Updated: May 20, 2019
I am fed up that these days things get made very complex when it comes to the relationship between eating, training, recovery and the creation of real results. Daily I am having “corrective” discussions with athletes in the ATC gym on the subject.
The internet is full of advice on macro-s, what food to eat, how much you need to eat, when to eat, when not to eat, what to combine, what not to combine, what supplements to take. Discussions about the % food contributes to your overall results… Frankly the folly drives me completely crazy.
Since I started lifting in 1981 – now nearly 4 decades ago – based on experience with myself in the fields of competitive bodybuilding, strongman, powerlifting, soccer, marathon running and the luxury of coaching and observing many others I can simplify things into major empirical principles:
1. Nutrition, training and recovery are systematically interconnected. If one of the 3 elements are quality wise (structural ok) or quantity wise (too much - to little) not ok – no good things will happen in terms of creating significant results. It is very much a zero-sum game. It is just like a garden needs sun, rain and nutrients in a correct combination to make the seed turn into a very nice flower. It’s no use to keep pouring more water on the flower if there is no sun. It is no use to add fertilizer if there is no rain. It is no use to expose the plant more to the sun if there is no water …
2. Creating results is using the chicken and the egg relationship between the three elements. I never know really what comes first. But I know there is a vicious circle on the go. I always feel that when I start to kickstart my pre-contest preparation cycle. I am still not sure if I first start to eat more, and hence am able to train harder and get more appetite. .. and get stronger …or I train harder and get more appetite and get stronger… but there are many combinations to make … and probably they are all valid
a. If I don’t eat enough – I can’t train hard
b. If I don’t train enough I don’t get real hungry
c. If I did not recovery enough I cannot train hard
d. If I train hard I need more recovery
e. If I don’t recover enough I loose appetite
f. If I loose appetite I cannot train hard
g. If I don’t train according to structured progressive program I just get fat when I eat to much
h. Etc etc
3. We all know what NOT to eat. I get asked a lot “coach - what should I eat”. I always ask those subjects – “tell me - what should you not eat?” – and they all know the answer already. So I tell them to eat a lot less from that stuff and more of the other stuff. Simple eh? What you really need is to adopt a sound eating strategy. There are many eating strategies that are all technically sound (maybe not philosophically) – from vegan all the way to paleo – it can all work. If you shy away from junk food.
4. Good food can only be replaced by more good food. Pick you likings of good food (bearing any allergies or dislikes you might have) and eat PLENTY of this. When you are not gaining weight – don’t fool yourself. You might be thinking you already eat a lot – but I is just not enough yet. Adjust upward by 500 kcal a day until you start to gain weight.
5. You cannot live off Supplements. Supplements cannot replace good unprocessed real food. Apart from protein powder, omega3 oils and Creatine – there is nothing really that provides any significant benefits other than for the wallet of the supplement industry. Wake up - it’s all fake news. They might indeed give results – as a placebo – because it says on the package that while you are taking the very expensive “mumbojumbo” you need to train hard, rest well and eat a lot – duhhh. Me and my friends fell for that multiple times when all the new stuff came out like BCAA, Glandulars etc etc.
6. Quit bad habits. By the way – the best gift to your body you can make is to mot smoke or excessively drink. I had athletes in my gym gaining 3-4 kg of muscle in a few months by just quitting smoking. The body is using up all its energy to get the substances out of the body – and does not attend to building muscle – it’s a survival priority thing.
7. You cannot eat like “Germanies next top model” and expect to get great athletic results. Instagram is full of “six pack pictures”. The folly is that strength athletes one on hand want to be big on other hand super lean – this results in eating disorders. Athletes just need to eat plenty of good stuff to grow and get strong. If you gain strength and muscle mass, you will also gain some fat (some people will be more genetically gifted in this aspect). If you want to lose fat – apply a smart way of eating – apply longer period s of gaining vs shorter aggressive periods of zig-zag “diet” to get to your desired % of bodyfat of competition weight – and not loses to much muscle mass. Separate gaining mass vs losing fat period as a part of your yearly periodization.
8. Eat more to get lean. Now. Really ? Am I serious? If you don’t count your calories you get FAT- right? Time and time again I have seen people in my gym trying to loose fat – training very hard but severely undereating (usually using many supplements) – which results in a state of emergency in the body where that person does not build muscle, is drained from energy and does not shed any significant amount of fat tissue. Teaching these persons to eat MORE fixes the issue. The body gets into the state of a well take care of garden .. and the flower blooms! To good to be true? Try it. I had athletes gaining 7 kg of muscle and loosing 6 kg of fat in a Year by upping their intake by 50% or more!
9. When to eat ? Eating is a sports discipline – just as training is. I get asked this question some often that it make me despair. Should I eat after 20:00, before a workout? After? Should I have breakfast? Should I split up carbs form protein etc etc… Look, my answer is simple – if you are serious about creating strength and muscle mass gains – you need to eat A LOT. A busy athlete might need anything upwards of 5000kcal a day to be in the correct zone. If you want to reach that on a daily basis – you better get up early and start eating and stop eating late. It is a simple as that. When I was in my 20-s and trained 6 times poer week for bodybuilding contest trying to get fork 85 kg to around 100 kg I was eating 6000 kcal a day. That is a whole lot of food – you sort of never stop eating.
10. Learn to eat. So your body says you can’t eat breakfast eh? I heard that excuse to often now. Look – it is all about conditioning. If you NEVER had breakfast for years – for sure your body will resist. Your body is a magnificent machine and wants to keep things as they are. I had a lot of success in asking people to approach things like their training. You start in week 1 with 150 grams of yogurt, weeks 2 – 200 grams etc etc. until you are able to eat 500 grams with fruit and muesli added. If now after 6 weeks or so you skip breakfast – see what you body tells you now? You will be CRAVING a good breakfast. The tricks is to find something you like eating in the morning of course. Dry stale bread in large quantities might nit work well. But yogurt, scrambled eggs, fruits etc. will work well usually.
The simple, but hard, lesson from the above is that you should not make things to complex : Train structured and hard, recover well and eat plenty of good stuff over longer period of time and good things will happen.
Interested in a talk on the subject? Just contact me !