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Simplified Nutrition for a Better Body
I have little doubt that you are inundated with information on how to eat to improve your physique and/or performance. There are enough nutrition books at your local bookstore to bind every single one of your cerebral neurons for months on end. At least for the purposes of this article, I’ll spare you the nutrition complications 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 plan meals and meals together that will help you reach your physical and/or performance goals.
It is fairly well 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 can bump that up to 2 grams per pound or as low as 1 gram per pound of body weight. Personally, I just stick with 1.5 g/lb.) Although you can certainly choose to eat seven to ten smaller meals , Most people think that six meals a day is much more possible. For simplicity, let’s say you weigh 200 lbs. This would have you eat 300 grams of protein per day. Divided over six meals and you have 50 grams per meal. Easy enough, right?
So, what, exactly, can you eat to give you 50 grams of protein? Funny you should ask. Below is a list of food choices that have around 50 grams of muscle building protein. These should be considered your “staple” protein sources.
50 grams of protein
Chicken Breast: 6 ounces (170 grams) – baked or broiled / 8 ounces (225 grams) – raw
Mean (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) – roast / 7 ounces (200 grams) – raw
Proteins: 2 cups – raw
Cottage Cheese: 15 ounces (425 grams) – (also contains about 20 grams of carbohydrates)
So, just plop one of the above portions (conveniently provided in ounces and grams) onto your plate and you’ve met your protein requirements for that meal. Of course, you can also use a powdered protein 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. Refer to the product label for the correct serving size.
Knowing exactly how many grams of carbohydrates one should 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, pumpless and with little to no vascularity. Additionally, chronically consuming inadequate carbohydrate intake will, if you’re lucky, prevent you from growing – very likely you’ll eventually shrink.
With 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. Instead, they are based on my personal experience gained by doing it myself and helping others for more than 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 about 400 to 500 grams of carbohydrates per day. For purposes 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 don’t have math. Finally, if getting super-shredded quickly is at the top of your to-do list, our 200-pound man should shoot for 100 grams of carbs per day—about ½ gram of carbs per pound of body weight.
Another point worth mentioning regarding carbohydrate intake is timing. Both experience in the trenches and university studies agree that the largest part of the daily carbohydrate intake should be consumed first thing in the morning and after workout. Essentially, the nutrients consumed in the few hours after your weight training dictate whether or not (and/or to what extent) one recovers. However, some studies have shown that we tend to metabolize carbohydrates better in the first part of the day as opposed to the last part. This is fine and dandy if you train in the AM. If youare not able to train until the evening, I would still consume your para-workout drink(s) and at least one carb with a post-workout meal. Unless you have a real violet-ass workout, I assure you that your starved muscles will ‘soak’ these carbs straight up. (For the record, I ‘split the difference’ by training at noon or 1 PM, as I am far from a ‘morning person’.)
As with protein above, I’ve provided you with basic carbs and portion sizes below that yield 50 grams of carbs. Feel free to mix and match these carb 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 won’t make you feel good, 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 requirement for 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) – boiled 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 typically contains between 20 and 25 grams of carbohydrates. Because of the potential lipogenic effect of excess fructose (fruit sugar), I would not normally recommend consuming 50 grams worth of carbohydrates from fruit in one sitting. For these reasons, I will list carb servings of fruits in portions with 20 to 25 grams of carbohydrates.
Again, if you use your noggin’ a bit, you’ll realize that you can have a piece of fruit and one of the starchy carbs 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 an abundance of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients, and good ‘ole fiber. As a buddy 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
Strawberries: 11 ounces (300 grams)
Just how much fat one should consume is as debatable as whether global warming is true or political propaganda. Consuming too much fat can, oddly enough, make you fat – more so when excess trans and/or saturated fat is consumed, or when high insulin levels are present. 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 several ways. It is; however, quite well accepted that if one’s carbohydrate intake decreases, dietary fat can (and usually should) be increased a little.
In my opinion, the only thing that is quite 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 enough – 30% or more – DHA and EPA.) Otherwise, try to simply mix your fat sources so that you consume about 1/3 monounsaturated, 1/3 polyunsaturated, and 1/3 saturated.
As far as guidelines on how much fat to consume, I feel 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 about 48 to 80 grams of fat per day. If youare eating more carbs, I would lean toward the lower end of these guidelines and vice versa. Below I list sample servings of fat that contain 15 grams each. Simply adjust the parts as needed.
15 grams of fat:
Oil (olive or flax): 1 tablespoon
Olives: 5 ounces (140 grams) ripe (black) can / 3.5 ounces (100 grams) green can
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 that much fish oil with one meal.
I consider most vegetables to be “Free Foods”. No, that does not mean that they cost nothing; it means that I consider them free of substantial caloric value. You can, and should, consume some veggies with every meal, with the exception of your workout and/or post-workout shakes. Personally, I also don’t want to consume them right before a workout because 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 (no 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. More than that and their carbohydrates can start to add up to a significant amount.
You have no doubt noticed that the above nutritional values represent only a small part of the different types of food that one could consume. But don’t overcomplicate things by losing sight of the fact that these foods should form the backbone of any meal plan. In fact, you can even achieve the highest level of performance without eating anything not on this list – except for supplements. Most people who have a physique you really desire eat these foods day in and day out. The only thing that really varies is the amounts of each. If eating this food day in and day out sounds boring, now you know why not too many people have really kick-ass bodies.
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