It’s crazy how confusing nutrition has become since the early 2000s. It used to be simply about “eating healthy” or “eating clean”. Today, people don’t know what healthy is because of all the fads and gimmicks.
I prefer to go back and read the books and magazines from the 70s and prior because they simplified the eating and training. The eating was based around eating wholesome foods, eating frequently throughout the day.
There was no talk of “get ripped” – it was about feeling strong, energetic and looking good. Things have changed tremendously since the 70s. The quality of our food is different all around the world because of our soil quality which has dramatically changed due to all the chemicals. All the chemicals in the air have changed our foods, including the “Organic Farmer” in Idaho. The steak and eggs of the 70s are much different than that of today.
My own nutrition needs have changed throughout the years. It seems my needs change as I hit each new decade. In my late 20s, I felt my metabolism changing as did my life stress levels.
In my mid-20s and early 30s, I experimented often with intermittent fasting. My bodybuilding years were more about frequency and very lean eating, which wasn’t very sustainable. In my 40s my nutrition plan focused on high protein and high fat, lower carbs. I still eat carbs, mainly after training sessions.
The bottom line: Do NOT complicate your nutrition or training. The human body is complex but responds best to simple methods. It’s about the consistency and effort in the basics.
Eat Regularly, don’t starve yourself. That never helps. According to Berardi (2005), eating every 2 – 3 hours is one of the most important changes you can make to your diet. Regular feeding intervals stimulate the metabolism, balance blood sugar, and improve health, body composition and performance.
Protein is the key nutrient required for you to repair and build lean muscle tissue. With all your intense training, your body will need plenty of lean protein during every meal! In addition, to keep your digestive system working properly, to aid in vitamin and mineral intake and to prevent loss of muscle tissue and bone density, you must have 1 – 2 servings of veggies at every meal!
If you feel that you need to lose body fat, then a simple rule to follow is to ingest your carbs (except for fruits and veggies) only after your workouts. Your body utilizes carbs more efficiently after a workout, as opposed to the times when you are not active. Berardi likes to call this “earning your carbs”. If you did not just finish a workout, then put away that bowl of pasta until after your workout!
Your fluid intake should regularly be water. Sodas, fruit juices and fruit shakes are often loaded with simple sugars and tons of calories, none of which do much in the way of improving performance or appearance. After a workout, a small glass of juice helps kick-start recovery. Other than that, your fruits (not fruit juices) should be where you receive healthy sugars from.
I sneak in a few pieces of fruit a day. The older I get, the more I control my fruit and carb intake. My own children are athletes, I feed them regularly and encourage them to eat. I never shut down the kitchen on them. My kids are athletes and athletes need fuel! If you’re hungry, listen to your body and eat!
I make my kids’ breakfast every day, weekends included. I also pack their lunches and snacks, NO buying the school lunch. My kids then eat an early dinner after school as we usually have sports in the late afternoon / early evening. Then after sports is dinner #2, and usually at night, some sort of a snack.
On the flip side, with our focus on individualized training and nutrition, I must emphasize I am NOT a nutritionist. But, I have seen how so many of us react differently to certain foods as well as when we eat those foods. If you’re looking to gain weight, then adding healthy carbs to your meals throughout the day might be what you need if you’re an athlete.
If you’re an adult who needs to lean out, do some research, get your blood work done and connect with a nutritionist. There have been a lot of good experiences with adults who properly apply intermittent fasting or a low carb diet. Do your research before you jump right in.
I have seen high school athletes with zero muscle tone. I can see these kids were raised on processed foods and heavy carbs and sugars. When I see kids like this I want to raid their kitchen and get rid of the junk! I’d put these athletes on a spin of Vince Gironda’s old Stone Age Diet. I would add some fruits and basic carbs here and there until we see that fat melt away as we add functional muscle.
I am amazed when I see a high school athlete who looks like the older guy who spends his nights in the bar drinking; beer belly, man boobs and skinny arms. It drives me insane. If you want to get jacked and have awesome performance, you need to eat and train like a farm boy!
Two crucial meals during the day are breakfast and post workout. College athletes skipping breakfast, training at 9 am and then eating their first meal at 11 AM is weak. It’s soft. Wake up, make some oatmeal or eggs or both and fuel up before training.
After you finish a strength training or any hard training, you want to crush a strong, post workout meal. If you can, even better is a post workout shake, then an hour later get in that power meal.
In this time period, you eat a quality meal, balanced with protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates. The body utilizes carbohydrates best at this time. Make sure that this meal is balanced with protein, carbs and healthy fats. Drink plenty of water. I know, mind-blowing, right? The basics will never let you down.
Here is an example of what you want to do after your work out. Start by having a glass of juice to get some simple sugars in your body or maybe a post workout shake. A glass of apple, cranberry, grape, orange or raspberry juice will be perfect to get simple sugars in the body and aid in recovery. I used to do this when I trained at a gym about 30 minutes from home.
I’d have the juice, the protein shake and the get home, grill up a steak and eat a potato, maybe a spoon of peanut butter as well. This simple carbohydrate consumption lets your body easily absorb some of the nutrients that have been drained from your body during the tough training & kick starts the recovery process.
What do I see today? Convenience over excellence. Kids are “too busy” to eat breakfast. Kids want pre-workout drinks. Who the heck needs pre-workout as a teenager or a 20-year-old? If you can’t get fired up at this age, then I can’t help you.
How about you eat like a farm boy and be psyched to train. When you’re young or OLD, you should NOT need a pre-workout in my opinion. If you’re not fired up to train, then I can’t help you anyway.
Organize your food, pack it on the road if you must. I used to pack a cooler in my car when I was in college. I’d have tuna sandwiches, potatoes, scrambled eggs, yogurt, and fruit packed up. It took less than 10 minutes to organize. But it was what made the difference for me. I was always energetic and fueled up. No need to go to a fast food joint. I was ready. Always be ready.
If you are far from home because of work or school, pack the food with you or have a protein shake ready to go. Get plenty of water to drink throughout your day, as this is a key part of keeping your body operating smoothly & transporting the nutrients.
Now you can get all these special coolers and containers that keep your food hot or cold. You can pull into a convenience store and use their microwave. It’s easy, don’t complicate it.
For the athlete in need of gaining more weight (often the case of incoming high school wrestlers at a lighter weight class), eat a calorie dense post workout meal:
- A glass of whole milk
- Steak / Red Meat
- Baked potato / sweet potato
- Salad with oil & vinegar
The very skinny athletes get to old school with the “weight gain shakes.” You can make a homemade protein shake! I tell these kids they’re Living the Dream!
- 12 oz whole milk
- 1 banana
- 1 spoon peanut butter
- 1 spoon honey
- 1/2 cup dried oats
- A scoop of ice cream
Man, doesn’t that sound good! Ahhhhh, to be a teenager again! I even have some undersized college wrestlers do this old-school weight gain shake. If they have protein powder, great, add it to the shake, if not, this is a solid shake! It can also be a cheat meal on the weekend for you old school meatheads!
There are no excuses if you want to improve. So, take nutrition & rest as serious if you want to win. In exchange, you WILL take your overall performance and gains to a much faster rate and a higher level. My common phrase is Train as hard as you want to WIN! But, in addition, you must Eat & LIVE the Lifestyle properly to maximize performance gains. The issue in those who lack results tends to be poor eating habits and poor sleep and lifestyle habits.
Buddy Morris has often said that the best recovery methods are free. Sleep, water, and better eating habits. Sleep is crucial. The athlete who gets to bed after midnight and then wakes up early, skips breakfast and doesn’t eat until lunch, is at a HUGE disadvantage to the Champion who lives the right lifestyle. Sleep 8-9 hours per night, keep well hydrated, eat healthily and frequently throughout the day – THAT is the way!
That fancy protein powder supplement will NOT save you. Especially nowadays, anyone can put out their own supplement line. It’s the REAL food and REAL training that makes the difference, consistently followed through on.
For more information, you will want to review the Underground Strength Coach Certification.
You can also check out the Fitness Nutrition Certification to learn more about training and fitness oriented nutrition and becoming a Certified Fitness Nutrition Coach.