Looking at today's bodybuilders, I notice great efforts being expended to maintain strict intake ratios of carbohydrates to protein to fat. Of course, while the process works for them, I don't feel that such a meticulously scientific approach is the most important aspect of a dietary regimen. I believe that a well-balanced diet and good supplementation can be realized instinctively. For me, it's much more important to feel the dietary balance, rather than recognize numbers and quantities in the calculations of protein, carbohydrate, fat and caloric intake.
So, my basic philosophy is actually rather simple: staying in touch with my body's needs and eating good, wholesome food in a certain order. It's not so much a regimen or menu as it is an approach to feeding myself properly and intelligently, placing considerable value on the purpose of a meal - whether it is to be utilized for energy, muscle building or energy storage.
After arising in the morning, I spend the first hour preparing myself for my workout and the day; then I have breakfast. The biggest mistake a bodybuilder can do is to skip having a good breakfast. It's unwise to start off the day by immediately getting on the road, or getting in gear by gulping down coffee and sugar foods. I'm heavy on breakfast - a simple one - one that would consist of a good quality nonfat yogurt with granola and sliced fruit, which provides some protein, carbohydrates and roughage. On top of this I will take supplements containing a full range of B-complex, minerals, vitamin C, and so forth, as well as amino acids.
Actually, for breakfast I'd love to have an omelet with whole-wheat toast and some nicely prepared potatoes, or perhaps steak and eggs, but such meals aren't always convenient to prepare. Additionally, I found I'm not as active during my early morning workout when I have such a meal. At that time, I perform best on fruit, yogurt and granola. Also, it bears mentioning that protein drinks alone don't last long enough for me - I don't receive enough endurance from them.
Within two hours of breakfast, I'm off to the gym. I'll train for an hour and a half, and shortly afterward I'll take care of my protein and carbohydrate needs with protein drink, a small salad or a few pieces of fruit along with some amino acids.
By the time afternoon comes, heavy foods are okay because my metabolism has been raised, allowing my system to utilize foods more fully. So, I always look toward a hearty lunch, which would be something like turkey, chicken or tuna salad on whole-wheat bread and a small glass of non-fat milk along with supplements, plus a salad.
After this meal, I will wait an hour and a half before heading back to the gym for my afternoon workout. Prior to this training session, however, I make sure I have some carbohydrate in me, perhaps in the form of fruit or a fruit salad, plus amino acids, or a bran muffin and coffee. I want fuel right on the line when I step into the workout.
Throughout the day, I will take in plenty of electrolytes, usually in the form of fruit juices, especially prior to a workout. However, during meals, I drink nonfat milk - I'm particular about how I drink my liquids.
The evening meal that follows my workout would be something light - fish, poultry or red meat with salad, steamed vegetable and supplements. Very rarely do I have desserts. There are so many delicious foods available that there is no need to go for sugar-rich desserts. For me a dessert would be a bran muffin or a healthful yogurt or lots of fruit. Weaknesses? Ice cream is one, but I'll have something like that only once every four weeks, which makes it relatively harmless.
It's a wholesome menu - nothing extravagant, nothing stringent, easy to follow. If I wish to gain weight, I simply increase the volume of food I'm taking rather than alter the balance significantly. While I would increase quantity, I wouldn't have so much at any one sitting, however, that I'd stress my alimentary system by demanding more of it than it could process efficiently. It's counterproductive to have the digestive system work overtime. Therefore, I eat adequate amounts at proper times, making sure that my uptake of protein and carbohydrate is as it should be, which means avoiding fat and salt.
For bulking up, I tend toward upping milk product intake and increasing my quantity of eggs and red meat, plus my portions of vegetables and salads. I encourage all bodybuilders to eat lots of salads.
Usually, I'll eat red meat every day. I get noticeably beefy, bulky and strong, and increase the aggressive quality in my training from red meat. Because of red meat's fat content, I tend to smooth out, but I feel heartier, bigger, better and much stronger in the gym. If I feel I'm getting a little too thick, blocky and sluggish, I'll decrease the amount, or I'll cut meat out completely for two or three days, opting instead for fish and poultry. If I'm getting serious about cutting up, I'll go exclusively to tuna with no mayonnaise.
I don't follow ratios of carbs to protein to fat; and I don't know how many calories I take in during the course of the day. Moreover I can only estimate the protein I take in, which probably runs per day from 150 to 200 grams from all sources: red meat, poultry, fish and at least six eggs.
While I don't eat great quantities of any single food, eggs are at the high end of consumption of foods I consider useful because of their protein content. I'm not concerned about cholesterol - I've had mine checked and it's very low. Low cholesterol levels could be the result of heredity, but I happen to think it's because of the way I train, in the superset fashion with lots of aerobics and plenty of purging. So, in a sense, for myself, it's the more eggs the better. Since I am concerned about the quality of protein, I try to get fertile eggs, and I select chicken that appears to be of a better-fed variety.
I've arrived at this approach primarily through personal experience and considerable study and investigation. When I first moved to California 25 years ago, the diet philosophy called for 400 to 500 grams of protein and nearly zero carbohydrates per day. The protein came from tuna, red meat, eggs and milk products, and basically the approach worked for me when I trained for my victories at the Mr. America, Mr. Universe and Mr. World. The thinking of the time was only in terms of great quantities of food; what wasn't understood then were the theories regarding carbohydrate and protein in relation to training and growth.
Now, with the sport's different aesthetic and for my need to be more practical in my eating, considering my age, I notice I require more carbohydrates to maintain energy levels, not to mention that it's more conducive to a healthy body. If there is a ratio in my eating, it's probably 1:1, carbs to protein.
At the moment, I train twice a day, allocating the morning workout to smaller muscle groups and body parts with exercises that don't require massive strength and intensity; therefore, for this workout, which might be aerobics on the Lifecycle, stretching and ab work, I only need a good full breakfast but not a massive one.
Toward midafternoon, I'll go to larger body parts. That way I can do my lighter training with gusto in the morning and with whatever energy it requires without a large amount of fuel.
Morning workouts, though valuable, are somewhat mundane and repetitious. High reps, in both aerobics and abdominal work, are of that nature. However, I'm still solidly into these workouts.
By afternoon, I'm much more aggressive in my training, much more desirous, my goals are higher and my expectations of myself are greater. My body has, by then, gained momentum from assimilating the foods of the day. Remember, momentum is started my the early morning workout and the small but wholesome breakfast that proceeded it.
When I prepare for an appearance, I deal with it as if it were a contest, beginning the preparations about eight weeks out. I cut down on milk products and go toward lots of tuna fish and water. I also begin juggling my carbohydrate intake prior to workouts. I don't snack; I don't have any food late in the evening. At this time I become quite fastidious and meticulous about my intake of protein and carbohydrates, always asking myself how the food is to be used.
The last two weeks before my appearance the issue become vital in terms of playing the tricks of protein and carb-loading and depletion that are currently popular. But I don't play with them as seriously as if I were on a real precontest diet. However, I will pull back my carb intake and intensify my training. The last week of the phase I'll lighten up on the weight, accepting abbreviated workouts. Then, in the final week, I'll start to hydrate.
The point of this dieting is that I want to be hard and muscular. I want to feel good, and of course, my year-round diet allows me to stay in pretty good shape so the pre-appearance phase isn't taxing.
Under it all, my diet is played very instinctively as my training needs, like intensity, change from day to day. Normally, it's all pretty steady, but if there are any variations required, I'll modify my diet accordingly.
My diet now is not as inordinate as it was 20 years ago, but neither is it as ascetic as that of most of today's bodybuilders. It is consistent with today's popular training philosophy while borrowing from the past the concept of substantial fuel reserve. Most important, my diet is simple, enjoyable, and it conforms to my needs, not vice versa.