DIET & NUTRITION
One of the most overlooked limiting factors to the success of many recreational and competitive bodybuilders would be the lack of attention they give to their diets. I'm sure most of you that read this keep a detailed log of your exercises, including sets, weight, and reps. Doesn't your diet deserve this attention? If you've been training for years and don't seem to be getting the results you want, I really want you to take a look at what you are eating. Is it a sound bodybuilding friendly diet? You may be surprised...
I recommend eating between 5-7 meals a day, spaced out every 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Eating so often helps the body to better process the nutrients that you consume, and promotes an anabolic, muscle building state. You would be surprised at how much of a difference simply dividing up your meals from three to six can cause. The same amount of calories divided over more meals will allow more of the macro-nutrients you eat to be used more efficiently, and be less likely to be stored as fat.
PROTEIN Protein is probably the most discussed macro-nutrient in bodybuilding, with good reason! Muscle is rebuilt by the amino acids contained in the protein you eat, and only protein can cause you to achieve a positive nitrogen balance, the only state in which your body can add muscle tissue (hypertrophy). I personally feel that bodybuilders should consume between 1 to 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight every day (a 200lb man should eat 200-400 grams of protein a day, divided evenly over six or so meals), the amount of protein depending heavily on your immediate goals (dieting/bulking). I tend to eat less protein when I'm bulking as compared to when I'm dieting down and need the protein for energy as well as rebuilding my muscles. I get my protein from quality sources such as beef, milk whey, egg whites, chicken, fish, and meal replacement powders.
CARBOHYDRATES Carbs are the preferred source of fuel for your body. Carbohydrates are easily converted to glycogen, which is stored energy in your muscle tissue. Carb intake is the trickiest factor in a successful diet. If you eat too many, you'll very likely gain too much bodyfat, due to the elevated insulin levels associated with high carb intake and due as well to the excess in calories being stored in your tri-glyceride (fat) stores. Eat too few, and your muscle will waste away to nothing. What to do????
I suggest following a few basic rules that have worked for me. When I'm bulking, I eat two to three times my body weight in grams of carbs (200lb man= 400-600 grams of carbs a day). When I'm dieting down, I eat any where from .75 to 1 times my bodyweight in carbs a day (200lb man= 150-200 grams of carbs a day). These numbers are variable, and should be experimented with to see what works best for you. If you are looking to gain weight, and after a few weeks cannot seem to add an ounce, raise your carb consumption by 100 grams a day. If still not gaining in a few weeks, add 100 more. Dieting is as simple. Just do the opposite and subtract carbs from your diet. **NEVER GO UNDER 50 GRAMS OF CARBS A DAY, YOUR BRAIN NEEDS CARBS TO FUNCTION PROPERLY!** I prefer to eat low-glycemic carbs, such as yams, brown rice, and oatmeal. The only time that I consume high glycemic carbs is immediately following training, when my muscles are glycogen starved.
FAT Rule number one...Fat is not a four letter word! Fat intake is actually very important for the body's production of sex hormones and for the normal functioning of many your internal organs. Several bodily functions are compromised by too low of a fat intake. I try to make sure that the fats I consume are of the mono and poly unsaturated varieties, such as flaxseed oil, olive oil, fish oils, and my favorite, natural peanutbutter. When dieting I tend to like a higher fat intake with a low carbohydrate approach, as the additional fat intake keeps my energy up when I'm in a Ketogenic state. Give this approach a try, and see if it works for you.
WATER I believe that water intake needs to be high for bodybuilders to get the maximum results from their hard training. Everyone concerned about their health and appearance should consume at least 1 gallon of water a day, and I recommend even higher. I try to always consume 1 1/2 gallons a day, to help my body process all of the protein I've eaten, keep myself properly hydrated (extremely necessary if you use creatine), and to help keep my system free of toxins. Your urine should be completely clear, if it's yellow, you aren't drinking enough water!
It's hard for active bodybuilders like myself to get all the nutrients thatwe need from whole food meals, so I firmly believe in the use of supplements to make up for any deficiencies. I have used many of the supplements on the market today, with varied successes. My list of favorite supplements, and when I take them, are as follows:
Meal Replacement Powders and Bars: I use MRP's two to three times a day,one immediately following my weight training. MRP's are nutrition made easy, and therefore probably my #1 supplement.
Creatine Monohydrate: Or more specifically, a creatine transport, such as Phosphogen HP. Nothing causes rapid gains in lean body mass like creatine. I use creatine immediately following training, 5 grams a day, every day.
Antioxidants: To keep free-radicals at bay, and to help with recovery from grueling workouts, I make sure that I take at least 5,000 mgs of vitamin C a day, two grams immediately following training.
Multivitamins: Processed foods lack many of the vital micro-nutrients that are vital to achieving overall health and recovery. I take one in the morning, and one at night.
Ephedine/Caffiene/Aspirin: Such as is found in Twinlab's Ripped Fuel and Cytodyne's Xenadrine RFA-1. I take two capsules 1/2 hour before lifting or cardio to help facilitate the use of triglycerides as energy (aka burn fat). Be careful with ephedrine if you tend to get jittery on stimulants, and stay far away from ephedrine if you have heart or prostate problems!
GLUTAMINE: glutamine is considered by many to be a conditionally essential amino acid. Glutamine is the most prevalent amino acid in your muscle tissue and can be made by the body from other amino sources, but a problem arises in times of stress (you got it! Workouts are perceived as stress), as your brain and stomach are glutamine hogs, and will steal the precious glutamine from your muscles! The idea of taking supplemental glutamine is simple... give additional glutamine to the brain and stomach, and maybe they'll leave the muscle's glutamine alone!
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