I always get asked about diet…either with regard to bulking up or getting lean…I think I get asked not only because I’m a strength and conditioning coach but because people who have known my for long enough have seen me be both huge (I topped out at 140kg…keep in mind a good third of that was pure fat) and a lean 100kg.
Firstly, I’m not a nutritionist…and I don’t intend to play one on the internet. I wouldn’t even go so far as to say my knowledge of nutrition is great…it is basic or fundamental at best. So everything I say here read it with those facts in mind. What I do know is that by implementing some really basic principles I’ve managed through experimentation and experience to get athletes to their optimal size more often than not…and I think the ones that didn’t simply wouldn’t adhere to those principles.
For most athletes I work with here in Ireland…they are simply too light. I think they all know this and I think it is clear to anyone who has seen age grade international rugby that Ireland really lags behind with regard to pure physical size.
Have yet to see an athlete in all my time here in Ireland who came to me for help with a mass building program or to try to drop some body fat that had any idea how much protein, carbohydrate or fat they were consuming…let alone had any idea of even roughly how many calories a day they were consuming. The thing is that that information is pretty easy to come by….it is on packaging and if it isn’t you can always try the internet. So use it…tally up roughly what you are taking in over a few days….write it down as you are eating it…people say this is too time consuming or too much trouble….well in that case…you’ll realise why I tell you go jump because it is not nearly as time consuming and troublesome as either trying to put meat onto your bones or trying to strip fat off them. So point 1. Keep a food diary.
The thing I have come to realise is that most people understand the principles of dieting and getting leaner…they just lack the will power to execute them. Is eating Chocolate cake for breakfast ever a good idea? I don’t know…but I doubt it. Will drinking 20 pints of Guinness every weekend hinder my fat loss goals…I’m pretty sure it will. So know what you are eating or drinking and why you are eating or drinking it. For me point 2. is this…that the majority of your diet should be made up of stuff that you know has run , walked, flew or swam….stuff that once had a heart beat. The majority of the rest of the stuff you eat should have come out of the dirt and or grown in it…and importantly…this should be recognisable (think boiled potato versus oven fries). Who the hell doesn’t know this? That if the majority of your diet is made up of quality protein and fresh vegetables, fruit and nuts that this is a good thing!
So how much is enough…well this depends on your goals but I usually start at the same point…male or female…no matter what the sport that they should be getting 2 grams per kilogram…is this perfect? No, it isn’t. Why do I choose that number…because it is simple…most people know there 2X tables and can work out roughly from there how much protein they should be getting. The other reason that I just use 2 is because through experience I know that it doesn’t really matter…I have never ever seen an athlete in my 18 year career as a strength and conditioning coach who ate too much protein…I’m sure it happens…I’ve just never seen it. I would say that the majority of athletes that come to me though do not consume anywhere near enough protein.
I am going to use AS as an example again…he told me flat out that he ate and ate and he couldn’t put on weight…now in my opinion…his problem was that 1. He trained too much. 2. That his program didn’t suit his needs. 3. That he wasn’t applying himself to his program as well as he could and 4. That he WASN’T eating enough. Now what we did was to actually ‘back off’ his training…as seen in previous posts…he’s doing 3 sessions a week…and have given him the general instruction to eat like it’s your job…in 2 weeks he’s already put on 3kgs and dropped body fat slightly. Not bad for someone who supposedly couldn’t put on weight. I’m willing to bet though that he could do better because I would still stake money on the fact that he isn’t taking in enough protein to optimise his training gains. At roughly 100kgs (yes, I know he’s a few shy of that but just let it slide) he should be getting about 200grams of protein a day and to paint you a picture of what that is in real terms….it would look like this:
8 eggs (50g of Protein), 2 chicken breasts (100g of Protein) and 2 tins of tuna (50g of protein)…now before all the labcoats starting throwing their calculators in the air and smashing up their test tubes…those protein figures are approximates. I think that this should be about his bare minimum…should he get more protein that that….by all means…is a lot more than that necessary…I doubt it.
So back to AS…if he consumed this as his protein base along with salad, vegetables, fruit and nuts he’d be well on his way to his optimal playing weight.
The thing is…I measure all my athlete’s weekly and I want to see one of three things…the ones bulking up/trying to increase their lean muscle mass should either be getting heavier or fatter…initially I don’t care which…I just want to see one or the other as this at least shows me that they are in a calorie surplus of some type. The ones wanting/needing to get leaner should either be losing weight or losing body fat….again…initially I don’t care which…I just want to see an indication of a calorie deficit. The smallest group is those at their ideal playing/training weight and what I expect from them and what I generally get is a small oscillation either side of ideal.