Friday, 11 January 2013

The Strong To Be Useful Diet

With the new year in full swing everyone will be flocking to gyms in an attempt to burn off the two week binge they inevitably did. What better time for me to In this outline my diet approach which will get you lean, keep you lean and let you slowly and steadily gain strength. It will help to maximise your energy and recovery while minimising fat gain. It will also help to optimise natural hormone levels and keep you healthy. While I have not aimed it at bulking and huge muscle gains I do think it might work well for a steady lean bulk approach if you were to consciously try to eat more.
It is based on carb and calorie cycling with higher carbs and calories while having lower fats on training days and higher fats lower carbs on non training days. Protein will remain high throughout. Unlike other diet plans based on these concepts you will not need to  count grams of carbs or work out your daily calorie intake. I have been down that road before and it makes your life no fun. You become obsessive about food although it does improve your math skills.
The be strong to be useful diet is based simply on good clean food choices. While ultimately it comes down to calories in verses calories out it is far easier to keep calories in check eating good food than it is to eat small amounts of bad food which will only leave you wanting more. Its pretty difficult to overeat on chicken breast and vegetables. Its also pretty difficult to just eat the suggested serving size of a tub of Ben and Jerry's.
The diet is closely based on the classical paleo diet but is tailored for strength athletes by including the right kinds of carbohydrate as well as time tested supplements.

All of the carbs you eat will be unprocessed, starchy and low gluten. Your best options here are:

-Oats, as in plain porridge oats not flapjacks and other shit. Plain oat cakes aren't bad either but don't get these confused with Hobnobs.
-Rice, white rice is fine it makes little difference between brown and doesn't take 4 years to cook. Rice cakes are also great if you don't want to cook.
-Potatoes, boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew whatever. Obviously chips and crisps do not count here.
-Sweet potatoes, same game as regular ones
-Other root vegetables, parsnips, swede, turnip, squash etc

These food choices will be your main fuel source for your lifting sessions.
Next comes regular veg. Anything is fair game here. I tend to divide them into those that I cook and those that I eat as salad.
Broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower, opinions, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, cabbage, spinach, sugar snaps, peas, green beans etc
Lettuce, cress, red opinion, spring opinion, peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, celery etc etc.
Veg is not always easy to get into your diet. I tend to divide it into these groups so I can include it into my meals more frequently. If you are cooking then get some veg in that way. If you are not then chuck some veg on your plate that you can eat raw with no preparation. Its good to have both types lying around.
Try to get a great variety of veg in your diet also try to have plenty of cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, cress, bok choy, broccoli and similar green leaf vegetables. These have anti estrogenic properties allowing you to maintain healthy hormone levels and letting more free testosterone become available for strength, muscle and general awesomeness.

Fruits can be a bit of a double edged sword. They contain lots of essential vitamins and minerals as well as fibre. Everyone thinks fruits are healthy and they are to an extent but the carbohydrates found in fruit are mostly fructose. Fructose is a simple sugar like glucose but unlike glucose it is not used as efficiently by your muscles for energy. It is more easily stored as fat than glucose and so too much can ruin body composition goals. While fruit contains fructose the actual amount of it is still quite low as fruit mainly consists of fibre and water. So I would suggest limiting fruit intake to 1 or 2 bits of unprocessed fruit a day. This should give you plenty of benefits while avoiding excessive fructose. Completely stay away from any kind of fruit juice or smoothie. People think they are healthy but they are almost pure concentrated fructose with much of the fibre and vitamins removed. It makes no odds whether is 100% juice, concentrate or not or whether the packaging looks innocent its still just basically a shit load of sugar which is not the answer to being lean.

                                Not as innocent as they make out

Have you ever seen the side of the carton of an innocent smoothie. The bit where it shows you how much fruit is in it. in their strawberry and banana 1.25litre carton it contains:
2 and a half apples, 3 bananas, 46 grapes, 1 and a half oranges, 22 strawberries and a dash of lime. That's quite a bit of fruit if you tried it eat in in its raw form. But how easy I'd it to drink an entire 1.25litre carton of smoothie? Easy and its very delicious. But you would also be getting 150g of sugar to keep you fat.
That's my innocent rant over.

Next comes protein.

For protein sources stick to mainly paleo choices. Lean meats,eggs and fish are best. Chicken, turkey, beef, lean cuts of lamb, liver, salmon, tuna, mackerel you get the idea.

Pork can be a weary protein choice. Its tends to not be very lean, and is normally one of the most processed meats there is often it is full of nitrates and is really high in salt. While I'd still consider it paleo choice I would suggest not to go heavy on the pork consumption. by all means have bacon but not everyday. Pork chops and gammon don't seem as bad as bacon or processed ham so I'd stick with them when it comes to pork and trim off the excess fat.

Protein supplements are fine as long as they don't account for all of your protein intake. I really can tell a difference in my recovery when most of my protein comes from food rather than supplements so don't just slam shakes all day. In terms of which protein powders are best go for a blend of multiple protein sources. They are some studies which suggest that these are better for muscle gain than straight whey and from my experience they improve my recovery better than whey and are more substantial as a meal. The one I use is a mix of whey, egg and casein. It can be found here. I am not in any kind of affiliate deal with Myprotein and get nothing by recommending them. I simply like them because its a decent blend that doesn't cost a fortune and tastes fairly good. I've tried lots of other blends from different companies but they either have too many carbs and fats added or are much more expensive. The equivalent product in GNC is nearly twice the price!

I would recommend you get between 2.5-3 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight. I myself weighing 82kg get around 200-240g a day.

Magic of a high protein diet
A high protein intake is essential. Not only does it improve your recovery and muscle mass it keeps you fuller for longer which stops you gaining fat as easily. The other thing I find is when you arr are eating 200g+ of protein a day you have less space for junk. You have to have proper meals to fit that amount in and I find things like vegetables tend to get worked into my diet automatically simply because they go with the slab of meat I'm eating. Who eats steak on its own? You always put it with some green veggies or salad or something.

Low dairy, low grains
In sticking with a typical paleo diet I suggest keeping dairy products and grains other than those I've mentioned already.
When it comes to dairy there are two main problems. High fat and high lactose/sugar. Aside from any obvious lactose intolerance problems just the fact that dairy tends to be high in both fat or sugar makes it a bad food when it comes to body composition and controlling calorie intake. Cheese? Very high in fat and calories. Yogurt? Sugar and doesn't fill you up at all. Milk? Fat and lactose. None of these foods I would consider good for being lean and in shape. I don't consider protein shakes to count here since they tend to be low in both fat and sugar. I suppose things like cottage cheese would also be OK but since that shit tastes nasty I would just have a protein shake instead. If you want an alternative to milk go for almond, coconut or hazelnut milk. I use these for protein shakes and for my oats at breakfast. They are much tastier than using water and only add a little bit of extra carbs and fat to your meal. By the way Alpro hazelnut milk is amazing. It tastes awesome with chocolate protein.


The only grains I recommend are rice and oats. These are good sources of slow release low gluten starchy carbs. Theory are great for energy production and replenishment.
Other forms of grains mainly wheat are less useful. They are higher in gluten and their products use fermented yeast both of which are not fun for your digestive system. They tend to be more processed and contain a lot of other added crap too. Bread and cereals contain a lot of extra sugar, salt and a host of other preservatives. I don't consider foods like this to be clean sources and are not good for body composition or energy production. Generally avoid them.

I know bread is the most convenient food ever but you will have to learn to do away with it despite the fact that to the average person not eating bread is like telling someone to go without air. Some alternates you can use are rice cakes and oat cakes.

Good fats
Good fats are important for healthy hormone levels but don't go crazy on them otherwise your calorie intake will some add up. Some sources are:

Meat, generally fatty meats are not great and I would suggest trimming excess fat from your meats. You will still get some fat from your meats once the visible fat is removed
Eggs, eat your yokes don't be one of those idiots sieving your eggs to just get the white. The yoke is a great source of good fats and won't give you an instance heart attract.
Nuts, Anything except peanuts are fair game. The typical paleo diet avoids peanuts because they aren't actually nuts but legumes which contains lectins and other anti nutrients. Which can cause a whole  host of digestive problems. While all nuts do contain these I believe they are higher in legumes such as peanuts so generally I don' TTF recommend them.
Olive oil, plenty of good fats here and the go to oil for cooking
Oily fish, salmon, mackerel etc. You really can't get enough of these.
And of course the infamous avocados. I've included avocados simple because its always on lists of foods when talking about good fats. The only thing about them is i find them a pretty awkward food that doesn't really go with anything. They are also a pain to prepare. So by all means include avocados in your diet  if you know what to do with them.

   Such an awkward fruit/vegetable whatever it is

No high carb high fat
All your meals should be either high protein and fat or high protein and carb. You want to avoid high carb and high fat as that is a recipe for storing fat. When your insulin levels are raised while you have a lot fatty acids in your blood stream your body is going to put those fatty acids into storage. Not only that but meals which are high in both also tend to be very calorie dense. So peanut butter sandwiches? No. pasta with cheese sauce? No. ice cream? No. Chocolate? No. You get the idea.

Now realistically you are not going to eat clean 100% of the time so I'd recommend a weekly cheat meal of whatever you want and ass much as you want. Just make sure this is the last meal of the day otherwise a cheat meal turns into as cheat day. When you wake up the next day you start a fresh on clean eating. Also make sure your protein needs for the day have been taken care of. 

Outline of diet.
So here is the basic outline of the diet as well a sample meal selection.

Training Day

Meal 1
Protein and carbs
Oats, protein powder, almond milk, banana

Training session

Meal 2
Protein and carbs
Meat, rice, vegetables

Meal 3
Protein and fats
Meat, vegetables, handful of nuts

Meal 4
Protein and carbs
Meat, potatoes, vegetables, apple

If you train at a different time then simply make the first meal the protein and fat meal and make the others carb and protein meals. Ideally you want to have a carb meal before you train.

Non Training Day

Meal 1
Protein and fats
Eggs, meat

Meal 2
Just protein
Meat and veg

Meal 3
Protein and fats
Protein shake, handful of nuts

Meal 4
Protein and carbs
Rice, meat, veg, banana

Why does this diet have 4 meals a day rather than 6 or 3 well I see it as the best of both worlds. Its seems research is suggesting that there is no advantage to the 6 small meals a day compared to the 3 square meals approach. What matters is the overall amount of food and nutrients you consume whether that be over 6 meals or 2. 6 meals a day is its a pain in the arse preparing that many meals and finding time to eat them all. 3 square meals is fine but they have to be quite big meals and it can be harder to fit bigger meals in during the day along side work and whatnot. Often there is less time to cook during the day. 4 meals I find work well giving you a balance between meal size and the amount of time for eating sand prep. Usually it will be 3 smaller meals during the day and a bigger cooked meal in the evening.

Something which may seem unconventional is that the last meal of the day always contains carbs. There are some advantages to this. Firstly they improve recovery by replenishing the glycogen you may have used up during the day. This is especially important on non training days where you have been low carb up until that last meal. By having a Largish carb meal in the evening you create a hypoglycemic effect. This is a sugar low which will put you in a sleepy state which will then aid you in falling asleep and further improve your recovery. How do you feel after eating a large meal? Sluggish and sleepy despite their fact that you have just consumed as large amount of energy. This is exactly what you want from your last meal of the day. But don't carbs at night make you fat? First of the type of casbs you are consuming will be clean choices I've already outlined, rice, oats, fruit, potatoes and other root vegetables. Its quite hard to get fat eating foods like this. Second your overall calories will be in check and you will be eating carbs you need as reflected by your training program. Also there seems to be other more complex plans springing up which also suggest carbs should be eaten before bed such as intermittent fasting and carb back loading.

what about pre and post workout nutrition?
This is an area I'm really not sure about at the moment. Currently I'm not following any protocol but am simply eating a regular meal after training. I have noticed no differences from when I was having  a post workout shake of fast acting carbs and quickly digested whey protein. My theory is that if you are consuming the same amount of food and macro nutrients whether it be from a post training meal or a shake of insulin spiking dextrose with the fastest digesting whey isolate it will make no difference. If you have the same amount of protein and carbs from chicken and rice after training is it really going to make any significant difference? If you really can't live without your waxy maize starch in a 2:1 ratio with whey isolate shake then by all means have it just factor it in to your overall food intake.

If you want to include cardio/conditioning on your non training days you nutrition may have to change slightly. If you are doing steady state on off days like I outlined in my conditioning for lifters article then nothing changes about the off day meal plan. You can do steady state training on low carbs no problem and the carb meal at the end of the day should take care of any glycogen depletion or recovery issues. If you are going to include something more intense such as high intensity interval training, sports, hill sprints whatever then you can just follow the same plan as the lifting days. If you feel the conditioning is not an overly long or intense session then you can just have a protein and carb meal before the session and then keep the rest of the day as normal.

I have already mentioned that protein powders are fine as long as they don't account for all of your protein intake. Besides that I only recommend the basics of a fish oil supplement and multivitamins and/or greens or super food powder. The diet should take care of anything else.

That wraps up this rather long post. Now go get yourself lean, strong and useful!

No comments:

Post a Comment