The following are some guidelines/strategies that I feel will allow you to reach an optimal body composition for your genetic make up, and allow you to have peak performance in sport and life.
Follow these guidelines and you will assist your physiology in recovery, perform at a peak level, and reach your optimal body composition.
- Keep lots of fruits and vegetables in the diet daily. Start each day with at least two pieces of fruit, particularly citrus fruit, since it offers a lower glycemic value and is a great internal cleanser. Snack on apples and pears throughout the day. Eat a big salad with or for dinner 5 to 7 nights a week.
- Consume .75 to 1.25 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day, from lean protein sources. Add protein to your fruit for breakfast. Eggs or whey or soy protein smoothies are my favorite choices. Speaking of eggs, don’t be scared of the yolk. An egg yolk offers so much nutrition, including iron, folic acid and b-complex vitamins. The cholesterol in eggs is insignificant compared with the nutrition you stand to gain by using them. I prefer one yolk to every two eggs I use. When I am at my optimal body composition, I’m approximately 180 lbs. I aim for 180 to 200 grams of protein per day; depending on what training phase I am in.
- The heavier the training load, the more protein I consume to ensure adequate recovery of tissue.
- Drink 70-90 ounces of water per day. Not only to keep your hydration levels adequate, but also to eliminate the nitrogen breakdown from the kidneys when consuming higher protein sources.
- Try to eat something every 3 to 4 hours and make sure there is some protein in whatever it is you are eating (or combine some protein with whatever it is you are eating.) I personally eat a big breakfast, and then snack or graze throughout the day until dinner. I don’t consume a big lunch, because I usually will try to sneak a workout in wherever I get a free moment and I don’t want a full digestive system affecting the workout. Snacks that I like are cliff bars, power bars, balance bars, an apple with peanut butter, a banana with peanut butter, a handful of almonds and cashews, a protein smoothie (usually whey protein with ice, banana, a scoop of peanut butter, a scoop of Stonyfield’s Banilla yogurt, and some water), cottage cheese, or natural turkey breast rolled up with a piece of cheese.
- Don’t be afraid of carbohydrates. We are so carb-phobic nowadays, and it’s not healthy for endurance athletes. Carbohydrates should make up 50-65% of your daily caloric consumption. Just avoid simple and processed carbs. Look for carbs that have a low glycemic index (see chart below). Remember that carbohydrates are a main source of energy. Try and choose carbohydrates that are high in dietary fiber.
- Taper caffeine consumption off so that you don’t have anything caffienated after 1pm. This will allow you to sleep better at night. Better sleep equals better recovery and clearer mind.
- Consume most of your daily carbohydrate intake before 3pm. Then make evening calories mainly protein. Dinner should still be protein based, like lean meat, chicken, fish, turkey with steamed, raw, grilled vegetables. Don’t be afraid to use olive oil on your vegetables or in your salad. This is an excellent fat source that helps your body release free fatty acids. Try to eat a big salad with dinner 5 nights per week. In fact, try eating a big salad with chicken, fish, or lean meat as dinner 5 nights per week. And try to not snack after dinner. To ease the load on your metabolism and assure optimal fat burning, try to stop caloric consumption within two hours of bedtime. If you are sitting around at night watching TV or reading, and thinking about grabbing that chocolate bar out of the fridge, try having a cup of herbal tea or seltzer water with lemon squeezed in and sip slowly. This will satisfy the oral fixation without putting extra fat around the midsection!
- Limit carbohydrate based dinners to two per week. I love pasta and I love pizza. These are my two carbohydrate based dinners each week that I usually eat. And I make sure to add a protein source to them to slow the glycemic rate of the carbohydrate. I make homemade pizza and use fresh mozzarella and parmesan cheese in smaller quantities, and will usually throw on some grilled chicken.
- Live by the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time, eat very healthy and abide by the rules above combined with the format of the cleanse. 20% of the time don’t worry about it. I love ice cream. I’ll have it once a week. If I had it 5 or 6 times a week, this would not be good. One time a week is fine. Remember that it takes 3500 calories to gain 1 pound. You can’t do too much damage in one meal. I do recommend that the days that you splurge should be the days that you may have trained longer or harder. And always make sure that the splurge is after you have consumed healthier, nutrient-dense foods.
- Speaking of eating and longer or harder workouts, what and when you consume calories after these workouts will make a significant impact on how you recover from the workout(s). Studies have shown that you have a 75-minute window following an exercise session where your physiology will utilize nutrients at a much higher and more useful rate. It’s important to replenish depleted glycogen storage with carbohydrates, and to get in amino acids through protein for repairing tissue and acting as a catalyst for the carbohydrate absorption. Consume macronutrients in a 4/1 (carbohydrate/protein) ratio, and aim for 60 to 100 grams of carbohydrates, depending on the length and intensity of your exercise session and 20 to 40 grams of protein, also depending on the length and intensity of your exercise session. I like to use Recoverite by Hammer Gel/E-Caps. This takes the brainwork out of figuring out the correct macronutrient equation and is easily ingested and digested. Remember; get this in as soon after your training session as possible.
- Take a good multi vitamin and mineral supplement as insurance, and take it with a meal – preferably breakfast.