nuts: 1 ounce (28 grams)
Eggs: 3 whole eggs (also contains 15 grams of protein)
Avocado: 3 ½ ounces (100 grams) – all varieties except Florida / 5 ¼ ounces (150 grams) – Florida variety
Salmon: 5 ounces (150 grams) – raw (also contains 30 grams of protein) / 4 ounces (120 grams) – cooked (also contains 30 grams of protein)
Fish oil: 15 capsules: Ideally, you should not consume this much fish oil in one meal.
I consider most vegetables to be “free food”. No, that doesn’t mean they don’t cost anything; it means I consider them free of substantial caloric value. You could and should eat some vegetables with every meal, with the exception of your pre-workout and/or post-workout shakes. I personally don’t like consuming them immediately before a workout either, as they contribute to a feeling of fullness, usually a good thing, but not before a workout if you ask me. Here is a partial list of vegetables that can be considered free.
Lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, yellow squash (not butternut), celery, beets, mushrooms, onions, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, radishes, green beans, bell peppers, asparagus
Carrots and tomatoes can be considered free if you don’t eat more than one large per meal. Any more than that and your carbs can start to add up significantly.
You have no doubt noticed that the nutritional values above represent only a small portion of the different types of food that could be consumed. However, don’t overcomplicate things by losing sight of the fact that these foods should be the backbone of every eating plan. In fact, you could reach even the highest possible level of performance without eating anything not on this list, except for supplements. Most people who have a physique you would really covet eat these foods day in and day out. The only thing that really varies are the amounts of each. If eating these foods day in and day out seems boring, now you know why not too many people actually have great bodies.
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