Simplicity – by Jamie Bolton

Everyday we are confronted by choice. A lot of choice. When training. When eating. When supplementing.In training, we are confronted by an array of machines, pulleys, cables and god-knows what else. Our friend the barbell and his pal the power rack are left neglected.In eating, our supermarkets our clogged full of synthetic, processed-attempts of food. Our friends, organic meats and fish, delightful fruits, veggies and other natural wholesome goodness, are left underappreciated.

In supplementation, a raft of superhuman-claiming products fight for our attention. Our friends, the staple protein powders, vitamins and omega 3s are left forgotten.

In short, we have too many choices. We chronically suffer from paralysis by analysis. There is too much information. We attempt to use everything at our disposal and hence achieve nothing.

We ignore the most adaptable piece of equipment we have – the barbell. I use maybe 10% of the equipment available in the gym. I can’t remember the last time I used a machine. I wouldn’t hazard to state that most of those using a fraction of the equipment are the ones seeing multiples of the average progress. 90% of the time, all I use is a barbell, power rack and some dumbbells. Even with that, there are still a myriad of choices – load, set, reps, tempo, rest. The truth is though it’s easier for a facility to cram itself full of machines than barbells. Why – it’s easier to sign people up and let them roam the machines with little risk of injury, than to have to teach everyone how to squat. The people who want the power racks are just lower margin business.

You only have to walk around a supermarket to see that 80% of the store is crap you don’t want to be putting in your body. A good rule of thumb – the more heavily advertised the less you should probably want to eat it, nutritious food doesn’t tend to advertise as well! Stick to the outside perimeter of the supermarket for most of your needs – all the goodness is there. Fruit and veggies, potatoes, meat, fish, eggs, milk are there. With the occassional excursion inward to pick up goodies like oats, brown rice, spices, nut butters, oils and so on. Again even when you limit your choices here there are still a tonne of options, take meat, will it be chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork or something else?

Take the standard supplement company website. ‘SuperMass Gainer v2 – gain 20lbs of muscle in a week’. Maybe not as extreme as this but you get the picture. The standard basics are typically all you need most of the time. Why are products like this pushed then? Advertising and margins. The basics don’t advertise well – whey protein powder is well, just whey protein powder. It’s not as fashionable as other stuff, it doesn’t latch onto what people want to be true – that this game is easy. More than that, whey isn’t nearly half maltodextrin (sugar) like half the crap on the market – hence its lower margin. It’s not hard to see why what is advertised, is so heavily advertised.

When you look at it like this, its not hard to see why and how people continually manage to get this wrong. We all get sucked into advertising hype now and again. We get sidetracked from the basics in our training.

I guess the take-home point is that everything out there, for the other guy – the supplier, is a business. What matters is the margin. The profit. The places that aren’t like this are fewer and increasinly further between. The hardcore training facility. The healthy foods markets. The no-bullshit supplement company. But they exist.

When in doubt, strip it back to the basics. Walk into a facility and confronted by too many machines? Head to the barbell. Supermarket full of boxed processed crap? Stick to the outside. Supplement website pushing too much advertising in your face? Get your whey and get out!

When in doubt, take the KISS approach - Keep It Simple, Stupid

Despite what they want you to believe, this stuff really isn’t complicated. It’s straightforward. It’s simple. It’s also hardwork.

Remember Occam’s Razor –

“It is futile to do more with what could be done with less”

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Bulking On A £3 Budget – by Ben Coker

This is a very short article just to fire home how simple and cheap bulking can be. People either don’t know how to eat to grow or come up with an excuses for not eating, namely its too expensive.
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I strongly recommended reading ‘Building a Basic Diet’ to gain a good understanding of nutrition as a whole, but more specifically ‘Time to Belly Up Mr. Hardgainer’ on the matter of serious bulking the blended way.
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If you believe that eating to grow is too taxing on the wallet don’t fret – it doesn’t have to be. I do fully understand that eating lots of lean meats and lots of calories in general can leave you a bit strapped for cash but what would you say if i said you can easily pack on the muscle for as little as £3 a day? And in a healthy way? You’ll want to know how i bet! Well relax because the answer is at hand.
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Below is the breakdown of 8 basic food products in terms of cost per unit, per serving, as well as nutritional values…
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Now lets break this down specifically in terms of servings, their cost and the amount you should have of each.  The macro nutrient and calorie breakdown per serving is also given…
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Now finally just to fully complete the picture here is how you can combine the foods into 5 meals or ‘feeds’ as i prefer to call them to create a bulking on a budget diet when times are hard.
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There you have it. 8 food sources. 4,286kcal. £3.07 a day. By all means this is not a perfect diet (a more varied protein source would be better) but it definitely leaves no excuses  to be not growing when times are financially hard. If you have a slightly more flexible budget obviously add in more. 4,286kcal will not be enough for 100kg + individuals that are on their diet already, but the take home message for those individuals is simply that you can get a lot of calories in for only £3.

Nutrition: Building a Basic Diet – by Jamie Bolton

In the previous article in this short series, we established the fundamental ‘laws’ of nutrition which underpin all successful nutritional programmes. 
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Now before you read on, I need you to be honest with yourself. Is  implementing those laws in that article yielding newfound results? If so, then stop reading. Stop right there.  This isn’t for you. Seriously. Why add more detail? All it will serve to do is complicate matters. Keep it as simple as possible. Likewise, if you are struggling to follow the laws then do you really think adding more detail will make it easier? No. It will just cloud things further.

If the previous piece however, made perfect sense and you found yourself nodding along realising you follow all of the laws, and would appreciate a more thorough understanding, read on.

In this article I will go into a bit more depth around the 3 macro-nutrients – what they are, good sources of them, and why we need them. I’ll also show you how to pull it all together and hopefully do all this without going too sciencey on you!

Protein

As far as the performance athlete should be concerned, protein is the building block of muscle. So we want plenty of it or we won’t recover or grow optimally. To touch on a popular analogy, if the body is a house, then protein is the bricks, if you don’t provide enough your house won’t ‘grow’ very quickly, if at all.

The best sources of protein are: meats, fish, milk, eggs & protein powders.

How much? Aim for 1g/lb of bodyweight as an absolute minimum. 1.25g/lb is a better ‘minimum’, and all the way up to 2g/lb can be beneficial. This might seem a lot, and it probably conflicts with what you’ve heard, but I’ll provide some simple anecdotal evidence – ask any big guy how much he eats – it will fall more within this realm then the textbook definitions.

Some meaty food porn. Get plenty of protein.

For those who want more evidence that that, here are some good pieces to read here and here.

Fats

Fats are the boo-boy of the media. The nutrient they love to hate. Low-fat this and low fat that. I’ll tell you now – they’re wrong. Fat doesn’t make you fat – excess calories do. Fat most definitely should not be avoided.

Fats are the low-activity energy source for the body. Any non-strenuous activity, from sleeping to even walking is mainly fuelled by fatty acids.

Getting the right kind of fat intake is crucial for optimal hormonal balance. Additionally, vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, so limiting your fat intake is also limiting your vitamin intake. Fats are sources of essential fatty acids, i.e. the body can’t do without them.

There are 3 kinds of fats, and we want to consume all of them.

  1. Saturated. Good sources: meats, eggs, whole milk and coconut oil.
  2. Monounsaturated. Good sources: red meat, whole milk, olive oil, nuts, avocados.
  3. Polyunsaturated. Good sources: salmon, grass-fed beef, sunflower seeds, walnuts.

Aim to get about ⅓ of your fat intake from each of the types of fat. Polyunsaturated tends to be one of the more awkward to get plenty of and so supplementing with a fish oil supplement can be useful – in particular omega 3.

How much? Aim for about 0.6g/lb when maintaining or cutting, and look to up intake to about 0.8g/lb when bulking.

Oils, Avocados, Nuts & Seeds - all great sources of fat

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, or carbs, are the instant-energy nutrient of the body, and are used to fuel intense activity as well as being the brains preferred energy source. Again carbs have been attacked in the media and low-carb crazes touted as the way to go. Again, the media is wrong.

A great analogy with carbs is to think of your body like a car and its gas tank. If your gas tank, your glycogen (carb) stores in your muscles, is full, and you continue to pour in more gas, what happens? Well, it spills over. The body is the same, but instead of gas going everywhere, fat does. But we do want to keep a full ‘tank’ so we need to tailor accordingly.

The main differentiation between carbs is the speed at which they are digested. Some will talk of this as being about simple vs complex carbs, but maltodextrin (a popular ingredient in ‘weight gainers’) is a ‘complex’ carb yet digests as fast as simple sugar. Instead, we use the glycemic index (GI) to look at how fast a portion raises blood glucose (sugar) levels. Also, we must bear in mind the total number of carbs in a portion, i.e. carrots have a ‘high GI’, but unless you want to eat a kilo of them, it doesn’t matter!

Some people will trash talk high-GI carbs as if they are the devil, but they have their place, as do the seemingly preferred lower-GI carbs. The rule of thumb with carbs as I have found, is to eat according for what you are about to do, or have recently done. And I mean this both in terms of quantity and type of carb.

What all the discussion boils down to is the interpretation of how to manipulate a hormone called insulin. The short story is that insulin is a storage hormone. When blood sugar levels rise, insulin is secreted to bring it back to baseline. This is useful around a training session as we can use it to pack our muscles full of fuel when they are craving it. But outside of these times, if we crank it up too much, we may end up driving carbs into fat stores instead (as the tank is ‘full’). So at these times, it is better to lower carb portions, and eat lower-GI carbs so as to ‘top off’ glycogen stores, rather than dumping excess carbs on the body and causing fat gain. For a more detailed discussion, see here.

Good sources of both high and low GI carbs include:

High GI carbs – raisins, white rice, white potatoes.
Low GI carbs – fruits, vegetables, sweet potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal.

Fruit & Veggies - great low GI carb sources

Let me give you some examples. If you are about to have a heavy squat session, then you would take in some quick-acting carbs beforehand, like raisins. After, since your muscles are going to be craving fuel, you could follow up with some white rice, and in sizeable portions too. A bit later on, you might follow up with a smaller portion of sweet potatoes, which are slower digesting to ‘top off’ glycogen stores.

In contrast, if you were about to sit down at a desk all day, then its best to minimize the size of carb portions and stick to the lower GI variety, in particular fruits and vegetables, since you are not about to be very active at all.

How much? Carbs really are the macro-nutrient that follow your goals, in other words, step them up if you are in a mass phase and step them down when in a leaning phase. In a mass phase, aim for 1.5-2g/lb. If at maintenance, aim for 1g/lb. And in a lean phase, aim for 0.5g/lb.

Putting it all together

I realise some of you are probably groaning at the fact that this will involve some maths, but it is your body, surely its worth the investment of a few minutes with a calculator!?

To give you an idea of what it looks like for a 200lb male:

  • Mass phase – 250g Protein, 160g Fat, 300g carbs = 3640 calories
  • Maintenance – 250g Protein, 120g Fat, 200g carbs = 2880 calories
  • Lean phase – 250g Protein, 120g Fat, 100g carbs = 2440 calories.

For a 140lb female, it would look like this:

  • Mass phase – 175g Protein, 112g Fat, 210g carbs = 2548 calories
  • Maintenance – 175g Protein, 84g Fat, 140g carbs = 2016 calories
  • Lean phase – 175g Protein, 84g Fat, 70g carbs – 1738 calories

And don’t forget to apply the laws of nutrition. For instance, we want to focus carbs around a training session. I would aim to get somewhere pushing toward 1/3 to 1/2 of the days carbs in this period.

To outline what a typical day may look like, a mass phase for our 200lb male could look something like this:

Breakfast – 100g of oats, 6 eggs, 500ml whole milk.
Lunch – 200g Salmon, 100g brown rice, 2 avocados.
Pre-training – 2 scoops of protein & 100g of raisins
Post-training – 200g chicken & 2 baked potatoes
Dinner – 200g steak (cooked in olive oil), 50g walnuts, steamed veggies

That may sound like a lot of food, but that’s what it takes to grow!

Similarly, for our 140lb female, a typical day in a lean phase could look like this:

Breakfast – 4 egg omelette with 30g cheese, 1 orange/apple
Lunch – 150g Tuna, 2 eggs hardboiled, mixed in a spinach salad with olive oil dressing.
Post workout – 200g chicken & 75g brown rice
Dinner – 200g Lamb steak, pile of steamed veggies

The key with the lower calorie meal plans is to focus on volume of food. We don’t want foods that are dense in calories. Instead we want lots of vegetables and fruits, which fill you up but aren’t heavy on calories.

Finally, remember to regularly re-weigh yourself and adjust the diet accordingly. The amount of food you ate to take you from 200lb to 220lb won’t be the same amount you need to get to 240lb – you need more! Likewise, on a leaning phase, as you drop bodyfat, you will need less calories, as you aren’t lugging around as much weight as before, so every activity requires less energy.

Summary

Using what I’ve provided here and in the previous two articles, you should now be able to put together a solid nutritional program. I want to re-iterate what I said in the very first article – focus on simple, wholefoods that great-great-granny would recognise. You can make a lot of different approaches fit into the template I have outlined here, and there is absolutely no reason to make your food choices ‘boring’.

Finally, remember, nutrition is a VERY individual thing. You may find that you can’t gain weight with the mass phase numbers, in which case – add more calories until you do. Equally, you might find yourself going a bit overboard and gaining a bit too much fat for your liking, in which case, step things down a little, in particular on the carb / fat front. But as a guideline, these numbers should work well for most people.

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