Swole Nutrition 101: Building Muscle Beyond the Barbell
Confession: I (Christy) can’t cook. Really. At all. In life, I am confident and adventurous, but in the kitchen I can be a bumbling idiot.
How can I work in a food-related profession and be bad at cooking? I don’t know. I have no good answer for that question, but it is a weakness I have learned to own.
Cooking Isn't Rocket Science
When it comes to recommending food choices, meals, and meal-prep strategies, you can trust I have tried them all. I’ve tried prepping for the whole week on Sunday. I have tried prepping each evening for the next day. And I have tried just buying a whole crap-ton of healthy foods with the game plan to just wing it.
"When it comes to recommending food choices, meals, and meal-prep strategies, you can trust I have tried them all."
In my experience, none of it works. What I mean by that is one approach does not work every single week without fail. I've had to step away from a fixed nutrition plan and embrace a more fluid approach.
Here are the first steps I take to plan out my week of meals:
- Mark off the time you already have obligations. Think of the “must dos” like work and family care. Be honest here! Don’t choose watching The Amazing Race over something that can get you to your best self.
- Identify a one-hour block of time to do your large shopping trip. Then add two twenty-minute blocks of time for quick trips to replenish and fill in.
- Block off your workouts. Allow fifteen minutes before and after for warm up and cool down time, as well.
- Identify a one-hour block of time to prep your main items. For example, you might need to throw chicken in the slow cooker, chop veggies, mix batter for Banana nonPancakes, or prep a salad base.
- Select three or four twenty-minute blocks of time to prep for the following days. These prep tasks might include putting leftovers in containers, cutting any veggies and fruit, or prepping the following day’s breakfast.
So What Do I Eat?
If getting swole is the goal, your meals need to have certain priorities. Here are our five tips for planning (and eating) to build muscle mass.
- Start with your protein choice. When your goal is to build lean muscle, you have to prioritize protein. You should get between 0.9g and 1.1g of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. Do the math, then look back at what you have consumed over past few days. Are you close? If not, start tracking protein intake at each meal. Remember, you also need to get at least 20g in that hour immediately following your training session.
- Add your veggies. Have at least two heaping handfuls of whatever veggie you have chosen for the meal.
- Top with fruit or grains. Prioritize a 3:1 veggie-to-fruit ratio. Once you’ve filled your plate with your two heaping handfuls of veggies, use that 3:1 ratio as your guide for what portion of fruit you need.
- Factor in fat. Good, clean fat sources are vital for a swole body. But even the cleanest fat source can be easily overeaten. Pop quiz: how many almonds are considered a serving? The answer is twelve to fifteen. If you consistently consume more than that, you might be overdoing it. Fat should be 25-30% of your overall daily intake. If you don’t know your fat intake, using an app like MyFitnessPal will help.
- Sit and enjoy. No, I’m not being sarcastic. Sitting down to taste and enjoy your food is a daily habit I cannot stress enough. Getting into this habit forces you to be more aware of your portion size, your likes and dislikes, and even your own hunger cues. Take time to enjoy your meal and prepare to be amazed at how this habit can transform your relationship with food.
We're Here to Help You
Meal prep and planning can be intimidating, so we've provided the following four resources to help you succeed in the gym and in the kitchen:
These resources and habits will have a huge impact on your ability to build the body you want. Meal planning and food prep is both and art and a science, and requires an honest look at what you are willing to do to get the results you want.
Photo 3 courtesy of Shutterstock.