But, here's the thing... Don't get caught up thinking and planning each meal down to the minuscule calorie and certainly don't think you have to consume meals at specific times. People get way too caught up on the semantics of dieting that they actually forget the point of it. Most of the time, your body will tell you what it needs. If you are feeling lethargic, you have either eaten too many carbs or not enough. It's not difficult to tell the two apart, since you would have to go days without eating carbs to feel the effects of lethargy. If you're sore, days after you trained, you either trained too hard (which is actually unlikely) or you didn't eat enough nutrient and protein rich foods. And yes, I did say nutrient. It's no good investing in a tub of protein meal supplement, because you would have to eat tonnes of the stuff to get the same benefits that you would from fresh vegetables and fruit. There is no substitute to fresh fruit and vegetables, so you are not going to grow without them. Typically, you want the less sweet fruits, like tomatoes, peppers, cucumber. Apples, bananas and the like are good too, but you don't want to be eating five of those fructose dense fruits if you are trying to stay lean or lose weight! So to summarise what you should aim to include in your diet:
- Green super foods (spinach, cabbages like broccoli and kale, peas)
- Something bright (red/yellow pepper, tomatoes, berries)
- Sulphurous food (onions, spring onions); good for helping your liver top get rid of toxins.
- Lean fresh meat (this is a must if you want to grow, see below).
- Unsalted seeds, nuts (not cashews, they are not really nuts); if you have to go flavoured, keep salt to a minimum and don't eat them every day.
- Eggs (LOTS and LOTS of eggs).
- Beans (in water, no added sugar or salt and watch out for preservatives, stabilizers or thickeners).
- Brown rice, brown pasta, brown bread (only if you have to, I don't each gluten rich foods so I only really eat brown rice now and then).
Now this isn't a recipe. It's meant as a guide. You should aim to include something from each of those food groups in each meal, especially from the greens, meats and eggs. There is nothing wrong with a boiled egg on the side of each meal, maybe even two. Greens are super important. They contain lots of anti-oxidants and are nutrient rich, which will aid with the production of testosterone. There is no point in shoving a load of protein down your neck if you are not supplementing your body with what it needs to produce testosterone. Testosterone is the key to building muscle. Without enough of it, your protein will just end up giving you constipation and making you fat; excess protein is converted to fat. So eat your greens and stop relying on those powdered meal supplements, they don't work, and I am talking through experience.
Meat! (No better protein)
You are going to need this if you want to get bigger. Yes you may grow a little without it, but there is a limit to how big you can grow without the amino acids and proteins you get from eating meat and fish. If you're vegetarian and you are thinking "but I get all the protein I need from eating tofu", forget it! Tofu is derived from soya, a bean that is rich in phytoestrogen. Yes, you guessed it, it's essentially the same as estrogen. This hormone is actually what you want less of in your system. It counteracts testosterone in your system, reducing the effects of testosterone. If you produce enough estrogen or consume enough of it, you will also start to see some undesired effects, such as breasts, so steer clear of it!
Beans (Good carbs)
These are a prime source of carbs. Good slow release energy with very low sugar content. Also rich in fibre and other nutrients, so also worth having with each meal. If you get the tinned kind, avoid ones with added salt and preservatives. I go for the beans in water kind, with added calcium chloride as opposed to salt, because that's all that's available to me. Better still go for fresh beans if you can get them. Calcium chloride is a thickener added to the water, but is in such small quantities, I personally don't worry about it, especially since I wash the beans until all the fluid they come in, has been rinsed away.
Eggs (protein and nutrient rich)
There has been bad press for eggs in the past, mainly because of their high cholesterol content. But don't be fooled, the cholesterol in these is actually good for you and will help your body get rid of bad cholesterol. The yolk is full of masses of nutrients and contains 2g of protein in your average egg, making up a third of the protein content. The white is nearly all protein, apart from water and some other nutrients, but the white contains no fat, so good if you are purging. I typically eat anything from 6 to 12 of these a day, depending on how sore my muscles are. At the end of the day, if you are sore and hungry, then you need to eat something!
Myth: The first hour is the important hour.
Well no, because your body will already have nutrients for building muscle and it will be using testosterone that you replenished the day before. You don't make testosterone while you are active, well actually you do, but not enough to satisfy demand. Your body needs rest in order to replace testosterone that has been depleted. What you eat before you rest is important in the production of testosterone, so don't fill up on crap before bed, if anything, munch on some more greens. The next day or day after, you will be topped up on testosterone, ready to go at it again. Of course, make sure you eat soon after you exercise, because your body will at some point need protein and carbohydrates in order to build muscle using the testosterone, but it's not quintessential that you eat it immediately after or during your workout. Again, don't get caught up on food. It's important, but it's no so important that you have to obsess and plan your whole life around it. Eat when you're hungry, fast when you're not. Enjoy it, don't loath it by continuously eating the same bland crap every day.