Monthly Archives: May 2010
At my training studio, people know me as the natural bodybuilding & fitness guy. In other words, they know I compete in these types of competitions, and I like to train fitness athletes — men and women whose primary reason for exercising is to change their body composition (drop fat, gain muscle, or both). We have the endurance athlete guy, the corrective exercise guy, the sport performance guy, the yoga guy, all with their own areas of specialty and training focus. Mine just happens to be body composition transformation.
As the bodybuilding guy, most of my training tends to focus on basic bodybuilding principles — body part splits, basic bodybuilding exercises (squats, rows, dumbbell presses, etc.), multiple exercise and sets per body part, rest between sets, etc. Clients and friends will often ask what I think about other modes of training — things like bootcamp training, full-body corrective exercise, crossfit, P90x, and the list goes on. My answer is it depends on your goals.
This is the time. You’ve made up your mind that you are going to buckle down and get into the best shape of your life. No more starting, stopping, and starting all over again. This is the year you finally build the body of your dreams. You’re committed, you’re motivated, you’re pumped up, and you can’t wait to get started. But hold on a second their cowboy (or cowgirl), where do you start?
There are hundreds of fat loss gurus, thousands of exercise books, and millions of training articles on the market today. Everyone in the fitness industry has a plan. Some are good, some are bad, and some are flat-out ugly. To the advanced bodybuilder and fitness athlete, it can be confusing. To the beginner, it can be mind-boggling.
MATCH YOUR TRAINING PLAN WITH YOUR TRAINING GOALS
This seems like an obvious step, but most people fail to truly analyze how their chosen training program is applicable to their training goals. They blindly follow a program, ANY program, and expect to get their desired results just by showing up. This is a bad idea in an era where everyone is an expert and we all suffer from information overload. It takes more than just doing something at the gym; you have to do the right thing based on your goals.
These days you have bodybuilders following routines better suited for performance athletes, performance athletes following routines better suited for endurance athletes, endurance athletes following routines better suited for post-rehabilitation patients, and everyone across the board confused as hell. Again, this is because many athletes fail to critically analyze the validity and relevance of their training programs. So before we talk about specific sets, reps, and exercises, we must look at the big picture and determine what your primary goal is.
TRAINING FOR PERFORMANCE IS DIFFERENT THAN TRAINING FOR APPEARANCE
When I was a competitive athlete and stunt/acrobatics performer, my training programs were structured much differently than they are now. Back in those days I was concerned with speed, power, and agility. I worked with strength and conditioning coaches to maximize my performance. There was a lot of Olympic lifts, sprints, change-of-direction drills, etc. I was strong, fast, quick, and could perform at a high-level, but I didn’t look that great. I definitely wasn’t ripped.
These days I work as a fitness model and compete as a natural bodybuilder. My programs have changed because my goals have changed. I am less concerned with speed and agility and more concerned with physical appearance. I perform less dynamic exercises geared towards sports performance and more basic bodybuilding exercises geared towards muscular development. Although I am less “athletic” in the sports world, I’ve been ripped at 4% body fat.
I know you could care less about what I’m doing, so lets get back to YOU. What is your top training priority? This summer, do you want to be able to run fast on the beach, or do you want to be able to look good on the beach? Its important to understand that those goals are different, and thus, those training programs should be different. Sure there is overlap, but its best to prioritize one over the other in order to optimize your results.
THE RIGHT COACH
You see, I make my living as a trainer and nutrition consultant, and part of my job is making sure clients are working with the right person. As I transition into fitness writing, I hope to continue to uphold that same level of integrity. If your goal is to rehab an injury, run faster/further, or prepare for a sport, you’re probably in the wrong place. This article is NOT about that. There are other coaches with more experience and expertise in those fields that can better guide you towards your performance-based goals. How’s that for honesty in an industry where everyone claims to know everything about everything?
But since you are a reading an article about “building the body of your dreams” I’m assuming your primary focus, right now at this moment, is on body composition transformation. If you want to build muscle, blast off body fat, and turn heads at the beach, then this article IS for you. I don’t know a lot about a lot of things, but I do know how to get in shape, and how to get other people in shape — naturally.
So for all of you who want to build the body of your dreams, here are the barebones training strategies geared towards physique enhancement.
THE 5 BAREBONES TRAINING STRATEGIES
1. Emphasize Strength Training
When people start focusing on dropping body fat, they immediately think about cardiovascular exercise, “I’ll jump on the treadmill or bike and start burning fat.” While cardio is an important part of any fat loss plan, it’s not the most important part.
Getting lean is NOT about how many calories you burn in a training session (1 hour), its about how many calories you burn over the course of a day (the other 23 hours). Weight training will help you build lean muscle mass, boost your metabolism, burn more calories at rest, and ultimately drop body fat.
Lifting weights is what allows you to build muscle and shape your body. Guys, you’re not going to build a big chest and big arms by running. And girls, what do you think looks better in a bikini, soft and flabby “elliptical legs”, or shapely and tight “lunge and squat legs”?
Let your diet take care of burning off most of your body fat, cardio can be supplemental. Use weight training as a means to shape your body and build/maintain muscle while you’re leaning up.
The bottom line: Strength train 3-5 times a week.
2. Focus on the Basic Exercises
Things have gotten crazy in the fitness industry. How do I know that? Somehow in today’s industry it has become bad, or at the very least outdated/uninformed advice, to tell people to work hard on the basic exercises if they want to get in shape. That’s just crazy to me.
Listen up, if you want fluff, go somewhere else. If you want the truth, here it is — the basics are the basics for a reason — they work. You don’t need to do some crazy circus-act exercise — i.e. balancing on one foot on a Bosu ball while doing a twisting one arm squat/curl/thrust — to get in shape. Next time you see that nonsense going on in the gym look at the trainer who is prescribing it. Are they in shape?
Its not about doing new, fancy, or innovative exercises, its about doing EFFECTIVE exercises. Nothing is more effective at shaping your body than basic bodybuilding exercises.
The human body is a lever system. The biceps pull on the forearm and flexes the arm at the elbow joint. All you need to do is add some resistance to the end of that lever to overload the muscle and cause growth. In other words, throw a dumbbell onto the end of a natural movement pattern and you got yourself a body-changing exercise.
The bottom line: Focus on squats, deadlifts, lunges, pull-ups, dips, and the numerous variations of free weight presses and rows.
3. Pump Up (the Right) Volume
Arnold vs. Mentzer, Volume vs. HIT, Traditional Set Schemes vs. Max-ot, the debate probably will never end about the right amount of volume and intensity for muscular development. Those with superior muscle building genetics and a higher percentage of fast-twitch fibers may get great results on abbreviated training routines, but the rest of us mere mortals need a certain amount of volume to grow.
Doing a few sets of one exercise is not enough to fully tap into and exhaust the muscle fibers of a particular body part. With these types of high intensity routines you are probably doing more for nervous system adaptation than muscular adaptation. That’s why guys get a lot stronger, but not necessarily a lot bigger on these programs. It takes multiple sets of multiple exercises from various angles to fully overload and develop each muscle group.
Research has also shown that testosterone and growth hormone release (two highly anabolic, fat burning hormones) are higher in workouts involving multiple sets of multiple exercises. Too many signs, along with research and anecdotal evidence from bodybuilders around the world, point to a moderate-to-high amount of volume as the best way to go for physique development.
The bottom line: perform 2-3 sets of 2-3 exercises for small muscle groups; perform 2-3 sets of 3-5 exercises for large muscle groups.
4. The Right Rep Range
Here’s what science tells us about the primary adaptive response to specific rep ranges:
- 1-5 reps primarily results in strength development
- 6-12 reps primarily results in muscular size development/hypertrophy
- 13+ reps primarily results in muscular endurance
Applying this to the real world, most of your sets should land in the 6-12 rep range. Why? Well you care more about building your body than making it strong or fatigue-resistant, right? Again, performance is different than appearance.
There are benefits to the other rep ranges. 1-5 reps gets you used to working with heavier loads and trains the nervous system to be more efficient at recruiting fast twitch motor units. 13+ reps increases blood flow and nutrient delivery to the working muscles. But if your goal is physique development, 6-12 reps should be the corner stone of your training routine.
5. Use Good Form
You see guys and girls who are gung-ho about changing their physiques slinging weights around all of the time. They do all kinds of body contortions to get the bar from Point A to Point B. This builds the ego, not the body, and predisposes trainees to injury.
Appearance-based training, as opposed to Power lifting or Olympic lifting, is all about stimulating and overloading the muscle, it is less about how much weight is actually on the bar. Your muscles don’t know the difference between 50lbs and 500lbs, they only know if the workload they’ve been given has forced each and every muscle fiber to fire to exhaustion. Cheating, using momentum, etc. reduces tension and workload on the target muscle and allows it to shift to the other muscles or joints.
To get your beach bod, you gotta use good form. Tempo prescriptions (made famous by Charles Poliquin) help trainees accomplish this goal. There are four numbers in the system. I change tempos all of the time but I think a great one to start with is 3-1-1-0.
The first number (3) is the negative or lowering portion of the exercise — when you’re muscles are elongating and working to resist gravity. You should lower the weight under control in three seconds, instead of just letting it drop towards the ground.
The second number (1) is the transition phase between the negative and the positive (lifting). A good example is when the bar touches the chest at the bottom of a bench press. Most people bounce, rebound, use momentum, and do everything else EXCEPT force the pecs to power the bar up. A one second pause eliminates momentum and forces the target muscle to initiate the movement.
The third number (1) is the actual lift. You don’t want to sling the weight up, but you do want to use some controlled force to stimulate fast-twitch muscle fiber recruitment. Super-slow training (10 second lift) reduces the workload too much and is ineffective for muscle development. That’s why they call it weight lifting, not weight budging. So power the weight up in a controlled fashion without cheating or using other muscle groups to get the job done.
The fourth number (0) is the lockout phase. A good example is the top of the bench press where your arms are extended. Most people lock out their joints, rest for a second between reps, and allow the target muscle to rest. This prolongs the set but reduces tension on the muscle — not what we want for physique development. Stopping just short of locking out and immediately starting the next rep without a rest is the best way to overload the target muscle.
There you have it. These are the basic guidelines for appearance-based training. I promise if your program incorporates these strategies, you’ll be well on your way to getting that body of your dreams.
In the Barebones Fitness Nutrition Plan (BFNP), I laid out the practical information necessary to set up and implement an effective fitness nutrition plan. We talked about specific number calculations and food choices without going into details about where they came from. The reason is I wanted to give you the practical steps you could implement immediately without getting sidetracked with too much technical information. The plan is laid out in black and white, in less than two pages. That’s all you need to know about fitness nutrition, thanks for your time, I’ll be sending you a hefty invoice shortly!!!
Not so fast. While the main goal is to get you to use the basic principles, I do believe it is valuable to learn the reasons why you should be using those principles. In other words, I believe it is important to learn some of the science behind fitness nutrition. Taking this extra step in your fitness journey is valuable for several reasons:
1. Informed Decisions: When we rely solely on our taste buds for making food choices, we’re screwed. We love sugar and fat, and that’s the bottom line. Who doesn’t love fresh baked chocolate chip cookies — the crispy outside, the warm doughy center, the melted chocolate… butI digress (and don’t go eating chocolate chip cookies now and blame it on me).
The fact is that’s the way most of us eat. We make our food choices based on impulse, “I feel like…”. This pattern is not conducive to a lean and fit physique. Learning some of the science behind fitness nutrition will give you another tool in your arsenal so you can make better food selections. You won’t just be eating based on taste, you’ll also think about function. That, my friends, is the key to fitness success.
Hell, I feel like chocolate chip cookies right now, but I’m not going to eat them because I know how the human body processes them. The fat in the cookies will elevate blood fatty acid levels. The sugar will spike blood glucose and insulin levels. This is a deadly combo. Insulin carries circulating fatty acids and excess glucose out of the blood stream and deposits it into fat cells. Although a complex physiological process, it’s sort of true what they say, that junk food is going straight to your ass, or gut, or thighs, or whatever your problem area may be.
When you understand concepts like blood sugar and insulin swings, and how they impact fat storing mechanisms, you will more than likely make a better choice at the dinner table. You don’t have to be boring and eat for function all of the time, but you can’t eat for taste all of the time either. You have to find the balance, and science helps balance that equation.
2. Confidence In Your Plan: You’ve got to believe in what you are doing if you’re going to get results. I don’t want you to eat a certain way because I or anyone else tells you to do so. Ultimately, the decision is up to you. If you don’t believe what you are doing will accomplish your goals, your adherence to a program will not last. I can make all of the promises and tout my credentials and experience all I want, but ultimately you are the one calling the shots. With information comes knowledge, and with knowledge comes confidence. Once you know the way foods impact your internal systems, you’ll understand why you should be eating a certain way.
Lack of confidence generally results in people jumping from one plan to another. They follow something just until the next hot diet book or issue of their favorite fitness magazine hits the stands, and then drastically change everything. You’ll never get results that way. Sure, you need to make minor changes in your program from time to time, but the core foundation should remain based on proven principles, not the latest and greatest fad. Once you understand how the body works, you’ll be able to separate valuable breaking research you can incorporate into your overall plan from — to put it bluntly — BS. And trust me, there is a lot of BS out there. That brings us to the next reason…
3. A Strong BS Detector: By the time you finish reading this article, there will be dozens of new gurus, hundreds of new books, and thousands of new articles related to health and fitness. How do you separate the credible information from the BS? In my earlier years, I wasted time following various worthless programs because I didn’t know any better. I fell for the ridiculous claims and false promises all in the hopes of achieving my physique goals. I wanted to attain them so bad I would try anything. It was only as I progressed in my fitness education that I was able to make wiser decisions and stick to a proven plan. If you rely on established
scientific principles, you’ll never be disappointed with the results.
Most novices who don’t bother becoming educated in the field usually jump around from program to program, diet to diet, without ever giving one a long enough time to do its job. They get swindled, and make their important health and fitness decisions solely based on claims. Lose 30 pounds in 30 seconds, sounds good, sign me up. Once you know how the body works, you’ll know exactly what you need to do, and can leave the magic pill mentality behind. Trust me there is nothing new under the sun, we know everything we need to know about getting into shape, we just have to apply it if we want real world results. But people are always looking for the next
best thing, an easier way, etc.
You don’t have to get a Ph.D. in Human Physiology, but you should spend some time learning about basic fitness nutrition topics. That’s what this Fitness Nutrition 101 Series is all about. In the following series of articles, I’ll attempt to teach you everything you need to know about fitness nutrition so you can make informed decisions. Don’t fall asleep, there will be a test at the
Copyright 2010 Nate Miyaki
There are many reasons for the health and obesity epidemic that currently plagues the American public. We can point the finger at numerous bad habits that have become the normal way of life for most of us. We don’t exercise, we spend too many hours sitting at a desk, we’re overstressed, we eat too much sugar, trans fat, fried foods, refined foods, etc. However, I believe the biggest contributing factor to our health and body composition problems is our glaring lack of portion control.
We are the land of the super-sized. Everywhere you go restaurants and retailers compete to satisfy the public’s perception that more is better. What’s one of the first compliments we give to restaurants? Good food — nah who really cares about that? But dude, the portion sizes were huge — that place is awesome!
Extra large, king size, two-for-one, free refills, all-you-can-eat, open bar, these are all American marketing creations that appeal to our inherent desire to over-consume. You can get a 32oz steak, a 64oz soda, a triple cheeseburger, a 2lb burrito, and a 5lb bag of chips. C’mon, who the hell really needs to drink 64oz of soda? In a land of entitlement and overindulgence, we have an immense lack of self-control.
If you look at any of the other articles in the Fitness Nutrition 101 Series, you can see that “fitness eating” is in direct opposition to this free-for-all food party where everyone is invited. Fitness nutrition is all about details — exact portions of each macronutrient down to the gram. It’s about a well thought-out plan based on science that gives our bodies exactly what it needs without any excess. The person following a typical American diet lives on the other side of excess.
How do you make the transition from a “super-sizer” to a “just-the-right-sizer”? The answer is to measure your food so you know exactly what is going into your body. This is blasphemy to anyone outside of the fitness world. My ears are already ringing from all of the complaints — “I don’t have time for that, that’s obsessive compulsive, I have a life, I’m not a fitness model, it’s too hard…”
My answer? Quit whining you wussy! All it really takes is one extra step. Yeah, it’s soooo hard to pour your cereal into a measuring cup first before putting it into a bowl. It’s backbreaking to scoop your rice out of the cooker with a measuring cup instead of a serving spoon. It throws your whole day off schedule to pour salad dressing into a tablespoon measure instead of directly onto the salad. Give me a break. For most foods, especially fats and starches, which are the most important to measure, it takes an extra 10 seconds to get an exact measurement, instead of just winging it.
What’s the real reason why most of us fight the idea of measuring our food? Well, some of us are just plain lazy as shit. But for most of us I think it really boils down to the fact that we just don’t want to know the truth. And the truth is most of us eat 3-5 times the normal serving sizes of food.
We don’t want to measure our foods because we know it forces us to exercise good portion control. It forces us to eat sensibly, instead of catering to our bad habit of overeating everything. We don’t want to feel deprived of eating to our heart’s (and belly’s) content, so we sweep the whole idea of portion control under the rug and look for other areas to blame for our ever-expanding waistlines.
There are enough diet and fitness gurus out there that will promise you that you don’t have to exercise good portion control. They blame certain foods (carbs, fats, meat, salt, gluten, etc.) as the cause of all your problems. Cut those out, and you can eat as much as you want of everything else. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. They’re telling you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear.
The bottom line is that even if you make the right food choices, you still have to stay within your calorie and macronutrient totals to get results. Even too much “good” food can be stored as body fat. You have to get out of the bad habit of just mindlessly eating whatever is put in front of you, and start being an active participant in your weight loss program.
Here are some experiments to show you the value of measuring your food. I want you to measure out ¾ cup of cold cereal or cooked rice, the typical serving size for these foods, and put it into a bowl. What do you see? It’s not a lot of food is it — pretty shocking huh? Much different than what the average person eats with theses foods — fill the bowl to the brim, eat, refill, eat again.
Now take out your favorite salad dressing and measure out 2 tablespoons. It’s just a drizzle isn’t it? Much different than the typical salad drenched with so much dressing that there is a soupy mess by the time you get to the end. You can see that with almost all foods, there is a big discrepancy between the normal serving size that is posted on the label, and what we actually eat. Again, most people who don’t measure their food eat 3-5 times the normal serving sizes.
I just laugh at fitness folks who proclaim that you don’t need to count calories or macronutrients to get results. Really? Those are generally the ones who are either blessed with great genetics (and could do whatever they want and would still be in shape) or are not in as good as shape as you might think. Trust me, there are plenty of fitness experts, dieticians, and PhD types who hide behind headshots and credentials for a reason. Perhaps that’s why there are so many diet plans out there that don’t work.
I’m not interested in theory or opinion. I’m interested in real world results. And if you look at the diet plans of the fittest people in the world — fitness athletes and models — you’ll see that they all measure their food. Four ounces of this, 1 cup of that, 2 tbsp of this, 1 piece of that, etc, etc., and these are for the “healthy/good” foods. If you are serious about dropping body fat, you should follow their example.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you to take that extra step of measuring food; it’s the only way you’ll truly know if you’re eating the 30g of carbohydrate your supposed to be eating per meal, or 90- 120g. If so, here are some random thoughts about how to implement this process:
- Buy a couple of sets of measuring cups (1/4 cup to 1 cup) and teaspoon/tablespoon measures.
- Use measuring cups as serving spoons instead of traditional serving utensils.
- There is no need to weigh your meats, poultry, and fish on a scale. Simply buy these foods one pound (16oz) at a time and cut them up according to your dietary needs. If you are supposed to be eating 3oz servings cut into 5 pieces, 4oz servings = 4 pieces, 5oz servings = 3 pieces, 8oz servings = 2 pieces. It doesn’t have to be exact; we just want the right range. See I’m not so bad! Food scales are a pain in the butt.
- Pour oils, dressings, and condiments into teaspoon or tablespoon measures before cooking or topping food.
- No need to measure non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, lettuce, spinach, onions, etc.) UNLESS they are cooked in butter or oil. Plain vegetables are pretty much free foods that can be eaten in unlimited amounts.
- Buy smaller bowls and plates so you can’t over serve (i.e., a small bowl that only fits one cup of food). This makes you feel like you are eating larger portions and not depriving yourself. It also gives you the opportunity to “clean your plate”, which is an American habit. Smaller serving dishes are common in many cultures like the Japanese, or Spanish tapas. They key — don’t go back for seconds!
- When you don’t have access to measuring cups and spoons, like eating out at a friend’s or at a restaurant, you’ll have to eyeball portion sizes. Four to six ounces of meat, poultry, or fish is about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards. One cup of starch is about the size of a closed fist. Two tablespoons of dressing is about 2 spoonfuls, or about ½ of most of the cups they use for the “dressing on the side”.
- Most restaurants serve at least 2 times the normal serving sizes of foods, many 3-5 times. When you eat at restaurants a good idea is to eat half the meal and save the other half for leftovers, or give it to a homeless person. They could probably use the calories more than you.
Copyright 2010 Nate Miyaki
Timing matters with everything in life. A second too late can cost you a championship. A day early can save your life. Six numbers can be meaningless one day and win you millions of dollars the next. We’ve all heard the old saying, “being in the right place at the right time.” This universal law holds true in every aspect of our lives — career development, financial decisions, dating, social relationships, and most importantly for us, nutrition.
Total calories and food selection will always be the two most important factors in a structured eating plan, but there is much more to the fat loss story. It’s not just about what you eat, it’s about when you eat it.
Nutrient timing basically refers to the process of how you divide your calories and macronutrients up over the course of the day. It is a system where you maximize nutrient absorption, utilization, energy levels, muscle building/fat burning hormones, and minimize hunger cravings, energy crashes, and fat storing/catabolic hormones.
Here are the key nutrient timing principles a fitness athlete should implement in their fat loss plan:
1. Spread calories and macronutrients out over 4-6 meals/snacks a day.
This is probably one of the best steps you can take to prevent your body from storing fat. The body can only digest, absorb, and use (for energy or tissue construction) so much food at one time. If you eat only 1-2 large meals a day, you are outpacing your body’s ability to efficiently use the calories you are consuming. And if the body can’t use it, it’s going to store it. Spreading your calories out over smaller, more frequent meals/snacks will go a long way in ensuring the quality foods you eat are used to provide energy and build lean muscle, and less likely to be stored as body fat.
Lets play a game. Imagine a cup with a tiny hole poked into the bottom. We’re going to pour water into that cup from a large pitcher. The object of the game is to make sure all of the water that goes into the cup drains through that tiny hole without any spilling over the sides.
If you try to pour all of the water from the pitcher into the cup all at once, a large percentage will spill over the sides. Game over, you lose. That’s what large meals are like. Too many nutrients are entering the bloodstream at once, and the body can’t handle it. There is spillover, and in the human body, excess calories (both per day and per meal) spill over into fat cells.
Lets try the game again. This time we’ll fill the cup just up to the brim and then wait. The water in the cup slowly drains through the whole in the bottom. As it nears empty, we fill the cup back up again, repeating the process until the pitcher is empty. No water spills over the sides, and we win the game.
That’s what smaller more frequent meals are like. We give the body a small amount of nutrients it can efficiently use without excessive amounts spilling over into body fat stores. This way, the body receives all of the nutrients it needs to function properly without anything being wasted. Smaller, more frequent meals are the best way to go for the fitness athlete trying to build lean muscle and slash body fat.
2. Eat a meal or snack every 3-4 hours.
Imagine you are in charge of a fireplace or a campfire. How are you going to keep the fire going strong without letting it burn out? If you want a fire to burn efficiently, you put small logs on every so often. The fire can handle the small logs and burns red hot. However, if you let the fire go a long time without attention, and then put a huge log on, you smother the fire and it goes out. The log sits there, and doesn’t burn.
Your body’s metabolism is much like that fire. If you want it to run efficiently as a fat burning machine, you have to frequently put small meals and snacks into it. However, if you go long stretches without fueling the machine and then try to put a huge meal into it, the fire is put out. You’ve overloaded the machine’s ability to burn the log, and the huge meal just sits there (in your fat cells).
It sounds counter-intuitive to eat more often to lose weight, but that’s how our metabolism works. We’re meant to be grazers — eating small meals throughout the day – not gorgers — eating 1-2 super-sized meals a day. The small frequent meals give us the steady stream of nutrients we need without overloading the body’s capability to digest and absorb those nutrients.
If you look at the dietary patterns of top-level fitness athletes, you will see they all eat 5-6 meals a day spaced 2-4 hours apart. This is how they attain such low levels of body fat. They give their body’s what they need to build/maintain muscle while virtually eliminating any potential for fat storage. Too many calories per day, or PER MEAL, can be stored as fat.
Compare that with the typical overweight American’s diet. They wake up and have coffee and a pastry for breakfast, or skip it all together. They then have huge lunches (burgers and fries, sandwich w/ chips and soda, etc.) and even bigger dinners. They follow that with a trail of sugar-loaded snacks right up until bedtime. They’re putting huge logs into a slow burning metabolism — virtually guaranteeing fat storage.
When we go long hours without food, our metabolism slows down to compensate for the lack of nutrients entering the system. The body enters what many fitness folks refer to as a “mini- famine stage.” Nutrients are not entering in on a steady basis, and as a survival response the body slows down the rate at which it burns through calories.
As another survival mechanism, the body also alters metabolic processes to more efficiently store fat the next time you do eat. When this happens, the body stores fat at a higher percentage than normal in order to prepare for the next long stretch without food. We are meant to be grazers, or eat a little bit frequently throughout the day as we go. Its not natural to go long hours without food, and the only way the body can respond is to store more fat in order to assure it has plenty of reserves during times of famine.
The bottom line is this: smaller, more frequent meals turn you into a fat burning machine. Long hours between large meals turn you into a fat storing machine. Which would you rather be?
But wait, Da Da Da Dat’s Not All Folks…
3. Smaller frequent meals prevent energy crashes, hunger cravings, and binges.
I want you to think about the last time you pigged out. A time where you really went crazy, chowed down, and let your bloated gut flop out. A time where you said, “screw you Nate, I’m going to town on the junk food and I don’t give a shit what your stupid fitness-ass says!” Chances are this moment came after a long period without food.
Small, frequent meals keep blood sugar and insulin levels in check, and provide you with an even release of energy. When many hours pass between meals, blood sugar levels dip below their normal range. When blood sugar drops, your energy crashes, you become tired/fatigued, and your body craves something that will quickly elevate it back to its normal range. This something is either sugar loaded, refined foods, or large, oversized meals in general.
This is why you are most likely to cheat on your diet, overeat, or make unwise food choices after a long drought without food. Its not a lack of willpower, it’s a physiological response to an incorrect eating pattern. Grazing will help avoid these strong cravings. You should eat on schedule whether you are hungry or not to prevent ravenous, uncontrollable binge eating.
4. Have a post workout meal or snack within 30 minutes of finishing exercise.
“The post workout meal is the most important meal of the day.” This maxim is repeated more than any other in the fitness and bodybuilding communities. There is an almost mythical status associated with the post workout meal. It is regarded as having the biggest impact on your physique goals. Both scientific research and anecdotal evidence among athletes proves the validity of this belief.
Here are just some of the benefits of a post-workout protein and carbohydrate meal or recovery drink:
• It refills glycogen stores. Adequate glycogen stores are a prerequisite for intense exercise. Because glucose is the preferred energy pathway during exercise, glycogen stores are depleted during the workout. The post workout meal refills glycogen stores, aids recovery, and starts the early preparation process for your next workout.
• It shuttles amino acids into muscle cells. This very process is why the post workout protein and carbohydrate combo is considered highly anabolic. Insulin clears nutrients from the blood and sends them to be used or stored in the body’s tissues. Insulin carries amino acids from the blood stream and deposits them into the muscle cells. Once in the muscle cells, the amino acids can be used to repair and rebuild the damaged muscles stronger (and bigger) than before. You want this repairing process to begin as soon as possible after you finish your workout. Research has shown that waiting two hours to consume a post-workout meal drastically reduces protein synthesis compared to having one immediately after training.
• It decreases cortisol. Exercising releases hormones that positively alter body composition, including growth hormone and testosterone. Exercising, however, can also cause increases in hormones that negatively effect body composition, particularly the stress hormone cortisol. Although exercise is a good type of stress on the body, it is a stress nonetheless. Cortisol can have all kinds of negative effects, including forcing the body to burn muscle and store fat. Post-workout meals of protein and carbohydrates supresses cortisol and minimizes some of these negative effects. In essence, the postworkout meal is both anabolic and anti-catabolic, a powerful one-two punch for your physique enhancement goals.
• It supports the immune system. Cortisol can also suppress your immune system. Athletes who neglect the post workout meal tend to have higher rates of colds and flu’s. You can’t train hard and change your body if you are sick all of the time.
• It does NOT inhibit fat burning. All carbohydrates eaten during the post workout period have priorities – the least of which is to be stored as fat. The top priority is to refuel a depleted body. Carbohydrates will first be used to elevate blood sugar levels. The next priority is to refill glycogen stores, which helps prepare your body for the next workout. Postworkout carbs are not likely to be stored as body fat. They have specific jobs to do,
and can’t just sit around dormant in fat tissue. Carbs are more than welcome in this time frame because they will be utilized efficiently.
5. Eat breakfast.
Breakfast means to break the fast after a long night without food. It’s cliché, but is valuable advice nonetheless. You’ve essentially gone 6, 9, maybe even 12 hours without food. Your body basically wakes up in starvation mode, and if you don’t feed it to start the day, bad things can happen.
The body’s top priority is to fuel itself, not to look aesthetically pleasing. If you don’t give it the fuel it needs, it will scavenge around and find a way to continue powering on. One of those back up plans is to break down its own muscle tissue and convert it to usable energy. Breakfast kickstarts your metabolism, gives it the nutrients it needs to power through the day, and prevents any muscle loss due to catabolic activity.
Research has shown that those who eat a decent breakfast eat fewer calories during the rest of the day. This, of course, is the best pattern for fat loss. Breakfast can prevent you from exceeding your daily calorie totals and overeating at night.
6. Don’t eat large meals or a lot of carbohydrates before bed.
Nutrient timing in the morning helps you avoid losing muscle. Nutrient timing at night helps you lose fat.
Growth hormone is the most potent fat burning hormone in the body. If you can maximize the natural secretion of this hormone, you will make it much easier to get lean. Exercising increases growth hormone release. The biggest surge in GH levels, however, comes as a natural nocturnal secretion within the first four hours of sleep. What and when you eat at night can affect this spike in fat burning GH levels.
Growth hormone is inversely related to insulin. When insulin is high, growth hormone is suppressed. When insulin is low/controlled, growth hormone can rise, and the body can shift into a fat burning mode. If you eat a large carbohydrate meal at night, or late night snack on high sugar/high carb foods, insulin will rise and you will limit the effectiveness of your natural growth hormone peak.
While carbohydrates in particular raise insulin levels, it’s important to remember that large meals in general (regardless of macronutrient content), can raise insulin levels. It’s important to keep portions under control at night. Large meals at night are not conducive to your fat burning goals.
Besides the hormonal effects, both energy requirements and metabolism decrease at night. Your body doesn’t require a lot of food. Have your last meal 2-3 hours before you go to bed, keep portions under control, and keep a good carb-to-protein ratio. Ditch the late night sugar or refined carbohydrate snacks.
Finally, alcohol can inhibit your secretion of growth hormone at night. You should get out of the habit of finishing off the day with a drink with dinner or to unwind with while you watch TV. Nightly drinks will inhibit your fat loss goals, not necessarily just because of the calories, but because of the hormonal effects. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice a little bit to get what you want.
STRUCTURED VS. HAPHAZARD APPROACH
Now you can see the importance of a structured eating plan versus a haphazard approach to eating whatever you feel like, whenever you feel like it. Obviously the former can have a dramatic impact on your physique goals. The timing of your food intake impacts body composition changing hormones and enzymes, and protein and fat synthesis.
This is why I believe that those who are not willing to implement sound nutritional strategies are really just wasting their time in the gym.
NUTRIENT TIMING IN REAL LIFE
How does one juggle a career, school, family, a social life, and exercising itself with fitness nutrition principles? Well, its not easy, but this isn’t a bullshit infomercial giving you false promises. It takes some planning ahead — cooking multiple meals in advance, packing your own lunches, finding quality snacks with little clean-up or prep time, and making wise choices at restaurants.
Here’s how a typical day might look: Get up, eat breakfast — simple enough. Somewhere in the middle of the morning in between meetings or classes (for students), eat a snack. If you’re too busy, eat at your desk. Bring your own lunch with you to work (maybe last night’s leftovers) to control exactly what goes into your food. Sometime in the middle of the afternoon eat another snack, change it up so you don’t get bored. After work, go exercise. Get home, eat dinner — simple enough. Avoid late night alcohol and sugar cravings, which will disappear after a small period of hard work establishing new, healthy habits and patterns. If you eat out, make wise food choices and control portions.
The theory is simple; it’s the implementation that is difficult. Like with most things in life, the hardest part is making a change, breaking bad habits and eating patterns, and starting new ones based on effective nutrient timing principles. It WILL be difficult in the beginning, but trust me, it does get easier. If you work hard to stick to the plan while you are making the transition, you’ll soon be automatically eating this way without even thinking about it.
My wife just asked me what time it is. It’s probably time to eat!!
Copyright 2010 Nate Miyaki