I caught up with Samuel Higgins from Diamond Cut Personal Training in Melbourne to ask some of the food and diet questions that have been on my mind.
If I want to get lean and strong or just feel a bit more confident when I’m at the beach or naked, what role does nutrition play in my fitness journey?
We’ve all heard the fitness pros say abs are made in the kitchen, or fitness is 80 percent nutrition and 20 percent exercise — this is very true.
Our Basal Metabolic Rate — BMR — is the amount of energy a person needs to keep the body functioning at rest. If we consume less then this, we burn fat. If we consume more then this we put on fat or muscle, if you’re working out regularly.
A quick google search of a BMR calculator will give you a rough number that’s your base line.
If you’re wanting to feel more confident, lose a bit of fat, show off some abs, or be confident in front of a sexual partner, then you’ll want to consume less then your BMR plus your calories burned from exercise.
The trick to achieving a gorgeous toned and lean body is to then look at what nutrients are entering your body. To keep your body strong and maintaining your muscle mass while leaning down, you have to be very conscious of the macro nutrients that you’re consuming. Protein is the biggest macro you have to be aware of.
Protein is one of the building blocks of the body, and is what your muscles feed off when trying to grow. Foods such as lean chicken, turkey, eggs, and kangaroo are high in protein and low in fat — if you throw them in with a large array of colourful vegetables then you’re feeding your muscles the protein needed to grow and keeping your calorie intake low. Good carbs such as brown rice or quinoa will boost your energy levels to perform the exercises required to feel stronger and stay defined.
When working out, your body taps into your carb storage first and foremost to produce the energy required. So, good carbs are also extremely important.
Is keeping a food diary about what I’m eating a good idea? Or is that a bit obsessive?
A food diary is a great idea if you want to become serious about your nutrition. At the end of the day, everything adds up — literally.
A lot of the time, we can forget exactly how many calories we’ve consumed through the day, and we all manage to sneak treats in and say it’s fine.
The idea of a food diary is that you can look back and go — Oh, I have had a bad treat three times in the last week and also had a cheat meal, on top of what I’m already consuming, I can now see how all the calories have added up.
A lot of people are using calorie tracking apps such as MyFitnessPal, these are great if you have the time and are very serious about tracking calories, but for most people the tedious and time consuming process of these apps are setting you up to fail. If it’s too hard to keep up the tracking, stick to a simple 7-day rotating food diary and you’ll be able to track your progress easier.
Should I go gluten-free?
For the vast majority of people, avoiding gluten is unnecessary. Going gluten-free gives you no health benefits if you don’t have a gluten intolerance.
A gluten-free diet is usually harmless to try, as there are no nutrients in gluten grains that you can’t get from other foods. But unless your doctor diagnoses you with a health condition preventing you from consuming gluten, it really isn’t necessary.
For people with certain health conditions such as coeliac disease or IBS, removing gluten from the diet can make a huge difference for them.
At the end of the debate, the bottom line is to just make sure to choose healthy foods. A gluten-free label doesn’t automatically mean that food is healthy. Gluten-free junk food is still junk food.
Should I cut out carbohydrates altogether and just eat meat?
Carbs are one of three macro nutrients required by the body. They are extremely important and should be regularly consumed.
There a two different types of Carbs, and this is where people get confused the most. Whole ‘Complex’ Carbs — vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains — are unprocessed and contain the fibre found naturally in the food, while refined ‘Simple’ Carbs — soft drinks, white bread, white rice, fruit juices, sweets — have been processed and had the natural fibre stripped out.
Complex Carbs take longer for the body to break down, so they’re a continual energy source over a longer period of time. Simple Carbs are broken down quickly by the body — if the energy from these carbs is not needed straight away, they are then stored as fat. So definitely keep Carbs in your diet, just not the refined ‘Simple’ Carbs.
Should I eat small meals throughout the day?
Body builders and those looking at creating muscle mass eat smaller meals through the day to keep their protein levels up, so the body continually has protein it can use to repair, strengthen and grow the muscle. If you’re not looking to gain muscle size, it doesn’t matter if you have three large meals or six smaller meals each day.
More importantly for everyone is to eat a nutritious breakfast. The time between dinner and breakfast is usually the longest time we ‘fast’ for in a day, so our body is hungry for more nutrients.
Do I need to also be taking supplements?
Achieving muscle mass and improved fitness can be quite taxing on the body. I’d recommend consuming some vitamins. A multi-vitamin or executive B for stress tablet is a great place to start in making sure you’re getting enough vitamins for optimum performance. Then, if you’re having joint problems try some krill oil, or if you’re struggling to concentrate at work try some fish oil. It’s a good idea to research and try different supplements and see what works for you.
Generally most people will have a protein powder they use to keep their protein amounts up and help muscle recovery.
A pre-workout is used to boost your energy levels to smash through a workout and will also aid weight loss.
Creatine and BCAAs are additions that you could also try to help muscle recovery and growth even further.
Ask your local supplement store about what you’re trying to achieve and they will be able to immediately point you in the right direction. Once you know what direction you want to head in, half the store becomes irrelevant to you and isn’t as scary as you might first think.
Are protein shakes after a workout a good idea?
Having a burst of protein is extremely important to protect the muscles after a workout, and to start the rebuilding process which in turn makes the muscle grow.
Why people choose a protein shake straight after the workout is because it’s the easiest to consume and is far less in calories than food.
It isn’t stated enough that the body can only consume about 30 grams of protein at a time, so by having a protein shake straight after your workout you’ve gotten 30 grams of protein.
You can then head home, cook a nice meal, or prepare a nutritious snack, and by this time your body is ready to process another 30 grams of protein. You’ve doubled your protein intake instead of losing half of it by having it all at once.
Is it true that you’re allowed one cheat day a week?
This is where keeping a food diary comes in handy.
Looking back on the week and what you’ve consumed — have you already cheated by having too many bad treats through the week? Or have you had an amazing week and you might think to yourself, do I really want to stuff up all my hard work now?
You do have to look at whether you think you should be allowed a cheat day and how it will affect your results.
If you’ve been really really good and are craving that special meal or a treat, or want to go out for dinner, then absolutely, life is too short to put that much pressure on yourself.
When I have a cheat meal or cheat day, I generally tend to go for something that satisfies my cravings but isn’t extremely bad. For example, I love pizza, but instead of getting a giant meat-lovers with extra cheese, I’ll go for a chicken, avocado and roast pumpkin pizza on a wholemeal base — with extra cheese, of course. My pizza craving and cheat meal is done, and I don’t feel overly guilty about my cheat meal.
Any other hints or tips for keeping my diet sharp and healthy?
Don’t be so strict on yourself, enjoy the good things in life, but make sure to do so moderately and in line with your goals.
You’ll be doomed to fail if you struggle to cut out the things you love, it takes time to change your diet.
When I lost 60 kgs in weight, I cut one bad thing out of my diet per week — as I was dropping a bad habit, I was getting used to and enjoying the healthier alternatives.
Just like gardening or painting a bedroom, your body is a project that you can work on and see great results and also have fun with along the way.
Remember that everyone’s bodies are different, and some progress quicker and slower then others — it’s better to be in the race trying than it is to have stopped and given up at the starting line. Keep up with it, you’ll thank yourself down the track. Even if it takes a while to reach your goals, your improved health and fitness levels will make you happier, more confident, and more accepting of how beautiful you already are.
We want to hear your opinion
Friday Fitness Freak
What do gay men eat for breakfast?
We recently did a survey on the breakfast habits of gay men around the world — one of the clear results is the high proportion of men who start their day by eating breakfast cereal (48%).
What’s wrong with cereal?
Quick and easy to eat, and often quite tasty, it’s not difficult to understand why breakfast cereal is such a popular choice.
The problem with breakfast cereal is that is even if you opt for something that is low in sugar and high in fibre, you’re subjecting your body to a big intake of gluten.
The paleo diet
There’s obviously quite a bit of debate and conflicting research among nutritionists, but most guys who are super-serious about their diet and fitness, tend to lean towards the “paleo” approach which advocates limiting the intake of gluten in favour of a high protein and vegetable diet.
Eat like a caveman
In simplistic terms, you’re trying to replicate the diet of your genetic ancestors — the thinking is that when a “caveman” started the day, they either snacked on some of the left-overs from the night before — lean wild meat — or they grabbed some nearby nuts and berries until they were able to hunt for some more meat or fish.
What’s wrong with gluten?
As it’s a relatively new introduction to the human diet, in evolutionary terms, there is quite a bit of evidence suggesting that gluten can be difficult for the body to digest and process and may result in gluten sensitivity.
Symptoms of gluten sensitivity include bloating, abdominal discomfort, pain or diarrhoea, or it may present with a variety of extra-intestinal symptoms including headaches and migraines, lethargy and tiredness, attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity, schizophrenia, muscular disturbances as well as bone and joint pain.
What should you eat for breakfast?
- If you’ve got time — fry up some eggs or a small steak with some spinach on the side.
- If you’re in a rush — grab a handful of nuts and some berries and stop for something more substantial when you get to work.
- It’s time to look beyond breakfast cereal.
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