I Feel Your Pain!
This time I am focusing specifically on people who, like me, are office workers. (Don't worry business travelers, your article is next month.)
Business people who work in an office face numerous challenges with regards to eating right: the lure of the donut box, the 'machine O' cr@p' that lurks in the break room, and problems with accessibility to appliances or lack thereof, make this a frustrating position at best.
Since there are so many variables, I plan to break the article down like this:
- Full access to refrigerator, ice and water, and a microwave
- No refrigerator, but still a microwave and ice machine
- Ice machine or cold water fountain, but no fridge or microwave
- SOL on all of the above
- Situational adjustments
I will be basing my recommendations on the following assumptions:
- You have enough space, somewhere in your office area, to stock bars, protein packs, or even a tub or two of protein. If not, you have the ability to bring these items from home every day.
- You have access to water.
- You won't get fired by some ill informed boss who thinks protein powder is a steroid (don't laugh, some people are morons).
- And last but not least, you just don't care about Mr. Nosey McBigbelly's snide remarks about your healthy eating habits as he stuffs the last 6 donuts past his double chin, mumbling, "You know, all that protein stuff is bad for your kidneys."
We are not eating for pre-contest here, just trying to keep good nutrition and feed the muscles to help recover from workouts. Maybe we want to add some lean mass or just lose a little body fat, but nothing radical here. I am also guessing that most people are not lucky enough to be able to run home for lunch, especially with $4/gallon gas prices.
You will need to eat multiple meals. This helps to keep the metabolism ramped-up, as well as deliver the proper nutrients to the body to help it repair itself from the hard work you do in the gym. Most people will be eating about 5-6 meals. This would generally be:
- Mid-Morning Snack
- Mid-Afternoon Snack
- Pre-bedtime protein
I am assuming you are serious enough that you are already eating breakfast at home before you leave for work; therefore, we will focus on the mid-morning snack, lunch, and mid-afternoon snack. I am also assuming you will be stocking any pre-workout supplements or vitamins in the drawer or will be bringing them daily.
You have it pretty easy compared to most people, but it still takes planning so you don't get hungry and wind up with the 'honey bun from h*ll' sitting on your desk at 9AM, begging you to eat it.
The elusive mid-morning snack, what should it be? Well depends on your goals and your size.
Big guys can have a smaller version of a meal, ideally some brown rice, chicken or beef and some green veggies. Lunch can be some potatoes, mixed veggies, and lean meat. Late afternoon snack is dependent on when you lift. A morning lifter should drop the starches and go with lean meat and veggies. An evening lifter will want some complex carbs and lean meat at least 1.5-2 hours before lifting.
Smaller guys and ladies, you may have a problem with portion size on snacks here, so some yogurt with whey, a smaller version of the big guys' snack, or a bar or shake will work. Lunch should be a solid food meal with a small amount of starches, lean meat, and green veggies.
The afternoon snack is also dependent on lifting time. So a morning lifter should avoid the starches, but an evening lifter could use some yogurt and whey with some granola mixed in for fuel.
Everyone who transports their meals should buy some plastic containers with separate compartments and cook up these snacks and lunches 2 days at a time (or use the leftovers from last night's healthy dinner); stack them in the fridge at home, and grab them in the morning. It is really easy; it just takes some time to plan and cook ahead of time.
Remember the adage, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." It is easy to slack on preparation at night, only to fall victim to 'the machine O' cr@p.'
You can also bring you pre-workout drink powder and keep it in the drawer; spend $1.29 on a funnel, and pour it into a water bottle or< shaker cup before heading to the gym.
You don't have as many choices here, but clean eating is still doable if the upfront prep is done properly.
You can really use the same choices as above, but you need to spend a little money on a good cooler and cold packs. It is preferable to buy a cooler large enough to fit 3 meals in, but if you only have enough room to pack the lunch meal with the cold packs, here are some good options for protein shakes for snacks.
These are good options because they all shake up well with no clumping and are rich enough to mix with just ice water. (A shaker cup is needed—hey they are free with a decent sized order here so no whining):
- Optimum Pro-Complex
- Muscle Asylum Project Freak Fix Protein
- Syntrax Nectar
A scoop or two of these with some low fat pretzels or raw veggies can definitely fill you up and provide you with a consistent flow of nutrients throughout the day.
This is a more challenging situation, there are no hot foods for you unless you go out, which can be the diet killing stamp of death.
Sandwiches may be the best alternative for lunch, but beware of the meats you choose, some prepackaged lunch meats are so processed that there is no resemblance to the original profile of the meat's nutritional values, deli meats can do, or better yet, leftover meat from your meals at home.
Try to use breads, low fat, lower carb, and made from UNBLEACHED wheat, and preferably whole grain. Also use low fat, low sugar condiments and a healthy portion of crispy greens.
At my size (220 lbs) I am looking for 40-50 grams of protein from each meal, so I need two sandwiches with 2-3 oz of turkey breast or other lean meat on each. This meal will usually have the largest carb content of any meal of the day for me, due to the bread. But it is still early in the day.
Good snacks are still usually shakes or bars. A few more good water soluble proteins are:
- Muscletech Nitrotech Hardcore
- Optimum 100% Whey Protein
- Champion Pure Whey Protein Stack
- Next Designer Whey Protein
Your boss hates you, find a new job, your life sucks. OK maybe not, but this is a difficult position to be in if you want to eat healthy. But it can still be done.
Lunches are still sandwiches. Snacks can still be shakes, but here's the trick. You need to take a shaker cup and fill it 1/6-1/4 of the way with water and put it in the freezer the night before. This should melt a bit throughout the first couple of hours at work, but will still be a nice chunk of ice for that first morning shake. Fill with water and protein and shake until mixed; the chunk will mostly dissolve. You can also fill it with ice cubes before you leave for work in the morning.
This leaves us with the late afternoon snack of a bar. Now there are all kinds, and I have been fortunate enough to try MANY of them. Since they have vastly different profiles, here is my profile breakdown and favorites with comments.
Higher protein, 20g or better, these usually have 250-400 calories, some sugars, and are very tasty:
- Labrada Lean Body Gold Bar
- Optimum Nutrition Lift Bar
- Met-RX Protein Plus Bar
- Chef Jay Protein Cookies
- Labrada Rockin' Roll Bar
Lower protein, 10-20g, less sugar, but still good energy, these are usually under 200 calories:
- Apex Nutrition Fit Quick Energy Bar
- Apex Fruit Fuel Bar
- Optimum Protein Diet Bar
I know there are a lot of APEX Bars, but I found this company while searching for a bar my daughter would eat, with a profile that made my wife happy. I tried one of their bars, and then tried more. I have not found one of theirs that I did NOT like. My wife and I keep an assortment of these in the cupboard.
Bars to avoid if dropping BF is your goal now, try to avoid bars with high levels of simple sugars. I try to choose bars with less than 1/2 of the carbs as sugar if I am trying to drop fat.
There are many other good ones, but since they may be especially suited to travel, I am saving them for the next article.
What do I mean by this? I mean "What do you do if... ?":
- You show up at a meeting and there are boxes of donuts and trays of pastries, all looking just too tasty. If you are eating right most of the times, a donut or two should not kill you. But if you are dropping BF, one donut sometimes leads to two or three. Someone my size might be able to get away with a couple, but a smaller person might just have to smell 2 donuts and they start to gain the fat back. In this case, show up with a bar and a bottle of water and just deal with it.
- You have a "lunch meeting" and the "lunch" is the giant grease dripping pizzas from the greasiest pizza place in town. Hmmm... Is it your cheat day? Then have one or two slices. If not, be prepared with a healthy sandwich. How do you know what it will be? Ask your administrative assistant who is setting it up, she will tell you. Again, finally the healthy delis sandwiches have replaced the pizzas here.
- Snack days? OMG what damage can this do to my waistline? Again, the boxes of donuts, trays of pastries, bags of cookies, and the odd assortment of unhealthy, but tempting, snacks permeate these days. Having a healthy and tasty snack in the fridge or at your desk can help you walk past these. I have to walk by them or I will get on the "sugar roller coaster" and feel crappy all day. So what do you do when it's YOUR TURN? Fruit baby, fresh fruit works great. People love strawberries and grapes and orange slices, etc... People who bring this stuff to the office ALWAYS get a big 'thank you' for it.
- Birthday celebration cakes. It took several years of requests to get the giant birthday cakes replaced with bagels and cream cheese. While this is still not great, it is better than a sugar coma. I don't know about you, but that first donut for me gives me a sugar crash in 30 minutes, so I must keep eating them. I avoid them for this reason alone.
- What about the holiday plethora of junk food? Again, self restraint is the key. You must take some personal responsibility here. If you want it, have some, but not all of it. But be prepared to avoid it, because there are no "I just had no other choice" comments allowed after reading this. No cookie for you, go sit down now.
I am adding these as many people workout after they spend the day at the office, and need their pre-workout boost "30 minutes before hitting the gym". I will list the ones I have tried recently that mix quickly in cold water. Using a small funnel opens this up to the full spectrum of 'tubs.'
Here's what I like to use, they all mix quickly with little to no clumping, and taste good too:
- Muscletech NaNO Vapor
- Black China Labs Straight Jacked
- SAN Fierce
- IDS Muscle Volumizer
For those who prefer the tablets:
- Muscle Asylum Project Altered State
- Axis Labs NE2
- German American Technologies Nitric Suspension
- CEL nCREAse
- Axis Labs Creatine Ethyl Ester
- CEL Edge NO
- Goliath Labs Groloid
Morning thermogenics serve a few purposes: Increasing the metabolic rate with some form of stimulant; curbing the appetite; adding some form of fat metabolizing agent, and keeping you from doing a mid-morning face-plant into the keyboard.
Thermogenics might make a 10-15% difference if you are doing the other things right. They WILL NOT make up for lack of consistency with the diet and exercise. But when looking in the mirror, before heading to the pool, 10-15% can seem like a huge difference in your eyes.
Which ones? There are soooo many. Here are the ones I can personally recommend:
- CEL N-Cinerate
- Muscletech Hydroxycut Hardcore
- PharmaGenX Ventilean LipoGels
For those of you who workout after work and don't use a pre-workout powder with caffeine, here are a few choices for good non-jittery energy:
- Fusion Nutrition Fubar
- Athletic Edge Nutrition Steel Edge
I really think this is one of the most overlooked pieces of the bodybuilding puzzle. You will not maximize growth without getting the proper amount of rest. Many of us in office jobs are not able to "leave work AT work" and we may have some troubles drifting off at night.
I recently tried a new supplement for this. This definitely helped me drift off quicker, with no morning "hangover effect." Better sleep = better recovery. Without this necessary rest, you may be spinning your wheels in the gym.
- Fusion Nutrition Shut Eye
I hope this has been helpful and informative. As many of you already have, don't hesitate to contact me with questions or suggestions for future articles. This one is a direct result of numerous requests.
As always, supplements do not TAKE THE PLACE of proper nutrition and getting enough rest. Just because you are trapped in an office does not mean you still cannot make good nutrition a priority. By taking some time to plan your eating schedule and doing some upfront work, the office can be almost as good as home, less the TV and recliner chair of course.
Until next time, Lift Big 2 Get Big.