Do you want to get lean? Eat lean.
Do you want to get big? Eat big.
Do you want to get lean, while getting big? Eat lean… and a lot of it.
The entire reason I finally started this blog is that after improving myself and showing off, others started coming to me for advice. After sending many of them customized plans or, at the very least, sending them in the right direction, I felt like it would be more advantageous to my time, theirs and yours if I started answering these questions (or as many of them as I could) in a public forum. People will still need specialized plans and advice, yes, but everyone can benefit from some knowledge. So, I am starting this site off with a blog post centered around the very next question I received about fitness, from my friend Stephen:
“Hey biggin, do you have any go-to resources on food prep?”
So, my next question, as I ask anyone coming to me for advice, is:
“Well, what are your goals?”
Any form of fitness is bound to help you in some small way. And eating “healthy” in any capacity is bound to do some good for you. With rare exception, any activity is better than none. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, after all. But just as one form of exercise may be better suited for you than another, the appropriate diet will follow that choice of routine. If you powerlift, you can still eat healthy, but you’re probably talking 3-5000 calories a day. If you’re bodybuilding, you’re watching your macro nutrients (% protein/carbs/fats) and cycling your diet and more than likely eating less.
As such, as soon as I hear back from Stephen, I will continue to help Stephen as best as I can with his goals.
But in the meantime, there are some basic staples for a healthy diet that I think anyone pursuing fitness goals can benefit from:
Fats Are Not Your Enemy
And if you don’t believe me.
Didn’t read the link? Here’s the summary: much research has been done and a lot of it has come up inconclusive that saturated fats are bad for heart health. Not only that, but for those who exercise, fat can be used as a fuel. It becomes the first thing burned off, saving your carbohydrates as a secondary and more plentiful source, and your protein is held back in order to actually build and repair muscle. Nevermind that your brain needs fat to function.
Fruits and Vegetables Are Your Friends
There are no two ways around this. Your body needs the vitamins and minerals present in a range of fruits and vegetables to keep your body going, whether you perform like an athlete or work a desk job and go home to play video games.
Apples are a good source of fiber, help with colon health, and help control blood sugar levels.
Grapes are high in Vitamins A, C, and B6. They’re also a great way to replenish after a workout (and a key ingredient in my *Chicken Salad*).
And while eating all your fruits and veggies each day is the right way to go… scientists have simplified your burden and produced a daily vitamin that contains all the essential benefits of both in Juice Plus. To be clear, I am not advertising this, but if your one excuse was that you don’t feel like gorging yourself with that many oranges and apples a day… voila.
The Body Absolutely Needs Water
I feel as though this should be self-explanatory. Many will agree and then still not drink enough. Water carries nutrients to all the cells in your body. Water carries waste products from the cells. It is a part of essential chemical reactions. It helps regulate heat. And body temperature and hitting target heart rates are essential parts of the fitness process. In addition, as most people know from elementary school, water accounts for 60% of an adult’s bodyweight. You get 80% of that from drinking water or beverages that are easy to extract the water from, with 20% arriving in your body as a result of the breakdown of food. Drink water.
Sugars Are Your Enemy
The problem is two-fold. First, sugar provides a ton of calories with little or no nutritional content. It provides energy, and that’s about it. Second, sugar becomes addicting, so that your body begins to crave sugar and you eat steadily worse food for nutritional content. A few studies have been done to indicate that our bodies are structured in such a way that as hunters and gatherers, our eyes are trained to search for food that we know, historically, has produced greater caloric content. In the natural world, this would also mean greater nutritional content. In the current mass manufactured world, this is not so. So holds true for processed foods.
Processed Foods Are Also Your Enemy
As discussed with sugars, processed foods deceive the eye into thinking that because we knew the last time we ate that Big Mac, it was high in calories… eat it again. However, as with the last time we ate it… it either didn’t have a healthy portioning of proteins, carbs, and fats or it had additional chemicals that the body is not used to processing. The body CAN process a lot, but that doesn’t mean it’s supposed to or that it’s optimal for your health. Arsenic, for instance, can be digested and excreted within 72 hours. Food for thought, that.
Educate Yourself on the Ongoing Research around Grains
There is much going around these days about the pros and cons of grains. Those who subscribe to Paleo will most likely back it up with the same 3-4 Paleo tomes (The Paleo Solution/Bible/etc.). And the research there says that grain, in addition to not being something our entire body has evolved to use optimally best yet, also pierces the intestines during digestion. On the other hand, a grain heavy diet has been hoisted up as the solution to heart problems, reversing cholesterol and regulating digestion. So, read up and make up your own mind. For my part, I try to avoid grains when I cook, but do eat them when I am out with friends or on the town. And I can tell a difference. I feel better, less sluggish, I have more energy. But I’ve also never tested myself for a gluten sensitivity. Either path you follow, it’s best to know how grains affect you by testing how you feel/perform both on and off them.
Everyone is different, and every body is different. Not only do basic human builds/physical archetypes exist, but our own metabolism can yield unique results. A friend of mine recently told me that, despite numerous visits to doctors to check up on her metabolism, she discovered she can eat ANYthing and still be okay. And I believe her. She’s taken a very methodical approach to things… and she competes in triathlons and races all the time. But that’s just her. Someone of her same basic build could have a metabolism without such resiliency, and that is why there are many programs and experts dedicated to listening to your own body’s feedback. But a good place to start is by using some basic online caloric intake calculators and being REALLY honest with it and yourself. These are ballpark figures, but they do help. For instance, if you’re a man built like a brickhouse and you can’t gain muscle… maybe you haven’t been eating enough. Or you’ve been eating all the wrong things or the wrong combination of macronutrients (which is, yet again, also heavily influenced by your fitness goals. But knowing how much you can eat allows you to also figure out meal sizes more accurately, whether you are cooking them yourself or at a restaurant with accurate menus.
Once again, these are just basic principles, with just enough information and sourcing behind them to help the average reader grasp the concepts. Research changes our understanding every year, and all of this is affected by your body and your fitness goals. In the following weeks, I will do my best to explain the dietary needs for mass gaining, weight loss and recomping.
Until Next Time
Jacob Summers (SuperSoldier) is not a medical expert in the fields of nutrition or fitness. The opinions expressed here, while researched and vetted against some professionals, are still just the opinions of Jacob Summers as a result of personal experience with himself and those who have sought help from him.