Eating to Get Strong Fast
They say that abs are made in the kitchen.
And "they" are correct.
It cannot be stressed enough: What you eat is paramount to success in the gym or on the playing field! There's a million different strategies to do this, many completely contradicting each other, and in the end people are often left confused and uncertain how to go forward.
Now, this is only my opinion and of course I encourage all readers to dive into the nutrition field with earnest if they desire to do so. Based off my own research (10+ years) there are several objectives in terms of our nutrition plan. They are:
1) Hormone optimization for muscle gain and fat loss
2) Quality and diverse proteins to ensure essential amino acids
3) Antioxidants to support energy, mental focus, and overall immune health
4) Quality fuel in terms of healthy fats and solid carbohydrate choices
5) Efficiency. A quality nutrition plan must be realistic to the person's lifestyle
The metaphor I would use is this: Imagine that there is a bucket of water. The water is metaphorical for optimal nutrition. The ideal amount of water would be to completely fill the bucket to the brim, and keep it there constantly. This is quality nutrition.
Every action, all the time, has metabolic consequences. Nutrients are constantly being used up from simple functions like organ function, breathing, and cell turnover. This being said, the bucket of water is constantly draining, even if slowly. We must consistently add water to keep the reservoir full. Once the bucket gets too low, disease ensues.
So the goal, for me, would be to add enough water that the top is sometimes slightly spilling over, but overall the bucket remains full.
Eating ice cream, doughnuts, cheap coffee....these things drain the bucket further, because vital nutrients are used up to protect the body from these poisonous foods.
So how do we keep the bucket full?
Let's quickly address each of the criteria above, and that will serve as the template for this nutrition program.
1) Hormones. To optimize these you need fat and cholesterol. You can create cholesterol but you cannot create enough fat. So you need healthy omega 3/9 fatty acids. Fish oils, avocados, most nuts, legumes, butter (what??), olive oils and the like. One strategy to optimize growth hormone which peaks between 11pm-2am in bursts is to consume a high fat, low carb snack or meal before bed. Yes, you can eat before bed, just not junk food which spikes insulin. This midnight snack will give your body the fuel to create hormones while you sleep, which is one thing that happens when you sleep, while also eluding insulin spikes by carbohydrates, which can disrupt sleep.
2) Quality and diverse protein sources. Muscles need protein, sure. But so does almost every other part of your body. They require different proteins and amino acids. So for this reason we need diverse protein sources. Soy protein is a heart healthy protein, and is a complete protein as well. Yes, there are allergies, but in my personal experience, a quality, properly processed isolate rarely causes allergic reactions. Of course there is whey protein and milk protein like casein, great for muscles. There are tons of proteins. A diverse diet that avoids the refined "crap" carbohydrates and includes quality protein will aid in muscle growth and immune system health. Dispersing the protein consistently and avoiding massive gaps between meals is also crucial. Have your snacks and meals preprepared if possible.
3) Antioxidants / cancer preventers / nutrients. Antioxidants are so crucial to health it cannot be expressed in words. This includes phytochemicals, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and others. We think of antioxidants as "health" solutions and rarely see how they can help us with our fitness goals. Some natural performance enhancers include: Coenzyme Q10, vitamin D3, vitamin C, zinc, iodine, omega 3, nitric oxide, cyanocobolumin (no spell check), even things like copper and silver. There are TONS of antioxidants and some are "super antioxidants" which will revive deceased comrads. Nitric oxide can revive antioxidants so that they can perform their activities again. We must remember that most antioxidants are used up and rendered useless after they perform their duty. For this reason, we need them constantly for health. Immune health, digestive health, brain and heart health, endocrine health, muscle and bone health...
This is EXACTLY why we are advised to eat vegetables.
4) Quality Fuel. Forget everything you have heard from the mainstream regarding calories in vs. calories out for fat loss. It is an utter lie. The fact is your body craves and needs what's IN the food, what's in the calories. It's the vitamin, mineral and antioxidant content that gives food it's power. For this reason we need what I call "dense" nutrition. This means maximum nutrition with minimal calories. This does not mean just eating vegetables, as is propagating in the mainstream. What I mean is consuming healthy fats in quantity, consistently, along with quality protein. Base your snacks off these guidelines and I assure you will avoid 95% of junk food. Quality fat means again, what we talked about before. Olive oil, fish oil, nuts, etc. Not a lap-full of popcorn sprayed with artificial butter.
Our brains need glucose, so we need some carbohydrates. Veggies, fruits, fiber-rich grains, and a little sugar here and there, specifically during or before / after a workout. I am an advocate for somewhat high fat, medium protein diets that are low in refined carbohydrates. I assure you that overconsuming fat is hard to do when healthy choices are made.
We must discuss the effect that sugar has on the body in high doses, which is the average American diet. Sugar without the presence of fat or protein causes extreme spikes in insulin which causes body fat to be accumulated. This is a complex issue as sometimes this is a good thing, like after a 10 mile hike.
Quality fuel is therefore a diet of quality and diverse proteins, omega 3 and 9 fats in the form of healthy cooking oils, dressings and things like fish, an array of antioxidants to keep the body healthy and optimal, and a reduction of low nutrition junk foods like cake and icecream. Its really very simple.
5) Efficiency. Efficiency means the most bang for your buck. The most nutrition in the least amount of calories, and without the junk food that does nothing but hurt our health.
Meal prepping is a staple for fitness competitors. Sunday is international food prep day! The reason they do this is simple: Real Life Happens. You want to eat healthy but you don't have the time, motivation or money to make it happen. This is the most crucial point for a fitness program. No matter how you cut it, 90% of what we see as food is detrimental to health as we move through life. Drive down the street and you will be tempted by 711 and "hotdogs" that are questionable at best. Or you see McDonalds, Carls Jr., Applebees and Walmart. The choices are scarce to say the least!
A goal without a plan is a dream. This is why supplementation is so crucial. In this day and age it is almost impossible to be ready at all times! Things happen. The car breaks down, the boss calls you in, it starts snowing. Things will slow you down. But if you have something nearby, already prepared, you will succeed.
I have my own nutritional plan and supplement line, but you have to find what works for you. And it must be QUALITY. Most supplements are not quality! So do your research and ask questions.
The key is to give consistent nutrition, quality protein, and healthy fats. With those choices alone you can't go wrong. The carbs will take care of themselves. They are everywhere.
I hope this helps people looking for something simple to get fit and fierce. Feel free to comment and ask questions or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for support or supplementation ideas.
Ben Hetzel 1/6/17