Low-fat diets, precise nutrient timing, strict adherence to meal schedules, and vigorous supplementation. These are just a few of the concepts you’ve heard in the physique-building circle over the last decade or more. The old adages about nutrition just don’t hold too much water these days.
This is not only because of research disproving such beliefs, but also the hard and fast trials of practical experience. Before everyone gets their arguments at the ready, ask yourself a quick question.
Did you make your best gains when you nit-picked every last little detail of your eating plan or when you let your instincts take over and just used common sense?
Below are 10 Commandments of Modern Nutrition. Some may be familiar and others are worth trying as new dietary habits. If you want more lean muscle, then follow these rules to pack on the mass.
1. Eat Carbs
Though vilified in the past few years, carbs aren’t all that bad. It’s the overconsumption of highly processed and sugary carbs that should be on your no-no list. If your goal is to build lean muscle, eating carbs is a must. Not only do they provide you with energy for those tough workouts, but they are also protein sparing, letting amino acids do their muscle building job.
Follow this commandment: Eat sufficient amounts of complex carbs throughout your day. How much? Start with 2 grams per pound of bodyweight and give yourself 4 to 6 weeks to see any changes. You may need to increase or decrease slightly, but do so gradually and in small increments such as 25 to 50 grams at a time depending on your goals.
2. Eat Fat
Not too long ago you were taught to eat low fat and scarf down plenty of carbs. Now, with a heavy dose of research, you know a little more about what’s really going on. Fat is essential not only for muscle gain, but also for overall health. Fat aids in cellular processes, satiety, hormone regulation, energy metabolism, and many other vital processes.
Follow this commandment: Of course too much of anything isn’t a good idea. Fat contains around 9 calories per gram so a little goes a long way. Shoot for 0.5 gram per pound of bodyweight to start. Be sure to eat from sources such as avocado, olive oil, nuts, and nut butters.
3. Chill about timing
A lot has been written about nutrient timing lately. Shuttling in specific nutrients at certain times of the day has been meticulously picked apart by those guys in lab coats. But here’s the deal: don’t sweat it too much. You will drive yourself crazy trying to design and follow the perfect eating/recovery plan.
Follow this commandment: Relax. Building muscle doesn’t have to be complicated. You will have good days and bad days when it comes to getting in your required meals and supplements at the perfect times. Be sure to have a pre-workout meal of complex carbs and a fast-digesting protein. Post-workout go with a simple carb source and another fast-digesting protein such as whey. Get it in when you can and move on.
4. Supplement Wisely
Supplements are a great thing. They shore-up deficiencies in your eating plan, make specific nutrient uptake convenient, and can be an effective way to get in more macros when it seems impractical. The flip side is that supplements are just that – they are meant to supplement (add to) your current diet plan, not replace it.
Follow this commandment: Supplementation is a lot like nutrient timing – too much of a good thing… well, you know the rest. A good rule of thumb is to try just one supplement at a time for a period of 4 to 6 weeks. That way you know which one works and which one is just a waste of your hard-earned cash.
5. Variety of Protein
Typical bodybuilding fare can get a bit boring. Traditional, structured muscle-building diets tend to favor the same foods over and over. The idea is to keep things simple and not complicate anything more than it needs to be. But variety may be just what you need to stop the boredom.
Follow this commandment: You know it's important to vary your fruits and vegetables, so vary your protein too! Be sure to expand your palate beyond skinless chicken breast and ground meat. Try some other types of fish instead of tilapia. Salmon, tuna steak, cod, and certain types of shellfish, such as shrimp, can be great additions. Also, try out some lean ham, turkey, and game meat.
6. Have Some Cake
Strict dieting takes discipline and focus. Adhering to a well-designed plan of action is the fastest way to your goals. Structure and consistency bring results and results beget more results. A sloppy, unorganized, and unfocused plan will get you nowhere.
Follow this commandment: You will reach a point to where things aren’t going quite so well. After weeks of dieting, your metabolism gets smart and starts to slow, making fat loss that much more difficult. Eventually, it will be time to flood your system with calories and rev up your metabolic engine once again.
Do this: Cheat. Take one or two meals one day per week and have whatever you want. Don’t turn this into an all-day binge, mind you, just a meal or two of your favorite foods to get things going again.
7. Reduce Sweeteners
Living in a modern world grants us so many technological advantages. We can easily find low-fat and/or low-sugar varieties of our favorite foods. Artificial sweeteners have come a long way in the last couple of decades, but are we getting too many?
Follow this commandment: Your best bet will always be cut out as much artificial stuff as possible. The jury is still out regarding the impact on insulin, cravings, and general health. Try cutting out any sugar substitutes in your eating plan as well as foods high in the fake stuff.
8. Eat Real Food
Nothing beats real food, period. Full of micronutrients, phytochemicals, and other vital compounds, real, whole foods are the most important substance you will ever put into your body. Supplements are great additions, but nothing will have an effect on metabolism, protein synthesis, and fat loss like real food.
Follow this commandment: Take in plenty of whole proteins (fish, chicken, lean ground meats, turkey, Greek yogurt, and eggs) and carbs (potatoes, rice, oats, and plenty of vegetables and fruits). You’ll not only have better results, but you’ll feel fuller longer while on a fat loss diet.
9. When You Fall, Don't Worry
It’s worth another mention that adhering to a structured diet is a tough requirement. There’s preparing meals, bringing those meals to work, and making sure you’re getting enough protein, carbs, and healthy fats. It’s a bit daunting to say the least. But sometimes life gets in the way and you fall off that proverbial horse. You miss a meal, get super busy, or something happens entirely out of your control.
Follow this commandment: Don’t be a Monday dieter. Don’t feel like if something derails your effort that you must just throw it all away and start over. Simply pick up where you left off. If you missed a meal or two for the day, just eat your next scheduled meal and move on. If you feel like you didn’t get enough protein or ate too many carbs or missed your post-workout recovery meal, forget about it and look ahead. Don’t lament the past.
10. Have Patience
I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying patience is a virtue, right? How about all good things come to those who wait? Have you ever sat down and really thought about what quotes like that mean?
Patience is a tough attribute to practice, especially in the instant gratification world we live in. It’s a downright necessity in the game of muscle-building and fat-loss.
Follow this commandment: Building muscle is a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly process. You may be someone who has to fight for every ounce of muscle tissue you add to your frame. The same holds true if your goal is to get shredded. Every single pound lost may turn into a battle. The key with whatever goal you choose is to remain consistent and have a boatload of patience. That is the only way you will get to where you want to be.