Nutrition advice for the get-ripped-quick: including dietary essentials, what not to eat, our favourite eating patterns and the best sports nutrition aids.
Tired of being the scrawny one on the beach? Eating less to lose that puppy fat not leading to the cheese-grater stomach you desire? Here are seven simple steps to apply to your eating regime that, in conjunction with a good exercise programme (click here for a ‘perfect programme’), will have you ripped in no time:
Three main meals a day, three snacks a day
Sounds too good to be true, right? Wrong. The absence of food in the stomach causes the release of our hunger hormone ghrelin. As well as increasing appetite, ghrelin slows down fat utilization (basically our metabolism). Without constant food consumption, this process can take longer. By keeping our eating continuous, blood sugar levels are better regulated, ghrelin is not released (so our metabolism is never slowed, and we never feel the need to binge eat) and our body, under no circumstances, lapses into protein tissue (muscle) breakdown so as to satisfy its energy needs. As the breakdown of protein tissue involves muscle loss, it’s exactly what you are trying to avoid. So eat up!
Avoid bad fats
So, what exactly are the bad fats? Unfortunately, they’re the types rife in all our favourite (unhealthy) foods. They include saturated fats and trans fats.
Saturated fats raise LDL (low density lipo-protein) levels. LDL is responsible for transporting cholesterol and depositing it in our arteries which not only raises overall blood cholesterol, but it hugely increases the risk of coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis. Saturated fats are commonly found in animal goods such as dairy, meat, seafood and eggs. Coconut and palm oil are also extremely high in saturated fat. While saturated fats are bad for you, the products listed above all have redeeming qualities meaning that, in moderation they are completely advisable. It is a good idea to consume low fat animal products such as semi-skimmed or skimmed milk for example.
Trans fats are the ones to avoid at all costs. Trans fatty acids are formed as a by-product of hydrogenation, the process by which humans manipulate food to give it a longer sell-by date. They are, in essence, the result of a preservative. You will therefore not be surprised to know that they are found within packaged food: the ready-meal types; the large hard blocks of margarine; microwave popcorn; and commercially fried foods such as French fries. Hydrogenation makes fat last longer, and this does not stop on the shelf. Any trans fats you consume will prove far harder (and take far longer) to get rid of than any other form of fat, and is therefore detrimental to the beach body you desire.
Remember good fats
Do not be fooled by the term “fat.” Some fats are essential to our bodies, and we will find it had to lose bad fats and gain muscle mass without them.
Mono-saturated fats both lower LDL, and increase HDL. HDL, or high density lipo-protien, is also responsible for the transportation of cholesterol, only this time it picks up deposits left by LDL, freeing the arteries. Mono-saturated fats are found within nuts such as walnuts and almonds, in avocados and in olive oil.
Poly-unsaturated fats are the other form of good fats, which also work to lower LDL and therefore total blood cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids belong in this category, which consequently includes fish oil and goods such as salmon. Sunflower seeds and oils are also high in poly-unsaturated fat.
Protein, protein, protein
Protein is important in the processes of just about every cell in the body. Whether it’s hair and nails, or active muscle, they all require you to stock up on a bit of protein pie. For the gym user, eager to get shredded fast, protein is of the utmost importance. As a builder and repairer of body tissue, (which is ripped in order to strengthen and grow in every gym routine) protein is the essential rehabilitation aid for quick and efficient recovery, allowing you to go all out again the very next day. Unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body has no store for protein, hence the constant need to gulp it down.
Every meal of the day should revolve around a big protein base. Good choices are meats such as chicken or turkey due to their lean, low animal fat content, although all meat provides a source of protein. Other animal related products such as eggs, milk and cheese are also good sources of protein. Here is an extensive list of protein sources.
It is also advisable to include protein in your daily snacks. An easy way to do this is to stock up on protein bars and/or protein shake. Whey protein has made a name for itself as the ‘best’ protein shake on the market for a reason, it’s definitely worth a try.
Carbohydrates are Crucial
Many profess the benefits of a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. For the get-ripped-quick among you, this is unequivocally not the path to take. Low carbohydrate diets are renowned for their ability to cause weight loss. While this may be ideal for those trying desperately to fit into their new swim suit, for those who crave bulk and definition, carbohydrate is crucial.
The best forms of carbohydrate are the low GI ones. For an explanation of the glycemic index, see Glycemic Index: A new tool in sport nutrition by Burke et al. Low GI foods are more complex in their structure meaning they take longer to break down. This provides a slow release of energy over a longer period, keeps our metabolism working and makes us feel full for longer. Brown, Wholegrain and Sourdough Rye bread are good examples, as are wheat pasta, brown rice and (surprisingly) instant noodles.
Drink Lots of Water
Drinking water is vital to our health, keeping they body rehydrated so that it can perform its many processes. Fifty-five to 78% of our body mass is made up of water (depending of course on body and muscle size) which is constantly lost (during processes such as sweating and urination) and must therefore be replaced.
Water helps to flush out the by-products of fat breakdown, it keeps us feeling full, and (obviously) has zero calories, meaning you can drink as much as you like, within reason. Drinking water also helps regulate your body temperature and fuel your muscles making it irreplaceable in the gym. Drinking water will keep you feeling energetic and allow you to get far more out of your workout. Being properly hydrated helps to keep your joints and muscles well lubricated, aiding in cramp prevention.
Schedule a Treat Day
No matter your determination, everyone has their bad days. To stop yourself randomly rebelling, plan yourself one “treat” meal in every ten days. This meal can be absolutely anything you like, and will act as an incentive for the other nine days persistence.
Obviously you will not get your ripped just by eating healthy. The exercise programme is vital too. Even more pressing is the correct post workout nutrition. I have mentioned this briefly in the protein section, but I will reiterate given its significance. When training, we tear the tissue in our muscle fibres. To make it simple, imaging we tear each muscle fibre horizontally in half. We now have two broken muscle fibres. Protein is essential to the recovery process, and allows both fibres to be repaired, causing an increase in strength and size of muscle.
Experts on post workout nutrition advocate the importance of consumption as soon after the workout as possible. They state that, in general, the average trainee should consume 40-50g of carbohydrate and 20-30g of protein immediately after exercise for the best possible results. Consider, again, whey protein shake, or even a protein bar. While I understand it’s not exactly “high cuisine,” you will quite literally (your muscles at least) bulge with benefits.