Power Nutrition Q&A - Part Two!

In this issue of the power nutrition q & a you will learn all about the difference between sweet potato and baked potatos, all about omega fats, if fruit is important to incorporate into your diet, tasty grains to add to your diet and more...
Note: This is part two, click here to view all parts!

I was wondering if you could tell me the difference between a sweet potato and a baked potato from a nutritional standpoint. I do enjoy eating them both but I was wondering which one was the best for powerlifters. Are there certain times in a program when one may be a better then the other? If you could give me a quick breakdown and let me know how to incorporate them in my nutrition plan that would be great.

I first want to let all the readers know that I recommend both yams and potatoes in the powerlifter's nutritional plan. Each has their own purpose and function and should be used with that in mind. One thing that we have to look at with each of them is the Glycemic Index rating. I highly recommend lower GI carbs (those under a 55 rating) because they have many benefits for the powerlifter. The Glycemic Index rating refers to how quickly when you eat a carbohydrate it converts to blood sugar. The higher the score the quicker it is converted to blood sugar.

The lower the score the more slowly it is released into the bloodstream providing a sustained energy level. Low GI carbs are great for increasing your energy level. They are also known to help curb the appetite, which is something that we can all benefit from when trying to go down a weight class. Low GI carbs are also good for your health as they help to prevent diabetes and heart disease. Sweet potatoes rate a low score of 51 on the GI scale causing them to fall into this good category. Potatoes on the other hand score approximately 85 on the GI scale.

As you can see they are much higher than sweet potatoes on the GI scale. This makes potatoes an excellent food for those looking to go up a weight class. Carbohydrates with a higher GI rating are better for gaining weight than those with a lower GI score. Just because they are higher doesn't mean they should be avoided in your meal plan. One baked potato contains about 4.5 grams of protein, less than half a gram of fat and is only about 200 calories.

They also provide a nice spectrum of micronutrients including B6, Vitamin C and Iron. If you take a look at the macronutrient breakdown of the sweet potato, they contain about 200 calories, with about 3 grams of protein and also have less than half a gram of fat. If you were looking to lose body fat then your better choice would definitely be the sweet potato due to its lower GI rating. Overall both the sweet potato and the potato have its purpose in the powerlifter's meal plan as they provide an abundance of complex carbohydrates and a spectrum of micronutrients as well.

I really like your monthly column on Bodybuilding.com as it really adds a new dimension to the magazine. Having been a powerlifter for over 14 years I will say that I agree with you about how bad a large majority of powerlifter's diets are. I have been trying to incorporate a lot of your ideas into my plan and I am seeing very good results.

My question is about the healthy fats. I have read in one of your articles that you should try to get more Omega 3 fats instead of Omega 6 fats in your plan. How can you get more of these Omega 3's while trying to monitor your Omega 6 intake? If you could help me figure this out as I am confused on how to maximize my fat intake.

I have been pushing healthy fats to powerlifters for some time now and its finally starting to sink in. Its nice to see that my hard work is starting to take effect with powerlifters consuming them more than ever before. A good way to increase your omega 3 fat intake; is to supplement with flaxseed or fish oil.

Flax seed oil is rich in the omega 3 fatty acid known as Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA). Another good way to increase your Omega 3 fats is to start eating fish several times a week. The fish that you should be consuming include salmon, herring, mackerel, bass and trout. These all provide an excellent source of Omega 3 fats and they should be eaten at least 3 times per week. What makes these fish fats so special is they contain a different Omega 3 fat called Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA).

These are a heaven send for those with joint problems as they help to reduce inflammation in your joints and tendons. I don't know of one powerlifter that hasn't had joint pain or tendonitis sometime in their career, so make sure that you keep a steady dose of EPA in your nutritional plan. To reduce your Omega 6 fats in your diet, avoid cooking oil and fried foods. These are primarily Omega 6 fats and these should be kept to a minimum. So instead of going for that greasy burger and French fries, grill up some fish. Your joints will thank me latter!

How important is fruit in the diet? To tell you the truth I probably only eat a couple pieces a week. Are they really as important as some people say they are for powerlifters? I have heard that a lot of bodybuilders don't eat fruit but I never knew what the reason was for this. What fruits would you recommend for the powerlifter?

Fruit is a very important food group and they should be a staple in your diet. The fact that you told me that you only eat a couple pieces of fruit a week really doesn't surprise me as many of the powerlifters that I have consulted with also do not eat enough fruit. Fruit contains a spectrum of vitamins and minerals so they do have a place in the powerlifter's nutritional plan. They also contain another very important nutrient called anti oxidants. These are very important as they fight free radicals in the body.

Hard training increases free radical damage. So with all those intense training sessions that you are partaking in every week, making sure that you have a steady dose of anti oxidants is a good idea. If you are not trying to lose weight you should consume at least 3-4 pieces of fruit every day. This will be a good start especially for those that have been guilty of leaving their fruits to the side only to double up on the cookies and ice cream.

If you are not trying to lose weight then you can have a full range of fruits in your arsenal. These can include apples, bananas, grapes, melon, berries, grapefruit, oranges, cantaloupe, strawberries and clementines. Bodybuilders sometimes avoid them in the last final weeks before a competition because excess sugar, even the type contained in fruit (fructose) can be converted to body fat if they are not properly scheduled in your plan.

Most powerlifters are not trying to get their body fat below 5% so this will not be a major problem with strength athletes. So make sure that you keep fruit a staple in your nutrition plan to provide you with a wide range of micronutrients and anti oxidants.

First off I would like to thank you for opening my eyes to what I have been missing out in regards to proper powerlifting nutrition. I have been a reader of Bodybuilding.com over 4 years and I would have to say that your articles have really changed the way that I look at nutrition for strength athletes. Until reading your column, I was pretty ignorant about nutrition in general and even more ignorant on sports nutrition for powerlifters.

My question is about cottage cheese. I know that you recommend it in some of your articles and I was wondering why? Do you recommend it for the protein or for the calcium? Can you eat it only when trying to gain weight or can you always eat it in your nutrition plan? If you can let me know more about your point of view I would greatly appreciate it.

Thank you for the kind words. I am happy that I have opened your eyes to more sound nutritional practices. I have been getting tons of response from readers just like you that have changed their eating habits and are getting much better results in the gym. I recommend cottage cheese for several reasons. First it is an excellent source of calcium. This mineral should not be over looked in the powerlifter's arsenal as it plays a major role in bone strength. That is something that all powerlifters can benefit from.

Cottage Cheese is also high in protein. One cup of cottage cheese contains about 30 grams of high quality protein. It is also a very cost effective protein source when compared to other sources of meat. It is also rich in casein protein and this should spark some interest in all those who read it. Casein is a slow released protein causing it to have an anti-catabolic effect in the body. Whey protein is a fast acting protein and is known for its anabolic properties.

I know you probably have heard many different supplement companies claiming that one is better than the other, but the truth is both should be included in your plan. Cottage cheese is an excellent protein source that can be taken before bed. The reason for this is that it will provide a slow and steady release of amino acids into your bloodstream while you sleep. This will prevent your body going into a catabolic or muscle wasting state. This is something that you want to avoid because this time is crucial for your recovery and growth that will lead to strength increases.

Another benefit to cottage cheese is that it comes in a variety of different fat contents including 4%, 2%, 1% and 0.5% milk fat. This makes it ideal for those trying to go up and down a weight class. So if you can handle dairy products, cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein and should be part of every powerlifter's plan.

I really enjoyed the interview that you had with the Holistic Nutritionist Ian Murray. I really learned a lot from that interview about the different types of ancient grains. I was totally unaware of them and now they are a part of my diet.

I have been using them consistently since that article and I have noticed some good improvements in my workouts. They do provide a nice change, especially since my diet was the typical American diet loaded down with saturated fat and refined carbs. I was wondering if there are any other grains that you didn't mention that may be good for powerlifters.

I really like these grains so I wanted to know if you had a couple more varieties that you could let me try. I was also interested in knowing if you will be doing any more interviews with him in the future as he provided some really good insight. Thanks for all the great info!

I am glad to hear that you liked the interview with Ian on Power House Grains. It is nice to know that it provided some new ideas for your meal plan. For those that missed it we discussed quinoa, millet, amaranth and teff. Today is your lucky day as I do have a few more exotic grains in my bag of tricks.

Maftoul: This is an Arabic grain and it has many other names that it may go by. This includes Toasted Couscous, or Israeli Couscous. This grain is usually made from wheat flour or semolina. It has a pleasant nutty flavor. It's distinctly large and pearl sized and it even has a somewhat slippery texture. There are two ways that you can prepare it. One way is to boil it like you do with regular pasta.

My favorite way to prepare this grain is to slightly toast it with a small amount of olive oil. This can really bring out the texture and flavor. One cooked cup provides about 35 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of protein and 175 calories. If you liked the quinoa, then you will definitely like Maftoul with its rich and distinct taste.

Couscous: This very small sized pasta is popular with many athletes since they use this as an alternative to white rice. It is usually made from semolina. You can find it in a variety of types including whole wheat, white or a multitude of different flavors and styles. Just take a look at your local grocery store, as they should be able to provide you with a nice variety to change things up for your next dinner. Many people prepare couscous with a lot of oil and butter. Avoid this as this will add way to much saturated fat to the dish and will actually bring down the nutritious qualities of this food.

Orzo: If you like pasta salad than this is the grain for you. Orzo is Italian pasta made from durum wheat. This is one grain that I personally have eaten a lot due to my background. It goes really nice with any type of chicken or beef dish especially if it is topped off with some vegetables. One of my favorites is a beef stir-fry put on top of a nice serving of lightly browned orzo.

I am getting hungry just thinking about it. Don't forget to add a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and you will have a nice dish that is high in protein, moderate in carbohydrates, low in saturated fats, with just a nice touch of monounsaturated fats. If you have never tried this before you don't know what you are missing.

So here you have it my friend, three more grains that you will love just as much as the last ones that we gave you. There are many different types of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cookbooks that can provide you with tons of recipes for the above grains. So if you have been tired of the same old rice and potato dinners, now is the time to add a little culture to your meals. In regards to Ian Murray providing more insight, you are in luck. In the near future Ian and myself will be doing a 4 part series on cleansing the body.

Now as you know that with improper eating habits the human body builds up quite a few toxins in response to inhaling your unhealthy diet day after day. This will be a very complex and interesting series that will cover all you need to know on how to cleanse different organs. You will be surprised at what is really happening inside your body when you don't follow a proper meal plan. Stay tuned, as this is one series that will have you on the edge of the seat.

Note: This is part two, click here to view all parts!

If you have any questions or comments feel free to write me at aricciuto@x-tremepower.com.