Cracking the nutrition code without packing it on

By Kyle Finneron

As I prep for my body-building competition I have realized that largest key to my success will be my ability to follow a proper diet and exercise plan to make the necessary changes. I am currently following one plan that is complicated, to say the least. Without getting into the real nitty-gritty behind the science, it starts off with finding your lean body mass (the amount of weight you carry on your body that isn’t fat. To calculate you subtract body fat from body weight.) Then take one-third of your lean body mass (multiply by 0.3333) to find your “growth” number. From this number you will calculate the amount of protein that should immediately follow your workouts. This number will also give you your total number of calories per day and the number of macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates “carbs”) per day.

Has anyone’s eyes glazed over yet? It’s a bit complicated for average gym-goer.

After sitting down and sifting through all of my numbers I landed at around 3,300 calories per day. At first this didn’t seem like a lot until I realized that most of my days would be lower in fat than I am accustomed to. Fat is more energy-dense than carbs and protein—nine calories per gram as opposed to four calories. If I were to eat a lower fat diet, that would mean a drastic increase in my protein and carbs. After doing more math I found out that I would be eating over 300 grams of carbs per day. As a reference point, a medium-sized sweet potato (roughly eight ounces) is 46 grams of carbs. If I were to eat only sweet potatoes that would be close to four pounds of potato, per day. My protein number was that high as well. It took me a second to wrap my head around the sheer amount of food I would have to eat per day.

The thought also crossed my mind: “How will I ever eat this much and not pack on a ton of fat?”

With more research I realized that the biggest point of eating so much was to provide the body with fuel to recover from workouts and to time the nutrients based around my training schedule. The use of carbs as a trigger for an insulin release post-workout can be hugely beneficial if done correctly. I won’t get into the science here but it’s fascinating, to say the least.

The first day of the program was incredibly stressful for me but was probably comical to see as an outsider. Every time I stood in the kitchen I pawed through my guide and pantry of what foods I could possibly tie together to help reach these goals. I realized that bulk-cooking food was the way to go, so that I could grab a container from the fridge and weigh out my meal. The use of a food scale and a tracking app was a new experience in itself.

It took a few days of getting close to my number but on the fifth day I thought I had it dialed in. After having my first four meals or so and all the supplementation around my workout, I felt pretty good and thought I was on the way to “Hit all of my macros” for the day. As I logged the dinner I brought with me to work I decided to see how close I was. The number at the bottom of the app almost made me choke on my food. Even after eating everything all day, I still needed to eat 120 grams of carbs, 30 grams of fat and 60 grams of protein. I wouldn’t be home from work until about 10 p.m. and that amount of food was a little terrifying.

Once I made it home I decided a shake was the best way to go. In went: rolled oats, blueberries, agave nectar, raw honey, whey protein, collagen, egg whites, cinnamon, greens, dehydrated peanut butter, and raw cacao powder. I put everything in the app and sure enough I hit the mark. all I would have to do is eat a handful of nuts before bed and I’d be set. Surprisingly, the shake wasn’t too bad.

I will say with all that food in my stomach I did have some crazy dreams that night. It was the first time I had hit my number for the day and I was incredibly proud, even though I had two pounds of food in my stomach.

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