Time and Combine Your Food and Nutrients
To achieve superb shape and maximum performance, forgo the usual approach of three meals a day. Active people must fuel themselves throughout the day, eating small meals and snacks every two to three hours, preferably timed around their workout schedules. As we’ll see, these meals don’t include just any type of food.
When eating multiple meals, you always want to combine protein with carbohydrate and fat. Examples would be a turkey sandwich, a sprouted grain bread with peanut butter, or an apple with nuts. Eating multiple meals also promotes variety in your diet and keeps your blood sugar levels even so that you avoid peaks and valleys throughout the day (a cycle that happens to promote fat storage).
By including small amounts of protein in meals and snacks, you can control your appetite, feed your muscles more efficiently, and maintain muscle when you’re trying to lose fat. You also burn fat better because protein, as well as eating multiple small meals, has been shown to increase thermogenesis, the process by which your body converts ingested calories and stored fat into heat. Another advantage of multiple meals is mental performance. Eating regular, timed meals helps you think and process information more effectively, increases your attention span, and boosts your mood.
The bottom line is that eating small, frequent meals throughout the day is the best fat-burning, muscle-building strategy you can integrate into your lifestyle. Table 1.1 provides a look at how to time your meals properly and the benefits of doing so. The supplements listed in the table are discussed in detail elsewhere in this book.
Use a Food Plan
Any nutritional program aimed at losing body fat and building muscle should be based on a food plan that emphasizes lean protein, natural carbohydrate, and good fat. It should also include sample menus and recipes as well as information on how to make healthy selections that are personalized to your lifestyle. It should be neither so restrictive that it invites failure nor so unstructured as to be confusing. These are precisely the guidelines for food planning that you will find here.
More specifically, if your goals are to develop lean muscle while reducing body fat, then your plan should take into consideration several factors, including balancing protein, carbohydrate, and fat; increasing your water intake; organizing your food into multiple meals; timing your intake; and incorporating certain dietary supplements into the mix.
You have to be exact about what you eat, and you need to make the right choices. Each calorie that you put into your mouth has to be results oriented. To drive your fat-burning machinery and lose weight, for example, you need to eat specific foods, such as dairy foods, whey protein, fish, soy, nuts, olives and olive oil, and green tea, to name a few. With the information you’ll learn here, you can create a healthy diet that promotes fat loss and muscle gain.
Protein, Strength, and Muscle Building
For generations, athletes have believed that a high-protein diet will increase strength. This belief can be traced to a famous Greek athlete, Milo of Crotona, in the sixth century BCE. One of the strongest men in Greece, Milo was the wrestling victor in five Olympic Games and many other festivals. As the legend goes, he applied progressive resistance training by lifting a growing calf daily. When the calf was four years old, he carried it the length of the Olympian stadium, killed it, roasted it, and ate it. It is written that his normal daily intake of meat was about 20 pounds (9 kg).
In the 1960s and 1970s, many people thought protein was a miracle food because muscle magazines hyped it so much. Bodybuilders and other athletes would follow diets made up mostly of meat, milk, and eggs. The raw-egg milkshake was particularly popular, thanks to Rocky Balboa. Why would anyone swill such a concoction? The answer is simple: misinformation. Articles and advertising from those days falsely communicated the notion that protein from raw foods, particularly eggs, is more available to the body for building muscle than protein from cooked foods is.
Not only is this notion absolutely untrue, it is dangerous. Eating raw eggs is a hazardous practice because eggs may be contaminated with the microorganisms that cause salmonella poisoning. Cooking eggs destroys bacteria, eliminating the risk of contracting this serious illness. Raw eggs should be avoided completely. If you want to add eggs to a supplemental drink, try pasteurized egg-white products instead of raw eggs, which is a safer practice. This form of egg whites can be cooked as well.
Cooking also makes protein more readily available to your body. A protein molecule is a string of amino acids connected like a strand of pearls. If two strands of pearls were wound together and then twisted to double up on each other, they would resemble a protein molecule. Heating or cooking the protein molecule unwinds the string of amino acids, straightens it out, and separates it into smaller pieces. This is the process of heat denaturing, which is similar to the process of chemical denaturing, otherwise known as digestion. Cooking foods with protein can begin the digestive process and can actually decrease the net energy that the body must expend during digestion.
Protein is extremely vital in your diet, but by itself, it is not the magic bullet for muscle gain. Instead, protein and carbohydrate together are the magic bullet, especially in combination with the right kinds of fat. In other words, you must place equal emphasis on the right types of protein, carbohydrate, and fat in your diet. These nutrients work in concert to give you the edge on building body-firming muscle.
To build lean, quality muscle, strength train to trigger muscle growth and follow my recommended diet, which includes lean protein to repair damaged tissue and carbohydrate to fuel the rebuilding process. Beyond those critical factors, your ultimate success or failure boils down to your ability to recover—that is, how fast and effectively you can bounce back from your training efforts.
Training promotes inflammation in the body. The two main types of inflammation are classic and systemic. Classic inflammation, which accompanies physical injuries, results in swelling and pain; this is part of the protection and repair process and is considered relatively benign. Systemic inflammation, which can’t be seen by the naked eye, can increase the risk for a number of diseases, including allergies, cancer, joint pain, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, periodontal disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. Recent research suggests that systemic inflammation of systems or tissues may be the root of the fastest-growing preventable diseases: type 2 diabetes and obesity. These are generally considered lifestyle diseases because of their linked risk factors and the habits that have been proven to help prevent and reverse them (diet and exercise).
Both types of inflammation exist throughout your body in various degrees and are influenced by external factors such as the food you eat, your workouts, and even the air you breathe. Researchers in South Korea found that eating large quantities of sugar and fats, even from just a few meals, causes an increased concentration of free radicals in the bloodstream, which creates inflammation in the body.
Power Profiles: Calorie Sources
Calories are certainly important in building muscle mass; however, the source of those calories is crucial if you want to maximize muscle and minimize body fat. A case in point is a professional rookie football player who wanted to lose weight to improve his speed on the field. Unless he trimmed down, his chance to be on the team was in jeopardy, so he needed a dramatic nutritional rescue.
This football player was eating slightly more than 7,000 calories a day. Broken down, those calories figured out to about 17 percent protein, 32 percent fat, and 49 percent carbohydrate. In daily fat grams, he was consuming a whopping 250 grams a day. The composition of his calories was an impediment to losing fat. I reconfigured his diet to 5,680 calories a day; 15 percent of those calories came from protein, 25 percent from fat, and 60 percent from carbohydrate. That mix slashed his fat grams to a healthier 142 grams a day.
He was eating a lot of unhealthy fat in foods such as fried chicken, whole milk, and fast foods. For the high-fat foods, we substituted skinless chicken breasts, 1 percent milk, and fast-food choices such as salads and frozen yogurt that were lower in fat. In addition, we modified some of his favorite dishes such as sweet potato pie into healthier versions. He also began to load up on foods containing complex carbohydrate, such as brown rice, whole-wheat bread, fruits, and vegetables. Plus, he was using leaner protein sources with a wider variety of choices.
The upshot of these dietary changes was that he lost the weight, made the team, and had a great season. He is still a professional football player today.