Setting the table, yeah that’s where the business of bodybuilding is done. Back in the day, I told you that the difference between the freaks and the flock is the fucking fork. The deeper you get in this game, the more and more true that becomes. That next inch on your quads, the next five lb plate slapped on that bench bar is hiding where you might least expect it--in your kitchen cupboard.
Over the years, I’ve seen and done it all. Mega calorie diets, weight gainers three times a day, chugging 16 oz containers of egg whites between meals, chunk light tuna straight from the can, eating jars of baby food for carbs… Shit, if it could get you big bet your ass I’ve run it up the flagpole at least once to see if anyone salutes.
The more advanced you become over time, the more creative you’ve gotta get. In the same way your body will inevitably adapt to your training it will similarly adjust to your dietary regimen and pump the brakes on your physique, bringing your gains to an abrupt stop. Just as a powerbuilder must be proactive in counteracting Mother Nature’s predilection for stagnation in the gym, he must beat the green lady to the punch by planning ahead and laying out a detailed plan of action at the dinner table.
With nutrient-dense whole foods and proven supplements as your trusty weapons of choice, I will here outline some guidelines and bullet points to allow you the pack it on during your mass phases and to chisel away at your new block of granite when the time to refine reveals its rounded face. Enough talk… Let’s get to the meat of the matter…
Meat the Challenge
As much as I love the furry creatures of the world, I am fully aware of the hypocrisy that finds me a voracious carnivore. This is no game for vegans or vegetarians. It is a simple but stark realization that any powerbuilder worth their weight in iron must eventually come to grips with… The more dense sinew and muscle mass you plan to hang from your skeletal scaffolding, the more animal flesh you must consume. Grim, I know, but that is how it goes. The fruit of the land, sea and air are the foundation of any thick and powerful physique. The main reason for this, beyond the robust vitamin and mineral content and abundance of healthy fats found in meat, is the key word in the world of anabolism: protein.
As an aspiring power bodybuilder, protein is your main ally in gaining and maintaining muscle… Whether adding mass or refining, the macronutrient of primary concern should always be protein. My protein intake standard has always been to take in 1 gram per lb of desired lean bodyweight. Wanna weigh 250? Better take in a minimum of 250g of quality protein daily, your main source of which needs to be meat. During a mass phase, a good starting point is to take in 16 oz of meat daily, with red meat being your primary source, fortified by chicken and fish. Conversely, during a period of refinement, fish should be your primary source of flesh protein closely followed by chicken and then the occasional inclusion of calorie-dense steak.
Animal byproducts are also a cornerstone in my powerbuilding nutrition strategy. Milk, cottage cheese, yogurt and cheese are highly nutritious and loaded with protein, the fat content of which is best dictated by the status of your particular dietary phase, quite obviously opting for skim options when calorie counting is a necessary evil. Never to be mentioned last in an eating for muscle discussion is that protein source both incredible and edible… The hallowed egg. Eggs are loaded with healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, growth-inducing B vitamins and heaps of highly bioavailable protein. They are suitable for athletes looking to pack on mass as well as for those on the strictest of diets.
An uncommon, but genius benefit of eggs was pointed out by my big brother, the Animal Godfather, Machine at The Cage in 2008. He noted that the egg is a complete organism and as such provides myriad, rarely duplicated nutritional benefits. The only other such whole organisms able to be easily consumed by humans are sea life such as shrimp and clams.
This point also begs me to illuminate the ability for us to introduce variety into our powerbuilding diets. Keeping your eating, an often arduous task, fresh can be the difference between you reaching your goals or coming up short. While steak, chicken, canned tuna and fileted fish like salmon, flounder, tilapia and orange roughy will constitute the backbone of your menu, there are options. Consider turkey, lamb, veal, white meat pork, shell fish and crustaceans, venison, buffalo and bison as exciting alternatives capable of adding some much needed flavor to your life.
Shake the Foundation
The most basic of supplementation this side of the Pak, is so basic, I don’t even consider it a supplement. The protein shake is to bodybuilding as apple pie is to America, except far more useful. While it is an awesome weapon and a necessarily ubiquitous part of a powerbuilder’s routine, it is nonetheless to be used supplementally, “in addition to” your whole food protein sources. Cuz as I’ve told my brother naturalguy, “a shake is not a meal”. At least, that is, a shake as it is traditionally marketed and sold. The 200 or so calories, 40 some odd grams of protein and trace amounts of fats and carbs in your typical ready-to-drink (RTD) can, while being a nice little protein boost, does not constitute a meal.
The shakes I blend, however, are more readily classifiable as meal replacements. Using my trusty magic bullet blender or my Universal mix boy, I bridge the gap between conventional knife and fork meals you chew by combining whole foods and macronutrient powders and liquefying them. A typical powerbuilding shake that I consume on the regular can include milk, liquid egg whites, oats, fruit, natural peanut butter and protein powder blends like Specialized Protein for Lean Mass or weight gainers like Real Gains.
The merging of whole foods with supplemental powders leads to a far more substantial and real source of calories… Drawing upon diverse nutrient sources and creating what is essentially the convenient manifestation of a meal in a glass. The choices on calorie sources in your homemade meal replacement will generally be dictated by whether you are in a period of mass gain or refinement. When keeping it clean and lean, high protein and low calorie is the way of the walk. When it is time to get huge, all bets are off. If it can be pulverized and thrown back, it is fair game.
In the next installment I’ll address the roles of the other critical macronutrients, carbs and fats, in aiding you to reach your training and physique goals. Also, I’ll look at the best ways to integrate your supplements into your diet to maximize their muscle building benefits.
Our goals are lofty, our time is short, dinner is getting cold… We must be diligent and meticulous if greatness is ever to be ours. Stick with me, I’ve got a plan.