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.

How to Get HOOGE!

By far the question that I get asked the most by our male athletes is “how do I get bigger”.  I give them the simplest answer they could ever want yet they still for some reason don’t like what I tell them. My answer is usually along the lines of “eat food… a lot of it, all day…“ The resounding follow up from them goes something like “but I don’t want to get fat”.  At this point, in my mind, I want to just go kick down a door (figuratively speaking of course). [vsw id="q3SFXQfE4kk&" source="youtube" width="425" height="344" autoplay="no"]

I blame society.  For the last 20 years we have been told by media organizations that if we eat food we will get fat and then we are made to idolize people that look like sticks, RIDICULOUS!  Sorry, I’m digressing from the point… What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, gaining weight.

Fellas, the only way to gain muscle mass is to eat A LOT of REAL FOOD and have a sound strength and conditioning program.  Please, I beg you to get rid of the notion that you will get fat because honestly, you won’t.  The guys I get the gaining weight question from are usually 5’6”, 130-140lbs or 6’0” 165-175lbs; the last thing you should ever worry about is getting fat.  I can’t really blame you for thinking this because I was the same way when I was younger.  It wasn’t until college that I started to educate myself on the issue and ignored my ridiculous thoughts about getting fat.  I went from 5’8” 150lbs to around 6 months later weighing in at 177lbs (after trying to gain a little more muscle recently, I weigh in around 187lbs currently).  All that said I’m going to give you a list of some of the foods I ate frequently to help me reach my goals (the foods are in no specific order).

I did not measure out my food when trying to gain weight.  I don’t feel this is necessary because it ends up getting in the way and becomes a huge hassle which leads to giving up.

- 6 eggs (whole eggs, not egg whites) with a handful of cheddar cheese and a WHOLE LOT of vegetables.  Try and find whatever you can, mine consists of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green and red peppers.  I ate this for breakfast and sometimes dinner.  I scrambled it all up with some olive oil.  This was a great way to get in a lot of good nutrients consisting of fats, carbohydrates, and protein.

- Natural peanut butter and jelly on Arnold’s Double Fiber wheat bread and a glass of whole milk.  This was one of my favorites which is why I ate it twice a day; one of those times being after my training session in which case I would substitute a glass of whole milk with chocolate milk/one scoop vanilla why protein. I slabbed on as much peanut butter as I could. Be sure to get natural peanut butter, don’t eat that processed stuff.  If it claims to be natural but lists palm oil as an ingredient then don’t buy it; palm oil acts as a trans-fat.

- Burrito bowl from Chipotle with rice, fajitas, black beans, chicken, pico de gallo, cheese, and guacamole.  This was usually a once a week thing because of cost.  This was a great way to get in a lot of calories on a day where I was slacking or short on time.

- Stir fry diced chicken breast with as many vegetables as you can cram in.  It should consist of tomatoes, green peppers, red peppers, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and baby spinach with olive oil and teriyaki sauce.  I usually got 3 to 4 pounds of chicken breast filets and made it all on Sunday so I could have it already prepared for the week. Again, gettin' a lot of calories while satisfying vegetable intake.  I know what you are thinking and yes you have to eat spinach, because it’s awesome and if you want to be strong like Popeye you have to eat like Popeye.

- I loved drinking smoothies because it was an awesome way to get in a boat load of good calories. The fact that it was liquid allowed it to not sit very long which allowed me to eat again quicker.  I had my own recipe but Stevo’s is far superior so I’ll give you that one.  Frozen berries, whole milk, Kefir, brazil nuts, and one scoop vanilla whey protein.  If the blender isn't full by the end… Just add more.

- West Virginia Goulash with a side of 4% milk fat cottage cheese mixed with strawberry jelly.  This is a meal that my dad (from Beaver, West Virginia) has cooked for my family forever.  It’s nothing special really, just 90/10 ground beef cooked in a pan with LITERALLY whatever vegetables you can find.  My dad uses potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, corn, green beans, green peppers, and tomatoes.  As for the cottage cheese, I do like it by itself but after a while the taste takes its toll on you so I added the flare of strawberry jelly. Again, just like the chicken stir fry I would make this at the beginning of the week. If you don’t like this meal then we just can’t be friends.

A Few Things to Note…

- Every week I would rotate between the chicken stir fry and the West Virginia Goulash, a big bowl of either would be my lunch or dinner.  The peanut butter and jelly, cottage cheese with strawberry jelly, the scrambled egg dish and the smoothie would be something I ate every day, every week.  With all this I would end up eating around 5-6 times a day and drinking around 3 liters to 1 gallon of water a day.

- At this time the only supplement I took was cod liver oil because I needed extra Vitamin D due to lack on sun exposure and protein powder.  If you are trying to put on mass for the first time I highly discourage you from taking other supplements such as NO2 products and creatine products.  The reason being is not because they are bad for you (because they are NOT bad for you) it’s more so because they end up being a crutch, especially for teens.  People and again especially teens tend to think supplements are a “magic pill” and make them a staple of their diet rather than what they are; a “supplement” to your diet.  Whey protein is fine; just keep it to one scoop after your training session along with the other post workout food I listed and one scoop for your smoothie.

- If you’re reading this and saying things like “oh man, that’s unhealthy to eat that many eggs”, “I’m going to get fat if I do that”, “his cholesterol and blood pressure must be through the roof!” then I'm sorry to say, you are sorely mistaken.  If you truly believe those things then you probably don’t exercise (lift heavy things and condition) enough, you pay too much attention to bad sources of information, and you just aren’t ready to take on the challenge.  All of the products I ate were natural and either not processed or very minimally processed.  There is nothing “unhealthy” about drinking whole milk, it’s a great source of good fats and is much less processed than skim milk.  Egg yolks are fine, actually its the best part of the egg.  And, I can assure you that my cholesterol and my blood pressure are better than average.

Stop letting society dictate your life.

Friday Distractions

I don't know if we have any hard-core running sock wearers reading our site, but if we do, then THIS is the post for you: Running Sock Reviews from Runblogger!! From Sweat Science: Higher carb intake = faster Ironman finish

The fiance of a coach I worked with at VCU has a food blog with, what look to be, some pretty good recipes. Check out White Truffle Turnip "Risotto." I've never tried any of the recipes, but again, they look pretty good and tend to be based around Paleo style rules.

Lastly, if you're pretty much spent from the week and trying to get in the Halloween spirit, take a look at these photos of pets dressed up in Halloween costumes. It might be just what you need. HAAAAAA!

As for my family, we'll be participating in the Goblin Gallop 1k Fun Run on Sunday at Fairfax Corner. And, yes, Arabella will be getting her first race medal!

Black Bean Poop…it’s delicious…

Not only is my wife drop-dead gorgeous (points), but she’s a terrific cook (double points…take notes boys).  One of her specialties, and a meal my taste buds and colon love dearly, is her version of “Black Bean Soup,” which I prefer to call Black Bean Poop…I’m sure you can deduce why.  It’s both nutritious and delicious…I mean it’s so good it almost tastes bad for you…plus it’s an extremely versatile meal, and it’ll last you a long time. The recipe: (serves a bunch, you’ll have leftovers which is awesome)

Food prep:

 -Open 3-4 cans of black beans; a standard can, not the Costco barrels

-A generous couple handfuls of chopped carrots

-1/2 of a white onion, chopped into fairly fine bits

 The cooking:

 In a deep soup pan, begin by sautéing your carrots and onions in olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of pan) until soft.  Once soft, add minced garlic (garlic lovers can be generous), and saute for a bit longer; careful not to burn the garlic.

Next, add 1 tbsp of cumin, a few generous shakes of cayenne (good cooks don’t measure, duh, and I like mine spicy), 3/4 tsp coriander, 32 oz. beef broth and the 3-4 cans of black beans (juice included).  Stir it all up and let simmer for 15-20min.

Stroll to television and witness the Sox continuing to choke away the wildcard…make a u-turn back into the kitchen.

We like to serve our black bean poop on a bed of quinoa.  See quinoa label for cooking instructions. 

After the soup has simmered for about 15-20min, take your hand blender and gently blend until you’ve reached your desired soupy consistency; I like mine chunky.  After blending, add ½ cup of dry sherry, and stir it up.

 Take your quinoa off the stove, mix the two together, and enjoy!

 What’s great is that later in the week your leftovers can be used to make bean burritos; add some fresh slices of avocado and a sprinkling of cheese…and now you’re eatin’ gooood.

The cure for the common case of constipation,

 Sous Chef Chris