Ranger Up Fitness: Complete Guide to Nutrition
17 April 2007
The Complete Guide to Nutrition
Since the feedback to the supplement article has been so good, I decided to write another short guide. In this case, I’ve been getting a lot of questions on nutrition; questions on different diets, meal timing (should I eat at night if I’m trying to cut weight), stuff like that. This can be seriously complicated shit, so please read carefully.
The most important thing to remember about calories is that you need to count them. You need to know exactly what you’re getting in. You can’t be expecting to gain or lose a single pound if you don’t dial in your precise number. What you do is take your bodyweight, multiply it by 12. That is your rough basal metabolic rate. Then multiply this by 1.2 if you’re minimally active, 1.4 if you’re moderately active, and 1.6 if you’re very active. Then find a calorie calculator for your daily activities, and add them on top. That final number is your maintenance calorie number. Subtract 500 a day to lose weight, add 300 a day to gain weight.
The ratio should ideally be 40% carbohydrates, 35% protein, 25% fat. Remember, carbs and protein are about 4 calories a gram, fat is 9. Try to stick to low glycemic index carbs like brown rice and oats, avoid white bread like the plague. Also, don’t drink beer. Don’t eat red meat either, stick to chicken and fish. Avoid cooking with oil, and stay away from butter. But no skin on the chicken, and no fatty fish. Eat lots of fiber, preferably in the form of leafy vegetables. Avoid fruits, they’re pure sugar. Milk products can make you maintain water and contain hormones. Nuts are ok in very small amounts, but are too high in fat to be a staple of your diet.
Now, for meal timing. Eat six balanced, small meals a day to keep your metabolism high. Evenly space them, but avoid eating carbohydrates after 6:00 PM. This will make you fat. Before your workout consume 20-30 grams of carbohydrates and 10-15 grams of protein. After your workout, do the same. Be sure to drink at least half a gallon of water a day.
If you’re dieting, once every 10 days do a re-feed of 1000 calories over maintenance, consisting almost entirely of high glycemic index carbohydrates.
Now, make sure you’ve written all this out and designed a rough diet plan. It should look like this:
Meal 1): Oatmeal and chicken.
Meal 2): Oatmeal and chicken.
Meal 3): Brown rice and chicken.
Meal 4): Brown rice and chicken with some spinach.
Meal 5): Chicken and half a walnut.
Meal 6): Piece of fish garnished with water.
At this point, if you’re thinking this sounds completely overcomplicated and the resultant meal plan sounds fucking awful, you’re pretty much right. This is all a complete load of shit. The first two sentences in this article are the only true things I’ve said, pretty much. Sadly, this is the kind of advice you’ll see everywhere.
So sorry for wasting your time. Then again, maybe I’m not. If you skimmed all that thinking “This is useless”, then congratulations, you were right.
Designing a diet is simple, and all you need to do is take a simple framework, then follow a few simple rules.
The framework is this: Take what you eat already, and make it healthier. I don’t mean sit down with the latest edition of Shape (yeah, you know you’ve read it at least once, nobody believes it was just in the doctor’s office) and try to recreate their soy-almond-olive topping for your dinner salad, I just mean ask yourself a simple question when you look at your meal: Can I switch up anything to make this a little better for me? You want a steak, eat a fucking steak. But have the sirloin, not the ribeye. Put a little less blue cheese on your wings. Cook with half the oil. Switch to 1% milk. Don’t drink so much sweet tea. Fries are damn good, but just once leave them out. Hell, have a second burger, there’s more nutrition in it than the fries. Have the thin crust pizza, not the stuffed crust.
Point is, there are no bad foods. Diet is 90% of the puzzle when it comes to how you look and how you feel, but people spend WAY too much fucking time on it. Beer isn’t bad. Ice cream isn’t bad. Bacon isn’t bad. Pate de foie gras isn’t bad, just a bitch to pronounce and even harder to spell. Pork rinds aren’t bad.
That’s a lie. There is not a single good thing about pork rinds, nutritionally. But damn they’re good.
Things are bad in excess, that’s about it. Think big picture. Your body isn’t an accountant, sitting there tallying calories and nutrients. Your body is a damn complicated system with endless variables controlling your caloric need. Don’t second guess it; you’re not that smart. I’m not either.
So you’ve got your basic framework. Now, if you want to lose weight, figure out some way to cut some calories out of it. I don’t like low carb diets, but carbohydrates are the easiest thing to cut down on. But in general…eat half your mashed potatoes, leave the cheese off your burger, have four pints of beer on Saturday night, not five. And stop drinking those god damn mixed drinks. Not only are they high as hell in calories, but everyone’s laughing at you. Seriously. You look like a tool drinking that shit.
This is your diet for a lifetime here. If you want something more extreme, I’ll be covering some of those diets later. But when it comes to just daily eating, don’t kill yourself over it. You can’t second guess your body; there are WAY too many variables to even roughly calculate how many calories your body needs a day. So pretty much go with what you eat already. You know EXACTLY where it’s getting you. Some of you are probably looking down, grabbing a handful, and going “yeah, I know. Fuck”. So adjust that, bit by bit. Don’t think the scale’s moving after a month? Adjust it a little more. Don’t do something drastically new. Chances are, you’ll hate it and feel like crap on it. Some days you’ll be starving, other days you’ll be hungry at odd hours, and every day you’ll get sick of the same damn foods. I’ve gotten the same results eating whatever the hell I want, and just being smart about it, as I did back when I was eating a carefully regimented diet incorporating all the latest science, most of which has been proven wrong since then anyhow. I felt like shit then, by the way. Oh, and don’t starve yourself. Too few calories will basically result in you shedding nothing BUT muscle. That’s the last thing your body wants to hold onto when you’re too low in calories.
And to answer a few specific questions:
Q: Should I cut carbs to lose weight?
A: Carbs are a good one to cut because they’re easy. But it’s not requirement of any diet to be low in carbs. If you’re restricting your calories, protein does become the most vital nutrient. But vital in that you can’t let it drop below a certain threshold, or you WILL go into a negative nitrogen balance. i.e., your body is consuming more amino acids than it is taking in, which means you WILL lose lean body mass (muscle). You don’t need a hell of a lot of protein to maintain this mass, though. 1 gram per pound of body weight is definitely adequate, and even for you bigger guys out there, that’s maybe 1200 calories, or probably a third of what you’re taking in. Don’t worry about insulin spikes or any of that crap. Chances are, if you’re following any kind of workout routine, you’re using those carbs. (If you’re not, stop reading this, get off the computer for twenty fucking minutes, and go out and run. Lazy ass.) So, short answer, no. Cut a little bit of everything. Remember: balance.
Q: Should I eat six small meals a day to keep my metabolism up?
A: A big meal can take 24+ hours to digest completely. If you don’t believe me, go into work on the Monday after the Super Bowl and take a whiff of the bathrooms around 4:00 PM. Yeah, the point is that your system’s releasing nutrients into your body during that entire time. Unless you’re starving yourself, you’re NOT going to slow down your metabolism or enter any kind of starvation mode. And to get in six small meals in 18 waking hours, you’re eating every three hours. Shit, that last meal’s still in your stomach, maybe half digested. Three meals a day is fine. I eat a little bit in between because I tend to have a small breakfast, I work out in the evenings, and need a little something to keep me going. So eat two big meals a day with some snacks. Shit, eat one. Eat a huge, 3000 calorie meal at 11:00 at night, full of pasta. I don’t give a crap. Neither does your body. All it sees are nutrients. It’s going to put them where it needs them, regardless of what the guy in the magazine is insisting.
Q: What is this glycemic index, brown rice shit? Is bread bad? Is beer bad?
A: Nothing’s bad. Look at it this way… eating pure sugar spikes your blood sugar, right? Makes sense. Goes into your stomach, is easily digested, and goes right into your bloodstream. Brown rice is harder to digest. Eat a big bowl of that then go out and run. Not gonna happen. That rice will be in your stomach for hours and hours, slowly releasing carbohydrates. So 50 grams of sugar gets into your bloodstream faster than 50 grams of carbs from brown rice. Simple. The argument here is that your body releases insulin in response to sugar/carbs. This is true. Insulin causes your body to store nutrients, which can mean you end up depositing fat. Over time, these big insulin spikes are bad, you’re overloading your receptors. This is where type II diabetes comes from.
All that matters is the rate of entry. Analogy: It’s like saying whiskey makes you more drunk than beer. This true? No, alcohol is alcohol. Drink a case of beer, you’ll be more wasted than a glass of whiskey. True, whiskey gets alcohol into your system faster; it’s more concentrated. What matters here is the RATE of entry, right? You eat a huge bowl of brown rice, chances are you’ll be spiking your insulin more than you would eating half a powerbar. Or by putting sugar in your coffee. So a big meal of “good” carbs will still fuck with your insulin levels, just as much as small amounts of “bad” carbs won’t.
So again, nothing’s bad. Even white bread. Just eat less of it at one time. White bread doesn’t make you fat. Too much white bread along with a shitty diet makes you fat.
If nothing else, just take the same approach to diet and nutrition that you should with working out: Keep it simple, make sure it’s something you can stick to. There’s way too much overcomplicated bullshit out there involving ketogenic diets, carb timing, refeeds, etc. And none of it will really make a bit of difference in the long run. People have been getting lean and strong for thousands of years, and they did it without Nutri-this and Jenny That.