from Joe Caruso, Exercise Physiologist, NSCA-CPT
Disclaimer: The following guidelines have worked for me in my training and nutritional regiment; the guidelines are merely suggestions and not the ONLY way to eat properly. From my experience in the personal training field I have found one principal to be true…..there is no single best way to train or to eat. Try applying these concepts and hopefully you will find they are effective for you.
Eat For What Your Goals Are
If your goal is to lose weight then you must cut calories. This presents a problem because individuals believe that cutting calories means to stop eating altogether, but this has a complete opposite effect on your body and what you really are doing is making your body go into a “starvation” mode which actually stores body fat and shuts down your metabolism because there is no flow of constant energy. Your body will also start using protein as a primary fuel and will actually go into a muscle breakdown mode and instead of using fats and carbohydrates for energy you will now be using your protein. In easiest possible term you will keep fat and lose muscle! The solution to this problem is to have well balanced, well timed, and well portioned meals throughout the entire day. Personally I would recommend 6 SMALL meals per day. Each meal should contain a protein (egg, fish, chicken, nuts) for muscular growth and amino acid requirements, and a beneficial carbohydrate (brown rice, whole grains, berries, fruits) for energy and to be used as bodies primary fuel source.
Now if your goal happens to be weight gain then most of the above statements still hold true but now you will not be cutting calories you may actually need to take in more, but that does not mean to eat everything in sight to gain muscle it would be to increase calories in a sensible way during your 6 small meals per day. An average person who has no intention of gaining muscle or does not even exercise can get by with only 60 grams of protein per day, but an individual who is most concerned with gaining muscle may need to consume as many as .85-1.25 grams of protein times their bodyweight (so if you are a 180 lb man trying to gain muscle it would be a safe bet to consume 180 grams of protein to gain muscle mass). Protein is the building block of muscle so it is requirement for those who want to focus on muscular growth. Individuals who are trying to gain weight and muscle still need to focus on carbohydrates, otherwise you have no fuel to train and you would not want to use the protein you have been trying so hard to take in as your main fuel to exercise!
Does Your Food Tie Into Your Training?
Whenever you eat you should ask yourself this question! For example if I eat a meal that contains fish, broccoli, and a sweet potato I would ask myself what does this food do in my body and how does it affect my goals? Well, the fish is a protein source so that is my muscle building block and also has omega 3 fatty acids which help promote muscular recovery, reduce inflammation, and increases the use of fat as a fuel during exercise. The broccoli and sweet potato are my clean carbohydrates that I can use for energy to train and recover. Being conscious of the food you intake and conscious of how this food effects you can make or break an individuals diet!
Pre and Post Workout Meals
Individuals sometimes do not eat before their workouts due to feeling full or even nauseous during an intense training session, while this is understandable it is also something that must be fixed. Without fuel to train you risk having low blood sugar levels as well as overtraining due to an increase of stress on muscles and no option to recover them due to lack of fuel and nutrients. This can easily be fixed by having a quick meal usually 30-45 minutes prior to exercising; the meal should be mostly carbohydrate based (for fuel to train) and a minor focus on protein (for muscle growth, and recovery). For example, a good pre workout meal would be a slow absorbing complex carbohydrate like brown rice, or wheat pasta. This pre workout meal should also contain at least 20 grams of protein that can come from sources such as fish, chicken, beef, nuts, or a whey protein shake.
The post workout meal is slightly different, while your focus is still on carbohydrates and protein, now the roles of the two are reversed. Protein now is your primary concern because your intense training has broken down muscle tissue and needs the amino acids from protein to repair the tissue and actually come back bigger and stronger. This will promote muscle growth and faster muscle recovery time. Your body has a window of roughly 45 minutes after a workout to get the anabolic (muscle building) affects of post workout protein. The more time that passes the window because smaller and smaller and the benefits reduce drastically. Carbohydrates are still of concern because during your training you have used up your glycogen stores and depleted your carbohydrates as your main source of energy. Your post workout meal needs to have carbohydrates also included to refuel what your body has lost from training. An example of a good post workout meal would be a homemade protein shake made from protein powder, fruit, and skim milk. This shake may not sound like a meal but if is very filling and has your protein and carbohydrates all in one form. Another effective post workout meal would be a good source of protein such as steak, grilled chicken, tuna, or salmon and a mix of green vegetables or fruit for your carbohydrate.
The Triangle Approach To Fitness
A triangle obviously has 3 sides and so does training! There are 3 key elements; Exercise, Cardio, and Nutrition. If one is out of balance the whole system can sadly fail, but when all 3 are in line it is very likely you can obtain your ideal results and goals. These nutritional guidelines may be helpful but they need to be used in conjunction with resistance training and cardiovascular training to maximize the benefits. In a perfect world an individual should shoot to exercise with resistance training 2-3 times per week, train cardiovascular system 3-5 times per week, and eat a well balanced diet EVERY day of the week.
The Poliquin Rule
World renowned strength conditioning coach and exercise physiologist Charles Poliquin once said the simplest nutritional guidelines ever to live by is “If it does not run, swim, fly, or if it’s not a green vegetable…..do not eat it!” This may seem extreme to majority of people but when you understand the concepts of nutrition it starts to make all the sense in the world. Basically you get your healthy proteins, carbohydrates, and fats from natural sources and each has its own benefits to energy systems and muscle production and recovery. When viewed from that point of view it’s hard to argue.
Joe Caruso (FT Norwell)
Joe is a Certified Personal Trainer by the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Strength Conditioning Association. He has a degree in Exercise Physiology from UMASS Boston and is CPR and AED certified. This is Joe’s 7th year with Fitness Together.
Joe has been involved in personal training for nearly a decade and brings his own training experiences into his program design. His passion is strength conditioning for athletes. He has a deep knowledge of nutrition and cardiovascular training and enjoys coaching his clients in all the aspects of fitness.
Fitness Together Norwell
Our other FT Studios across Eastern New England