If you are trying to build up muscle or burn off the fat and your eating habits are not optimal… this letter is for you. It’s the 4 (four) Rules of Performance Nutrition.
Normally I don’t like to use the word ‘rule’ as it sounds like I’m being an absolutist and it’s my way or the highway. That isn’t how I mean it at all. But generally speaking, if you aren’t doing these 4 things when it comes to nutrition, you will not succeed at your performance goals.
What exactly is a rule?
“A generalized statement that describes what is true in most or all cases” – Dictionary.com
For starters, I’ve been receiving a whole lot of emails recently from people who are desperate to build muscle quickly or to burn off some fat for an event (wedding comes to mind). These people don’t track what they eat and have no idea about what to eat, when to eat or why eating
frequently would be something they would even want to do.
More often then not, when you mention frequent eating, the first response goes like, “There’s no way I can eat 5-6 big meals a day!”
Frankly, if you are not following these simple rules, it’s not really shocking you aren’t getting to where you want.
Performance Nutrition Rule #1
Always eat at least 5 times a day. Two or three meals simply isn’t enough. Two of the meals can be considered snacks as long as the nutrition ratios are correct as I’m about to describe in Rule 2.
Why is eating so frequently a must they ask?
* blood sugar levels will be controlled (you won’t be as famished as your friends who binge on anything in sight as they are starving*
* you will be feeding yourself protein throughout the entire day. This means you will be anabolic and supporting muscle growth (more muscle = leaner you). Your recovery will be better.
* body fat will not be stored but used as energy. By providing yourself with a steady flow of required calories thru the day, your body’s need to store it as fat will be reduced. Compared this to when you eat infrequently and your body detects this as a famine situation. At this point, too much of the food you consume is stored as fat.
Performance Nutrition Rule #2
In planning each of your daily meals (or snacks), a caloric ratio of approximately 1 part fat, 2 parts protein, and 3 parts carbohydrate is a good place to begin. What you will see in Rule 3 below, is this is just an estimate for average people. You can adjust this to fit your needs.
Keep in mind, you do not want to eliminate the healthy fats from your diet.
This rule preaches consuming enough protein to support muscle growth and enough carbohydrates to ensure you have fuel for your workouts and you are able to recovery.
Low glycemic carbs are optimal for the choices in this stage. Remember that carbohydrates are your body’s preferred fuel source!
Performance Nutrition Rule #3
Ask yourself, “What am I going to be doing in the next hour?” If you won’t be active, then lower the amount of carbs you consume; if you will be training, then bump up the carbs you will consume so you’ll have the energy to train. Alter your carbohydrate intake depending on your anticipated activities.
Remember that low glycemic carbs are optimal for pre-workout consumption.
Performance Nutrition Rule #4
If you want to build muscle and lose fat at the same time? Pick a new goal.
Building muscle requires a calorie surplus.
Burning fat requires a calorie deficit.
As you can see, clearly the goals are in conflict. And while it’s true that beginners can do both (their bodies are easily changed) the rest of you will find this an inefficient task.
It’s best to alternate periods of negative calorie balance with periods of positive calorie balance You’ll ultimately build more muscle and burn more fat if you simply pick a single goal.
If you want to follow a program that uses this principle, The Holy Grail by Tom Venuto is as close as I’ve gotten to this by using calorie variations.
Secret Performance Nutrition Rule 5
I’m not entirely sure I agree with this one but it does make realistic sense to the common person who has a job, maybe married with kids and can’t be a full time cook or simply doesn’t have the time to prepare foods.
This rule says that it’s almost impossible to get all of the nutrients your body needs to remain healthy and active from food alone; especially if you are on some sort of diet. Therefore, it is important to supplement your diet with vitamins, minerals and carefully selected supplements.
Let’s get real here (I fully expect fall-out from this statement)… I’m not preaching you HAVE to take supplements. In fact, many programs out there including my own do not require it any way shape or form. And if you can carefully select your foods, you will be just fine.
Personally I know of one bodybuilder who doesn’t take any supplements and is ripped to sheds and his workouts make me cry. He’s dedicated and proves every time he steps into the gym, natural, supplement-free bodybuilding is the way to go.
But it’s crazy not to at least mention the arguments for this secret nutrition rule because as a bodybuilder myself with a life and who’s occasionally time constrained, these next points happen to most of us.
There’s not a person who’s reading this letter now that hasn’t felt like, no matter how hard you try, no matter how good a cook you are, or where you buy your food:
* You cannot always eat 5-6 times a day
* There are instances when your body might need a certain substance in greater amounts then you and provide with food alone
* Soil depletion has left some foods less nutritious then you would expect. If you shop organic and are extremely careful in your selection, you might avoid this but for us big stores discount shoppers, an apple isn’t always an apple.
* Periods of high stress sometimes lead to higher nutrient needs without an increase in caloric needs.
Additional Performance Nutrition Tips
* Eliminate the junk food. Refined sugars and processed foods are usually higher in fats. Neither of these things will be beneficial to you. All these foods really do is promote a rise in your blood sugar level and then a swift decline. You’ll end up hungrier than before.
* Drink plenty of water a day. A really quick formula is to drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces. Drink water during the day in 15 minute increments; not all at once. It replaces water lose from exercise and keeps you hydrated. Your body is 55-75% water you know!
* Determine your daily protein needs. As you know, protein is required for muscle growth. By ensuring that you are getting enough protein all throughout the day, you will keep your nitrogen levels high and your body in a anabolic (growth and repair) state.
* Consume foods higher in fiber. Not only does fiber help lower your cholesterol but it helps lower the glycemic response of some meals and aids in efficient digestion.
* Increase your lean body weight thru resistance training. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. The more calories you burn, the leaner you can be. If you want to burn more fat then build more muscle. By having more muscle, you also strengthen joints, tendons, ligaments and bones for greater overall health. Building muscle is a primary goal of any program! Even people who want to burn fat should build muscle as it aids in doing exactly that.
Marc David – CPT
“The NoBull Muscle Guy”
Author of NoBull Bodybuilding