Health is Wealth
All great leaders, athletes, artists and performers have a game plan. Not a strict or boring plan — the best performers move with freedom, and leave room to make mistakes — but they do have a base, a foundation on which they ascend from. In this guide, my goal is to help you form a nutritional foundation rooted in science, and to provide you with the tools you need to become the best version of you. When you live your life healthy — energized, passionate, and vibrant — the sky is the limit.
For a while now, I’ve felt compelled to share the habits and routines that have changed my life, but I’ve been hesitant because health and nutrition is such a difficult, conflicting topic. Everyday I see a new diet guru or social media influencer sell “the new magic bullet to health” or “the simple easy key to fat loss”. It’s no wonder people are confused… how could you not be with the enormous amount of misinformation spread each day? And it’s not only about the spread of bad information; we also don’t have all the answers. There’s uncertainty in the field of nutrition — even by the experts of the field — and it’s nearly impossible to prescribe a generalized plan because everyone is different. I’m writing this because I believe I have an understanding of how this nutrition thing works, and that I can communicate the lessons I’ve learned in a consumable way, but I will not be somebody who claims to have all the answers. In my experience, when someone claims to know it all — you should run the other way.
With that said, I do have some modest experience in this field. I’m kind of a nutrition junkie. I love nutrition and I’m infatuated with understanding the role lifestyle plays in health and longevity. I enjoy following the leading experts and journals in the field, and I strive to stay up to date with the latest research. I am certified in fitness nutrition by the American Council on Exercise.1The American Council on Exercise (ACE), is the worlds largest non-profit health and fitness organization. ACE is one of the most recognized names in the certification of exercise professionals and health coaches. Website: acefitness.org. I am also certified in “The Science of Nutrition” and “Training the Physique Athlete” by Layne Norton, PhD at the Clean Health Fitness Institute. 2 Layne Norton has his PhD in Nutritional Sciences. He is largely regarded as one of the worlds experts in nutrition. His programs at the Clean Health Fitness Institute — The Science of Nutrition and Training the Physique Athlete — were monumental in my learning experience. I would highly recommend them to anyone serious about understanding nutrition. But more important than any course or book, I am always experiencing and practicing the principles I learn about. I pride myself on being a healthy, fit, and energized individual. The best teachers, they practice what they preach.
It hasn’t been easy though — I was never one of those annoying people who could eat whatever they want and never gain a pound. 3We all know Johnny — the skinny kid we grew up with who eats like garbage and never gains weight. He seems to have this insanely active metabolism. As annoying as it is that Johnny can seemingly eat whatever he wants, it won’t last forever. And sometimes for guys like him the results will be devastating. Bad food and bad habits always catch up… every single time. The skinny athlete with a crappy diet, or the friend who can eat a box of donuts and still has abs, is the same person who is bald, immobile, and at the doctor for testosterone shots when they turn 50. Trust me, the food always catches up. Even as a competitive athlete through college, I didn’t have the body or health I envisioned. I always thought it was because I was a weak-minded person. I assumed I just wasn’t one of those people who could cut off the extra weight. I was just thick or naturally bigger. Believe it or not, I almost accepted that self-rationalization bullshit.
We are in complete control of our destiny. It won’t happen overnight, and the journey will be harder for some, but you control your health. You simply need the key ingredients — the information. You need the tools. And oh boy did I not have the tools growing up. I grew up in an environment full of chocolate shakes and fast food. My parents weren’t up-to-date on healthy eating, I mean who knew chocolate milk and a PB&J sandwich isn’t an optimal meal? Our pantry was loaded with processed foods and sugary snacks; Baked Lays, Hawaiian Punch, Reese’s Puff cereal… you name it, we had it! I don’t blame my parents for my failures, or my coaches and teachers, because most of the time they were simply trying to do there best. And I take ownership over my choices. There’s no question I didn’t make the best decisions. But honestly, who can thrive in that environment? How was I supposed to be a top-level athlete eating that garbage? I don’t think it’s a hard argument to make… when it comes to performing my best; I was at a massive disadvantage. My environment failed me — massively — and I know I’m not the only one.
It’s time to change the modern day narrative. This guide isn’t simply based off my experiences though; it’s supported by research studies, journals, doctors, and health professionals around the world. Studies provide evidence for our hypothesis, but there are so many varying factors; we can never be for certain. Adherence to the actual controlled variables of the study is really hard to monitor. Humans are hard to control. And although most studies have great intentions, not all of them are good science. Thank you Layne Norton and Peter Attia for helping me understand how to actually read a study — and find it’s flaws. 4Layne Norton, PhD is an expert in the fitness and nutrition industry. In his course “The Science of Nutrition” he explains the different types of studies and how to understand them. He always takes an educational critical stance when reading and explaining scientific studies. Use him as a source to know which studies are flawed or legit, and what we can take away from them. 5Peter Attia, MD is the owner and leader of a medical practice. His article series “studying studies” on his website is a fantastic tool to use to understand the bias and flaws in studies. If you plan on reading scientific literature, I would highly recommend taking a look at Peter’s articles [Check out his website here] The studies and research I cite will be clickable insights labeled by the little blue numbers. Some of them may be extra thoughts and additional useful information, so be aware of them! Please use these to create a better understanding and to double-check my scientific support. But again, even good studies are never a for sure. In science and nutrition, all we can do is test a hypothesis. Studies are skewed, and very few things are black and white.
Finally, when learning about nutrition, it is important to be skeptical. I like to follow three principles when I’m doing my research: I think intuitively, seek credible scientific information, and follow the habits of the people I believe in. I encourage you to do the same. It’s your life, be an independent thinker!
This packet is for general nutritional purposes only. It does not constitute the practices of medicine, nursing, or other professional healthcare services – especially the giving of medical advice. The use of this information is at the users own risk. Please use common sense, and seek out a registered dietitian or medical professional for any specific health conditions.
It’s a Forever Thing
All I ever wanted was a six-pack. I wanted to be ripped and idolized for my figure. Growing up, in my mind a healthy person was someone with a low body fat percentage. It didn’t matter what you ate or the things you consumed — health was a visual thing. Well, as you can imagine, this mindset — all about body image — left me unhappy and unfulfilled. And more to the point — it didn’t work! I never reached the version of myself I envisioned, and even worse, I judged everybody based off his or her appearance. I’ve never been more off base in my entire life.
The current methodology to get healthy is through “dieting.” Everywhere you look there is a new diet plan or magical style of eating. I’ve played this diet game. I would follow a diet for a few weeks, maybe even a month if I was really on it, and then eventually fall back to old habits. I’d make myself feel bad for the binges, and then eventually find the motivation to start again and try something new. It was a cyclical pattern of restriction and indulgence, a never-ending diet pattern. It was a brutal way to live life, and again — it didn’t even work.
Unfortunately, this style of eating is extremely common today. It’s a never-ending cycle because most popular diets aren’t sustainable in daily life. Who wants to live their life on a diet plan? Not me. As I said, I’ve tried the restrictive diet plans. I even had success with a few of them, but I was never able to fully sustain one long-term. We all want to enjoy daily life — this means our nutritional game plan needs to enjoyable, and long-term — it needs to be an adoptable lifestyle we can happily undertake for the rest of our lives. Living healthy is about feeling confident, energized, and vibrant each day — it’s not about restriction.
Additionally, there is no perfect diet. The Internet will try to make you believe there is — as nutritionists and influencers wave their magic wand touting the newest diet trend — but in reality it all depends on the individual. Honestly, when it comes to strictly losing weight, 99% of these diets work. The methodology behind each unique diet will vary, but caloric restriction is the key ingredient in all of them — leading to the weight loss. Caloric restriction is simply eating fewer calories than you exert each day (negative energy balance). I’m not going to preach about eating less and moving more — health is so much more than calories in vs. calories out. But what’s the common denominator in most of the trendy diet plans like Keto, Carnivore, Whole30, and Atkins? They all eliminate garbage. If you actually follow the plan, you aren’t eating refined carbohydrates, processed sugars, and junk foods. And you probably aren’t drinking alcohol either.
When you’re on your diet plan you probably feel better than you did before you started, but you’re most likely always hungry and not able to do the fun social things you enjoy. When you’re off plan you can indulge in “bad” foods, but then you feel bloated, and unattractive and tired most of the time. There’s rarely a middle ground, it’s either on it or off it. This is why we need habits and routines that make us feel good and sane each day. We need to nourish our bodies with the right nutrients, but also with the right indulgences. The body and the mind is one connected system. The things you eat (and don’t eat) directly influence how the system runs. Every bite we take and every step matters.
Weight loss is only one of the many components to a healthy lifestyle. Your health affects your mindset, energy, mobility, chance of disease, and the rate at which you begin to age. Health shapes everything — it shapes your life and your future. The right foods will nourish, energize, and sustain bodily health, and the wrong foods can lead to restriction and disease. It’s time to change the core values around health. No more dieting. It’s not about weight. Health is wealth — it’s not a six-pack.
It’s just crazy to me, how these small, seemingly meaningless daily habits, shape who we become. Daily habits and two second food decisions compound into the making of a strong, healthy person, or conversely, can contribute to our downfall. And sadly, most Americans today are on the downfall — simply surviving instead of thriving. For many of them, they were destined to fail.
The world isn’t out to get you, but it has been set up against you. Our modern American environment — full of quick and cheap food — is failing us. In this modern society, food is everywhere — available all the time. On top of constant temptation, and the fast paced lifestyle most of us lead, we’re misinformed! Most people get their nutrition and health advice from their doctor. Some doctors are knowledgable, but many of them only have the bare minimum training in nutrition. Doctors are only required to take 23 hours of nutrition training in their 12 years of medical practice. Less than one day of nutrition in 12 years. I don’t mean to pick on doctors — I idolize them. They are saving lives! They simply aren’t nutrition experts.
The misinformation doesn’t start with our health care system, it starts with the industry. The government health guidelines have shaped the general populations ideas around food. Without taking you on a deep history lesson, in 1977 The McGovern report was published (and rewritten due to food industry backlash), founding the national guidelines that most Americans follow today. (cite – The McGovern Report – nutritionfacts.org/video/the-mcgovern-report/). This report demonized the consumption of saturated fat. 6 We now know that saturated fat in moderation is not bad. Study after study has proven that saturated fat can — and should — be a part of a healthy diet., Most people didn’t take the time to associate which fat is bad, and eventually dietary fat as a whole was the problem. With fat as the problem, sugar became more prevalent, and refined carbohydrates continued its surge into the marketplace. For example, up until 1995, the food pyramid recommended we eat 11 servings a day of processed grains such as cereal, bread, and oatmeal. 7Robert Yang with Sean Hyson – Hole-In-One Nutrition: A Guide to Fueling for Better Golf (pg.15) WHAT! That’s insane. With exception to an extreme endurance athlete — a marathon runner or swimmer — I’m not sure it’s physically possible to be healthy eating that many processed carbohydrates!
The point is that the American food industry — one of the biggest industries in the world —doesn’t always have your health interests in mind. For most Americans, the major driver of what and when they eat is the food industry. Since the American market started its massive growth, especially around the 1960s, food companies have paid barrels of money to fund so called “research” that would support their newest food product. Food companies spend billions of dollars each year on marketing, with one goal in mind; get consumers to consume more. Sure, this surge in industry has provided a ton of jobs and boosted our economy, but it’s also been extremely detrimental to the health of our nation.
Today in 2020, the five leading causes of death in America are directly linked to diet and lifestyle. (Footnote – World Health Organization. Global Health Risks. Mortality and Burden of Disease Attributable to Selected Major Risks. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2009. http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/GlobalHealthRisks_report_full.pdf. ) 8Unhappy Meals by Michael Pollan 9Dr. Steven Gundry – The Longevity Paradox About 70% of Americans are overweight, obese, and have a sedentary lifestyle. We are even seeing obesity in children as young as 2-3 years old! 10 Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity in US Children, 1999–2016 by Asheley Cockrell Skinner, Sophie N. Ravanbakht, Joseph A. Skelton, Eliana M. Perrin and Sarah C. Armstrong How is that a thing? Listen, these stats are not meant to shame people, because there are other factors that can lead to obesity outside of food. It’s not always about overeating — and that destructive, judgmental mindset is one that we need to move away from — but nutrition does play a pivotal role in these health markers. The takeaway is that in 2020, health in America is a major problem — at an all time low. Food everywhere and misinformation, that’s a deadly combination.
I’m guessing you probably already know that. And I didn’t write this guide to whine about the reasons we are unhealthy, I made it to be a part of the solution. So let’s get to it! We have the power to change the narrative. We have the power to build the body we want to build. We have the ability to live long and move freely — to travel the world and play with our grandkids. No more hiding behind the fact that you didn’t’ know. No more excuses. You are not a victim of the system. You have all the power within you to live healthy, and It’s time to take extreme ownership over that health, starting with the right knowledge. It begins with the right tools. It’s time to go all in.
Fundamental Nutritional Principles
Being wrong or not knowing information is actually an amazing opportunity. If you already knew, you wouldn’t be struggling. When you’re finally willing to admit you don’t know something, you begin to learn new tricks. The ability to learn and grow is powerful, and it can propel you to the next level. Use this opportunity!
As words are the building blocks of books, and numbers the building blocks of math; macronutrients are the building blocks of nutrition. There are three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Protein and carbs are both 4 calories per gram, whereas fat is 9 calories per gram. Calories are what we use to measure food and energy intake. A calorie is simply a unit of energy, and we need this energy to live and function. Calories come in various shapes and sizes, and they aren’t all created equally.
Macronutrients — protein, carbs, and fats — are, in their simplest form, energy. They serve as the bodies’ energy source. We also absorb micronutrients; vitamins and minerals that nourish our body. Micronutrients are extremely important for health, growth, and development in the body. But unlike macronutrients, micronutrients have no caloric value — they don’t create energy.
Simply, macronutrients — protein, carbs, and fats — will determine your weight and the overall energy balance in your body. Your weight is determined by the measure of your energy balance overtime, or more commonly referred to as calories in vs. calories out. Now, your health and body composition is so much more than simply calories in vs. calories out, but when it comes to body weight, the balance of energy is all that matters. Diet gurus and low carb zealots will try and make you believe otherwise. But weight isn’t a magical diet, it’s science. A calorie is a calorie. Too many calories overtime will make you overweight, and too little will make you skinny.
Protein is your best friend. Some people need 200 grams a day, and some only need 50, but we all need it. Protein is the building block of muscle, and plays a pivotal role in your organs, tissues, hair, skin, hormones, and more. It helps strengthen bones, improves wound healing, and reduces the loss of muscle as we age. When we eat protein, it provides the feeling of satiety, and the body uses the most energy — calories — to digest protein. Meaning, you are burning calories when digesting protein — anywhere from 20-30% of the calories consumed! This is significantly more than carbs (6-10%) and fats (2-3%). And to top it off, there is no junk food protein. Most junk food you find will be in the form of carbohydrates (refined carbs and sugars), and in some forms of fats.
The second macronutrient, fat, is a very calorie dense and satiating food. Remember, fat is 9 calories per gram, in comparison to 4 calories per gram in carbohydrates and protein. The American market has demonized dietary fat (saturated fat) for years due to bad research and misguided guidelines. This unfair criticism is unfortunate, because healthy fats are extremely beneficial for the body.
Fat is a major source of ATP — the body’s energy system — and plays a vital role in the health of the cells in the body. For example, the human brain is 60% fat, and without fat, cells would not be able to maintain their structure or integrity. There are two types of fat: saturated fat and unsaturated fat. Saturated fat — think animal fat and butter — appear solid at room temp. Unsaturated fats — vegetable oils like olive oil — are liquid at room temperature. Fat is absorbed differently than carbs and protein. It’s absorbed through the lymphatic system instead of through the liver. If you were to only run on fats, then your body would shift its source of fuel to ketones, instead of the more common form of fuel in glucose. This thinking is the basis for the popular low-carb diet, ‘keto.’
The third and final macronutrient is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates — carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen (CHO) — are highly debated in the diet industry. For every athlete who uses carbs to fuel optimal performance, three dieters swear carbs derive from the devil. So let’s be very clear; a carbohydrate itself isn’t inherently bad. There is no such thing as a bad macronutrient. A carbohydrate is simply 4 calories per gram. It’s energy. The context in which you use and store that energy is what matters.
Carbohydrates are one of the body’s primary fuel sources. Carbs aren’t necessarily essential, but the glucose they turn into is. Glucose is what carbohydrates become when digested by the body. Glucose is the fuel that powers most of our exercise and activity for the day. We can hold up to 100 grams of glucose in the liver, and up to 300-400 grams in our muscles. With exception to extreme endurance exercise, glucose alone is able to fuel our training and workouts. When there are no energy requirements, and our liver and muscles are full, we then store glucose as adipose tissue, or more commonly known as body fat.
Carbs get a bad wrap for a few valid reasons. First, most of the carbs we eat today have low nutrient value. Common forms of carbohydrates sold in American stores today — bread, cereals, pasta, oatmeal, candy, and chips — are processed and stripped of the original nutrients. A key goal when consuming food is to consume micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). We would call these foods — foods with a high nutrient value per calorie — nutrient dense foods. For example, fruits and vegetables are majorly carbohydrates, and are a great form of nutrient dense foods. We should strive to consume more of these nutritious, and fibrous forms of carbs instead of ice cream and cinnamon toast crunch.
The other thing to be aware of with carbohydrates — primarily carbs with a high glycemic index (think simple carbs like cereal and candy) — is the rollercoaster of energy when consumed. Simple carbs and sugars are rapidly absorbed by the body and spike blood sugar. This quick spike in blood sugar is met with insulin to balance the response. Insulin is a hormone released in the pancreas, that works to restore balance. When insulin does its job, and blood sugar eventually drops — you crash. And with a crash follows a craving sensation — to get blood sugar back up — and that’s where the feeling of being tired or hangry comes in. For most people, this cycle put’s them on a rollercoaster of spike and crash — a disastrous sequence when pursuing an energized and enjoyable life.
Again, I want to make it clear that carbohydrates aren’t evil. They are simply the most commonly sold “junk” food, making them the easiest macronutrient to overeat. Since we aren’t zombies — robots with no emotional connection to food — we do have to be aware of the psychological affect carbs can have on us throughout the day. Some people react better to carbs than others do. We are people with feelings and emotions, and we each have our own unique relationship with food. It’s important to be aware of our behaviors — to know which foods trigger our bad eating habits. You can never go wrong by switching from processed carbs to more nutrient dense forms, like vegetables and fruit.
There are two other forms of energy intake that aren’t apart of the big three, but we do have to consider. The first is good ole alcohol. Alcohol is 7 calories per gram. It is a very caloric dense liquid, explaining why most college students gain weight in the first years of college
(dominos pizza at 3am doesn’t help either). Small amounts of red wine or a clear tequila may have some health benefits, but don’t trick yourself — alcohol consumption is for pleasure.
Lastly, we also have to be aware of our fiber intake. Fiber is a form of carbohydrate, but is less calories — only about 1.5-3 calories per gram depending on the source. Soluble fiber binds to molecules during digestion, such as cholesterol, carbs, and vitamins and minerals. This is why you may have heard the term “net carbs”. (Footnote – describe net carbs). Insoluble fiber is the opposite, it binds to nothing — aiding in digestion and the excretion of waste. Fiber is a great thing to consume, as it aids in digestion, provides a sense of fullness, and our gut bacteria love it.
As I said earlier, there are a million different ways to lose weight. When we strip away all the gadgets and supplements, all those different methods do it in the same way: science. There’s no question about it, the amount of energy you store or burn — over a period of time — will determine how much you weigh. The make up of that energy — macronutrients — and certain lifestyle factors will determine the composition of the weight on the body. Of course this whole nutrition thing is more than calories; the nutrients you consume matter, certain diets are easier to adhere to, and the timing of meals play a factor in certain processes. But in the long term, how much you weigh is the addition or subtraction of energy. It’s as simple as that. It’s science.
We lose weight through what is called a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit is a negative energy balance, meaning you are taking in less energy than you are expending. A calorie surplus is simply the opposite — expending less energy then you consume. For example, when someone starts dieting, they drop their caloric intake in a dramatic fashion. Whether it’s through eating no carbs or following a vegan diet plan; when your body consumes less calories, it changes. This change may happen very quickly, or it can take forever, as it all depends on the significance of the reduction in calories (energy). Sadly, you don’t maintain a deficit forever. The weight loss will finally stop, and this is usually when people get confused or ditch their diet. This dieter eats the same foods and same amount as they did when they were shedding all the pounds, but this time nothing is happening. I understand the confusion — iv’e been there — but the stop in weight loss makes perfect sense. You stop losing weight due to one reason — the body hates It.
The human body hates losing body fat. When we reduce or increase calories — in a significant manner — the body uses mechanisms to adapt to this change. This is what we call metabolic adaptation. The body is an extremely adaptive organism — always striving to reach homeostasis. Historically, it is not the strong — or jacked — person that survives, it’s the adaptable. We are programmed to stay alive and reproduce. And the genes from those who have survived have been passed on to us. One of those survived genes is the ability to hold onto and store fat in an efficient manner. When we start to shed body fat, the body thinks we are on the path toward death, and as we get leaner, our adaptive measures increase in order to hold onto any body fat we still have for the long haul. This makes losing weight a daunting task, because in our modern world food isn’t a scarce thing anymore. We’re left with a skill we no longer need — or want. Thank you evolution.
Metabolic adaptation is the main cause of confusion with most people who can actually follow a diet. When the metabolism eventually catches up, we no longer have a calorie deficit. This metabolism and energy shift will be one of the biggest challenges to overcome when making long term changes to the body. Later, I’ll cover ways to get around this, but the point is — dieting is hard. Really hard. And another reason understanding energy balance and physiology is important. It’s the only scientifically baked game plan we have going forward.
We all have that one friend who has been following a ketogenic diet plan and loving it. Or the person who is on whole30 and swears it is magic. Honestly, I think that’s awesome. I love when people have success with with weight loss and inspire others to make healthy change. That’s amazing. But again, the diet isn’t the ticket, It’s the calorie deficit coming from the elimination of low nutrient, energy dense foods. For example, when you start eating “clean,” you cut out the unhealthy foods in your diet. If you do that, I hope you would lose weight. Or when you stop eating carbs, or follow a restrictive diet plan, you’ve again eliminated all — or most — of the calorie dense foods in the diet. The weight loss doesn’t come from magical new foods… it comes from a calorie deficit. Through elimination, you eat less.
If you are able to actually follow and stick with a diet (congrats, thats not common), the body will begin to catch up — metabolic adaptation — and the weight loss will stall. And when weight loss finally stops — like it inevitably will with everyone — what do you do? If your diet plan was to eat “clean,” and you followed it perfectly, are you now going to eat “cleaner”? If you already eat zero carbs, how are you going to eat less carbs? If you are on the carnivore diet (a diet where you only eat meat), what the hell do you do now? These are the problems most dieters run into. Once they reach this point — a successful point in its own right — they give up the diet plan and go back to their old ways. They make an excuse as to why weight loss stopped. And if they are among the small percentage of very persistent people, then they may jump on a new diet bandwagon.
In a weight loss journey, there is really only one way to continue to lose weight and reach our goals: calorie deficit. Long term — over one year — we have over 30 studies that show when protein and total calories are equated, there is no difference in a high carb or low carb diet. 11Effects of Low-Carbohydrate Diets Versus Low-Fat Diets on Metabolic Risk Factors: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials by Tian Hu, Katherine T. Mills, Lu Yao, Kathryn Demanelis, Mohamed Eloustaz, William S. Yancy, Jr, Tanika N. Kelly, Jiang He, and Lydia A. Bazzano 12Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion: The DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial by CD Gardner, JF Trepanowski, LC Del Gobbo, ME Hauser, J Rigdon, JPA Ioannidis, M Desai, and AC King 13Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets by Carol S Johnston, Sherrie L Tjonn, Pamela D Swan, Andrea White, Heather Hutchins, and Barry Sears No difference! Eat carbs or fats — I don’t care, as long as you are in a calorie deficit. Protein intake does matter, as it will play a role in body composition — helping us maintain and build lean muscle mass. If you want to lose weight — and continue to keep weight off in an educated manner — we need to manipulate energy. Don’t buy into the other bullshit.
Energy comes in through calories, in the form of macronutrients — proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. But energy intake is only half the equation; it’s a balance between the energy we consume and the energy we expend. The energy we expend (calories out), is what we refer to as Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). Believe it or not, this energy is made up of more than just exercise. Your daily energy output (TDEE), is actually made up of four different factors.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – The largest contributing factor to energy expenditure is BMR. BMR is the base amount of energy it takes for you to live if you did nothing all day. If you lie in bed all day — you didn’t move, eat, or talk — the amount of calories you expended would be your BMR. BMR is the energy it takes to keep the system running. For the average person, BMR contributes to about 60% of TDEE. It is an always-changing number, which adapts based on lifestyle and caloric intake.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) – NEAT is the calories you burn during your daily activities. On average, NEAT makes up approximately 25% of daily energy expenditure. Every movement uses energy, and the amount of energy you expend — doing things like walking, cleaning, and fidgeting — adds up. The difference between a fidgeting toe tapper, and someone who’s very still, can make a big difference!
Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) – TEF is the energy your body expends to digest and absorb food. Similar to a fire, as energy is put in to start the fire (intake), energy is burned as heat (expenditure). TEF makes up on average 10-15% of someone’s daily energy expenditure, depending on the make up and portion size of the foods. Protein and fiber have the greatest thermic effect, usually around 20-30% energy loss. Carbs (6-10%) and fats (2-3%) are significantly lower.
Exercise Activity (EA) – EA is pretty straight forward, it’s your exercise for the day. Whether it’s a low intensity bike ride, or a high intensity weight lifting session, exercise makes up about 10% of TDEE. This can be different with athletes or extreme endurance enthusiasts, but for the average person, exercise is the smallest portion of their TDEE. Our body is adaptive; it takes a lot of new physical activity to make a real impact on the energy you expend through exercise.
Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) = BMR + NEAT + TEF + EA
To save time and energy, simply use Google to calculate your maintenance calories. I like the Mueller equation. Also, if you download a free calorie-tracking app — like lose it or myfitnesspal — it will automatically calculate your TDEE and project calorie intake based off your goals. Once we know TDEE, then we can figure out the amount of calories to consume to stay at maintenance level (the same weight). But remember, these equations are just an estimate. In reality, you may be at a different TDEE than you calculated. These formulas are based on averages, and your unique situation is always changing, as your body adapts to its current food intake and environment. Usually the equation isn’t far off, and accuracy doesn’t really matter. We aren’t pursuing perfection.
The rest of this guide will be mainly focused on nutrition. But just because we focus on what we are eating, don’t forget about the power of energy expenditure. You can manipulate NEAT easily by moving more and doing little tasks throughout the day. You can always add in exercise — there are a variety of new ways to burn calories. You can sauna and swim more, join a fitness class with a friend, or finally take your co-worker up on that volleyball league. Whatever it is, the more we move, the easier it is to reach a calorie deficit. Find things you enjoy doing, and build a foundation activity. Become a person with an active lifestyle, and ditch the wasted hours at the gym doing cardio. Make activity a part of your identity, not a chore.
Tracking (or not tracking) Calories
If the thought of tracking food causes anxiety for you — I know it can be a real turn off for some — then skip to the next segment. Tracking isn’t a necessity, and it’s not for everyone. That’s okay. I go through periods where I absolutely love tracking my intake — I know exactly what to eat to reach my goals — and I also go through periods where I could care less about it. For some people, counting calories can be annoying and feel like a tedious task, and for others, it can be a fantastic analytical tool. But whether or not you decide to track calories, you should at least understand its power, because tracking calories is without a doubt one of the most powerful tools we have to lose weight.
You can obviously lose weight without tracking calories. Just like you can save money without a financial budget. People save money all the time — by winging it — without a financial plan or fundamental finance knowledge. But just because it’s possible, that doesn’t mean it’s optimal, and it doesn’t render a financial budget useless. The more detailed and goal-oriented you are, the more useful a financial budget is for gaining wealth. The same applies to tracking food. Tracking is geared toward the serious dieters, and the people who are very motivated to reach their goals. And it’s the number one thing I point to when I hear someone say “its impossible for me to…” blah. It’s never impossible — it’s science — but that doesn’t mean it might be really hard.
First, tracking calories is an amazing learning experience. The first time I did it, although I was doing it completely wrong, I still absorbed a great deal. I learned about the make up — macronutrient composition — of the foods I like and commonly eat. I learned how bad some foods are — how calorie dense and loaded with sugar my favorite treats are. And it made me think intuitively about what foods are worth it to eat — what foods help me reach my daily protein and caloric goals. Tracking your food intake is a real world form of nutrition 101.
Second, intuitive eating is great — we should strive to eat to satiety and not overindulge. But intuitive eating gives you no way to measure, and I don’t think the best plan will rely feelings. We are humans after all — I can’t always trust myself to make the healthiest decision, especially if it’s based on how I feel in the moment (although a spontaneous donut run from time to time may be the key to happiness). And not only are we historically bad at making decisions based on feelings, but we also do a poor job about estimating what we eat. A study found that on average, people who were focused — thoughtfully trying to guess calories — underestimated daily calorie intake by almost 500 calories a day. And even the best nutritionists in the world aren’t all that accurate at guessing intake (off by about 200 calories) — albeit more accurate than the average person. (cite – Energy intake and energy expenditure: a controlled study comparing dietitians and non-dietitians – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12396160/ ). When you track calories you have actual data, it’s physical information that we can now measure and adjust. We know have a planning tool; we know what we need to modify to reach the goal. You can’t change what you don’t track.
Third, tracking brings peace. For me, if I know I have to hit a certain calorie and protein total, it becomes a game. What foods can I add in to get there? How can I leave room for my favorite foods? This takes guilty out of eating enjoyable foods, and allows freedom to actually enjoy the meals you enjoy. This style of eating is called flexible dieting, and it doesn’t feel like a diet. Do be careful with this though, because although calories are vital, they aren’t the only thing that matters. Eating nutrient dense, whole foods provide the energy and nourishment your body needs. Health isn’t calories. And if your only focused on hitting your macronutrient goals, you may be missing out on the point of eating: nourishment.
Fourth and finally, tracking is the best accountability partner. If I do start to get off track, the accountability is right there in the data. You immediately see the negative impact of a pint of ice cream. Eating the extra donut is less enjoyable, because you instantly see how it throws off your progress. Tracking creates all-time accountability.
If you decide to take up tracking, I would focus on hitting your protein and calorie numbers. Don’t get too worried about carbs and fats, unless you enjoy one of those diets and it helps you adhere to your caloric goals. And never get to precise about macro targets, round the daily goal to an even number. Focus more on your weekly total — daily average — rather than getting dogmatic about precise daily numbers. Consistency over accuracy.
When I am really on my game, Im weighing my food. It’s not feasible all the time — especially in busy times of work and life — but when I can, I actually weirdly enjoy it. Weighing food is the easiest and most precise way to track. You can get a really good food scale online for only $20. But if weighing your food sounds excessive (it kind of is), you can simply eye it or use another measuring device. Accuracy isn’t all that important, consistency is king. The last metric we need to record is our weight. Tracking your body weight daily is very important in order to monitor progress. Don’t lose your mind over daily fluctuations or numbers just use this tool as a metric to know if your nutritional plan is working. This is a great feedback tool. And hop on the scale at the same time everyday. Our weight fluctuates by up to 8 pounds throughout the day, be consistent with the timing.
Whatever tools or serving sizes you enter, the key is to be consistent with it. Don’t jump around a lot. One more time, consistency is far more important than accuracy! For example, if you have a gun that shoots slightly left of its target, you are able to adjust and aim more right to hit your mark. A misaligned, consistent gun is better than one that is accurate every one out of four times. Exact accuracy really means nothing, we NEED consistency. Because when we are consistent we are able to make actual changes based off that baseline. The more data you record, the bigger library we have to make an educated change. Keep long-term goals in mind. Don’t sell a great plan because of a couple days of weight fluctuations. Trust the process!
As we go forward in this guide, I wont continue the talk about equations or tracking. If you would like to continue this topic, please reach out to me. I would love to help you develop a caloric plan. But keep this tool in your toolbox. Tracking has long been linked to weight loss and a healthy lifestyle. It’s another tool you can use to shed weight and manage emotions. Become a master of your tools.
In my mind, when nutrition is broken down into simple energy balance, dieting sounds easy. And that’s when I always remember, we aren’t robots; we’re people. Eating is an emotional and social endeavor — not just a physical act. We can’t forgo our emotions and always eat the healthiest, most nutritious food. And even if we had the best nutrition plan in the world, would it be enjoyable in our modern life? We all enjoy life and food in different ways, and it’s important to do the things you enjoy. I want you to make small adjustments, that will pay big dividends over time. There’s no need for radical life changes.
In the next few chapters I will lay out different strategies you can use to manipulate your weight and body composition. I will give a variety of different styles to aid in unique personal preferences — since we are all different in our pursuits. That’s one thing I love about nutrition: even if we came up with the best diet on the planet, it’s still not going to be the best for everyone. Everyone is different, with unique desires, habits, and beliefs. In this guide, there is a game plan for an athlete on a budget, and for the 27-year-old salesperson seeking a slender figure and more productivity. No matter where you are and what you strive for, sustainability and adherence is the key. It’s the foundation. If you can’t stick with it, it doesn’t work.
As you go through this guide, think about what can actually work in your life. Use science to develop a plan you enjoy, and then put your own flavor and spice on it. It’s not about what I like best, or what your coach likes best. It’s not about what Greg says on your social media feed. Mold your own plan and take extreme ownership over that plan.
It’s a Lifestyle
Before we dive into nutrition, there are two fundamental practices to maximize. Nutrition is immensely important, but hydration is the foundation of our daily intake. The body if made up of nearly 70% water — it’s the most important nutrient in our body! It seems like common sense to actively consume water, but the principle hasn't hit home yet. Approximately 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. You’ve heard this story before, so I will give you only the essential facts; the knowledge that made me take hydration seriously.
The second practice is a legendary one, studied by thousands of different doctors and health professionals alike. This simple, easy-to-do routine is proven to fight against hunger, obesity, and even aging. My friends, a natural version of steroids, and the secret key to optimal athletic performance and maximal function is... sleep! Okay that’s not a secret, but similar to hydration, it’s surprising how many people are missing out on these benefits. According to Gallup Poll’s, nearly 40% of Americans don’t get enough sleep (over 7 hours) each night. And if they went by my standards, that number would be significantly higher. With a fast-paced lifestyle and technology at every corner of the modern home, this lack of sleep is a major problem — a recipe for disease and obesity. Let’s take sleep seriously and cover how we can optimize our routine — and take advantage of our natural steroids.
Sleep is a vital component to a healthy life. It isn’t sexy — discussed like nutrition and exercise — but it’s equally as important. There’s really no argument, sleep is the best natural performance enhancer; it contributes to everything we do. Quality sleep can delay aging, facilitating recovery, and help us protect against obesity. On the other hand, sleep deprivation will most certainly lead to irritation and a grouch — the version of ourselves nobody wants to be around. I’m sure I’m beating a dead horse here, so let’s quickly understand the essential benefits of quality sleep.
The main benefits of quality sleep (although the list of benefits is long):
- Memory retention14 Sleep and rest facilitate implicit memory in a visual search task by SC Mednick, T Makovski, DJ Cai, and YV Jiang
- Slow aging (restore & lengthen telomeres)
- Enhance fat loss (balance hunger cravings & fat burn)
- Boost immune & digestive system function
- Maintenance and growth of lean muscle mass
- Improve skin function 15Does poor sleep quality affect skin ageing? by P Oyetakin-White, A Suggs, B Koo, MS Matsui, D Yarosh, KD Cooper, and ED Baron
- Decreased risk of diseases
Don’t believe me that sleep is important? A famous study done by the University of Chicago showed that people who sleep 8.5 hours a night compared to 5.5 hours a night, burned 55% more body fat!16 Sleep loss limits fat loss, study finds 17The Sleep Health Index by The National Sleep Foundation [sleepfoundagion.org] 18 This was a really amazing study. They took people — half men and half women — and had them do a few weeks of 8.5 hours of sleep. They tested the results. After a few months of intermission, they took the exact same people and had them do a few weeks of 5.5 hours of sleep. The diets (calorie deficit) and lifestyle were the same; sleep is the only thing that changed. Same people, same genetic factors, dramatically different outcomes based on sleep! In the study, both groups were fed the exact same calorie deficit induced diet. In fact, both groups lost about the same amount of weight. The difference was not in total weight loss, but in where the weight loss actually occurs. In the sleep-deprived group, the weight loss came from 50% muscle mass and 50% body fat. In the quality sleep group nearly all the weight loss came from body fat! That’s insane! Confirming that quality sleep plays a big role in body composition. The reason we burn body fat instead of muscle when we are getting quality sleep has to do with a variety of factors from melatonin release, HGH levels, and the transition of white fat to brown fat. One of the most vital explanations is due to the increase in cortisol when sleep deprived, which will contribute to muscle glycogenesis or the body using muscle as fuel. Sleep is your regenerating chamber — it’s when the body is able to actually rebuild!
Other than physiology, sleep has a powerful connection with our mental and emotional states. Another great study done by Stanford researchers concludes that only one night of sleep deprivation will significantly decrease your leptin levels and increase your ghrelin levels. blah blah blah19 Stanford study links obesity to hormonal changes from lack of sleep 20Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index by Shahrad Taheri, Ling Lin, Diane Austin, Terry Young, and Emmanuel Mignot This is important because leptin is a hormone that makes you feel full and satiated. And ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite and promotes fat storage. This study confirmed the well-documented theory that sleep depravation will lead to increased cravings. I’m sure you can relate to this — when we are tired our will power is lowered and decision-making is altered. Give me the sugar! This craving has been proven time and time again in studies; there is now no question that chronically low sleep is linked to increased appetite and risk of obesity. 21Sleep and obesity by Guglielmo Beccuti and Silvana Pannain 22Acute partial sleep deprivation increases food intake in healthy men by L Brondel, MA Romer, PM Nougues, P Touyarou, and D Davenne 23Sleep curtailment is accompanied by increased intake of calories from snacks by Arlet V Nedeltcheva, Jennifer M Kilkus, Jacqueline Imperial, Kristen Kasza, Dale A Schoeller, and Plamen D Penev 24Sleep loss limits fat loss, study finds
Remember the mind and body is one interconnected system. Sleep is one of the greatest depictions of this connection. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people with sleep insomnia are at a ten times greater risk of developing depression than someone with adequate sleep — and 90% of people with depression claim to have poor sleep.25 Sleep and depression by N Tsuno, A Besset, and K Ritchie 26Depression and Sleep by Axel Steiger and Marcel Pawlowski
Again, this isn’t new, as anxiety and depression have long been linked to sleep deprivation. Sleep and mental disorders are intertwined in a way that I am by no means qualified to talk about, but if you are healthy individual and are increasingly feeling stressed out or depressed, then getting quality sleep could be a potential routine to aid in the solution.
I hope we can agree — sleep is monumentally important. Now the question becomes: how do we improve our quality of sleep, especially in our modern American environment where quality sleep is an increasingly common problem?
Maximizing Quality Sleep
Television screens and cell phones are a daily part of most of our lives — making it extremely difficult to follow our circadian rhythm and maintain a quality sleep schedule. Today, the average American sleeps 6.8 hours per day, which is down more than an hour from 1942.27 In U.S., 40% Get Less Than Recommended Amount of Sleep by Jeffrey M Jones For the first time in the history of the human race, we are out of sync with nature. We no longer are in tune with our ancestors who would wind down with the sunset. Of course, technology is an amazing tool that has made our world better, but it has its drawbacks — and a major one is the negative impact it has on our sleep.
The light emitted from a fire or from starlight is completely different then from blue light — the light emitted from a television screen or phone. (Footnote – Natural lights, like a fire for example, don’t stimulate our brain or delay melatonin production. In some cases, these warm and beautiful sights can contribute to sleepiness.) LED blue light exposure has a stimulating affect on the body and brain. For example, a study done at the University of Harvard showed that at night, every hour you are exposed to blue light — on your phone or watching TV — you are delaying your natural melatonin production by 30 minutes. Therefore, if you watch three hours of Netflix, you are delaying your natural melatonin production by 1.5 hours!28 Blue light has a dark side 29 The Effects of Red and Blue Lights on Circadian Variations in Cortisol, Alpha Amylase, and Melatonin by Mariana G. Figueiro and Mark S. Rea
If you are on your phone late or watching TV, there is no question you are screwing up your sleep cycles. It’s no wonder people don’t feel regenerated or rested after binging their favorite show! The best thing you can do to combat this is to put your phone away and turn off the TV in the evening. But I know that is not practical for anyone, or fun for the matter. One solution that has made a dramatic impact in my life is the addition of blue light blocking glasses. A study done at the University of Toronto proved that wearing effective blue light blocking glasses protects us from most of the effects of LED blue light. 30Effects of blue light on the circadian system and eye physiology by Gianluca Tosini, Ian Ferguson, and Kazuo Tsubota If you are planning on watching a sports game late or doing some extra work on your computer, then blue light glasses are a must!
In addition to blue light glasses, here are some routines that will help you optimize your sleep:
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Follow your body’s natural circadian rhythm. The body enjoys being on a similar schedule.
- Put your phone away a few hours before bed. Disconnect, wind down, and spend some quality time with the people that matter in your life.
- At night, charge your phone across the room or outside the bedroom. Don’t have it accessible in your bed. (This also forces you to get out of bed in the morning and turn off your alarm).
- Don’t eat late in the evening. Trust me, I love late night snacking. But when you eat late your body uses its energy on digesting the food, instead of regenerating and rebuilding.
- Create a cool climate in your bedroom. Cooler temperatures have been shown to create deeper sleep. In fact, cooling down skin is a treatment method for people with insomnia.
- Take a magnesium supplement or get some magnesium lotion. Magnesium has long been linked to aiding in quality of sleep.
- Stop drinking water before bed — or any liquids for that matter — as it may cause you to wake up and pee. Each time you wake up you are interrupting your sleep cycles — and if you’re turning on lights — you are really hurting your sleep. If you wake up to pee frequently, its time to stop taking in fluids late in the evening. Use common sense!
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, or any other stimulates in the afternoon/evening.
- In extreme cases, use a melatonin supplement as a tool to aid in sleep. Use periodically — only when needed.
Finally, remember quality sleep is more important than quantity. We want to go through our 90-minute sleep cycles — light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep — with efficiency. No interruptions. No bright lights. And no bathroom breaks. Lets use sleep as a powerful tool to recover and stay young!
I know personally, when I am tired or sleep deprived, my decision making is turned down and I crave sugary foods. I almost always go for the tasty treat or sweets. I’ve made sleep a big priority in the last few years, but it’s definitely not an easy routine to perform in our modern lives. I love Netflix or a good sports game as much as the next guy, and of course I fall into the social media trap from time to time.
One thing that has really helped is when I put my phone away by 8pm each night. I put it in the bathroom that is attached to my bedroom. Weirdly, I usually forget about it and don’t even think about it before bed. This also forces me to actually get out of bed in the morning and not play the snooze game when I’m tired. Additionally, the blue light glasses have really helped. I wear them every single night. It has created a mental association for me — when I put on the glasses, I start to feel tired because my brain associates the glasses with bedtime. I have a high quality pair from Felix Grey for $125, but there are some less expensive options online that would suffice.
Lastly, I really love late night snacking, but there is no question I sleep better when I don’t eat 3-4 hours before bed. Dr. Steven Gundry calls skipping dinner “brainwash days”, as the body resets when it can focus solely on restorative processes rather than digestion. I think there’s definitely something to that — albeit harder said than done!
I used to be like most people: chronically dehydrated. Not anymore, as I’ve learned that water is the most critical nutrient for health, growth, and development. Optimal hydration is essential for maximizing body and brain function. Water is responsible for the movement of nutrients, digestion, absorption, circulation, and the excretion of waste from your body. Overall — depending on lifestyle and fluid intake — we are made up of about 55-70% water. We are water. And we need it badly. Dehydration and poor sleep will age you.
The leanest people among us are able to go 14-30 days without food, but only 2-3 days without water. (Cite – Hole in One nutrition book by Robert Yang) We can handle times without food — it’s even good for us — but when we start to become dehydrated; bad things happen. A drop in body water as small as 2% can cause a small but critical shrinkage of the brain. 31Hydration and physical performance by B Murray 32Ace Fitness – Sports Nutrition for Health Professionals
This minimal drop can impair the brains ability to function, in turn slowing neuromuscular coordination, concentration, and thinking. Dehydration will also reduce physical performance by decreasing endurance and strength, and slowing muscular response. Again, with ONLY a 2% decrease in water, our performance will suffer 12-15%! (cite – American Council on Exercise Textbook: Sports Nutrition for Health Professionals) If your goal is peak athletic performance, or being the sharpest mind at the office, then dehydration is the worst thing you can let happen.
These negative outcomes mentioned happen from a one time (acute) drop in hydration. Remember, most people are consistently dehydrated (chronic). This is frightening — and honestly flat out lazy — as chronic dehydration is linked to the development of major health issues. Simply put, the body is depleted of its most vital nutrient, and is no longer working near optimally. 33Most commonly, fluid imbalances will contribute to metabolic disorders, and can increase the likeliness of certain cancers, kidney stones, and prostate/testicular issues. This is due to a low frequency of fecal and urinary secretions daily. This allows toxins to sit in the large intestine for a long period of time. And to state the obvious — we don’t want unneeded toxins hanging out in our body. I could spend all afternoon citing reasons why dehydration is killing the body, but that seems like a waste of time. Please understand: water makes us better versions of us and we need it. It’s the vehicle that keeps things flowing in our bodies and is vital to maintain optimal function and recovery!
If you managed to read one sentence in the last paragragh, then you undertand water is important. But how much do we need? On average, a person will replace all the water in their body every 10-12 days. Very active people or people in extreme climates can completely cycle their water supply in as little as 6 days. We’re constantly cycling through H2O, and everyone’s water needs are different. The USDA recommends that we drink 96 ounces of water a day (1.5 gallons), which is equivalent to twelve 8 ounces glasses. A great starting point is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, then drink 80 ounces of water. If you are an active individual, then these recommendations are a bit low. If you’re an athlete training hard, or you live in warm temperatures, then you need to be replenishing the lost water. 8 ounces of water for every pound lost during training is a good standard to follow. But if you don’t care to weigh yourself, simply drink more water when you sweat. If you’re sitting in an office chair all day, you don’t need to be chugging water every five minutes.
Now, here’s something you may not know about hydration. The most common misconception is that simply drinking water leads to optimal hydration. Proper hydration is about balancing fluid intake with electrolytes. Electrolytes — minerals that poses electrical charges — are critical for muscle function, brain function, and appropriate water distribution throughout your body. We can recover lost electrolytes by adding salt to water. Unrefined sea salt or Himalayan salt are the best options. They have over 80 trace minerals that your body needs, and they have not been diluted of all their nutrient properties like table salt has. Im addition to water with salt, there are a few electrolyte water products that can aid in properly replenishing lost fluids. My favorite electrolyte water products are Flow Alkaline water, Aqua Hydrate, BodyArmor sportwater, and Core Hydration. You can get good deals on cases at Trader Joes or on Amazon.
If you don’t have a water bottle; it’s time to invest in one. It’s more of a habit and lifestyle thing than a product. In life, we want to make our good habits stand out and obvious to us. If water is near you and its convenient to drink — guess what will happen? You will drink it. And having water around all the time will help you avoid chugging it later to catch up.
The only time I don’t recommend drinking water is after a meal. Abstain from drinking water 30-45 minutes after a meal to let your digestive system work solely on the food. The body is able to absorb the food efficiently if it isn’t taking in large amounts of water at the same time. Again, the first thing you should do every morning is consume water. It is so important to start the day rehydrating in the morning. Sip it, slug it, swish it around your mouth — I don’t care the method — just drink it!
Lastly, did you notice how I didn’t mention gatorade or your newest sports drink? Gatorade is rarely an option for us. If you are a junior in high school who struggles to gain weight and muscle, gatorade could be an option. You could use the extra calories. And an extreme endurance athlete — such as a marathon runner or swimmer — may need the added sugar and carbohydrates, as those athletes aim to replenish their glycogens stores quickly by adding a rapidly absorbed fuel source. But those are extreme cases, for the majority of us — the one’s who aren’t training for the olympics — sports drinks are a waste of calories and money.
In the last five years, my pee has been yellow twice. Once after a fun night with friends (too much fun probably), and the second was because I didn’t have access to water. I pride myself on being hydrated at all times — and as my friends would tell you, I take way too much pride in that. I’m never chugging water or in a panic, I simply always have my water bottle with me. Invest in a water bottle and attach it to your hip!
I start each day with a 30-50 oz water bottle with electrolytes. I then usually have a coffee or two with another 30-50 oz of water with added Himalayan salt. I usually finish the rest of the day with normal water. I’ll only have more water with salt or electrolyte water if I’ve been extremely active or I am doing prolonged fasting. I think a another key factor to my best health is the elimination of all other beverages. I drink water, coffee, tea, red wine, and the occasional hard alcohol. I really believe a key to health is staying away from all types of soda, juices, and sugary beverages. One of the worst things you can do is drink sugar.
My lifestyle is an extremely active. I work at the golf course, where I am constantly teaching and playing golf in the heat. On top of that, I workout and hit the sauna about 5 times a week. This lifestyle calls for a massive intake of water. On most days, I consume anywhere from 200 to 250 ounces of water. Use common sense with your intake of water. Half your body weight in ounces of water is definitely a great reference point, but if you’re like me — extremely active and sweating profusely — you need to be hydrating constantly.
Finally, I definitely feel a difference in my energy levels and my attitude when I properly hydrate. Im clear, and ready to rock for the day when I get the blood flowing. Also, most of the hunger rumbling I fell each day are usually due to thirst, boredom, or routine. Thirst is the big one. I believe we commonly mistake hunger for thirst. In my life, if I am hungry, I try to create awareness around why. It’s usually around a certain time of the day or following physical activity. In those circumstances, I usually need water, not the cheeseburger I crave!
In the world of nutrition, fat loss is usually the topic of conversation. But before we dive into weight loss and how to shed body fat, let’s cover the principles you can use to build lean muscle mass. The lean body mass you hold will be the foundation for your health as you age in life — a critical factor in staying healthy and maintaining a functioning body. And let’s be honest, there are few things more satisfying than reshaping the body into a more defined, muscular, and confident being.
Gaining muscle is more of an art than a science. Everyone is different — different genetics, starting point, and ideal body image. For example, if you’ve been training and eating clean for a long time, it will take you longer to make significant changes in your body. On the flip side — good news for anyone beginning a new health journey — people who are significantly overweight have a serious head start in burning fat and growing muscle. If you are overweight, it’s time to get excited! Your body is primed to gain muscle and lose fat — and you will see the results the quickest.
Ladies, don’t skip to the fat loss portion. I get it; most of you want to look lean and toned — not bulky. I can understand a woman not wanting to have huge, bulging muscles, but that doesn’t mean we avoid the weight room. If you read a few times a week, you will gain knowledge. But that does not make you a PhD researcher. If you lift a few times a week, you will enjoy a multitude of health and body composition benefits, but that does not make you a female bodybuilder. Let’s use common sense here. A few days a week of resistance training will not make you look massive. And this routine will be extremely healthful for your body!
Finally, the nutritional principles in this chapter are useless if you don’t resistance train. The duration and intensity of your training sessions is a major factor in gaining muscle. You need to work your muscles, be active, and actually cause some break down in body. Exercise creates a catabolic break down effect in the body, and provides the perfect opportunity to grow, stronger.
Protein — your best friend — is the foundation of your muscle. Every living cell uses them for both structural and functional purposes. On a chemical level, proteins are made up of smaller units called amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of synthesized protein. There are 20 different types of amino acids that can combine to make a protein, and 9 essential amino acids that we can only receive by consuming food.
Our body is in a constant state of building and breaking down proteins. Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) and Muscle Protein Breakdown (MPB) are happening simultaneously in the body. Therefore, when we aim to gain muscle, our goal is to create more muscle protein synthesis than muscle protein breakdown. When we create an environment in the body that favors growth — protein synthesis over protein breakdown — we’ve created a net anabolic state. And when we have an environment where breakdown is greater than synthesis; catabolism occurs. Building muscle is about creating an environment in the body that favors muscle anabolism, and minimizes muscle catabolism.
When we are training, we need a significant amount of amino acids readily available to gain muscle. When we eat protein, we increase the rate of amino acids in the blood — triggering muscle protein synthesis. Unfortunately, not all the amino acids we eat in our protein will be used for muscle. In fact, only about 5% of the protein digested from a meal is actually ingested into the muscle. It’s important to have a steady flow steady flow of amino acids to create an anabolic environment.
There are many different opinions on how much protein you need. Of course we need to remember, everyone’s goal is different. If you are fighting disease or trying to minimize growth factors in the body, then it might make sense to bring protein and calorie intake down. But if you are healthy and the goal is to build muscle, we need protein. Below is a chart on how much protein you should be eating each day to gain muscle in a conservative, significant, or aggressive manner. The conservative amount is a baseline recommendation by most health professionals. The significant amount is the industry standard recommendation for muscle gain — one gram of protein per pound of body weight. And this significant recommendation should be plenty of protein to build muscle. The third and final amount of protein, an aggressive amount, is a high-end amount recommended by bodybuilders and muscular nutritionists. This aggressive amount is just that; aggressive, but will definitely ensure muscle growth. I would be cautious about staying at an aggressive amount of protein for a long period of time.
Protein gain equation for each weight (Pril make into chart?)
Conservative – 1.6g per kg body weight
Significant – 2.2g per kg body weight
Aggressive – 2.8g per kg body weight
If you weight 125lbs (56.7kg):
Conservative – 90g protein, Significant – 125g protein, Aggressive – 160g pro
If you weight 150lbs (68kg):
Conservative – 110g pro, Significant – 150g pro, Aggressive – 190g pro
Conservative – 125g pro, Significant-175g pro, Aggressive – 220g
Conservative – 145g pro, Sig – 200g pro, Agg – 255g pro
225 pounds (102kg)
Con – 165g pro, Sig – 225g pro, Agg – 285g pro
It’s not just about the amount of protein, but the quality of that source as well. Not all protein sources are created equal. Animal protein — ideally grass fed or pasture raised — provides all 9 essential amino acids. Animal protein is a very lean form of protein, meaning its macronutrient make up is mainly protein, and low in carbs and fats. Intuitively it makes sense that animal protein is a great source of muscle building; animal tissues are similar to human tissues. And from an evolutionary perspective, if you are a hunter, your body needs to be strong and nourished to hunt well. Eating the animals you catch would provide the building blocks to regain strength and continue to hunt. It’s an adaptive measure form an evolved environment.
The other source of protein is plant-based proteins — think nuts, beans, rice, and seeds. Plant proteins are incomplete proteins; they do not contain all 9 essential amino acids. Additionally, non-animal protein sources also carry more of a caloric load — they’re less lean. For example, beans and rice together make a complete protein source, but this meal is significantly more calorie dense — with a higher amount carbohydrates and fat content — then a piece of chicken. This is why it is harder for vegetarians or vegans to reach protein goals. It is definitely doable — to be vegan and reach your protein requirements — but difficult, nonetheless. When going plant-based you need to be thoughtful, carefully supplementing foods together to make complete sources of protein.
Currently, there is a ton of confusion going on about meat. Animal protein is a highly debated topic, and to be honest, for good reason. A plant-based diet has long been linked to decreased inflammation, disease, and body preservation. There’s no question that we could all benefit from eating more plants. But to say that meat is killing you, is over the top, and is at the very least, misguided. We don’t know if a plant based diet is simply correlated with healthier individuals (Footnote – most people who are vegetarian or vegan are generally health conscious, whereas meat eaters tend to be linked to other unhealthful behaviors), or if it is from the actual elimination of meat. There is no science-based evidence supporting the claim that a natural piece of meat is unhealthy. In my opinion, it is hard to imagine that grass fed beef, or wild caught Alaskan salmon is bad for you. In fact, animal protein such as grass fed elk, organic free-range eggs, and Alaskan caught fish, may be some of the healthiest foods you can consume.
Before you jump on the eat more meat train, keep in mind that popular processed meats sold in American markets, can be extremely unhealthy. There are over 30 million different antibiotics used in our foods, to fatten our animals for accelerated growth. Common packaged meat — processed, caged, grain fed, and hormone injected — is the definition of unhealthy. Not only does this processed food have low nutrient value for us, but it also diminishes the animal’s quality of life, and negatively impacts the environment we live in. It’s eye-opening when you dive into the subject of mass produced, packaged meat. But we aren’t going into that, let’s save ethics and ideologies for a later discussion. The point is; eat more grass fed, organic sources of meat and ditch the cheap steak. The quality of the meat you consume is important.
Timing of Protein
For optimal absorption of your protein, it is best to space out your protein intake throughout the day. Try to evenly distribute your protein intake throughout your eating window. Research has proven, you’re only able to absorb 40-50 grams of protein in one meal. (Cite – Moore, D. R., Robinson, M. J., Fry, J. L., Tang, J. E., Glover, E. I., Wilkinson, S. B., Prior, T., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Phillips, S. M. (2009). Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(1), 161–168.) (Cite – Symons, T. B., Sheffield-Moore, M., Wolfe, R. R., & Paddon-Jones, D. (2009). A moderate serving of high-quality protein maximally stimulates skeletal muscle protein synthesis in young and elderly subjects. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(9), 1582–1586.) (Cite – Defining meal requirements for protein to optimize metabolic roles of amino acids – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25926513 ) For most people after about 40ish grams of protein, the additional protein in the meal is not utilized toward muscle protein synthesis. Instead, it is converted into glucose via gluconeogenesis, which can be used for energy or stored as fat. Protein has no storage mechanism for later use. When we ingest it, we either use it for synthesis then or we don’t use it. Therefore, sadly you don’t get added anabolic benefit once you reach protein threshold in a meal.
We all have heard about the need for a protein shake immediately after a workout. Some people are religious about the post workout shake, saying it’s necessary to maximize gains from a workout. There is some evidence supporting the idea that consuming protein after a workout will increase anabolic effects of the workout. (cite yang, 126 & 127pg.) (Cite – Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17095924 ) (Cite – Effects of resistance training and protein plus amino acid supplementation on muscle anabolism, mass, and strength. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16988909 ). But there is more supportive evidence showing that timing is irrelevant, and total protein is the only factor that matters. (Cite – Protein supplementation before and after exercise does not further augment skeletal muscle hypertrophy after resistance training in elderly men – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19106243) (Cite – Timing of protein ingestion relative to resistance exercise training does not influence body composition, energy expenditure
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20977582). In fact, a meta-analysis — summary of studies — published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, concluded “if a workouts anabolic window of opportunity does in fact exist, the window for protein consumption would appear to be greater than one-hour before and after a resistance training session.” (Cite – The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis –
If you eat a few hours before training, then post workout nutrition becomes even less important, as you are absorbing and digesting the meal — it’s readily available around exercise. The caveat would be if you are doing intermittent fasting, and you are training fasted. In this scenario, post workout nutrition might be more necessary due to the already depleted state of the body. Fasting itself contributes to catabolism, therefore if you continue to fast you increase the likeliness of a catabolic environment. I’m a big proponent of fasting — and you can absolutely gain muscle mass while intermittent fasting — but fasting makes planning for your feeding window even more vital. If you are unable to plan out your meals and get the total protein and calories you need, then fasting is not an option.
With workout and nutrition timing, we don’t have the exact answer yet. Although the science is inconclusive, why not consume protein post workout? In rare cases — you’re pursuing the benefits of extended fasting, or your budget is limited — you may skip nutrition around a workout. But for the vast majority of the time, a properly planned muscle-gaining nutrition plan will have protein planned around exercise.
Additionally, in regards to timing, there’s a lot of talk about how you need carbs post workout to replenish glycogen, or to spike insulin. There may be some validity to this statement if you workout fasted, but if you ate earlier that day, there is most likely no need for carbs. For the vast majority of us who resistance train for an hour or do shorter bursts of high intensity work — glycogen stores should always be replenished by daily food intake. The only exception would be anyone doing extreme endurance and long duration activity. But do we need carbs with our protein shake to maximize protein availability to the muscles? I used to think so. However, the science shows that carbohydrates paired with protein following exercise doesn’t increase muscle protein anabolism and doesn’t further enhance post-exercise muscle protein synthesis. (Cite – Protein hydrolysates in sports nutrition – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2761917/pdf/1743-7075-6-38.pdf ) (Cite – Coingestion of carbohydrate with protein does not further augment postexercise muscle protein synthesis – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17609259?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctn ) (Cite – Carbohydrate does not augment exercise-induced protein accretion versus protein alone – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21131864?dopt=Abstract&holding=f1000,f1000m,isrctn ) (Cite – Addition of carbohydrate or alanine to an essential amino acid mixture does not enhance human skeletal muscle protein anabolism – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23343676). And when in a calorie surplus, there is very little evidence that carbs and fats timing matters at all. If you like carbs after your workout then eat them. But if you have excess body fat that you are trying to get rid of, I would ditch the added carbs.
Have your post workout shake if you enjoy it. In a perfect world — as an athlete or someone serious about gaining muscle — consume adequate protein after your workout. But I cite these sources because I don’t want to feed you a fairytale. Total daily protein and caloric intake is the proven metric. If you are simply resistance training or working out for less than two hours a day, spacing an adequate amount of protein intake throughout your feeding window will ensure an anabolic environment.
Finally, if you grew up playing sports, I’m sure you’ve heard about carb loading. This idea is finally dying out, as even the most extreme endurance athletes have abandoned carb loading. I always laugh thinking about this — did I really shove pasta and pizza down my throat the night before a football game, and think it was good for me? That is insane. All that excess food isn’t fuel for tomorrows game… it’s stored as fat! Of course, you don’t want to be malnourished the night before a game. But a normal, whole food meal will replenish your depleted glycogen stores (it doesn’t take that much food). During two a days for football, or when training hard for a marathon, then be more diligent about adding in carbs to ensure enough fuel. For the rest of us, the additional carbs will simply end up around our waistline.
Okay, so we are going to space out our protein intake throughout the day. We understand the quality of protein matters, and we have a chart to guide us on how much to eat. The question now becomes; how do we reach these goals, because for the majority of you this is going to be a significant increase in protein. And it can be very hard to eat enough protein. Protein is satiating and filling — great for weight loss, but not the easiest food to over consume. Don’t you worry; there are some tricks we can use to reach our daily protein goal with ease.
Reaching Protein Goals
In my opinion, eating a ton of protein isn’t the most fun thing. There are a few ways we can increase the amount of amino acids available for protein synthesis, and not feel like we’re eating all the time. Let’s cover a few key supplements that enhance lean muscle mass. Keep in mind, when buying supplements it is important to seek out products with a minimal list of ingredients. Look for BPA free, no artificial colors and sweeteners, and ask or seek advice about natural products when shopping. Be careful, there are so many garbage products. Most manufactures will add anything to their products to reduce cost and make them taste better. Be diligent, aim to buy products that are as close to the natural ingredients as possible.
When planning to reach a high protein goal, protein powders are an essential piece of the puzzle. Since I don’t consume a large amount of meat, I usually have one to three protein shakes a day. Sometimes I make them in the form of a smoothie, other times I simply add the powder to water with ice. The less meat you eat, the more of a need for supplementation.
Whey protein is the industry standard when it comes to protein powder. Whey is great at triggering muscle protein synthesis, due to its high concentration of the amino acid leucine. (Footnote – Leucine is one of the 9 essential amino acids, and is apart of one of the three amino acids that make up BCAAs. Leucine is thought to be the most important amino acid when it comes to initiating muscle protein synthesis.) Whey is 10-13% leucine, where most meat and fish top out at 8-9% leucine. Whey protein is the liquid substance left over from the curdling of milk. The curds go on to become cheese, and the liquid becomes whey. Keep in mind, if you are lactose intolerant or struggle with allergies, you may have a reaction to whey protein. There are three forms of whey protein.
Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) has the most amount of lactose. It is also the cheapest form, and can be inflammatory due to the dairy content. It generally has the highest caloric value, making it a reliable choice for people looking to pack on the pounds.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH) is the most easily digested form of whey and has the least amount of lactose. This is really good for the people who are lactose sensitive. The problem with WPH is that it’s more expensive and doesn’t usually taste very good. And it isn’t more effective at trigger muscle protein synthesis. So unless you are dairy sensitive, lets move onto the best form: isolate.
Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) is in my opinion the best form or protein powder. It’s the leanest form of protein, usually about 100 calories and 25 grams of protein with zero carbs, fats, or sugars. It is also very affordable.
Pea protein is another awesome muscle building option. Pea protein powder is made from extracting protein from yellow and green peas. Pea protein is naturally vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and hypoallergenic. It has all 9 essential amino acids, although it is low in methionine. Pea protein is very easy on digestion, and ignites a far less insulin response than whey protein. Pea protein is a great option to rotate in throughout the day as a meal replacement, or a supplement to a meal to make it more protein dense. Think of pea protein as more of a general protein.
Plant based protein powders are extremely healthy options, but whey protein has been proven to be significantly more effective at increasing muscle protein synthesis. In a recent study, a double blind randomized control study; the study found that when the amino acid leucine is equal, and all amino acids are equated, whey protein still increases protein synthesis 20-30% more than the various plant proteins. (Cite – Differential Responses of Blood Essential Amino Acid Levels Following Ingestion of High-Quality Plant-Based Protein Blends Compared to Whey Protein—A Double-Blind Randomized, Cross-Over, Clinical Trial –https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6950667/ ). Whey protein is simply the best protein powder you can consume to gain muscle. I would go with a whey protein isolate powder when looking for lean muscle growth, and maybe whey protein concentrate in a more lenient bulk. It all depends on your lactose tolerance and caloric needs. Due to the high insulin response and extensive growth factor, I don’t think consuming whey protein all day is the best option. Use plant based as a great tool for general daily protein supplementation.
The next supplementation that I find extremely useful is BCAAs or EAAs. Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), are comprised of 3 out of the 9 essential amino acids — leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Essential Amino Acid (EAA) supplements are a more wholesome package of all 9 essential amino acids, instead of just the big 3 in BCAAs. EAAs are more necessary for people who are falling short of their daily protein requirements. I usually only recommend BCAAs, because our goal is to supplement our protein requirement, not make up for it. BCAAs have been used for a long time in athletes and bodybuilders, but there is still a debate on how well they are actually absorbed and utilized by the body.
BCAAs are considered ergogenic, as they help with performance, stamina, recovery, and of course, muscle gain. In fact, a recent study recorded in the Frontiers in Physiology found, that 5.6 grams of BCAAs after a workout — in the absence of food — showed an approximate 22% increase in muscle protein synthesis compared to the placebo. (Cite – Branched-Chain Amino Acid Ingestion Stimulates Muscle Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following Resistance Exercise in Humans – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5461297/ ). Drink BCAAs before, during, or after your workout. I personally like to drink them when working out to provide a continual flow of amino acids to my muscles — facilitating an anabolic state. I would recommend taking 5-15 grams before or during a workout, depending on your tolerance to them. You can also use them in and around meals.
It’s a delicate balancing act between the consumption of animal protein and supplements. In fact, for meals with low amounts of protein, or for vegans and vegetarians in general, BCAAs can be huge. A study done by Layne Norton’s research group found that if you add BCAAs to an incomplete vegan protein source — like beans or wheat — the protein now becomes equally anabolic as industry standard whey protein. (Cite – Norton, L. E., Wilson, G. J., Layman, D. K., Moulton, C. J., & Garlick, P. J. (2012). Leucine content of dietary proteins is a determinant of postprandial skeletal muscle protein synthesis in adult rats. Nutrition & Metabolism, 9(1), 67. ). This mainly has to do with the addition of leucine and it’s anabolic effects. These finding show that the addition of BCAAs can help facilitate a primarily plant based diet, and may help aid in the muscle growth associated with animal protein. Overall, BCAAs are a powerful tool to facilitate muscle growth and help expedite recovery times.
We want to strive to consume most of our food from whole food meals. Eating a wide range of colorful fruits and vegetables, and adding in a variety of healthy sources of meat will ensure your body receives the nourishment it needs. Whole foods provide the best sources of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, while providing nourishment to diverse gut bacteria. Eat whole foods first, and then use supplementation when needed. Whey protein, BCAAs, and pea protein are an amazing luxury we have in modern America to fulfill our muscle building goals.
All Out Weight Gain: The Enjoyable Struggle
There are always a few people who feel like it’s impossible for them to gain weight. They feel their metabolism or genetics simply wont allow weight gain. These are usually the people who are extremely active and have been skinny their entire life. This segment is for those who aren’t concerned about the potential of gaining a little body fat, in pursuit of gaining some solid muscle. And there is only one way to significantly gain muscle and actually pack on some solid weight, and that is what we call a calorie surplus.
When on a serious quest to gain muscle, we need to consistently hit a calorie surplus. This calorie surplus will guarantee we reach our goal of net anabolism — muscle building — by maintain an environment of growth in the body. It’s simple science; if we eat in a calorie surplus we will gain weight. This is when our training in the gym becomes extremely important. No one wants to gain body fat, so when in a calorie surplus, we need to train hard; ensure our weight gain is going towards lean body mass instead of fat. This is called nutrient partitioning: a higher percentage of calories and attention needed by the muscles for new growth. Lift, train, and work your body hard to create muscle hypertrophy, and then we can utilize nutrient partitioning to our benefit.
If we can stick to a sustainable, calorie surplus plan, there are more benefits than only muscle gain. Overfeeding (calorie surplus) for a period of time followed by a cutting phase (calorie deficit) is generally the quickest way to gain muscle and lose fat. This is in comparison to someone trying to recomp — gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. The right, consistent weight gain will actually increase basal metabolic rate (BMR) — creating a new maintenance calorie level. Remember, the body is adaptive; it will eventually catch up to an increase in calories. A steady weight gain can create a higher maintenance level of calories, making the next cutting phase easier and more enjoyable.
Okay, we all know that we have to eat more to gain weight. Actually obtaining a calorie surplus is the hard part. And this is where some people start to get unhealthy with their diet — otherwise known as the dirty bulk. For some reason when you tell people to eat more, some think it’s time to shovel in whatever they want. For example, a dirty bulk of eating fast food and garbage to gain weight is not for me. We all know someone who would eat 5 PB&J sandwich’s a day in pursuit of weight gain — “It’s healthy bro, gainz!” Although I do love bro science, you cant get healthy by eating unhealthy. The bro on the PB&J diet usually ends up with a few rolls of body fat to go along with his “gainz.” Don’t sacrifice a good nutrient filled diet in pursuit of muscle mass. If you follow the principles to come and hit your calorie and protein goals, the muscle gain will come.
One benefit to being in a calorie surplus; our protein needs actually decrease slightly due to the surplus of total calories. The surplus in calories facilitates an anabolic environment. Therefore, the more calories you eat, the less need for protein. We do want enough protein to achieve maximum muscle protein syntheses, but we won’t have to be as aggressive. And protein is a satiating food, so high amounts can make it harder to consume additional calories. Here are a few strategies we can use to consume the needed calories.
Eat Energy Dense Food – Look for small foods that are high in calories. Adding in healthy fats to meals — nuts, olive and avocado oil, butters, and chia/flax seeds — can be extremely helpful. Remember, fats are 9 calories per gram. Adding in tubers, dark chocolate, and granola are some popular options. The more calories in a smaller portion size the better.
Add Liquid Calories – Shakes, gatorade, sports drinks. Yes, utilize whey protein shakes and BCAAs, but in an all out attempt to gain weight, lean towards more energy dense shakes rather than simply whey isolate. Get a powder higher in carbs and fats. “Weight gainer” shakes can be extremely helpful to reach our daily caloric goal. Add in a nut butter, yogurt, or calorie dense food to a smoothie. Get creative. Smoothies are much easier to suck down than a whole food meal. Don’t sacrifice health and natural ingredients for an artificially processed blend, but find ways to add in liquid calories.
Increase Eating Window – Duh. More time, more calories. As intermittent fasting is a powerful tool to control caloric intake, eating around the clock is useful when in an all out weight gain. I’ve heard stories of body builder’s waking up in the middle of the night to drink BCAAs and eat protein. This is a bit aggressive, but don’t you dare go three hours without eating and tell me you are serious about gaining weight.
Manage Energy Expenditure – In extreme cases where a young athlete or bodybuilder cannot gain weight, then we may have to mitigate additional energy expenditure. Remember, your daily non-exercise movements (NEAT) make up a large portion of your energy expenditure. Maybe don’t take a summer job as a valet where you run all work shift. Use the elevator over stairs. Read a book instead of going on a bike ride. For some reason people don’t take into consideration the power of NEAT. Lifestyle makes a big difference.
Sleep More – We talked about sleep for far too long in the last chapter. Use this performance enhancer. Make sleep a priority!
Creatine – Taking creatine is an option. This muscle-building supplement — creatine monohydrate — has been proven to aid muscle gain. It is legal within the NCAA and Olympic guidelines, and many healthy fitness enthusiasts who are more knowledgeable than I am swear by it. However, you do have to take it consistently, every day. I’ve never taken it because I have my reservations about long-term health and aging, but there are no studies to prove that creatine is unhealthy.
Finally, if you struggle to put on mass, don’t be a cheater to do it. A percentage of the massive bodybuilders and “jacked people” you see on social media are cheaters. They enhance their ability to gain muscle and shed fat through the use of performance enhancing drugs, usually steroids. When taking these types of drugs, the body’s physiology is dramatically different than that of a normal person. These drugs increase muscle hypertrophy (the ability to gain lean muscle mass), fat oxidation (ability to burn fat), and training tolerance (the ability to train harder and recover faster). It’s not a fair race. But this increase in body efficiency comes with an extremely detrimental cost. In the long term, the side effects of steroids will significantly impact hormones, body composition, and the body’s ability to train. These negative side effects will catch up eventually. Don’t trade health for dirty gains.
As always, stay consistent with the plan. Weigh yourself daily. Adjust your daily protein and calorie goal as needed. And don’t you dare sell a good bulking strategy because of a quick weight fluctuation. Stick with it. It’s time to be thoughtful about planning out daily intake, and be consistent with consuming meals. No shortcuts. The motivated among us, they will get this done.
If you follow suit and drink sports drinks, and eat carbs similar to the needs of someone training for the olympics, well then you will most likley end up overweight.
Clean Meat vs. Processed Meat — A Big Difference (Pril make like my experience blocks)
When it comes to the quality of food, It’s like we have a blindfold wrapped over our eyes, or maybe we have just decided to look the other way. Whatever is cheap and easy is our ticket. The thing is, life forms are generally only as healthy as the life it feeds on. For a long time, plants ate organic matter and soil micro-organisms, animals ate those plants, and then human beings ate those animals. We we’re at the top of the organic food cycle — free of pesticides and modified growth factors. Today soil is being contaminated at an extensive rate, and food is being manipulated in some disturbing ways. Im not going to scare people into making decisions, thats not my tactic, but the deeper you do the worse it gets. Some manufactures will add anything to the meat to save costs.
The result of this new production is throwing off the balances in our bodies. Lets use eggs for example — one of the healthiest sources of protein and dietary fat available. Egg’s have all the right nutrients for the brain and body, but the problem is, the egg is only as good as the bird. A commercially raised egg is put in a tiny cage, with no room to live, move, or flap it’s wings. A free range bird can actually be a bird — and it consumes an actual diet of seeds, plants, and insects. The look, taste, and structure of an organic, free range egg — dark orange yolk, with a rich consistency — is no comparison to a commercially grown egg.
Far and away the biggest problem which commercial eggs is the essential fatty acid imbalance it creates. We evolved to have a ratio of omega-3 to omega-6s at around 1:1. But today, the ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s in most Americans is closer to 1:15, and sometimes as high as 1:25. This imbalance is created by vegetable oils, bad animal products, processed cereals and grains, and really any trans fat. This omega-6 overload leads to increased inflammation in the body. An imbalance in omegas — way too many omega-6s compared to omega-3s — has been associated with a multitude of serious diseases. (Cite – An Increase in the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio Increases the Risk for Obesity – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808858/) This is why fish oil supplements are in high demand — they are rich in omega-3s. I like fish oil supplements, but consuming a healthful whole food diet is the foundation, it isn’t a correction to fix the symptom.
This brings us back to eggs, as a healthy free-range egg will have an omega-3to omega-6 ratio of about 1:4 (depending on the egg). A cheap, mass produced egg you find at your local store will have a ratio anywhere from 1:15-1:30. If you eat a ton of cheap eggs — and add in processed foods and grains — you are likely increasing the inflammation markers in your body. To balance this, eat organic, free forms of eggs and meat. And I do recommend taking a fish oil supplement everyday with food. Get one that is high in DHA and EHA, at least 1,000IU of each per dose. Many products have very little amounts of the needed omega-3s.
To close the book on this very brief discussion of quality animal consumption, here are a few things to remember. Go the extra mile and pay the extra dollar to buy organic, grass fed, free range meats. If you are lucky enough to hunt and kill the meat you consume, take advantage of that — that is an amazing luxury and the healthiest way to eat animals. Watch out for farmed fish, look for the little blue checkmark (MSC) for quality verification, and search for wild caught Alaskan products — they aren’t allowed to mass produce seafood products. Be aware and thoughtful, actually read the label and know what you are consuming. Quality matters!
Conclusion: Learn From Me
My personal experience
This negative — grab something quick and cheap — relationship with food will likely lead to irritation, exhaustion, and can ultimately end up with disease.
I simply feel compelled to pass on what I’ve learned, and I sincerely encourage you to do the same for others.
Whey protein spikes insulin the same as white bread study. Be aware of cravings if it causes them.