So, you've decided to use this downtime to try and sort out what's going on under the hood. You're training hard and regularly. Maybe you've been trying to gain or lose weight. Maybe you've been wanting to get stronger and faster. Are we here to change our body composition, but hangout around the same body weight?
It can be a lot, right? Deciding where we want to start.
The goal here today is just provide a short and sweet outline of recommendations when it comes to changing or developing nutrition habits. These are simple and can be a good starting point for many (and honestly, it might be all you need).
So, let's start with something simple... calories.
Want to gain weight? Consume 18-20 calories per pound of body weight.
Want to maintain weight? Consume 15-17 calories per pound of body weight.
Want to lose weight? Consume less than 15 calories per pound of body weight.
(*Note: these are my recommendations for people that TRAIN regularly. If you go to the gym and spend two hours on your phone and then do twenty minutes of cardio, these are not my recommendations.)
Now, to gain we need to be in a caloric surplus. To lose, we need to be in a caloric deficit. And to maintain we need to eat about as many calories as we burn during the day. How do we know how many calories we need to consume one way or the other? Well, you could go get your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) tested to find out, but the Harris-Benedict equation will provide you a pretty accurate number to kick things off with...
Male: 66.5 + (13.75 x W) + (5.003 x H) – (6.775 x A) = BMR Female: 655 + (4.35 x W) + (4.7 x H) – (4.7 x A) = BMR
(W - actual weight in kg (weight in lb/2.2 = kg) (H - height in cm (height in inches x 2.54 cm/in) (A - age in years)
Do the math and the number you get is going to give a general idea of what your BMR is or rather: that's how many calories you burn EACH DAY AT REST. That's how many calories you burn through a day simply living. So, if your BMR was 3000, you'd have to eat MORE than 3000cals a day to gain weight, LESS than 3000cals to lose weight, and right around 3000cals to maintain.
From here, how do we fill these calories? That will depend primarily on your palate and what foods agree with you. I find that for myself, I seem to operate better on a lower-carb, high fat and protein protocol. On days I train, I eat my carbs pre-training. I've tried splitting them pre and post, but for me, it seems the most bang for my buck and when I feel the best (which is all I'm really training for) is when I consume carbs before I train. I always eat right at or right above my body weight in grams of protein. Honestly, this is one I recommend across the board, regardless of your goals. Protein is satiating (which can help curb appetite spikes when in a caloric deficit) and plays a huge role in developing or changing body composition.
Find foods that agree with you. I find that I have kind of a sensitive gut, so I've had to work to find foods that don't leave me bloated or foggy in the head. Dairy doesn't agree with me, so I shy away from it (aside from the occasional Ben & Jerry's because, c'mon... ice cream). There are plenty of vegetables that cause me to walk around feeling heavy in the stomach (No, I won't list them. You don't need the prejudice when going to the grocery store). Good Carb sources that don't bother me are rice and potatoes, certain veggies. I tend not to eat fruit. Again, because it doesn't agree with my palate.
Nutrition takes practice and time. Have some patience and give yourself some grace. If you still aren't sure where to start, start with this. It's from the blog of John Welbourn (Talk To Me Jonnie) and is still what I reference back to regularly...
Eat with abandon:meat, fowl, fish, seafood, eggs, vegetables, roots, tubers, bulbs, herbs and spices as well as animal fats, olives & olive oil, avocados, and coconut (meat, oil, flour) and dairy*.
*Dairy is a gray area, while it is a powerful tool in the strength and weight gain category you have to be smart. Individuals with autoimmune disease should avoid dairy products of any kind. For those without autoimmune diseases, dairy from grass-fed animals is permissible. Dairy from grain-fed animals will not have an ideal omega 3 profile. Heavy cream, butter, and ghee should not be problematic. Occasional consumption of fermented dairy options such as cheese and yogurt is acceptable. Experiment with milk but eliminate it if it is found to be problematic.
**Pasteurized whole milk from grain-fed cows treated with rBGH offers an increased anabolic environment for the consumer.
Limit: nuts, seeds, and fruit. Better choices in the nut category include macadamias, cashews, and hazelnuts. Almonds aren’t terrible. Seeds are generally rich sources of linoleic acid because they can be eaten in large quantities (the serving sizes are typically in the tablespoon to 1/4 cup range and can be misleading). Sunflower and sesame seeds are a terrible choices in the seed category. Soaking nuts prior to consumption is recommended but not necessary.
Reduce the serving size if you are going to pick a fruit that has a high metabolic fructose content.
Avoid: Cereal grains including: all varieties of wheat (spelt, einkorn, emmer, durum), barley, rye, oats, triticale, corn (maize), rice (including wild rice), sorghum, millet, fonio, and teff and legumes.
Grain-like substances or pseudocereals including: Amaranth, Breadnut, Buckwheat, Cattail, Chia, Cockscomb, Kañiwa, Pitseed Goosefoot, Quinoa, and Wattleseed (aka aacacia seed). Pseudocereals are the seeds of broad leaf plants whereas grains are the seeds of grasses.