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One of the great things about spring is that you can once again begin finding great produce at your local farmer’s market and grocery stores.
Whether you’re trying to bulk up or get lean, we’re going to be using that to our advantage in this nutrition guide. There will be plenty of servings of fruits and vegetables on the menu. The other invaluable product you start to find this time of year is fresh spices. I can’t recommend picking up a variety of these (rosemary, basil, dill, thyme, etc.) enough. Even the most avid bodybuilding meathead can get sick of plain grilled chicken breast. Fresh spices can completely change the flavor palate of our favorite muscle foods without adding unwanted macronutrients.
The meal plan is going to be broken up into two days: a “Training Day” menu and an “Off Day” menu. Since the spring cleaning training program calls for you to train 4 days per week, you’ll eat from the “Training Day” menu on those days and the “Off Day” menu on the others. You’ll always be shooting to have five meals per day plus post-workout nutrition on training days.
On both days you’ll plan to get in at least 4-6 servings of non-starchy vegetables per day. These include all green, leafy veggies such as kale, varieties of lettuce, spinach, collard greens, etc. as well as cucumbers, cauliflower, sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, and all the other veggies you hid in your napkin when you were a kid. I realize that it can get pricey, but I urge you to choose organic vegetables when possible. Yes, it does make a difference.
You’ll also be aiming to have protein with each meal on both days in order to insure that you are maximizing muscle protein synthesis. Acceptable sources include beef, skinless poultry, lean cuts of pork, fish, shellfish (great this time of year!), game meats (bison, elk, ostrich, etc.), dairy such as Greek yogurt and cottage cheese (if well tolerated), and eggs. Just as organic veggies are preferred, high quality protein such as grass-fed, free range, and Omega-3 are also recommended. And while macronutrient counting can have it’s practical limitations, you should be shooting for approximately 1 gram of protein per pound of ideal bodyweight (meaning if your goal is to be 225 pounds, you should shoot for 225 grams of protein per day).
Starchy vegetables and other complex carbohydrates will also be part of your plan and be prioritized on training days. Carbs are critical for muscle glycogen replenishment and maximizing training performance, so if you are a carbo-phobe it’s time to start changing your tune. Preferred sources are oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes/yams, barley, millet, farro, quinoa, beets, and summer squash.
What you do want to avoid is processed foods. With so many fresh ingredients available this time of year there’s no excuse to be eating out of bags and boxes that are stamped with barcodes. If you only take one piece of advice from this entire meal plan, this is the one to follow.
I’m also going to recommend that you only drink liquid calories intra-workout. So say goodbye to those lattes, your three-whey-shakes-per-day habit, and the couple of beers after work that have been keeping you from the only six pack that actually matters.
Healthy fats are critical for your hormonal system to function properly as well as delivering a feeling of satiety. Good sources of healthy fats include avocados, raw nuts, seeds, egg yolks, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, olive oil, macadamia nut oil, and walnut oil. Keep in mind that fats have more than twice the caloric density of both carbohydrates and protein per gram so try to be aware of portion size here and think more in terms of teaspoons as opposed to generous pours when it comes to dishing out the oils.
As mentioned, you are shooting for five meals per day on both training and off days. What changes is the macronutrient breakdown per meal on the different days as well as the addition of intra-workout nutrition on training days. Here’s how it looks:
Here’s an example of each day:
Note: None of these are actual menus or diet plans, just examples of how to set up your day. Feel free to mix up your sources of proteins and vegetables as much as possible.
If you are someone who needs to put on a bit more size, add an additional whey protein shake immediately post-workout on training days. On the other hand, if you are looking to lean out, you may want to consider making that second meal on your “Off Day” protein and fats only.
Finally, everyone is an individual, and you certainly know your body better than I do. So if you feel that additional carbs in your diet would be helpful or you just don’t have the schedule available to you to eat that often, make adjustments as necessary. But don’t change things just for the sake of changing them. Having the discipline to follow a set plan and schedule are often the true key to success.