By Flex Staff
Building a Sandow-worthy physique involves the careful manipulation of literally hundreds of variables, both in the training room and in the kitchen. If you've been checking with us for the last five weeks, then you know we've boiled the eating side of things down into 70 basic principles. This is part six of seven.
51 AVOID JUNK FOODS AND PROCESSED FOODS
The temptations are everywhere -- soft drinks, fast food, Cheetos on the table at a friend's house. You must learn to cut out these sugary and fatty foes (even when you're hungry). Empty calories of all kinds dominate the American palate, especially in social situations, but successful bodybuilders know how to chew the fat without eating it. White-flour products (doughnuts, white bread, etc.) are particularly bad for your physique. Even lemonade may be more sugar than real lemon. Processed cold cuts, with their nitrates and preservatives, are far from true lean meat. Learn the difference.
52 USE CHEAT FOODS AS PART OF YOUR DIET STRATEGY
On the surface, this may seem to contradict the previous point, but when implemented properly, it doesn't. The mindless consumption of junk and processed foods destroys bodybuilding progress faster than almost anything else does. Judicious selection of cheat foods, however, can help keep you sane and help ensure your adherence to your overall diet strategy. Cut out junk food that you don't crave. If you have a craving, feed the beast, but keep it moderate. If doughnuts are your thing, allow yourself that Sunday morning Krispy Kreme. Have a slice of pizza occasionally. Just set limits and adhere to them.
53 SCHEDULE CHEAT DAYS
Cheat days aren't just for mental health. They're important for your physiological system, as well. The human body is an efficient machine that has evolved over eons. It has an internal register that strives for homeostasis, the balance of all internal systems. You need to jack things up and slow things down occasionally to keep the pump primed, and that's when cheat days come in. Schedule them to suit your needs, whether that means once a week or once a month. Let the mirror - and your sanity - be your guide.
54 CYCLE BETWEEN HIGH- AND LOW-CARB DAYS
One excellent way to keep your metabolic rate up and your body burning fat is to change the amount of carbohydrates you eat on a daily basis. Eating high carbs all the time allows your body to readily store them as bodyfat. Eating low carbs all the time encourages your body to tear down muscle tissue for energy. To get the best of both worlds -- keeping your muscle while avoiding bodyfat -- schedule a higher-carb day after every three to five low-carb days.
55 USE REST DAYS AS NUTRITION DAYS
Often, bodybuilders think of a rest day as time away from bodybuilding. Nothing could be further from the truth. You don't grow when you train; you grow from your training while you're recovering. Your body can effectively recover when it's not under assault by weights. A nontraining day is also an ideal opportunity for you to load up on bodybuilding foods, but be vigilant with your diet. Don't take in more calories than you need. Focus on lean protein and quality complex carbs, and give yourself a huge edge in building muscle mass.
56 PLAN AHEAD
Sometimes work hours, school schedules or travel can disrupt your diet. Eliminate nutritional backsliding by planning ahead. Preparing meals the night before, utilizing Tupperware and carrying meal-replacement powders or protein bars with you are just a few simple tricks to help you fulfill your nutritional requirements no matter what your situation demands. Some experienced bodybuilders cook a week's worth of meals in one night, so that they'll be ready to rock 'n' roll when time gets tight. Freezers, canned foods, microwaves, plastic storage bags, ready-to-mix supplements -- these are all valuable tools for when you're on the go.
57 FOCUS ON DIET EVEN MORE THAN ON TRAINING
In two very distinct bodybuilding populations -- competitors and hardgainers -- nutrition is more critical than training. Pros understand this, and they devote far more time each day to their nutrition than they do to their training. Hardgainers, unfortunately, have trouble learning this lesson. If you want to add muscle mass, you have to give your body the nutrients and calories it needs for growth. Chances are you already train like a best. You can stimulate your muscle mass all you want, but it won't grow if you aren't giving it the necessary raw materials. Make nutrition priority one if you're a hardgainer.
58 DON'T THINK IN ABSOLUTES
Because bodybuilding is an extreme sport, its practitioners tend to be extreme thinkers. When it comes to training and nutrition, many bodybuilders adopt an all-or-nothing philosophy. Often, this can run counter to long-term goals. If you're on a diet and you're effectively stripping bodyfat, don't try to rush the process by cutting calories or carbohydrates down to nothing. When you're in a mass-building phase, you must force-feed your body to a certain extent, but adding thousands of calories more than you need for maintenance will only overstuff you and encourage bodyfat storage. Finally, if life events force you to miss a meal or two, don't beat yourself up about it. The negative hormone response you generate from stressing is far more harmful to your overall goals than a lost opportunity to take in 500 calories.
59 INCREASE CALORIES GRADUALLY WHEN ENTERING A MASS-BUILDING PHASE
One mistake many bodybuilders make when they enter a mass-building phase is to add too many calories too quickly. If you're eating 3,000 calories a day for bodyweight maintenance, and you want to increase your calorie consumption to 4,000 to add more muscle mass, the most effective strategy is to do so in increments of 300-500 calories. Allow your body to adapt to this new caloric level for seven to 10 days before bumping up calories a second time. This slow approach to increasing calories allows your body to more effectively use this additional energy rather than storing it as bodyfat.
60 LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
We're not all alike. Individual bodies handle nutrients differently. For instance, some people are lactose intolerant (can't digest milk properly), and others could drink a dairy's worth of milk without discomfort. If a particular food or supplement doesn't agree with your body, back off and try something similar that's compatible. Find what works best for your body and stick with it. Learn to trust yourself.