In today’s ‘high tech’ bodybuilding magazines, articles on nutrition all too often tend to be thinly disguised advertisements for the newest exotic potion guaranteed to turn you into a clone of the latest super star, or words of advice for a very limited number of people who apparently don’t have jobs or school to worry about and thus can get up once – or even twice – during the night to scarf down a meal or protein shake to keep the anabolic furnace stoked.
Now we’ll be the first to agree that supplements definitely are important, particularly for the natural athlete. We also agree that having an adequate supply of nutrients is essential for optimum health and athletic performance. However, we think that supplements should take second place to real food and that people should have a life outside of the world of bodybuilding. We also feel that when it comes to nutrition, knowledge is all important. Without at least a basic knowledge of the relationship of food to the body, and the mind, you’ll never come close to maximizing your physical potential.
Whenever possible we try to keep things brief and simple, so instead of a three-hundred page book on nutrition, here’s a one page ‘Nutrition 101’ primer:
BASIC NUTRITION GUIDLINES
1. Drink at least 64 oz. of water every day. This is in addition to any other liquids you consume. Water is vital for optimum health, for maintaining correct fluid levels in the body, for proper weight control (drinking enough water can help you burn fat) and for maximizing muscle growth and function (remember that muscle is about 70% water).
2. Eat several (five or six) meals spaced throughout the day. By supplying your body with adequate nutrition periodically throughout the day you will ensure an available pool of amino acids for cellular growth and repair and adequate carbohydrates for energy, as well as helping to stabilize blood sugar levels which, in turn, promotes higher energy levels and regulates hunger.
3. Eat sufficient protein. Proteins are the building blocks of the body. Protein is needed for growth and repair of tissues, synthesis of hormones and enzymes, and is used as a secondary source of energy. Protein is an absolute key to increasing lean mass and to optimum fat loss. A guideline for protein intake for healthy individuals seeking to enhance muscle size, power and performance would be a minimum of 1 gram per lean pound of body weight up to 1.5 gram per absolute pound of body weight. To make it even simpler, have some protein every time you eat. Good sources of protein include fish, chicken, turkey, lean meats, low-fat and non-fat dairy products, eggs, and egg whites.
4. Eat sufficient natural, complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the human body. They are also protein sparing in that dietary protein and/or lean tissue is not used as an energy source if adequate stores of carbohydrate are available (in the absence of adequate protein stores, amino acids and even lean tissue is converted to glucose via gluconeogenesis). Natural, complex carbohydrates are high in vitamins and minerals and fiber and low in fat. Preferred sources of carbohydrates include vegetables, grains, fruit and starches (including rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, whole grain breads and cereals). As a general recommendation, both females and males involved in athletic training should consume approximately 40 % of their total daily calories in the form of carbohydrates. Even during periods of deliberately restricted carbohydrate consumption, we do not recommend intakes lower than 150 grams a day.
5. Limit dietary fat. Notice that we didn’t say ‘eliminate’ but rather ‘limit’. Diets high in dietary fat, especially saturated fat, have been linked to a number of health risk factors, including cardiovascular disease and obesity. However, a certain amount of dietary fat is necessary. Fat provides a concentrated source of stored energy and is vital for a number of functions within the body, including the absorption and transportation of fat soluble vitamins and the formation of hormones. The athlete’s diet will provide a certain amount of fat from chicken, lean meat, seafood, and dairy products. Other recommended sources of fat include fish oils, alpha-linolenic acid and flaxeed oil
6. Take a vitamin/mineral supplement. Most people – athletes and bodybuilders included - do not eat a diet that contains all the essential nutrients in the proper amounts, particularly the recommended daily allowances of vegetables and fruits. Even with a ‘balanced’ diet, it is difficult to get the full range of vitamins and minerals required for optimum health and wellness. A good vitamin and mineral supplement might be looked on as a convenient and inexpensive form of nutrition insurance. And there you have it: Nothing complicated, no college textbooks required, no need to set your alarm for 3 am or take out a loan to pay for next week’s grocery bill, just six simple guidelines for improving the quality of your nutrition – and your performance.