Unfortunately, the world of fitness and physiques is shrouded in dieting myths. Of course the TV doesn't help with ads that promise amazing results with "carb-blocking" pills and outrageously expensive weight loss supplements or workout devices. My advice starts with one simple point: hide your credit card when watching TV past midnight!
I have spent many precious minutes laughing when learning of various friends who bought fitness products off of late-night infomercials. Ok, so I know two, no... three people who have done such things.
My late grandfather bought an ab contraption from late-night TV once; my friend of many years (since the second grade actually) bought another abdominal torture device once; my girlfriend's dad bought either one of those things advertised by Chuck Norris or the other one... you know, the one that rhymes with "flow-bex" (laughing). I often make myself crack up when writing this stuff.
I wish to impress you with more bits of knowledge concerning several things. Maybe they're more like observations I've made over the years regarding the fitness world.
1. The Models Don't Use These Products:
Those models you see on advertisements ALMOST NEVER USE what they are promoting.
I know a guy named Gary Moore who has two daughters. His daughters are/were some of the most featured models for Hydroxycut. One of the girls is Rachel Moore. I met Rachel before she became a Hydroxycut model. Look her up on the internet if you don't believe me.
Click Image To Enlarge.
Rachel Moore At The 2003 Arnold Classic.
Anyway, these people are hired for their looks, most often due to their "sex-appeal"; not because they used the product to obtain their looks, but because they ALREADY looked like that.
2. Discipline Is Not Built Into These Products:
If you don't have the discipline to go to the gym, what makes you think you'll have the discipline to use that funny looking thing you bought at 12:15am two weeks ago while watching underwear models pose by a pool for camera shots of their "perfect" abs!
You know why they keep advertising these things? BECAUSE NINNIES KEEP BUYING THEM! Read the small print at the bottom of each ad. They nearly all read something like this:
Results not typical. So-and-so obtained such and such by using this device and following a sensible diet and exercise program. Or something like that anyway. Just read them sometime.
3. People Are Looking For A Quick Fix:
You know why people keep buying these things? Because they keep hoping for an easy answer to a not-so-easy dilemma. If looking like one of those models was easy, everyone would do it, period. There is only one answer. That is: the discipline and restriction of your mouth and what you put in it!
Everyone has a "six-pack", most people just have it obscured by well-developed layers of FAT. From EATING POORLY.
4. People Don't Understand "Low-Fat":
"Low-Fat" does NOT equal "I can't get fatter by eating this"!
Not all fats are bad for you, but carbohydrates are automatically stored as fat if they are not used for energy.
Here is what works. Consistency and dedication with applied practical knowledge. You need to have a basic understanding of food and how it works to both help and hinder the human body. Here are some basics that will help you:
- Get rid of junk food in your house, and stop buying it.
- Don't eat fast food. If you're suddenly called to become an honorary Navy SEAL and fight evil in a foreign country and must eat something before your personal F-18 takes off, then order a grilled chicken sandwich.
- Soft-drinks? Don't even think about it. I ought to smack you.
- Protein doesn't start harming the filtering functions of the human body until you start consuming somewhere above 2 grams per pound of body weight, per day. So go eat some MEAT you SISSY!
- Calories? Here are some basics about 'em:
- If you don't currently read the labels of food products, you need to start. (you'll learn that the seemingly magical food of chicken nuggets isn't so healthy after all! HA!)
- A chunk of meat about the size of the palm of your hand at average thickness is roughly equal to 25 grams of protein.
- Splenda is good. Far as we know anyway. Try diet colas sweetened with it, they taste pretty good.
- Try to eat more white meats than red meats. But don't run from red meat like a pansy. Just limit it from being the largest protein source in your diet. No I don't know how much is safe or how much in particular would be bad for you. Neither does anyone yet. If you know then please tell me, thank you.
Day To Day Tips
Ok, now for some more helpful tips on a day-to-day, meal-to-meal level.
Meals Per Day:
Eat 6 times or more per day (2.5 to 3 hours apart to allow for digestion). To do this, you need to get to bed at a good time so you can get up at a good time to begin your healthy day by eating a decent meal. WARNING: This requires the discipline of a Shaolin Kung-Fu monk at times.
Get Some Sleep:
You must remind yourself of what you are trying to do. Look good and BE HEALTHY, right? Go look in the mirror. This will remind you that you most likely have a decent distance to go before this is obtained. Will you achieve better health by staying up watching a silly show on cable, or by getting to bed so you can do what you need to do the next day? Get to bed, you monkey.
Upon waking, you need to replenish what nutrients you have lost during sleep without getting fatter. IHOP (a restaurant called the International House of Pancakes for those unfamiliar) is not the answer. Neither is McDonalds. Your fridge, stove, freezer and two hands can provide the answer for you, provided you have put good quality foods into them. Remember? Stop eating out.
Now for the cooking. Please remove the idea from your head that chicken is only good for meals after breakfast. Some people like protein shakes for breakfast. I like CHICKEN! I like eggs (whole eggs, not just egg whites) and chicken. You also need a good source of carbs with your protein, but I wouldn't recommend any excessive fats at breakfast.
For carbs, oatmeal is a good example. So is "Cream of Wheat" or even brown rice. As far as how much you should eat of your protein and carbs, it will depend on your bodyweight and goals.
Just remember you need lean protein and "good" carbs.
To solidify this, you need to see a nutritionist, preferably one who works with high-level athletes. If you can't find one or can't afford one, write me an e-mail and I will try and help you in some way. Perhaps I could recommend a second job so you could afford a one-time meeting with a nutritionist. *laughing*
Seriously, my nutrition guy costs me $45 per session and his knowledge is amazing! Well worth the money. That is, if you want to stop being Captain Flabby!
So we pretty much know what we need for breakfast: carbs and protein, usually more carbs than protein, minimal fat, and I would also recommend a small/medium piece of fruit. Fruit is usually not eaten after about noon on most diet plans.
What about at 10AM? After all, if you ate at 7:30AM for your first meal, 10AM should be your second meal, right (remember the 2.5 hour break between meals I mentioned earlier)? EXACTLY.
What to eat though... well, you know you need protein. How much will depend again on your goals and advised through a knowledgeable sports nutritionist. You also need carbohydrates. A Hostess Twinkie is not a proper source of carbohydrates. Neither is a small handful of Girl Scout cookies. You would be smart to eat carbs that have a low-glycemic index generally speaking.
View The Glycemic Index Database Here.
What's a "low-glycemic index" carbohydrate? Simply put, it's a carbohydrate that is more difficult for your body to digest quickly, which will yield a longer, more stable output of energy. Remember this: sugar is a high-glycemic index carb (exactly why most soft-drinks are so bad for you).
Brown rice is a low-glycemic index carb. You never hear of parents keeping their kids away from brown rice or wheat bread because they may go "sugar-crazy", do you? You do however hear of parents not allowing their kids to eat or drink junk food or soft drinks though. There is a reason for that.
The reason is not because the parents are food Nazis either. Sugars give a lot of energy very quickly and have the potential to store a lot of fat very quickly. That's why you need to stay away from processed sugars and processed foods in general.
So now you may know a little more about carbs and the potential evil that lurks within them. You must use this knowledge for good!
Also, you will discover from talking to a nutritionist that there is such a thing as "good" fat sources. Your body needs fat to function, and in the proper ratios with proteins, fat helps to maintain a seriously anabolic (muscle building) state.
An example of a good fat source is an almond. Nuts in general are a great fat source. The reason I'm going over this, is that around meal three or so, your body will benefit from eating relatively small amounts of fats with your protein and carbohydrates. This will help your growth and health.
Lets review what I have covered to this point:
Eat a minimum of 6 times per day; and STAY HYDRATED with WATER (maybe start by drinking 80 to 100 oz. per day and wait to see how often you have to urinate, if it's too much for whatever you have to do during your day, then ease off a bit).
See a nutritionist to work out specific food ratios you should eat at specific meals.
Stop being undisciplined in what you eat.
Your diet plan will very *GENERALLY* look like this:
Meal 1: more carbs than protein, both from awesome sources, and a small piece of fruit...
Meal 2: probably an equal amount of protein and carbs, perhaps another small piece of fruit...
Meal 3: carbs may be slightly less than protein at this meal (always measured in grams), vegetables may be added in... probably no fat yet, but maybe...
Meal 4: more protein, less carbs (somewhere around a 2:1 ratio), with a small serving of fat and vegetables.
Meal 5: a lot more protein than carbs (maybe a 4:1 ratio), vegetables, maybe a fat serving (possibly even no carbs at this meal).
Meal 6: depending on your individual goals, this meal will be a lot of protein with either a small fat serving or a vegetable serving. No carbohydrates.
I think you get the idea, or at least I hope you do as far as meals and eating goes in the world of physique building and good health. Deep green vegetables are essential both for nutrients and fiber, and may be added to the diet at perhaps meal 2 or 3 as you go about your day. Specific amounts should be worked out by a licensed or just really experienced nutritionist.
Now in addition to eating properly, you really need to be exercising as well, with both cardio and resistance training. Cardiovascular exercise will increase the human metabolic rate for about a period of 12 hours or so, while resistance training will increase your metabolism for several DAYS!
Want to trim up and build muscle? Than do cardio AND weightlifting. Want to really nail down your fat loss? Do your cardio wearing sweats in the early morning, on an empty stomach at a moderate pace. DON'T USE A KILLER PACE.
You need your body to seek out its fat stores while minimizing the use of other tissues as fuel, so only use a moderate pace. Typically you will break a light sweat doing this.
Tips About Water
First of all, don't drink distilled water. There is no reason for this. Not when you're dieting, not ever. Distilled water is depleted of its minerals, and therefore seeks them out, depleting YOU of your minerals.
When bodybuilders talk of "sodium depleting" and "sodium loading" before competitions, they are generally being silly. Silly because they don't diet properly or understand basic physical principles. How do I know? Because I've done it.
The human body needs minerals and salt. Not excessive salt mind you, but it still needs salt. Your muscles need water and salt to be big and cool! You deplete this and you'll look "flat". Again, I've done it. I've witnessed the difference between being personally flat versus full for competitions.
I diet differently now than I used to. I don't know much about manipulating body chemicals when steroids are introduced into the equation. I believe the principles are mostly the same however. Read Arnold's Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.
He wrote a section about this. I used to drink distilled water when I dieted for competitions until I learned better. Also, drinking too much water may flush out all those vitamins you keep inhaling, so if you're peeing like crazy, this may not be a good thing either.
Somewhere there is a balance, and as far as I know, you'll have to be your own judge of this for the time being until researchers make up their minds. If you're reading this article and thinking, "That Aaron guy is a boob and I know the REAL answer!" Then please e-mail me! Also, water drinking doesn't actually get physically dangerous unless you're consuming at the rate of gallons per hour.
You'll be going to the hospital if you do this. I've heard of a person who drank somewhere around 3 gallons per hour and they became very ill because of it. I've always heard that drinking a gallon per day (128 oz.) was a good thing, but I'm not totally convinced. I probably drink about 90 to 100 oz. per day currently. This keeps my urination at a relatively comfortable level.
A Final Word
A common misconception about fitness is that drinking a protein shake after working out is greatly beneficial. THIS IS NOT TRUE. After and even before a workout, the human body benefits greatest from between a 3-to-1 to a 4-to-1 ratio of HIGH GLYCEMIC carbohydrates to protein in liquid form (easily digestible).
The human body needs glycogen restored in muscle cells to promote recovery after exercise, and a protein shake is just not the answer. An example of a good product in my opinion is Endurox R4, which is sold at an awesome price here on Bodybuilding.com.
There are other products which I'm sure could be used for the same thing. I drank protein for years after my training sessions, and I know from experience that this was of minimal benefit at best. Learn from my mistake!
GO SEE A NUTRITIONIST AND GET STARTED! And keep a log of everything you eat, for goodness sake.