Posted on 07 Oct 2014
8 min read
The rule that bodybuilding is 80% nutrition and 20% training is 100% crap.
Both are important, but it’s almost impossible to quantify exactly how much of a role each contribute to your body composition and performance goals.
Well, training is fun and relatively simple.
Go the gym, find an empty bench press, and lift until you can lift no more (OK, there’s a little more to it than that!).
Nutrition on the other hand is a complex mixture of macronutrients, micronutrients and fluid balance.
Throw in some other cool-sounding terms like ‘energy balance’, ‘metabolic rate’, ‘hormonal milieu’ and you can see why people would rather pick up a dumbbell than a textbook.
Fear not – we have your back!
Nutritionist Tom Fitzgerald has put together a list eight common nutrition mistakes and how to fix them.
Have a read of these between sets and you might just learn a few strategies to improve your nutrition intake.
Your nutrition plan says consume 2,000 kcals per day but you eat 1,000 kcals one day and 3,000 kcals the next.
Sure, you can argue that you’re averaging 2,000 kcals per day, but I would say you have missed two days by 1,000 kcals each.
The main benefit of consistency is the information and feedback we can attain.
Consistently eating 2,000 kcals per day but find yourself struggling for energy?
Let’s bump it up to 2,250 kcals per day and see what happens.
Consistency is the key to assessing progress and making recommendations for improvement.
I recommend recording intake for the first week of any nutrition plan.
This allows you to develop an idea of nutrient and energy content of foods, and stick to your goal.
You don’t need to weigh out everything to the nearest milligram, but take the time to look at serving sizes and record it.
Recording your intake also keeps you accountable and honest with yourself.
No more “yesterday I ate so well” when in reality you had pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We all know a guy who has a cupboard stacked with every supplement known (or unknown) to mankind.
Yet every single day he skips breakfast, has a protein shake for lunch, and gets takeout for dinner.
To get the most of out nutritional supplementation you need to have a good nutritional base.
Supplements may add the extra 2-5% to improve your performance or physique, but food makes up the 95-97% majority.
Focus on eating to support your goals before adding nutritional supplementation.
Once you have a solid nutritional base, such as eating four meals per day, then consider including some protein and creatine.
Note: many creatine supplements require a loading phase, often involving three servings every day for 10+ days.
Taking creatine only before you workout (say five time a week) will not allow creatine to load, and you will be unlikely to see any benefits.
Coffee is the best.
It wakes you up in the morning and gives you the perfect short-duration date idea (note: if she orders a short black, you may as well go home).
However, caffeine can suppress appetite and excessive intake can also cause digestive discomfort.
If you’re trying to eat four or more healthy meals per day, this might cause you some issues.
Note: personal trainers are often the worst – I know trainers who drink eight or more short blacks every day!
So if you pass this advice on to clients, make sure you practice what you preach.
One in the morning and one in the afternoon (ideally before you train).
Caffeine is a proven ergogenic aid for speed, power and endurance.
Have a long black (or is it skinny latte?) an hour before you head to the Temple of Gains.
If you are struggling to survive the day without caffeine, look at improving your diet or getting more sleep!
The majority of guys who I consult for are worried that their protein intake is too low and want to raise it.
We record their food intake and analyse their diet only to find that they are consuming well and truly more than they need.
When I advise them to slightly reduce protein intake, they look at me like I’ve told them to stop training upper body and train legs everyday.
Everyone has this idea that protein intake is correlated with muscle growth, which is not exactly true.
Protein is important for tissue development – but so is carbohydrates, training stimulus, recovery, and a range of other factors.
The recommended daily intake of protein for a young adult male here in Australia (where I hail from) is 64g per day.
In athletic and physique building populations, there is evidence to suggest up to 2.2g per kilogram of bodyweight is the highest level of protein intake that provides benefits to athletes, although other studies suggest a lower intake has similar benefits.
Between 1.2-2g per kilogram of bodyweight is plenty of protein.
If you reach this daily, and most people do, worry less and focus on getting quality fats and carbs into your diet.
Copying someone else’s diet and expecting the same results is like shaving your head to look like Jason Statham and expecting to pull Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
It just doesn’t work like that.
Nutrition plans need to be personalised to your needs, tastes, lifestyle, and goals.
Kai Greene’s programme might have been stacked with chicken and asparagus (and HGH) but that doesn’t mean this is best for you.
The problem with other people’s plans is that they aren’t tailored to your needs.
You wouldn’t follow your girlfriend’s nutrition plan, so don’t follow your mate’s if you expect to get results!
Spend the time (and money) to see a nutritionist who can tailor a specific plan to meet your needs.
Chances are that you’re spending hundreds on food and supplements every month, so it makes dollars and cence (nice) to make sure you’re on the right track.
Spent all your money on chicken and can’t afford a nutritionist?
Head online to find an energy calculator and get a rough estimate of your needs, then build a nutrition plan around that.
You can even send me a tweet and I can point you in the right direction.
We have all caught on to the idea that fat doesn’t make you fat and that it’s too much energy/not enough exercise that makes your Calvin Kleins a little tight around the waist.
Despite knowing this, the low level of dietary fat in many diets I assess still surprises me.
I think it’s due to the fact that carbs and protein both having clearly defined stereotypical roles.
Carbohydrates are important for energy and performance, while protein is essential for tissue repair (#gainz).
The additional connotation of good fats and bad fats also doesn’t help.
Fat is important for hormone synthesis, including testosterone (the one you make, not buy).
Dietary fat also helps regulate metabolic activity and is an important contributor to energy use.
If you’re fat intake is below 0.5g/kg, step it up today.
Don’t take this as an excuse to eat a bucket of fried chicken everyday.
Aim for fish, nuts, olive oil, avocados, and some animal fats to fill you quota.
What you eat before, during, and after your workout is crucial for both your performance and body composition goals.
The right fuel source before training can ensure energy levels are ideal before you start.
Intra-workout nutrition can enhance output and optimising post-workout intake is vital for optimising protein synthesis and restoring glycogen.
Get these wrong and you’re in trouble too.
High-fat meals can slow the rate of gastric emptying, so avoid eating a whole pizza 30 minutes before a WOD (actually, vomiting is the goal of Crossfit isn’t it?).
Aim for a decent carbohydrate source and not too much fibre, then monitor your response.
If you train well, keep it up.
If you don’t, blame Gymtalk and/or try a new meal.
When cutting, everyone takes a scientific and dedicated approach to losing fat.
Nutrient timing becomes important, energy intake is tracked, and you perform depleted AM and PM cardio sessions.
But when it comes to bulking, that’s simple, just eat more food and lift more weight.
People seem to throw all logic out the window and instead focus on gaining weight, not muscle.
I’ve seen people finish a cut on 1,500 kcal/day and then start eating in excess of 3,000 kcals the next week as they begin their bulk.
They gain 5kg in no time, but it isn’t muscle!
There is no doubt that bulking comes with more nutritional flexibility than cutting, but there still needs to be game plan.
Gradually increase your energy intake and monitor your physique’s response.
The occasional cheat meal is fine and can be beneficial to your progress.
However, don’t use bulking as an excuse to eat everything in sight and gain fat.
Because it will just add more time to your next cut, resulting in longer dieting and potential less muscle retention, which last time I checked, is not what we want!
So, there we have it, eight common nutrition mistakes which may well be blocking your path to Gainsville.
You might be guilty of a couple of these mistakes or maybe all of them.
Just take my solutions on board and get yourself back on that gain train!
If you have any questions or want to hear more from Tom, send a tweet to @integratedFN or leave him a comment below this post.