Eating For Strength and Fitness: Improving Your Gains Via Food

Fitness- n. 1. the condition of being physically fit and healthy. 2. the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.As most of us realize that our overall fitness includes both exercise and diet. Would anyone pour sugar water into a car's gas tank and expect it to win NASCAR races (or run at all for that matter)?

It's the same with the human body: you can't load up your body with sugars (and highly processed frankenfood) and expect to achieve athletic feats and improve your physical streng

So what should we eat to provide the fuel our bodies need to crush heavy weights, tear it up on the fields and courts, and rise to Jedi Master status?

Lean meats, vegetables, fruits, eggs, water... you know, whole foods. A diet rich in whole, (mostly) unprocessed foods should the be base of any healthy diet, and especially so for those looking to build muscle, lose fat, improve speed, increase verticals, and slay dragons.

There are many calculations, measurements and details that I can expound on to find your specific caloric intake. These, I think, are more applicable for elite athletes (which most of us, outside our imaginations, are not) or highly competitive physique athletes, i.e. bodybuilders and figure competitors. For us mortals, we'll be a-ok if we keep eating real food, employing lots of vegetables, and limiting the amount of processed crap we ingest.

Nutrition is akin to training in this sense. While, yes, calculating and recording does have it's place in those high level athletes' lives, the average trainee (as in 95% of the population) will have a healthy, productive and happy lives the less we measure and obsess about everything that goes in our mouths. Just keep it simple.

Since I think it can be impractical to count calories with every meal, here are some more practical ways to manage your portion sizes.

1 palm of meat is roughly 20-30g of protein

1 "serving" of fruits or vegetables is either, 1 medium piece of fruit, 1/2 cup chopped fruit or vegetable, or 1 cup of leafy vegetables.

1 fist is about the serving size of carbohydrates.

Meals should consist of:

1. Protein source: lean beef, chicken breast, fish, eggs (vegetarians: tofu, tempeh, plant based combos to make a complete protein). How much: men- 2 palm-sized portion, women- 1 palm-size

2. Fat source: egg yolks, the fat found in meats, coconut oil, butter (real stuff, not margarine), nuts/nut butter, avocado, and olive oil How much: Roughly 30% of your calories should come from fats so try adding just a bit to each meal. Sautee vegetables in 1-2 tsp of olive or coconut oil, eat 2-3 eggs, a handful of nuts or a tablespoon of nut butter, or eat half an avocado. Just adding a little of a fat source to each meal will be perfect.

3. Vegetables: anything green, cauliflower, peppers, carrots, tomatoes... just pick some! How much: 2 servings per meal. Yup, that's right. 2.

4. Carbohydrate source: Simple: sugary drinks, soda, fruit juice, muffins, bagels, soday, sugary desserts, and soda. Complex: rice, quinoa, oatmeal, lentils, whole grain bread and pasta (real whole grain, not "enriched wheat flour), sweet potatoes or white potatoes, fruits.

How much: That depends. For those looking to lose weight, any simple carbohydrate intake should be concentrated around the workout window, with the rest of the day with smaller servings of complex carbs. Those who either train for endurance sports (triathletes, cross country, etc.) have a manual-labor job, or have a hard time gaining weight in general, should have higher intake of carbs throughout the day (with more complex carbs than simple).

Every meal should have at least 1-3. Number 4 is, as mentioned, dependent on your goals, training, and metabolic needs. Your choices are not limited to the above mentioned, but are a good starting point.

What about snacks? If you're hungry, eat! Try to include at least 2 of 1-4 above in each snack.

How often should you eat? When you're hungry. There are no hard and fast rules for how many meals and snacks one should eat during the day. If you're training hard, you will be hungry, therefore make sure you're eating enough throughout the day that you have enough energy to complete workouts and recover from them. Pay special attention to your protein intake. Muscles require protein to rebuild so make sure you're providing ample supply before and after your workouts!

Nutrition has become overcomplicated in the past few years. It doesn't have to be. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits, eat lean proteins every day, control the carbohydrate intake depending on goals, and have a sweet thing here and there.