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Simplified Nutrition for a Better Body
I have little 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 neuron in your brain for months on end. At least for the purposes of this article, I’ll spare you the nutritional intricacies like the latest information on Glut-4 transporter translocation and just give you generic Cliff’s Notes (or Dr. Clay’s Notes) on how to put together meals and meal plans to help you achieve your body composition 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 even 1 gram per pound of body weight. I personally stick to 1.5 g/lb.) While you could certainly opt for seven to ten smaller meals, most people find that six meals a day is much more feasible. For simplicity, let’s say you weigh 200 lbs. This would mean eating 300 grams of protein per day. Divided into six meals, you get 50 grams per meal. Easy enough, right?
So what exactly can you eat to get 50 grams of protein? Funny you should ask. Below is a list of foods that contain approximately 50 grams of muscle-building protein. These should be considered your “core” sources of protein.
50 grams of protein
Chicken breast: 6 ounces (170 grams) – baked or broiled / 8 ounces (225 grams) – raw
Lean (95%) beef: 7 ounces (200 grams) – well-cooked / 8 ounces (225 grams) – raw
Fish: 8 ounces (225 grams) – baked or broiled / 10 ounces (280 grams) – raw
Turkey breast: 6 ounces (170 grams) – roasted / 7 ounces (200 grams) – raw
Egg whites: 2 cups – raw
Fresh cheese: 15 ounces (425 grams) – (also contains about 20 grams of carbohydrates)
So, simply put one of the above servings (conveniently provided in ounces and grams) on your plate and you’ve met your protein needs for that 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 generally provides you with 50 grams of protein. See product label for exact serving size.
Figuring out 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 effect (fat formation). On the other hand, eat too few carbs and you’ll end up weak, flat, no pump and with little or no vascularity. Additionally, chronically consuming an inadequate carb intake will, if you’re lucky, prevent you from growing – it’s very likely that you’ll end up shrinking.
That said, let me give you some guidelines for carbohydrate intake. I will be the first to admit that these guidelines are not based on some extravagant study done at a top university. Rather, they are based on my personal experience gained from doing this and helping others for over ten years.
If your primary goal is to increase muscle mass, shoot for two to two and a half grams per kilogram of body weight. So our hypothetical 200 pound man would consume about 400 to 500 grams of carbohydrates 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 to 300 grams for those of you who haven’t done the math. Finally, if getting shredded fast is 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 thing worth mentioning about carbohydrate intake is timing. Both experience in the trenches and university studies agree that most of the daily carbohydrate intake should be consumed in the morning and after training. Essentially, the nutrients ingested in the hours following weight training dictate whether (and/or to what extent) one recovers or not. However, some studies have shown that we metabolize carbohydrates better in the first part of the day than in the second part of the day. This is all well and good if you train in the morning. If you can’t train until the evening, I would still consume your pre-workout drink(s) and at least one carb-containing meal post-workout. Unless you have a real pansy workout, I can assure you that your starved muscles will soak up those carbs. (For the record, I ‘split the difference’ by training around noon or 1pm, as I’m far from a ‘morning person’.)
As with the proteins above, I’ve given you basic carbohydrate sources and serving sizes that provide 50 grams of carbohydrate below. Feel free to mix and match these carbohydrate sources. For example, you would probably want to have (for both taste and physiological reasons) a mixture of rice and beans as opposed to one or the other. (Especially because 12 ounces of beans wouldn’t be fun to be around, if you know what I mean.) Try 4 ¼ (120 grams) of cooked rice and 4 ¾ ounces (135 grams) of cooked beans to meet your 50 gram requirement 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) – boiled 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 carbohydrates from fruit in one sitting. For these reasons, I will list the servings of carbohydrates from fruits in servings that contain 20 to 25 grams of carbohydrates.
Again, if you do a bit of research, you’ll realize that you could eat a piece of fruit and one of the starchy carbs above to meet your carb needs of 70 – 75 grams per meal. If you’re paranoid about fructose, remember that fruit is packed with tons of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients, and good fiber. As my friend 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
Kiwifruit: 2 medium to large
Melon: ½ medium or 1/3 large
Strawberry: 11 ounces (300 grams)
Exactly how much fat should be consumed is as debatable as whether global warming is real or political propaganda. Eating too much fat can, oddly enough, make you gain weight – even more so if excess trans and/or saturated fat is consumed, or if high insulin levels are present. Too little fat will wreak havoc on one’s testosterone levels, unless of course you ‘supplement’ with testosterone. Even in the ‘highly anabolic’ athlete, adequate fat in the diet will facilitate muscle growth in a variety of ways. IT IS; however, it is pretty much accepted that as one’s carbohydrate intake decreases, dietary fat can (and usually should) increase slightly.
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. (Opt for a product that has enough — 30% or more — of DHA and EPA.) Otherwise, try simply mixing up your fat sources so that you’re consuming about 1/3 monounsaturated, 1/3 polyunsaturated, and 1/3 saturated.
As far as guidelines for how much fat to consume, I find that about 0.3 to 0.5 grams per pound of lean body weight is a good starting point. So if you weigh 200 pounds, have 20% body fat, then your lean body weight is 160 pounds. Therefore, you should consume approximately 48 to 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 samples of portions of fat that contain 15 grams each. Simply adjust portions as needed.
15 grams of fat:
Oil (olive or linseed): 1 spoon
Olives: 5 ounces (140 grams) ripe (black) cans / 3.5 ounces (100 grams) green cans
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, though, you wouldn’t consume this much fish oil in one meal.
I consider most vegetables to be “free food”. No, that doesn’t mean they cost nothing; this means that I consider them without significant caloric value. You could, and should, eat some vegetables with every meal, with the exception of post-workout shakes. Personally, I also don’t like consuming them right before a workout because they add to the feeling of satiety – normally a good thing, but not pre-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, 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 their carbs can start to add up significantly.
You have no doubt noticed that the nutritional values listed above represent only a small portion of the different types of food that can be consumed. However, don’t overcomplicate it by losing sight of the fact that these foods should form the backbone of any diet plan. In fact, you could achieve even the highest possible level of performance without eating anything not on this list – excluding supplements. Most people who have the physique you really want eat these foods day in and day out. The only thing that really varies is the amount of each. If eating these foods day in and day out sounds boring, now you know why too many people really don’t have toned bodies.
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