Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Some thoughts on eating
Many lifters need to cut weight in a short period of time to lift in competition, and so they adopt a short-term strategy for that. Other lifters are very body-image conscious, and try to maintain a very low bodyfat percentage throughout the year (NOT conducive to making strength gains, but that's another story). These are fine and noble goals, but they are not relevant to what I'm going to discuss in this post.
I'm guilty of occasionally ignoring the advice I'm going to give here, but life wouldn't be any fun if we NEVER cheated on our diets. And above all else, a "diet" shouldn't be one of restriction, but rather one that provides the energy needed to fuel our day-to-day activities, including workouts, rich in variety and nutrients, while at the same time providing delightful stimulation to your taste buds. We won't keep eating food we don't like for very long.
All that being said, here are mezzie's rules of healthy eating. First the rules, then some brief elaboration and links.
- Eat food that you can digest easily
- Eat food that makes you feel energetic
- Eat "food"
That's it! Nothing too complicated, nothing about counting calories or figuring out macro or micronutrient content, no food scales, no preaching, no negatives. So why is it so simple? Let's look at the rules one by one:
1. Eat food that you can digest easily
So many young trainees think they need to take lots of supplements, including vast amounts of protein, in order to maximize their gains. Not only is this untrue in general, but if carried to extremes can be quite uncomfortable. Protein powders in general aren't kind to the stomach, and can leave you bloated, gassy, and feeling nauseous or queasy. If you can find a protein powder that your stomach handles well, fantastic, but treat it as a SUPPLEMENT, rather than as your main source of protein. See point 3 below for further information.
Vast quantities of milk, or ANY food or drink for that matter, can lead to intestinal discomfort, diarrhea, and other long, unwanted trips to the bathroom. Do you really think your body is benefiting from all this? The answer is likely no.
2. Eat food that makes you feel energetic
This is a polite way of saying "don't load up on sugar-filled crap all day" or more simply "don't eat food that brings you down". Eating reasonably-sized portions of good quality food (again, see point 3 below) throughout the day, while minimizing plain old junk food or other highly-processed foods, will keep your energy levels consistent and high.
Have you ever had that extra piece of pie for dessert and then regretted it 30 minutes later? Or had that chocolate bar after lunch at work, and then felt like napping by 2PM? Sugar can provide a brief energy boost (so it can be fine in limited quantities post-workout, or better, post-competition!), but the crash that follows just makes you feel lethargic and gross.
3. Eat "food"
Here's the biggie.
I'm a big fan of Michael Pollan, who wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. In the latter book, he discussed the cuisines of various countries of the world, and how the foods work synergistically to form a complete way of eating for the people. In the West, scientists have tried to analyze the diets of various non-Western cultures to determine the key ingredient(s) that make it "work". For example, olive oil in Greek cooking, or soy in Japan. Then all of a sudden the Western media brainwashes the people here into believing that those "power foods" are the key to lifelong health and a trim body. Of course, that's not the way these things work. Those ingredients are a tiny part of the cuisine as a whole, and simply contribute to its overall effectiveness.
All that being said, the one thing the major cuisines of the world have in common is that they're composed of REAL FOOD. Nothing that comes in a box, has a shelf life of a Twinkie, is in powder form, and so on. Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, various grains, beans, legumes, and on and on. Some cuisines are very high in protein and/or fat, while others may be over 90% carbohydrates. No matter what, the cuisines result in lean, muscular, healthy bodies for the most part. Supplementation is unheard of, Western diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and so on simply don't exist.
The take home point? Stick to the outside aisles of the grocery store, and stock up on as much "food" as you can handle :)
With the help of a former bodybuilding champion, I have put together a spreadsheet that can help lifters plan their eating for the long-term, develop great habits that will last a lifetime, and will leave you worry-free if you ever "slip" and go on a little binge, since you'll always have the plan to come back to. The plan does stress protein intake, since it's much easier to build muscle while keeping protein consumption high, but really it's about balance and long-term planning.
Also, with the help of some of my lifters and friends, I'm currently compiling a set of easy, brain-dead recipes that generally take 10-20 minutes to prepare, and are a great addition to the spreadsheet.
So again, see the note below, and happy eating :)
If anyone out there is interested in seeing what I might be able to offer you, in programming, technique critique, or anything training-related, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am sure it varies by individual but what did you have in mind? Sub 10%?
Any thoughts you'd like to add to my post would of course be most welcome :)
I am actually following the Primal Blueprint eating wise (and lifestyle-wise somewhat, I m getting outside more and taking rest time more seriously). I have cut out grains and legumes completely, and to be honest, it's great!!! I use to get major stomach discomfort after eating, especially large meals and often small meals, especially with grain-based carbs like rice, bread, pasta, etc.
Since cutting out grains, I have never felt better. I can eat large meals and not have stomach discomfort at all. I eat a lot of meat, a lot of fat, a lot of vegetables, and moderate carbs. My only carb sources are fruit, sweet potatoes, squash (butternut or acorn), the little bit from nuts and Greek yogurt, & veggies.
I am doing a "carb-up day" every few days or so (today is a carb-up day). Usually carbs are pretty moderate though. I am also less dependent on food, especially on off days. Yesterday, I ate breakfast, then nothing except a little bit of jerk and a few almonds during the day then a heavy dinner. Before starting Primal, I would have been panicking and worried all day about eating. Now I'm not, and I was fine. Going to train today in about 40 minutes or so actually.
The point of "stick to the outside aisles" is so true. With the exception of the aisle with cooking oils, I don't even venture there anymore.
Thanks for the awesome and informative response! I think stomach discomfort is possibly THE most neglected aspect of dieting. Some foods just sit better with some people than others, and following a rote diet plan could cause you to end up feeling pretty miserable. I love your own plan; more people should look into it!
Now I just have to forget about today and friday's bad sessions and move forward!
Now I'm craving cupcakes, though... :-D
"I'm guilty of occasionally ignoring the advice I'm going to give here, but life wouldn't be any fun if we NEVER cheated on our diets."
They fit in right there!
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