Nutrition is always a hot topic, especially in America where... i'll try to put this lightly...our humans are quickly approaching being fat as our cows. We’re told all the time eat this, not that, and this food is good, this food is bad. At its definition, nutrition is the process of obtaining or providing food necessary for health and growth. That’s a pretty broad brush to paint with because nutrition/diet can look wildly different depending on who you are and your circumstances. A 55 year-old who just got diagnosed with high cholesterol is going to need a vastly different nutrition plan (talk with your doctor!), than a 17 year old athlete who is trying to make the varsity team. With tons of variables like age, health conditions, levels of activity, sex, ect… I couldn’t possibly address all the nuances that exist in the world of nutrition.
What I do want to do give you is a blueprint for performance nutrition.
Eating for performance can take many forms. Competitive power lifters will eat a whole lot different from Olympic distance runners, who will eat very different from Instagram fitness models whom are getting paid for their aesthetic. So, let’s focus on someone who crushes workouts in the jungle on a regular basis and wants to improve their performance markers like barbell lifts, gymnastics skills, and conditioning to shave down their Jag-Tester time.
Focusing on strength AND conditioning offers you various markers of progress, unlike someone training for aesthetics or weight loss who is laser focused on forearm veins and scale numbers.
The beauty of having multiple markers means learning new skills, getting stronger, and being able to complete workouts that used to make your jaw-drop are all considered BIG WINS. This type of progress is exciting, empowering, and keeps you interested and enthusiastic about showing up week after week while your body changes and adapts.
However, if you try to come in here and accomplish big wins while falling victim to the "keto diet", or aggressively cutting calories, or putting processed garbage in your face throughout the day, then you're going to find yourself feeling like a slug and not progressing nearly as fast as you could.
I'm going to tell you how to tailor your diet to feed your body to perform, recover and perform again, better.
Eat Real Food
Look…. Ya boy loves himself some beer, a Homerun Inn pizza, and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, but I am also very aware that I will feel like a shit sandwich afterwards. If anyone tried to consistently smash workouts while eating that stuff, they would be the human version of a sloth. So, if you’re going to start making waves in your fitness game stop with the everyday Door Dash lunches, frozen microwaveable chimichangas, and "snacking" on a sleeve of Oreos.
YOU. NEED. REAL. FOOD.
I know this might not be as quick and convenient, but cut the processed, pre-made food out of your diet. Instead, stick to animal proteins, fruits, veggies, whole grains, seeds, nuts and moderate amounts of dairy (if your body handles it well). For many of us, the biggest hurdle to smarter food decisions is the aversion our country has to cooking.
I. CANNOT. FUCKING. STAND. IT. when someone says...
“I don’t cook”
“I’ve tried and I’m just awful in the kitchen”
“I hate cooking”
...here's the deal, you’ve never actually tried OR you've tried a couple of times, burnt one thing, decided to quit trying, and now you don’t like it? Tough shit. I don’t like doing laundry nor do I like cleaning, but I do it because I am a healthy adult and it enhances my life. Accept that you’re going to have to cook and you might not be great at it when you first start, just like you weren’t great at deadlifts when you first held a barbell, but you’ll get better. I promise. You don’t have to become Gordon Ramsey, but your cooking arsenal MUST expand beyond cereal and scrambled eggs. Recipes are google-able and almost always have videos.
Eat More Carbs
Carbs are crazy important, especially for anyone participating in athletic activity like JagFit. I know many of the popular diets now-a-days [ like keto ] would say avoid these like the plague, but hear me now carbs are your body’s preferred energy source and THE immediate source of energy for activity.
Yes, fat can be converted into glycogen, like carbs, through gluconeogenesis, but for JagFit's explosive, high intensity training it is incredibly sub-optimal. Don't be afraid of carbs. Did I say to buy a loaf of Wonder Bread and gorge on a bag of chips? No. But, you're an adult and carbs should be a part of every meal, so bake that damn potato.
Men need at least 2 servings (40-60 grams) and women need a least 1 serving ( 20-30 grams) of a carb dense food at each meal. Use a cupped handful as an easy way to gage one serving.
Pro Tip: I recommend working in carbs 1-2 hours before and after your workout (maybe 2 servings post workout) to make sure you are fueled to move, replenish glycogen stores, recover and perform again.
Anyone who touched a weight in High School probably knows that protein is king, but dialing in how much, what kinds, and how often can return huge dividends in lean muscle building and recovery.
If you started going to the gym with a body building split (like I believe most people did), then you’ve likely heard that you need 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight to maximize hypertrophy. This is a bit excessive and would probably require you to waste time and money supplementing with tons of shakes throughout the day. If you’re a competitive bodybuilder taking steroids, then yeah, you could probably benefit from that level of protein. For us Jaguars looking to up our game in the gym, that excess protein just becomes empty calories. You realistically should shoot for 1.2-1.7 g of protein per kg of body mass. For example, a 150 lb person should take in 82-116 g of protein per day for optimal results, so chill on the shakes. save some bills and put the carton of egg whites down.
When it comes to sources, sorry vegans, animal proteins are far superior for athletic application. Eggs and meat are optimal because they are extremely dense in complete proteins (a protein that contains all essential amino acids not produced by our body). I understand that you may be eating plant based for a variety of reasons, but just understand that it will take extra work to take in adequate protein. Prioritize whole proteins like quinoa or buckwheat and be conscious of amino acid pairings. For instance, pairing rice and beans makes their amino acid profiles whole. Unfortunately, none of those are as dense as animal proteins so you’ll have to account for the extra calorie intake through other macronutrients that come with those choices.
How often ? All. day long. Protein is the hardest macro for your body to digest. It can only store so much in the amino acid pool in your liver and rebuilding muscles takes time. That pool needs to be full to repair your muscles over time but if it “overflows” it will be discarded through urine. Not eating all day then slamming 5 whey protein shakes a couple hours before bed will leave you depleted of aminos for recovery and you’ll most likely wake up to cause a natural disaster in your toilet.
Prioritize protein at every meal and (sorry intermittent fasting peeps….) to be optimal you’ll need to eat some breakfast, especially if you workout in the mornings.
Fats are also incredibly important. Do not fear fat, just be conscious and smart. Fat helps balance important steroid hormones like our sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) and corticosteroid hormones responsible for keeping our inflammation in check. It also aids with vitamin transport and forms a healthy brain and nervous system.
Ideally, we want to achieve a balanced mix of fats (saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated) that are minimally processed. No need to start tracking kinds of fats (that sounds like a fucking nightmare), stick to a wide selection of whole and minimally processed sources like nuts, seeds, avocados, dairy, eggs (eat the whole damn yolks), fish, beef, pork, lamb, poultry (don’t sleep on chicken thighs), olive and coconut oil. The big thing to remember here is that MODERATION IS KEY with fats. Fat is the most calorically dense macronutrient with 9 calories per gram (as compared to 4 calories per gram of protein or carbohydrate). This makes it realllly easy to over consume calories when diving into some nut butter or always trying to hit your protein goal by eating a ribeye.
Pro Tip: The size of your thumb is one serving of fat (7-12 grams) and can be used when portioning out cheese, nuts, seeds, oils, ect.
Pro Tip 2: When making your protein selection, take a gander at the nutrition label. Steak has tons of benefits, helps hit your protein goals, and should absolutely be a part of your diet. BUT, if you're having it for every meal to get your 30 grams of protein in, just know that you’ll also be sneaking in 35-40 grams of fat. Those calories will add up.
More Carbs? Eat Fat?
Sounds like I’m Going to Put on Weight!
Carbs don’t make you fat.
Fat doesn’t make you fat.
Protein doesn’t make you fat.
“Bad foods” don’t make you fat.
Surplus calories makes you fat, and that’s final!
Over a day, a week, and a year you either ate more calories than you expended (calorie surplus), or you burned more calories than you ate (calorie deficit) and that will either make you weigh more or less than you did previously.
Removing a complete group of macro nutrients is almost never a good idea when it comes to health or strength and conditioning performance.
“But I did keto and I lost a bunch of weight!”
I hate to burst your bubble, but the reality is that you more than likely went from eating poorly and way too much to paying attention to what you ate (causing you to eat less), consuming more veggies, and prioritizing protein... putting you in a calorie deficit. Deciding whether you want to be in a surplus or a deficit will totally depend on your goals and that's for another article.
Bottom line - you need all of your macros,
just don't eat like an asshole.
My final piece to you: Google some recipes, get to the grocery store, dust off those pots and pans that you never use and start feeding your body the right way. Stay consistent and you’ll be shocked at how good you feel in the gym. Remember, this is a process and no change in performance, or your body, is linear. You'll fall off the wagon from time to time, cheat days may turn into cheat weeks, this happens to everyone, but that doesn't mean you give up. Get back on track, keep your eye on the prize, and get your rep in my friends, good luck.