You can't get lean if you don't eat right.

Hippopotamus 2005

 

Saki

Nutrition Page


Last updated January 20, 2019

 

 

 

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Grazing | Protein | Carbohydrates | Fat | Sodium | Water | Consumption | Supplements | Measuring Progress | Miscellaneous | Primary Sources | Links | Recipes



I'm not a nutritionist and I don't play one on television.  I have read a good deal about nutrition from reliable sources, I completed a university course on nutrition (got an 'A'), I've talked with people who are supposedly experts, and I've gotten pretty good results in competition.

I suppose the first question to ask is what are your goals?  If you are interested in dieting solely to lose fat, then some of this will apply to you but much of this page is oriented towards people who also exercise vigorously.  Other parts are of interest primarily for the competitive bodybuilder.  Still, I think most people can get something out of it.  Just keep things in the proper context.  If exercise to you is walking around the block a couple of times, then your nutritional demands (such as your protein intake) will be different than the competitive bodybuilder who is trying to build mass.

Also, keep in mind that the suggestions I mention on this page are simply guidelines.  When I'm training for a serious event, I write down what I eat and plan my meals religiously.  The rest of the time (which is most of the time), I still eat fairly healthy but I'll try to keep my diet in balance with my busy schedule, social life, and cravings.  There is, however, one thing I practice all the time and that is abstaining from alcohol.

I've quoted from several different books and magazines and I urge you to not simply take my word, but read the original source.  As Bill Cosby used to say on the Fat Albert Show, "If you're not careful, you just might learn something."
 

Grazing
 
My company has a reputation for feeding us well.  I've even heard a co-worker once say that our unofficial motto is, "Eat early, eat often, and never on an empty stomach."  I agree with one of those statements...eat often.  Over the last several years, it seems every book, magazine, and expert says it is healthier to eat several small meals spaced throughout the day rather than eat a few large meals.  This applies regardless of whether you sit on your ass all day long in a cubicle or are training for your next Mr. Olympia contest.  "Grazing" is easier on the digestive system, enables better assimilation of nutrients, helps control one's appetite, and provides for more consistent blood sugar levels.

Small, frequent meals should be evenly spaced over the day, allowing for no more than three hours between feedings. -Supercut, 40

It is best to eat 6 times per day, with the largest meal in the morning and the smallest latest in the day.
-Sliced, 145

While the experts pretty much agree on eating several small meals throughout the day, exactly how the nutrients should be distributed in these meals is debatable.

1-2-3 Rule
In each of your meals, one part of the calories should come from fats, two parts from protein, and three parts from carbohydrates.
-Hardcore Bodybuilding, 162

Emerging research on weight loss suggests that a higher protein, moderate carbohydrate diet, such as 40-30-30 (40% of calories from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 30% from dietary fat) compared to a more traditional diet (55% of calories coming from carbohydrates, 15% from protein, and 30% from dietary fat), helped keep people feeling full and satisfied. -40-30-30 Balance Bar advertisement


 
Protein
 
How much protein you need is the subject of nearly every men's magazine, and regardless of how scientific each study claims to be, the conclusions as are often inconsistent.

It is estimated that bodybuilders require anywhere from 0.925 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. -Hardcore Bodybuilding, 206

You also need to maintain adequate levels of protein intake - approximately 1 to 1.25 grams of protein per pound of body weight. -"Physical Magazine," June 2003

The RDA for protein consumption is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.  This recommendation is based on sedentary requirements.  Between 1.3 and 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight seems to be ideal for persons engaging in resistance training, although intake as high as 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight might be required if you're doing high volume resistance training.  Endurance athletes need 1.1 to 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight. -"Fitness Runner," May/June 2001. Understanding Protein, 42-45.

To build muscle, the daily amount of protein usable by the average adult male hovers around 0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight and maxes out at 0.9 grams. -"Exercise for Men Only," January 2004.  Feel Good Facts: Protein Power?

Depending on the size of your stomach and your relative digestive efficiency, your body can digest and make ready for assimilation into muscle tissue 20-30 grams of protein each time you eat. -Supercut, 39

One good way in which you can digest more protein than normal is to take digestive enzymes with each meal. -Supercut, 41


I've read in several sources that the best quality protein comes from eggs.  If you want the egg protein without the fat, eat egg whites.  When it comes to getting good, lean protein on a budget, tuna in spring water is pretty hard to beat.  Non-fat milk powder is also a good source if you can handle the lactose (most non-Caucasians cannot).  Cod and orange roughy are also fairly lean though more recent studies are showing that fat from fish is a good thing.  Chicken breast is a classic favorite.  If you can find it, try ostrich, emu, buffalo, and kangaroo, which are all leaner than your average cuts of beef.

Protein supplements should be used when you can't make time for real food.  Real food is better, period.  I've heard this from more than one professional bodybuilder and trainer.  Don't get me wrong, I'll have a protein bar once in awhile but that is more a matter of convenience.  Eating every few hours makes it hard to ensure every meal is well prepared and thought out, but given a choice, choose the real thing.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends 0.36 grams fo protein per pound of body weight for adults...sedentary adults. -Experience Life Magazine, May 2006, 24, 26

The American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and American College of Sports Medicine recommend that runners and other endurance athletes set their daily protein-per-pound-of-body-weight target at 0.5 to 0.6 grams per pound of body weight. Weightlifters and other strength-training athletes should aim for 0.7 to 0.8 grams. -Experience Life Magazine, May 2006, 24, 26

Eating too much protein could have the following effects: diarrhea, bloating, frequent urination, kidney stones, and gout. -Experience Life Magazine, May 2006, 24, 26

The amount of cholesterol in beef is similar to that in chicken and fish. Cholesterol is part of cell walls; all animal proteins contain a similar amount.  -Clark

Red meats offer two minerals that are important for athletes: iron (prevents anemia, needless fatigue) and zinc (helps heal injuries). While many protein supplements are fortified with iron and zinc, these minerals tend to be better absorbed from animal foods.  -Clark

Can one get enough protein from being vegetarian? If you eat eggs, then undoubtedly yes. Supposedly, the only better quality protein is mother's milk. But what if you are vegan? Obviously, you can get enough protein to survive...folks have been eating vegan diets for over 2000 years, according to some sources. But what if your goal is to build muscle? Can this be done on a vegan diet? In my opinion, the answer is "not nearly as efficiently as if one ate animal products." There are muscular people out there who built their muscle eating animal products and then became vegetarian or vegan. But at that point, they are in maintenance mode which requires much less protein than if they were trying to build muscle. I am sure there are exceptions and maybe one can find success stories along with before/after photos of athletes who built plenty of muscle on a vegan diet but I believe that such cases are few and far between.


 
Carbohydrates
 
In the 1970's, the dominant idea for weight loss was to limit your caloric intake.  In the 1980's, people wanted things to be low fat.  In the 1990's, the big craze was the low carbohydrate Atkins Diet.  There is some truth to many of the claims about carbohydrates but the thing to remember is that not all carbohydrates are equal.  If you want to learn about carbs, talk to a diabetic and read up on the glycemic index. Put simply, foods with a high glycemic index break down fast and quickly elevate blood sugar.

One reason why the Atkins Diet made people lose weight is because they retained less water.

Each gram of carbohydrate in the human body will hold 4 grams of water. -Supercut, 14

There are plenty of examples out there of simple sugars.  These types of carbs won't give you sustained energy, they won't control your appetite, and they won't keep you lean.

Simple sugars...tend to give everyone an energy peak, followed immediately by a low-energy valley, something that is not conducive to successful bodybuilding. -Sliced, 61

No carb gives you sustained energy as well as immediate energy. -Sliced, 114

If you want to get lean, eliminate simple sugars from your diet and focus on fibrous and starchy carbohydrates.  Some good examples of fibrous carbs include string beans and broccoli.  The best starchy carbs are brown rice, oatmeal, and sweet potatoes. Another good starchy carb that is actually also considered a complete protein source (though not exactly high in protein), is quinoa. I often mix quinoa with brown rice and cook them both in a rice cooker. Just make sure you rinse out the quinoa real good before cooking to remove any bitter taste.

Fibrous carbohydrates have the advantage of imparting a full feeling after you ingest them.  This is because of their natural tendency to pool water as they pass through your system. -Sliced, 120

Much less has been written about how much carbs you need as compared to how much protein you need.  This is largely due to the fact that since carbohydrates are a very good energy source, the amount one needs is highly variable with how much energy one expends.  For general weight control and fat reduction, work on eating the right kind of carbs before you start counting them.  That change alone could make all the difference.

Many competitive wrestlers need from 300 to 400 grams of carbs per day to stay strong for competition, but any more than this could lead to body-fat accumulation. -"Physical Magazine," June 2003

Choose complex carbs, such as vegetables, grains, and fruits, and avoid all foods with simple sugars.  Start with 1.5 to 2 grams of carbs per pound of body weight per day. -"Physical Magazine," June 2003


Ingesting fewer than 30 grams of carbohydrates per day is very unhealthy and destructive to your body.  -Supercut, 16

Eating carbohydrates with meat or other protein foods slows the release of glucose and the insulin process.  -Clark

Carbohydrates are not fattening; excess calories are fattening.  -Clark


 
Fat
 
For many years, fat was just something you wanted to avoid.  There were two types of fat: bad and worse.  The idea was that fat made you fat...otherwise it wouldn't be called fat.  Now, studies are showing that some types of fat, such as omega-3 fatty acid, are actually healthy.  Additionally, high fat foods such as nuts can be part of a healthy diet.  Still, if you are concerned with weight control, then you need be concerned about the amount of fat you consume since one gram of fat has 9 calories as compared to carbohydrates and protein which have only 4 calories per gram.

The body needs only 10-20 grams of fat per day for optimum nerve and skin health. -Supercut, 17

3500 calories is equivalent to one pound of body fat.

Vinegar helps to burn body fat. -Supercut, 20


 
Sodium

We all know that sodium intake is a concern for those with or prone to hypertension.  It is also of interest to competitive bodybuilders since water retention affects muscle definition.

Prior to a [bodybuilding] show, drink only distilled water, since it has zero sodium content. -Sliced, 148

Some nutritionists have suggested a potassium-sodium ratio of 2:1. -Sliced, 166

Check the sodium content only if you are five days away from your competition. -Supercut, 11

Sodium will hold approximately 50 times its weight of water within the human body. -Supercut, 53


 
Consumption


People often ask me how much I eat. For a small person, I eat quite a bit but my weight generally remains fairly consistent. When I am very active, I naturally eat more. I decided to record exactly what and how much I ate during one particularly strenuous weekend.

The following table lists 54 hours worth of food consumed on a 29.3 mile Appalachian Trail backpacking weekend on April 19-21, 2008. None of this food requires heating. I make these food selections so I don't need to pack a stove though if I were serious about minimizing weight, it might be to my benefit to bring a stove, pot for heating water, and lots of dehydrated food.

I did not record my sodium consumption but since I was eating pre-packaged food, I expect it was high. For a healthy person, a higher than average sodium level is good if you sweat considerably, as I did that weekend.

I also did not record the types of fat or the types of carbohydrates consumed. I try and mix up my carbs, having both simple sugars and complex carbs.

Food

Package size

Protein

Fat

Carbohydrates

Calories

Comments

Jack Link's Premium Cuts Teriyaki Beef Steak Nuggets

3.65 ounces

35 grams

3.5 grams

17.5 grams

245

Extra tasty and easier to chew than regular jerky.

Jack Link's Teriyaki Beef Jerky

3.65 ounces

49 grams

1.75 grams

17.5 grams

280

Dry and jerkyish.

Organic Almonds, dry roasted and lightly salted

6 ounces

36 grams

84 grams

42 grams

1020

Not as flavorful as smokehouse.

Sunsweet Premium Thailand Pineapple (dried)

Two 6 ounce bags

0 grams

0 grams

272 grams

1040

Tastier than candy.

Bumble Bee Prime Fillet Chicken Breast, skinless and boneless with barbeque sauce

Two 4 ounce bags

58 grams

3 grams

20 grams

340

The barbeque sauce is messy. Drain away from your campsite before eating.

Sargento Reduced Fat 4 Cheese Mexican

8 ounces

72 grams

48 grams

8 grams

640

Not sure about non-refrigerated shelf life but will last for a long weekend.

Hormel Turkey Pepperoni

6 ounces

54 grams

24 grams

0 grams

420

A must have. Small size, lots of protein, convenient, and tasty.

Mission Multi-Grain Flour Tortillas

17.5 ounces

50 grams

40 grams

230 grams

1400

Good source of fiber. Forget the bread, tortillas are more compact. Check to make sure they aren't broken or dried out.

Planters Trail Mix Nuts and Chocolate

6 ounces

20 grams

50 grams

80 grams

800

Convenient trail food.

Quaker Oatmeal to Go, Brown Sugar Cinnamon

Two 2.1 ounce servings

8 grams

8 grams

86 grams

440

Very sweet.

Nature Valley Crunch Granola Bar, Oats 'n Honey

Three 1.5 ounce packages

12 grams

18 grams

87 grams

270

Not as sweet as Oatmeal to Go.

Total

N/A

394 grams

280.25 grams

860 grams

6895

None

Per 24 hours

N/A

175.11 grams

124.55 grams

382.22 grams

3064.44

None


 
Supplements


I've been asked many times about supplements. In the Protein section, I wrote
Protein supplements should be used when you can't make time for real food. Real food is better, period.
Not much more to say about that.

What about vitamins? I take a cheap, chewable multi-vitamin that provides never more (and generally less) than 100% of any particular vitamin or mineral. The Who says
Too much of anything, is too much for me.
I agree with that when it comes to vitamins, especially. These vitamin mega-packs, in my opinion, are doing more bad than good. Some vitamins in excess can be toxic. Making sure you aren't getting too much is just as important as making sure you are getting enough.

As of 2019, in addition to a multi-vitamin, there are three things I take and only because doctors have recommended them.

  • Cosmin DS: My orthopedic doctor says this can help my knees. I've been taking it now for a few years. I can't say it has made anything better but perhaps it has slowed down degeneration due to age and overuse.
  • Calcium and Vitamin D: I take 1200 mg of calcium and 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily after I was told that I have low bone density and low vitamin D. I expect this is due partly to the fact that I cover up quite a bit when exposed to the sun. I wear long sleeves, a hat, and very strong sunscreen. Also, 2018 was the wettest year on record for Baltimore. We didn't have much sun. Hence, less opportunity to get vitamin D, which is essential for strong bones, because it helps the body use calcium from the diet. People of color are at greater risk of not getting enough Vitamin D. For more information, see EurekAlert! - Concern over low vitamin D intakes among UK South Asians.

  • There are a lot of supplements out there that promise to make you healthier, stronger, faster, thinner, more athletic, etc. You'll usually find them in fitness magazines. I am always skeptical about fitness magazines. They seem to promote the latest fad. Most fads will not stand up to the test of time. If something is taught in a university text book, then it is probably true because it has withstood the test of modern scientific studies. If it is the latest trend in a magazine, then maybe not. My wife and I believe in real food. If the Amish are eating it, then it is real. That's not to say I don't eat junk food...I most certainly do, but in moderation. Similarly, you shouldn't need a non-doctor-prescribed supplement to help you lose weight or get stronger. People want shortcuts. If you want long term results, train harder, train smarter, and eat better.


     
    Measuring Progress


    You can't make progress if you don't measure it. Unfortunately, there are many ways to measure your results with most having drawbacks.

    How you feel: Get real! If you think this is a good way to monitor progress, then you might just as well quit going to the gym and go to a hypnotist instead.

    Weight: Someone can be overweight and underfat or overfat and underweight.

    Measurements: We're all limited by our bone structure. Some of us will never have a 28 inch waistline regardless of how much weight we lose. Or, if you are trying to gain muscle, remember that you may lose fat and gain muscle with no change in measurement.

    Body Mass Index (BMI): Again, this says nothing about the quality of your weight; fat or muscle?

    Multiply your height in inches by itself, and multiply your weight in pounds by 703, divide the pounds by the inches. A score of 10-19.9 is considered fit, 20-24.9 is considered an ideal body weight, 25-29.9 is overweight, and 30+ is considered obese.
    -from "Question and Answer" by Steve Jordan, Results Magazine for Men September/October 2005.

    For example, say I weight 155 pounds and stand 65 inches tall. My BMI is (150*703)/(65*65)=24.96.

    BMI is a guideline and that is it. If your BMI reading indicates that you might be overweight, then get a body fat test done. The problem, in my opinion, is that people disregard their BMI score but never get a body fat test done. They simply say that they have big bones or the extra weight is muscle. All too often, they are in denial about really being overweight.

    Body Fat Percentage: This is actually a good measure since it measures the quality of your weight and not the weight. The problem is getting a reliable body fat measurement. Stay away from gyms that offer body fat tests to non-members. They will likely give you a reading that is higher than what your body fat really is in order to get you to join.

    Supposedly the most accurate method is underwater weighing. Unfortunately, the availability of such resources is few, far between, and most likely expensive. Tanita offers scales that have electrodes at the heels and balls of the feet. It measures your body fat percentage by the speed at which electricity passes through your body. My personal experience is that this method is only moderately reliable and such scales are not cheap. A fat fold test can be done using skin calipers. This method can be somewhat reliable if a sufficient number of measurements are made. Most gyms just take 3 or 4 measurements which is far from enough. Different testers will obtain different results so again, this is rather subjective. The military used to do (or maybe they still do) a test that measures your neck circumference and waistline. Don't even waste your time with this one.


     
    Water


    Ever since I can remember, people have stressed the importance of drinking water when exercising. However, too much of a good thing is really a bad thing. The question is, how much is too much? I searched high and low and finally found an answer from a credible source:

    During Warrior Week, every Air Force basic trainee is taught to drink one canteen of water (one quart) per hour when working in the heat. As it turns out, that guideline stacks up with proper hydration recommendations very well, plus or minus a quarter canteen. The rate is slightly less if the work or the heat stress is light (as measured by the wet bulb globe thermometer and reported by flag conditions). The American College of Sports Medicine also recommends drinking about a half a quart two hours prior to exercise. A quart and a half is the absolute highest volume to drink per hour. The maximum amount to drink in a 24-hour period is 12 quarts.
    -from "Hydration Guidelines" by the Air Force ROTC (2009?)

    Keep in mind that excessive water consumption is only one part of the problem. Too much water leads to electrolyte depletion, the real problem.

    The MedTerms.com medical dictionary defines hyponatremia as an abnormally low concentration of sodium in the blood. Hyponatremia is also known as water intoxication. Sodium (salt and chloride) is an electrolyte, which helps the body distribute water. This is essential for water balance and for your muscles and organs to function effectively. Electrolytes are lost through sweat. When exercising, our body temperature rises and we sweat to keep cool. The more we sweat, the more sodium lost. Sweat loss varies from as little as 16 ounces to over three quarts during each hour of exercise (Gatorade Sports and Science Institute). For this reason, it is important to replace lost body fluids during and after exercise. To completely replace these fluids, you must not only replace water, but also sodium and chloride. Those who consume excessive amounts of water after exercise can further deplete sodium and chloride levels, leading to electrolyte depletion and possibly over-hydration.
    -from "Facts on Hyponatremia" (2009?)

    Sweat cools your skin as it evaporates. That's why hot, humid days feel so awful: Sweat can't evaporate into saturated air. After acclimatization, most people sweat about 20 to 30 percent more per hour of exercise, but sweat rate varies greatly from person to person.
    The average person sweats out about a quart per hour of exercise before acclimatization and about a cup more per hour afterward.
    However, some sweat much more. During the 1984 Olympic marathon, U.S. runner Alberto Salazar sweated out 3.7 quarts per hour.

    - from How Bodies Beat the Heat

    The human body is 66% water.


     
    Miscellaneous


    Steam vegetables instead of boiling them since boiling leaches out many vitamins and minerals. -Supercut, 21

    It is virtually impossible to "build up" and "rip up" simultaneously. -Sliced, 45

    Male bodybuilders are happy to gain 3 or 4 pounds of muscle mass per year. -Sliced, 45

    Low potassium can cause the muscles to cramp when they are flexed hard. -Sliced, 164


     
    Primary Sources
     
    Experience Life, May 2006.

    Hardcore Bodybuilding: A Scientific Approach by Frederick C. Hatfield, Ph.D.  Published by Contemporary Books, 1991.

    Sliced by Bill Reynolds and Negrita Jayde.  Published by Contemporary Books, 1991.

    Supercut: Nutrition for the Ultimate Physique by Joyce L. Vedral, Ph.D. and Bill Reynolds.  Published by Contemporary Books, 1985.

    "The Meat and Potatoes of Sports Nutrition" by Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD. This article appeared in the September/October 2007 issue of Metro Run and Walk.

    "How Bodies Beat the Heat" from the "Health and Science" section of the Washington Post, Tuesday, May 29, 2012. By Bonnie Berkowitz and Aberto Cuadra.


     
    Links
     
    All Star Health
    This is where I purchase Promax bars. My favorite flavors are black forest cake, nutty butter crisp, honey peanut, wild berry cheesecake, almond toffee, and chocolate chip cookie dough. The lemon bars are not bad. My least favorite flavors are chocolate peanut crunch, caramel peanut, iced oatmeal raisin, and german chocolate cake. I eat them more for convenience and only about three a week. Real food is always better, though not always convenient.

    Caffeine Chart
    Are you getting too much?

    Center for Science
    Nutrition

    Glycemic Index
    Because not all carbohydrates are the same

    Nutrient Database

    Nutrition Resource

    Protein Bar Comparison

    Recipe for Nuculus Power Bar


     
    Recipes


    Baked Oatmeal

    Ingredients:
         half cup oil (type not specified but I'd use canola)
         one cup sugar
         2 eggs (beaten)
         3 cups oatmeal
         half cup raisins
         one teaspoon baking powder
         one teaspoon salt
         one cup milk (type not specified but I'd use nonfat)
         one teaspoon vanilla
         one teaspoon cinnamon

    Mix the oil, sugar, and eggs.
    Add the oatmeal, baking powder, salt, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and raisins.
    Bake at 350 degrees in a 8x8 or 9x9 pan. Batter should be about an inch thick. Should take about 30 minutes but check with a skinny stick after 25 minutes. Poke the stick into the batter to the bottom of the pan and if it comes out wet, keep baking. Check every 3 minutes or so.
    - provided by Norma's mother