Food is the most anabolic thing you can put in your body. There is no questioning this.
The goal of weight training, taking supplements, and performance enhancing drugs is to create an anabolic environment.
I’m going to use the analogy of a construction site. Creating the anabolic environment would be the process of hiring an engineering team to draft blue prints, renting all the needed equipment and hiring a construction crew.
Having the entire crew and blue prints ready is great, but nothing can be built until the raw materials are present. You can have the best construction team on the planet, the best blue prints money can buy, but if you don’t have the concrete, base boards, and materials needed to build the project, it will all go to waste.
The same is true with your body. You can train like an animal in the gym and take every supplement known to mankind, but if the raw materials for building the muscle aren’t present (food), you will never accomplish your goals. What you eat will make or break your progress.
Similarly, what you eat affects your metabolism and how efficiently your body metabolizes fatty acids. Everyone has heard the statement: Weight gain/loss = calories in – calories out. That is completely correct, you cannot argue with the laws of thermodynamics.
But what that statement fails to take into account is what you eat (calories in), affects your metabolism (calories out) and how optimal it is for your body to metabolize fatty acids as fuel. I created this grocery list to turn you into a muscle building, fat burning machine.
Protein will be the basis of your diet. Protein is what our bodies are made of. Muscle tissue, skin, hair, bones, hormones and enzymes are all made of protein. Protein is the single most important nutrient for the bodybuilder. As an added bonus, protein is the hardest macronutrient for your body to turn into adipose tissue (fat).
Red meat, poultry and fish are rich in protein and cholesterol. Red meat is also naturally high in creatine and L-carnitine, and the essential fatty acids in fish promote fat breakdown and increase testosterone levels.
Best Animal Protein Options:
- Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast (ideally organic) – Breasts or Ground
- Boneless, Skinless Turkey Breast (ideally organic) – Breasts or Ground
- Beef Top Round Steaks or Roast, Top Sirloin, Tenderloin, Flank or Eye of Round (ideally from grass fed beef)
- Egg Whites and Eggs (ideally organic and free range)
- Wild Game Meat (Bison, Elk, Deer)
- Tuna (water packed)
- Wild Caught Fatty Fish (salmon, trout, sardines)
- Wild Caught Lean Fish (cod, sole, halibut, snapper)
Moderate Animal Protein Options:
- Extra Lean Ground Beef or Ground Round (92-96%) (ideally from grass fed beef)
- Pork Tenderloin (ideally organic)
Carbohydrates are your bodies preferred energy source, fueling muscle contraction and brain function. Complex carbohydrates are long chains of glucose linked together called polysaccharides. Their long chains cause them to be digested slowly and provide sustained energy levels.
Carbohydrates also cause the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is the most anabolic hormone in your body. Carbohydrates are essential to fuel your workouts and provide the energy your body needs to repair and build muscle tissue.
Best Complex Carbohydrate Options:
- Sweet Potatoes (yams)
- Oatmeal (old fashioned, steel cut or quick oats)
- Brown Rice
Moderate Complex Carbohydrate Options:
- Potatoes (red, baking, new)
- Oat Bran Cereal
- Cream of Rice Cereal
- Rice Krispies Cereal
- Brown Rice Pasta
- Rice (white, jasmine, basmati, Arborio, wild)
- Canned Pumpkin
Unlike complex carbohydrate, fibrous carbohydrates are mainly cellulose. Your body cannot digest cellulose, causing these carbohydrates to be very minimal in calories.
Fibrous carbohydrates are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Consider these carbohydrates as your ‘filler’ foods. These carbohydrates should be eaten at times when you do not need an energy source.
Best Fibrous Carbohydrate Options:
- Green Leafy Lettuce (Green Leaf, Red, Leaf, Romaine)
Moderate Fibrous Carbohydrate Options:
- String Beans
- Bell Peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
Other Produce & Fruits
These carbohydrates have high sugar content, making them rapidly digested and assimilated.
These carbohydrates are optimal for times when you want an immediate energy source, like right before your workout or immediately after to replace depleted glycogen levels. Eat these carbohydrates sparingly when not around your workout time.
Best Produce & Fruit Options:
- Lemons or Limes
Moderate Produce & Fruit Options:
- Green or Red Pepper
- Fruit: bananas, apples, grapefruit, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, black berries, cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple
Fats are essential for hormone production, particularly testosterone levels. Protein and carbohydrates should make the premise of your diet, but healthy fats still have their place and should still be included in your diet.
As a general rule, if a meal is higher in fat, you will want to reduce the carbohydrates in that meal. Fats have 9 calories per gram, where as protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram. Healthy fats should compromise about 20% of the calories in your diet.
Best Fat Options:
- Coconut Oil
- Macadamia Nut Oil
- Flaxseed Oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts)
- Natural Style Peanut Butter or Almond Butter
- Seeds (flaxseed, chia seed, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed)
Dairy & Eggs
Similar to animal protein, dairy and eggs are great sources of protein. Eggs have the highest biological value of any protein source available.
The casein protein found in dairy coagulates in your stomach and can take up to 8 hours to fully digest, making it a great choice to eat around bedtime.
Best Dairy & Egg Options:
- Low-fat Cottage Cheese (Wet or Dry)
- Egg Whites
Moderate Dairy & Egg Options:
- Low-fat Greek Yogurt (plain)
- Low or Non-Fat Milk
The human body is roughly 70% water. Every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to function correctly.
Your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste and lubricate joints. Water helps improve the digestive process and is imperative in maintaining a healthy digestive system. To move and flex your muscles, you need water. Water is essential for good health.
Best Beverage Options:
- Bottled Water
- Sparkling Water
- Green Tea
- Peppermint Tea
Moderate Beverage Options:
- Mineral Water
- Powerade Zero
Condiments & Misc.
Most condiments are high in calories and should be avoided. The condiments I have listed have minimal calories and most have health benefits associated with them.
Apple cider vinegar, for example, is antimicrobial, lowers blood sugar, protects against cancer and is full of natural enzymes to help with digestion. Cinnamon has been shown to lower the insulin response of a meal and increase insulin sensitivity in muscles. Sea salt is rich in trace minerals and essential for muscle contraction and keeping hydrated.
Best Condiment Options:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Hot Sauce
- Sea Salt
- Cocoa Powder (not hot chocolate mix)
Moderate Condiment Options:
- Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Sugar Free Ketchup
- Chili Paste
- Extracts (vanilla, almond, etc.)
- Low Sodium beef or chicken broth
- Chili powder
- Mrs. Dash
- Pasta Sauce
Supplements & Misc.
A good diet can be turned great through the use of supplements. Whey protein isolate and casein protein provide the high quality dairy proteins, but without the sugar or fat associated with dairy.
Carbohydrate powders are a great asset to use around workouts when you want a carbohydrate source that doesn’t need to be digested and won’t cause stomach distress. A greens powder and psyllium husk fiber will help your body remove wastes and maintain an alkaline PH.