Nutrition can make or break any training plan. No matter how hard you work in the gym, your efforts will be in vain without a balanced diet. However, this doesn’t mean that any diet will do. Most nutrition plans featured in magazines are bogus. A perfect diet is one customized to your needs and goals.
What Should Your Diet Look Like?
Most people over complicate clean eating. Some spend a fortune on weight loss shakes, ready-made meals, and slimming bars that are pretty much useless. Others cook fancy meals or start crash diets just to give up a few weeks later. In the worst case scenario, they end up struggling with eating disorders, sluggish metabolism, or hormonal imbalances.
Dieting doesn’t have to be complicated. It all comes down to your goals. First, determine your calorie intake. Leave some room for an occasional treat, such as a cheat meal. Focus on the three macros: protein, fats, and carbs. Adjust these macros based on your needs.
For instance, if you want to lose fat, take your calories from high-protein foods. Eat a moderate amount of carbs and healthy fats. To get faster results, drop your carb intake by 20-30 grams. Continue until you break the plateau and reach your target weight. As long as you’re in a calorie deficit, the pounds will melt away.
To build muscle, increase your calorie intake. Your muscles require energy to grow and recover from training. You can not build muscle on a low-calorie diet. Sure, you’ll gain definition, but not mass. Load up on protein and carbs. If you have a hard time meeting your daily calorie goals, eat more fats. With nine calories per gram, fat is the most energy-dense nutrient.
For greater strength and power, consume more carbs. These nutrients serve as a source of energy, fueling your gains. Sweet potatoes, rice, whole grains, oats, lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds are a healthy choice. Maintain a high protein intake at all times.
How Many Meals You Need to Plan for
The number of daily meals depends entirely on your preferences. Contrary to popular belief, small, frequent meals don’t increase metabolism or accelerate fat loss. This is just a myth.
What and when you eat is more important than how often you eat. It really doesn’t matter if you have one meal, three meals, or five meals a day. Just be sure to meet your daily calorie and macronutrient goals.
However, if you work out hard, plan your meals accordingly. Pre- and post-workout nutrition can make or break your goals.
Fuel your body with protein and slow-digesting carbs before exercise. This will boost your energy levels and give you the strength needed for an intense workout.
When you’re done, have a protein shake or a high-protein, high-carb meal. After training, your body needs protein and simple carbs to repair damaged tissues and build muscle. Aim for at least 25 grams of protein and 25 to 40 grams of carbs post workout.
As a rule of thumb, eat clean and keep processed foods to a minimum. Plan a weekly cheat meal if necessary. When you’re reading food labels, check the amount of protein, carbs, and fat – not just the calories. Prepare your own meals to have full control over the ingredients used.