I’m gonna be frank, I love (and hate) food. I love all the tastes, culinary novelties, and the satiety provided by an epic meal.
At the same time I hate food. It’s the single biggest factor in people’s lifestyle that they flub up. People will do all the extra cardio, all the extra workouts, and buy all the supplements, but ask them to be consistent and diligent with their nutrition and the wheels fall off the wagon.
It truly is amazing the lengths people will go through to get lean, jacked, strong, without paying any attention to single most important factor that you can actually control- food. Instead of writing a dissertation about why you should eat a certain way, omit certain foods, or carry around a calculator and food scale I’m going to keep it simple and off a few “truisms” that can take you to the next level with regards to your training and physique.
1) You don’t need to eat frequently but you do need to eat well.
There is literally no scientific evidence (observational or clinically-oriented metabolic ward studies) that support increased meal frequency. In fact, the scientific evidence currently available supports a different hypothesis- that meal frequency doesn’t matter. What does matter, however, is what your meals are comprised of. As logical people (hopefully), we should understand that a diet rich in protein bars, refined foods, and synthetically modified “food stuffs” do not support a lean, muscular physique. Subscribing to the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid)- here is truism number one:
#1- stick to single-ingredient foods and ditch anything that has more than zero commas in the list of ingredients.
2) What you do most of the time matters most.
“I can’t tell you in percentages how important nutrition vs. exercise is. Some say nutrition is 70% of the success in bodybuilding. Does that mean that if you perfectly implement nutrition and fitness health diets but don’t exercise at all, you are going to build a physique at 70% of your potential?”
People want to exclaim that nutrition is paramount and you can’t make up for a piss poor diet. They’re both right AND wrong. Of course it’s important what you put in your body, but it’s not always important. The general trends and overarching themes of your nutrition will determine your physique, strength, and results, The occasional cheat, beer, or splurge won’t wreck you- especially not if it’s actually occasional. I always laugh when I hear people “planning” their cheat days. To me that’s like planning for failure and more importantly, turning into a narcissistic human being. Cheats and splurges should just happen, albeit infrequently-depending on your goals. If you really want to get down to single-digit body fat levels then yea- you’re not going to be cheating very often-if at all. If you are a weekend warrior who loves to train and eat right then it really doesn’t matter if you eat out once or twice a week or grab a beer while unwinding. You’ll see later in the other truisms that this is legit.
#2- For the next year hit your meals to the best of your ability and don’t sweat the occasional flub (you shouldn’t be able to determine your frequency because they don’t occur with any regularity). In a year you’ll be stronger, leaner, and more popular because of it.
3) Train like you actually care.
Do you know what the best of the best actually eat?
You think these guys are actually worried about their macronutrient content, calories, or meal timing? With that said they have amazing genetics, superior levels of muscle mass, and hormonal profiles that would make Dan Duchaine jealous. With that said, their training and activity levels are through the roof and serve a purpose in their lives. That purpose is motivation. What motivates you? When you train you have to be in the right mind set, you have to be motivated to leave it all on the platform, to strain, to suffer. Is this you? If you’re shaking your head then this does not apply to you and your nutrition will never be on point enough to make up your your lack of vigor in the gym. When you’re getting ready to enter the gym focus on making progress, not just getting it in.
#3 Train hard enough to actually utilize the fuel you’re consuming. Heavy compound movements and high intensity (nausea inducing) conditioning such as pushing the prowler/car, dragging a sled, yoke or farmer’s walks, or running sprints are the name of the game.
4) Stop drinking your calories. Really. Unless it’s a protein shake or post workout nutrition why the hell would someone interested in physique, strength, or athleticism be drinking their calories. Believe it or not drinking the 600 calorie latte every morning, full strength Gatorade during your workout, and Coke at dinner isn’t doing you any favors. Stick to water or even diet sodas if you must but if it has calories and it’s NOT a protein shake/post workout shake stop drinking it.
#4 Eat whole foods, drink water and protein. Skip the rest.
5) Layer your nutrition. This is a concept I picked up from Johnny Pain over at www.strengthvillain.com and I am jealous I didn’t coin it earlier. Each meal and macronutrient has layers that we can simplify for each individual. Instead of using a food scale and measuring cups we can use simpler ways to do this. Consider the following meal:
Chicken, white rice, broccolli, protein shake + water.
So we have two protein layers- chicken and protein shake and one carbohydrate layer- white rice. From here we can add or subtract “layers” to achieve the desired results. If leaning out is the goal then we can decrease the white rice layer, maybe only a fist-sized serving of white rice versus two of these. Similarly we can add layers for mass gain- such as switching to a fattier cut of meat (beef/steak/pork), adding peanut butter/almond butter to the protein shake (or milk), etc. Once again if any of these layers we listed for mass gain were in the original meal we could remove those one at a time over a few weeks to get the desired effect. An easy way to implement this is to use palm sized or fist sized portions as your guide. For a 200lb male looking to drop body fat here would be a good starting point:
4- double palm sized portions of lean protein (egg whites, chicken, turkey breast, fish, etc) a day.
2- double palm sized portions of single ingredient carbohydrates in the meals around the workout or early in the day if it’s a non-training day- rice, potatoes, yams, etc.
2- 2 scoop whey protein shakes + water every day, with 1 of them being the last meal stand alone.
From here we would modify the layers based on progress and cardio levels. I’d rather add cardio at first, then reduce food. To reduce the layers I would first cut out a palm size portion of carbohydrates in one of the meals, then another at a later date if necessary before finally removing all but one serving of carbohydrates -75-100g left, and then titrating up the cardio from there. To add size I would add one layer at a time, a serving of carbs, a layer of fat (from fattier cuts of meat, olive oil, nuts, nut butters in shakes, etc), or adding more protein.
#5 Measure in such a way that doesn’t make you an jerk in the kitchen and modify your nutrition as needed.
6) Wrap your brain around the task at hand. Perhaps the single most important thing to compliance with a nutritional plan is the mental toughness required to succeed. We have to get in the right mindset to commit to eating correctly more often than not, to do the things that are uncomfortable in order to look like-perform like- we have actually been anything other than comfortable. Verbalize your goals. Write them down and put them on your fridge, your door, your mirror. Whatever it takes to remind you that you have a purpose each and every time you eat, train, rest, do cardio, etc. If you really want to achieve your goals then you will put in the work more often than not and get there. Similarly, if you don’t really want it then no amount of money spent on bullshit will help.
#6 Get in the right mindset for your time of strict nutrition. Whatever your desired result, your intrinsic motivation can push you to do the things necessary.
So there you go, six nutritional truisms to take you to the next level. Before you ask- yes I’ve read Robb Wolf, Martin Berkahn, John Berardi, Starnes, Harris, all those guys. This is next level thinking of a coach who works with people daily. This isn’t an article for those who have never played around with their food, but rather an article meant for those serious in the iron game and want to take it to the next level.