A key component of the formula for bodybuilding success is nutrition. Nutrition is what gives us the raw materials for recuperation, energy, and growth. Without a good diet, your dreams of achieving your ideal body will never be reached. In this article I’ll discuss the characteristics of a good bodybuilding diet and also cover the macronutrients that we need on a daily basis, as well as how much, in order to gain muscle and lose fat.Characteristics of a Good Nutrition Program
1) It should favor smaller and frequent feedings throughout the day instead of large and infrequent ones.Why? Because when you feed your body several times a day, your metabolism increases. Therefore, you burn more fat. Frequent feedings are of particular importance since after three to four hours of no food your body switches to a catabolic state (a state in which you lose muscle and gain fat!).
The body believes that it is starving and it starts feeding itself on lean muscle tissue and it prepares to store calories as fat. Bad scenario! Therefore, in order for your program to work, you will eat between four to six meals (depending gender and goals) a day spaced out at 2 to 3 hour intervals.
2) Every meal should have carbohydrates, protein and fat in the correct ratios. Having a meal that is not balanced (for example is all carbohydrates) won’t yield the desired results. Every macronutrient has to be present in order for the body to absorb them and use them properly. Without boring you with the effect of food on the body’s biochemistry, let’s just say that if you only eat carbohydrates in one meal without anything else, your energy levels will crash in about 30 minutes and your body will be storing any carbohydrates that were not used into fat. Conversely, if you only eat protein, you will lack energy and your body will not be able to turn the protein into muscle because it is difficult for the body to absorb protein in the absence of carbohydrates. In addition, the ratios for each particular macronutrient have to be correct in order to get the results that you want. The ratio of our diet will look like the following:
Note that for every serving of carbohydrates, you get a serving of Protein. You can use Bill Phillips’ Method of creating meals which is to count a portion of carbohydrates as the amount of food the size of your clenched fist and a portion of protein as the amount of food the size of your open palms.
3) The calories should be cycled. I strongly believe in caloric cycling as this will not allow the metabolism to get used to a certain caloric level; something that leads to stagnant results.
Therefore, bodybuilders in search of just muscle mass should follow 5 days of high calories (lean body mass x 15) with two days of lower caloric intake (lean body mass x12). Bodybuilders in search of losing fat while building muscle at the same time should follow 5 days of lower caloric intake (lean body mass x12) with 2 days of higher calories (lean body mass x 15).
Note: If you build muscle and lose fat at the same time you will not gain muscle as fast as you would if you just concentrated in muscle mass. However, you get to get both goals accomplished at the same time.
People interested in body sculpting (which is moderate muscle building with enough fat loss to go down to 10% body fat for males and 12-13% for women) should alternate between two weeks of lower calories (around 2000 for men and 1200 for women) and two weeks of higher calories (around 2500 for men and 1500 for women). These caloric intakes assume a normal activity level that only includes body sculpting training. Those of you involved in activities like marathon running or heavy physical labor jobs need to adjust your calories upwards accordingly mainly in the form of carbohydrates in order to support your higher levels of activity.
What’s a Diet?
While the word “diet” brings these images of pain and starvation to most people’s mind, a diet is simply the food choices that you make on a daily basis. So if you eat potato chips and sodas all day long, that is your diet.
Regardless of which diet you follow, there are 3 macronutrients that are present in one way or the other in all of them. Understanding what role these nutrients play, how to obtain them, and how much to consume of them on a daily basis will lead you to the bodybuilding and fitness results you have been looking for.
Bodybuilding Nutrition Basics
There are 3 macronutrients that the human body needs in order to function properly. These macronutrients make up your bodybuilding and/or fitness diet.
Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy. When you ingest carbohydrates your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin is very important because:
A) On a very simplistic level, it takes the carbohydrates and either stores them in the muscle or stores them as fat (assuming that the carbohydrates are not needed for energy at the moment and assuming that both the muscles and the liver stores are full).
B) It takes the amino acids (protein) and delivers them inside the muscle cell for recovery and repair.
Most people that are overweight and are in low fat/high carbohydrate diets got into that condition because they are eating an overabundance of carbohydrates. Too many carbohydrates cause a huge release of insulin. When there is too much insulin in the body, your body turns into a fat storing machine.
Therefore, it is important that we eat no more carbohydrates than necessary and that we eat the right amount of carbohydrates.
Now that we have talked about the importance of having just the right amount of carbohydrates, let’s talk about which are the best sources of carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are divided into complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates. The complex carbohydrates give you sustained energy (“timed release”) while the simple carbohydrates gives you immediate energy. It is recommended that you eat mainly complex carbohydrates throughout the day except after the workout where your body needs simple carbohydrates in order to replenish its glycogen levels immediately, something that will aid faster recuperation and rebuild of the muscle. Below is a list of good sources of carbohydrates:
There are two types:
1) Starchy: Oatmeal (1 cup dry), sweet potatoes (8 oz baked), potatoes (8 oz baked), rice (1 cup cooked), pasta (8oz cooked), corn (1 cup canned), peas (2 cups cooked). Each serving approximately equals 40-50 grams of carbohydrates.
2) Fibrous: Broccoli (1/2 cup raw), carrots (1 cup raw), cauliflower (1/2 cup raw), green beans (1/2 cup raw), lettuce (5 cups raw), mushrooms (3/4 cups raw), pepper (1/2 cup raw), spinach (3-1/2 cups raw), zucchini (1 cup raw). Each serving approximately equals 6 grams of carbohydrates.
Apples (1 apple), bananas (1 banana), grapefruit (1 grapefruit), grapes (22 grapes), oranges (1-1/2 orange), pears (1 pear), pineapple (3/4 of a cup).
Each serving approximately equals 20-25 grams of carbohydrates.
Every tissue in your body is made up from protein (i.e., muscle, hair, skin, and nails). Proteins are the building blocks of muscle tissue. Without it, building muscle and burning fat efficiently would be impossible. Its importance is paramount. Protein also helps increase your metabolism every time you eat it by 20%! It also makes the carbohydrates timed release, so you get sustained energy throughout the day.
Everybody that is involved in a weight training program should consume between 1 gram of protein to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass (meaning that if you are 100 lbs. And have 10% body fat, you should consume at least 90 g of protein since your lean body mass = 90 lbs.). Nobody should consume more than 1.5 grams per pound of lean body mass as this is unnecessary and the extra protein may get turned into fat.
Good examples of protein are eggs (I use Egg Substitute: 1-1/2 cups liquid), chicken breast (cooked, skinless and boneless: 6 oz), turkey (cooked, skinless and boneless: 6 oz), lean (90% lean) red meats (6 oz), and tuna (6 oz). Each serving size equals approximately 35-40 grams of protein.
3) Healthy Fats
All the cells in the body have some fat in them. Hormones are manufactured from fats. Also fats lubricate your joints. So if you eliminate the fat from your diet, then your hormonal production will go down and a whole array of chemical reactions will be interrupted. Your body will then start accumulating more body fat than usual so that it has enough fat to keep on functioning. Since testosterone production is halted, so is muscle building. Therefore, in order to have an efficient metabolism we need fat.
There are three types of fats: Saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated.
a) Saturated Fats: Saturated fats are associated with heart disease and high cholesterol levels. They are found to a large extent in products of animal origin. However, some vegetable fats are altered in a way that increases the amount of saturated fats in them by a chemical process known as hydrogenation. Hydrogenated vegetable oils are generally found in packaged foods. In addition, cocunut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil, which are also frequently used in packaged foods and non-dairy creamers are also highly saturated.
b) Polyunsaturated Fats: Fats that do not have an effect in cholesterol levels. Most of the fats in vegetable oils, such as corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oil are polyunsaturated.
c) Monounsaturated Fats: Fats that have a positive effect on the good cholesterol levels. These fats are usually high on the essential fatty acids and may have antioxidant properties. Sources of these fats are Fish Oils, Virgin Olive Oil, Canola Oil, and Flaxseed Oil. We like to refer to these type of fats as good fats.
Twenty percent of your calories should come from good fats. Any less than 20% and your hormonal production goes down. Any more than 20% and you start accumulating plenty of fat. The way that I get my fats is by taking 1 teaspoon of Flaxseed Oil three times a day (I put them in my protein shakes).
Good sources of fat are canola oil (1 tablespoon), natural peanut butter (2 tablespoons), olive oil (1 tablespoon), flaxseed oil (1 tablespoon), and fish oils (1 tablespoon). Each serving size contains approximately 14 grams of fat.
Water is by far the most abundant substance in our body. Without water, an organism would not survive very long. Most people that come to me for advice on how to get in shape, almost always underestimate the value of water.
Water is good for the following reasons:
1) Over 65% of your body is composed of water (most of the muscle cell is water).
2) Water cleanses your body from toxins and pollutants that would get you sick.
3) Water is needed for all of the complex chemical reactions that your body needs to perform on a daily basis. Processes such as energy production, muscle building, and fat burning require water. A lack of water would interrupt all of these processes.
4) Water helps lubricate the joints.
5) When the outside temperature is up, water serves as a coolant to bring the body temperature down to where it is supposed to be.
6) Water helps control your appetite. Sometimes when you feel hungry after a good meal this sensation indicates a lack of water. Drinking water at that time would take the craving away.
7) Cold water increases your metabolism.
In order to know how much water your body needs a day, just multiply your lean body weight by .66. This would indicate how many ounces of water you need in a day.
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