Nutrition Made Simple

As a teacher and trainer, students/clients often ask me for advice on nutrition. I have students show me these elaborate diet plans they’re going to stick to that “guarantee 10 lbs gone in a week.” I hear them out to find the pros and cons of these plans. But most of the time, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Mostly, I get questions on how I eat to keep my abs all year. My abs aren’t always shredded, but I typically always have them. I think people overcomplicate nutrition. Plain and simple.

My advice is to change your thinking on nutrition. Unless you’re in prep mode for a show, a meet, or a vacation, don’t make it a diet. Diets are temporary. Incorporate a nutrition plan that you enjoy and isn’t a burden to follow. Does this sound too good to be true? I’ve proven this plan to be attainable and easy to follow through the last two years of training.

My last bodybuilding show was the Ohio State Championships in 2016. The only other competition i’ve been in since 2016, was our Push/Pull Powerlifting meet at New Philly in February 2018. Since then, i’ve been in offseason mode to address weaknesses in my physique, and focus on becoming the best strength and conditioning coach I can be. While in this offseason mode, i’ve followed some simple guidelines to my personal nutrition that I would like to outline in this article for the reader.

First of all, live in moderation. No matter what your current goals are, enjoy your life and don’t burn yourself out. If i’ve learned anything throughout my 23 years, it’s that life is short. If you want to drink a couple of beers on Friday, or eat some ice cream, do it! But do it in moderation. Don’t drink the whole 12 pack. Don’t eat the entire tub of ice cream. Don’t cheat every day. Be disciplined and enjoy these things in moderation. This discipline will allow you to still enjoy these things while you improve your health and physique. Not to mention, these disciplines will also increase your gratitude and enjoyment for these things.

For example, I eat clean 6 days a week. Typically, I use Saturday as my cheat day, and I mean a CHEAT day. I eat whatever I want, all day long. From the second I wake up, until the second I go to bed. Throughout the week I think of what I want to cheat with on Saturday. This way, when Saturday finally gets here, I have so much gratitude and enjoyment for what i’m cheating with because i’ve been thinking about it all week. But it’s all about being disciplined and getting right back to eating clean on Sunday. Live in moderation!

Next, align your eating with your physique goals. I like to use the mirror to determine where my changes in nutrition need to be made, rather than the scale. The scale can be very discouraging if you let it. The mirror shows more of what you need to know than the scale.

If you’re training to gain mass, follow the principle “eat big to get big.” Cliche quotes become cliche because they’re true. If your goal is to gain mass, increase your calories. But you must dial in the right macro(s) to increase that lean mass we’re all chasing.

I don’t believe in the dirty bulk. I call it the “McDonald’s bulk.” I’m not going to eat fast food, or just eat crap to gain that desired mass. I believe the most efficient way to bulk and gain lean mass, is to eat more of the right foods.

For my body type, when i’m in a “gain phase,” I use high proteins, high carbs, and moderate fats. This includes foods like eggs, beef, chicken, tuna, greek yogurt, cheese, jasmine rice, whole wheat bread/english muffins, oatmeal, sun chips, lots of peanut butter, lots of olive oil, cashews, and almonds. And if i’m being honest, lots of chipotle and cereal. When i’m in a gain phase, I let myself be less strict than I would be in a shred phase, so I eat more foods like chipotle, halo top ice cream, and cereal.

The foods I just listed, are pretty much what I eat over and over again. I just continue to find new ways to spice these foods up to keep them from becoming bland. One of my favorite “bulk meals” is four scrambled eggs, mixed in with four ounces of ground beef, and ½ cup of jasmine rice.

This is where I think people get off track; If you’re training to lean out and get shredded, you should continue to take in lots of calories. However, these calories should be a more lean intake. For my body, my magic recipe for getting shredded is high protein, high fats, and moderate carbs.

I’ve tried the little to no carb shred, and I didn’t like the flat, deflated look that resulted. I stood on stage weighing 160 pounds in my first NPC physique bodybuilding show because I just wanted to be as shredded as I possibly could (I typically weight 185-190 lbs). However, what I got was a flat, deflated physique with empty muscle bellies, little to no energy, increased irritability, and a significant loss in strength. I was certainly shredded, but I had minimal muscle mass.

One year later, I stood on stage weighing 185 pounds with full muscle bellies, full energy, and as strong as I had ever been. I walked away with a spot on the podium in an NPC classic physique bodybuilding show, and an awesome lesson on nutrition. You should still be taking in a moderate amount of carbs when you’re shredding.

When i’m shredding, my food list isn’t very different from when i’m bulking. However, my carb intake is about half, and my fats are increased. I completely cut out bread because my body is extremely sensitive to bread, and it keeps me with that “fluffy” look.

So, the foods I take in when i’m shredding include: eggs, ground turkey, chicken, lots of tuna, greek yogurt, jasmine rice, oatmeal, sun chips, lots of vegetables, lots of peanut butter, lots of olive oil, cashews, and almonds.

I typically shred in the summer, and I love cooking on the grill. Some of my favorite summer meals include chicken, zucchini, and peppers on the grill. I just lay a sheet of foil on the grill, and fold it up into a bowl. Then, I lay out my veggies on the sheet of foil, spice them with garlic salt and pepper, douze them in olive oil, and cook them over a medium flame. Once the veggies are cooked, I take them off the grill and sprinkle parmesan cheese over them and smash!

So, remember to live in moderation, to use the mirror more than the scale, and to align your nutrition intake with your physique goals. Don’t allow yourself to get burned out by eating right. Eating healthy can take a toll on your mental health if you let it. This is why you must take control of your nutrition, and not let it control you! Use these simple guidelines provided to allow your nutrition to be more simple, and not seem like such a daunting task! I enjoy what I eat every single day, and it never seems like i’m “on a diet.