Since every body type is different, it is difficult to generalize how one should eat for various goals (e.g. muscle gain, weight loss, competition, etc.). The following is an amalgam of information mostly generated from the personal webpages of bodybuilding, figure and fitness competition ‘legends' – people who know how the body works and how to optimize it. The emphasis here is on muscle building, and these insider practices will provide the foundation for what can be molded into a personalized diet and training regimen. Remember that any drastic changes in your diet or exercise programs should be discussed with a physician prior to implementation.
Drinking water throughout the day is extremely important. Set out with the goal of consuming a gallon of water per day, but remember this is a goal not a necessity. Increasing water intake will impact a variety of dietary areas, and only actual water can be readily used in physiological processes. All other drinks require breakdown, and elicit secondary bodily responses. During serious training one should avoid soda, even diet versions. Consuming Aspartame and other Nutra Sweet-like products forces the body to release insulin and store fat, because of this they do NOT count as water intake.
The total amount of calories eaten in a day depends largely on the stage of training, and the level of physical development. For example: eating more helps increase mass; eating less promotes weight loss and; eating lean & watching sodium improves definition and reduces fluid retention respectively.
The daily requirements for a good general muscle building diet consists of a large amount of protein (approx. 120 -150 grams), some good complex carbs (100 - 250 grams), and a small amount of mostly unsaturated fats (20 - 30 grams). The above amounts are averages and will naturally vary based on individual requirements and activities.
In the muscle building stage the total amount of calories consumed should be that which permits continuous progression without increasing stored body fat.
(Caloric Intake > Normal Requirements + Training Requirements)
This amount is often in the neighborhood of 1700-2100 cals a day. But let's look at this from another perspective. Calories per day can also be measured, and probably more clearly understood, in terms of calories per pound of bodyweight (ppbw). This vantage point permits us to more specifically examine requirements based on actual weight. For example, to gain muscle 125 pound woman might eat 15 calories ppbw, meaning she'd need 1875 calories a day. But again this is extremely individual, as another 125 pound woman might lose weight at this caloric amount depending on her metabolism and body composition. It is therefore, most important to learn from and listen to your body.
Typically, any competitor (fitness, figure, or bodybuilder) will try to build as much muscle as possible until about two to four weeks (often more for bodybuilders) prior to the program, depending on body fat and appearance.
During the last few weeks before competition the goal is to lean out (lose as much fat and water as possible), so caloric intake is reduced and should be customized for each individual. But whatever the decided amount, it must be substantial enough to spare all the hard earned muscle, while final goals are being attained.
(Caloric Intake < Normal Requirements + Training Requirements)
It is important to take a multi-vitamin/multi-mineral once daily, but be sure to check the label for iron content. The average dose is 18mgs per serving, but most manufactures produce both iron and iron-free multis because some people do not require additional amounts of this mineral, and could experience physiological complications if it were unnecessarily supplemented.
An often overlooked aspect of paramount importance is the Post-Workout meal. It is during this glycogen (stores of energy found within the liver) deprived state that the most ideal conditions for nutrient absorption are found. An immediate meal composed of simple carbohydrates and protein are required to best take advantage of this opportunity. As time elapses the window for absorption depreciates exponentially, returning to normal at around the 40-minute mark.
Creating a diet that becomes part of your lifestyle is most important. Crash dieting, weight loss pills/drinks and fad diets are merely SHORT-TERM fixes. A healthy eating lifestyle takes commitment, dedication, patience and planning.
Set realistic short and long term goals. Make the short ones rapidly attainable, like losing a pound in two weeks. This way motivation is maintained as progress is constantly being made. Long term goals might include something like losing one percentage of body fat in month, or further out, placing in the top 10 in the next competition.
Be sure to eat breakfast, preferably oatmeal. You may already know breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it stokes the metabolic furnace, but oatmeal is satisfying, filling and a great high-fiber way to start the day.
Try to eat 3 medium size meals with two supplemental snacks per day, this method more evenly distributes energy and promotes more thorough digestion and elimination.
Avoid foods that are processed, fried, and contain trans-fats.
Although your diet should be extremely clean (filled with healthy wholesome foods and supplements), be sure to permit yourself a cheat meal or two every week. This is not a license to eat like a pig at your favorite fast food restaurant, but rather an opportunity to indulge in a fried, or creamy meal with a decadent dessert. Eventually these infractions will become unnecessary and likely eliminated altogether. This will occur for two reasons: 1) because you are training your body to no longer crave them and; 2) because they are so counter-productive to your goals that they'll become undesirable. But don't rush this; you'll know when the time is right.
When preparing chicken, vegetables and potatoes select from spray oils such as olive, canola or vegetable and non-stick pans, rather than saturated fats like butter and margarine.
Use cayenne/red pepper, garlic, and ground pepper to add flavor; avoid adding salts and sodium filled seasonings.
Don't let a weak moments or days get you down, everyone falls off the wagon occasionally. Those who are driven pick themselves up and keep plugging away.
No matter how much you go to the gym, DON'T forget one important rule: Your diet is ultimately responsible for your failures and successes!
As far as food choices for protein, the best sources come from lean meats of any type with grilled or broiled boneless & skinless chicken breasts topping the list. Also of great value are egg whites, fat free cheeses, and salmon which is preferred twice weekly for its high concentration of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). The bulk of this diet should come from actual food, but be sure to supplement daily with protein bars and/or shakes between meals to increase protein intake without greatly impacting overall calories. There are also a few rules to observe regarding protein powders, central to which is selecting the best protein sources. Various brands claim that certain specific individual protein sources are best and should be exclusively consumed. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that this view is incorrect; instead indicating that a blend of proteins is superior to any one form. For example, the composition of milk is 80% casein (generally a fine protein) and 20% whey protein, however whey can be further broken down into both whey concentrate which has a 40% absorption rate, and whey isolate at 85% absorption. The highest quality supplements (shakes, bars, puddings, cookies, etc.) will use a combination of proteins in what's called a proprietary blend for maximum nutrient absorption. The FDA mandates that food product ingredients be listed by 'Order of Amount'. Not many people are aware of this, but in the case of proprietary blends (especially shake powders), the parentheses nullify the FDA mandate. This means that once the company chooses to use parentheses they no longer have to follow the ordering rule, and can list their ingredients as they see fit. This tactic is used to confuse consumers into thinking that the product contains a lot of the early listed high quality ingredients. Below are a few ways techniques for distinguishing quality powders from confederates.
POPULAR WOMEN'S SUPPLEMENTS:
MAS Myoplex Light Protein Powder
Optimum Nutrition's Rocky Road
IDS' Belgium Chocolate, and Cappuccino
Met-Rx; EAS, Avid Caramel Peanut Roll; Balance Almond Brownie
Optimum Nutrition's Opti-Women Multivitamin
GNC Women's Ultra Mega ACTIVE Multivitamin
Often Added Nutrients:
1.Examine the cholesterol content. Very high quality drinks contain virtually no cholesterol whatsoever, and often list it as less than one milligram. Those drinks with single digit milligram cholesterol amounts are of rather good quality. Once a drink enters double digit amounts, the quality begins to drop exponentially, and the majority of these are loaded with Whey concentrate (a poor and inexpensive source of protein).
2.The higher quality protein blends have greater dissolvability and will mix more easily, while their inferior counterparts will be courser often requiring excessive shaking or necessitating blender assistance.
3.Remember the above whey lesson. Be sure that any whey containing supplement (especially 100% Whey) you purchase contains the highly absorbable isolate form, and not the inexpensive, poorly absorbed whey concentrate.
Whole wheat products, oatmeal, sweet potato, and rice cakes are carbohydrate dietary staples. It is also important to eat a couple of cups vegetables a day including frequent servings of the dynamic duo broccoli & spinach. Other female favorites are zucchini, carrots, beans, and asparagus. Try to mix up the choices in order to ensure the complete amount of vitamins throughout the diet. Fruits are also important carbs which provide additional energy filled nutrients and fiber, but are less frequently implemented when compared to veggies.
King among healthy sources of fat is the legendary salmon. This is not the crusted, butter drenched local restaurant version, but rather the healthy, home-baked, brushed with extra virgin olive oil (to prevent drying) serving which is eaten at least twice a week by those in serious training. Other good poly- and mono-unsaturated fat food favorites include avocados, natural peanut butter, raw almond butter, and a variety of other nuts. When it comes to supplementing, several female competitors absolutely swear by Flax Seed Oil, among which the multi-blended, female friendly (contains Evening Primrose Oil), well formulated Udo's Choice Oil Blend from Flora is the favorite.
There is considerable variation in the baseline flexibility between individuals, and furthermore even within a person's own body (e.g. flexible shoulders but inflexible hips or; flexible right hamstring, but tight, inflexible left hamstring). Genetics, injuries, and abnormal biomechanics all play a role in these differences. Stretching may be useful for both injury prevention and injury treatment. The commonly held belief is that stretching for prevention if properly practiced, potentially increases flexibility which appears to translate into a reduced risk of injury. The theory here is that muscles and tendons with a greater range of motion will be less likely to experience tears when actively used. Other speculative benefits are thought to be improved recovery and enhanced athletic performance, both of which are attributed to improved biomechanical efficiency.
There are a variety of different types of stretches and numerous reasons why people perform them. Below are some of the more popular stretches, along with examples and the reasoning as to why they should be practiced or discontinued.
Passive stretching is also referred to as relaxed stretching, and as static-passive stretching. A passive stretch is one where a position is assumed and held with some other part of the body, or with the assistance of a partner or some form of apparatus. For example, bringing the knee towards the chest, and then holding it there with the hands or arms is a form of passive stretching. The splits are also an example of a passive stretch in which the floor serves as the apparatus used to maintain the extended position.
Active stretching, also know as static-active stretching, is when a position is assumed and then held with no assistance other than the strength of working (agonist) muscles. An example of this would be raising one's leg under its own power and suspending it in the air without the assistance of other body parts or apparatus. The tension of the agonists in an active stretch helps to relax the muscles being stretched (the antagonists). Active stretching increases active flexibility and strengthens the agonistic muscles. Active stretches are usually quite difficult to hold and maintain for more than 10 seconds and rarely need to be held any longer than 15 seconds. Many of these movements (or stretches) can be found in various forms of yoga.
Isometric stretching is a type of static stretching (meaning it does not use motion) which involves the resistance of muscle groups through isometric contractions or the tensing of stretched muscles. This form is more commonly referred to as 'flexing', and is often used by bodybuilders during contests to better display muscle groups, and in practice to enhance striations.
AN ASSORTMENT OF STRETCHES
You should not try to make big gains in flexibility in a short time spans. Stretching should be done gradually over a long period of time, and maintained to prevent slipping back towards inflexibility. Many people enthusiastically embark on a stretching program, but then quit a few weeks into it because they haven't seen results. Be patient and consistent, flexibility takes time to accrue. Below are some examples of simple, yet diverse stretches:
Reach Ups – Reach with both hands as high as possible, clasp them together and inhale deeply. Exhale on the way down, while slowly lowering your arms returning them to the sides.
Alligator Stretch – Lie on your stomach and gently push up onto your elbows. Try to look back at the ceiling or the other wall behind you while stretching the abdominals and lower back. You may advance the stretch from the elbows/forearms onto your hands for a deeper stretch.
Seated Straddle Stretch – Seated with your legs forward in a V-position, while exhaling slowly reach toward the center until you feel the stretch. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat the exercise 3 times.
Back Crunch Rolls – Lay on your back, pull your knees toward you in a ball position, and crunch your chest toward your knees. Hold, then release. Repeat 5-10 times.
Cat Stretch – Either standing with your hands on your knees, or on the ground with hands and knees on the floor like a cat, round up your back and inhale deeply. Then relax your back while exhaling. Repeat for 5 deep breaths.
Chest and Triceps Stretch – Seated with legs folded or standing, reach behind you with both hands and clasps them together. Try to extend both arms for a full stretch.
Standing Torso Twist – From a standing position, slowly twist the torso from left to right to loosen up the spine and lower back.
Standing Calf Stretch – Lunge forward toward a wall with one leg. Keeping your heel on the floor, leave the other leg stretched behind you. This move looks like you are trying to push down the wall. Repeat stretch with the other leg.
Overhead Triceps Reach – Standing or seated reach behind your head with one arm and try to extend the fingers between your shoulder blades toward the middle of the back. Use your other hand to grasp the elbow and help with the stretch. Repeat the stretch on the other side.
THE RESEARCH ON 'STRETCHING' One naturally assumes that the stretching of muscles and connective tissues (tendons and ligaments) prior to exercise would be the best way to prevent injury during said exercise, right? Well, not only is the research in this area inconclusive, but the data proving the exact opposite is mounting. A one-year study of 1543 athletes who ran in the Honolulu Marathon, found only 33% of male runners who did not stretch were hurt, while a striking 47% of male runners who stretched regularly were injured (Lally D, 1994.). Even when the research accounted for the fact that the strongest predictor of a future injury is a past injury, and excluded runners who took up stretching after a previous injury, stretchers who did not run any more miles than the non-stretchers still had a 33% greater risk of injury. However, this study also found that stretching after workouts reduced the risk of injury. This led to the conclusion that stretching should occur when muscles are thoroughly warmed, in order to be considered a protective measure.
In a similar study (van Mechelen W, Hlobil H, Kemper HCG, et al., 1993) 159 runners who were instructed how to warm up, cool down and stretch effectively were compared to a control group of 167 similar runners who received no instruction. The injury rates of the two groups were identical suggesting that the stretching instructions produced no protective benefit. Still other research has determined stretching may be beneficial. A study of military recruits who performed a series of static stretches before and after training were compared to a control group which did not stretch at all (Amoko et al, 2003). Although there was no difference in the rate of bone or joint injuries, the stretching group returned a significantly lower rate of muscle-related injuries.
In their review of this literature, Thacker et al (2004) stated that "There is not sufficient evidence to endorse or discontinue routine stretching before or after exercise to prevent injury among competitive or recreational athletes. Further research, especially well-conducted randomized controlled trials, is urgently needed to determine the proper role of stretching in sports."
Warm-Up Cardio - A good way to increase blood flow and preheat the body is to perform several minutes (working up a good sweat) of cardio activity prior to training. The rule here is not to exceed 30 minutes of cardio training activity prior to weight training, after said time athletic research indicates a decline physical strength.
Warm-Up Weight Training - A commonly practiced activity among many weight lifters is to lift less weight during the first one or two sets of a new exercise. It is believed that this method eliminates muscular shock by preparing the body for the workload of the heavy training sets.