Strength training requires plenty of protein to get the most out of your workouts, which seems to be the most difficult thing to work into a diet plan. Some that train intensely are on diets that include 400 grams of protein (gp) daily. To give you an idea of how much 400 gp is, think about eating 3.5 pounds of red meat or 4 pounds of chicken daily. This is just about impossible for anyone, so protein shakes and other protein rich foods are a viable alternative to just meat.
On the easy end of the diet equation are the vitamins that must be replenished daily. This may seem like a huge issue, but any daily vitamin supplement will get you what you need. Here's the list of vitamins that need to be replenished daily.
- Thiamine (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pyridoxine (B6)
- Folate (Folacin, Folic Acid)
- Cobalamin (B12)
- Pantothenic Acid
- vitamin C
- vitamin A
- vitamin D (and especially D3)
Vitamin D3 is what you get from the sun - if you are not in the sun daily, consider a separate supplement for this vitamin. Also, if your water has fluoride in it, consider an additional vitamin c supplement to help counter the negative effects of fluoride. All these vitamins and others are all critical for good health for most people.
Other issues include getting plenty of good fiber, nutrients from real food as time permits, probiotics from raw veggies and fruits, and spices that include healing effects.
Turmeric is the number 1 healing herb I use with cooking. It has a slightly bitter taste, but as a seasoning, you barely notice it, and used properly, it enhances the flavor of foods (details). It has cancer curing benefits and pharmaceuticals have been trying to get it regulated by the FDA for decades so they can synthesize it and sell it as a drug. It's not a drug - it's just a spice and has been used for thousands of years. Know you enemy (the pharmaceuticals) and keep a close eye on them - if you don't pay attention, they will win and we will all suffer.
You can find many other great healing spices in any curry. A couple worth a quick mention are cumin (part of the coriander family) and coriander (powdered cilantro).
Foods I like to include in my daily diet are garlic, onions, red bell peppers, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. I spent 6 months in 2011 working on a hot dip that includes all of these along with some hot peppers for daily consumption - it goes with everything (like meat and rice) and I can cook a week's supply at once to save time. Nothing but good stuff in the dip - and no sugar!! It was really just a couple hours weekly trying variations of foods, but this combination was my favorite!
If like me you think sugar from fruits are unnecessary and unhelpful, you can get your raw food from a simple salad. To me, there is no real nutritional value in salad, but it is raw food and provides the necessary good bacteria (probiotics) for your digestive system.
So, there you go. Protein shakes, salad, and lots of meat with sweat potato hot dip - not much too it... and when I make some rice and greens, it's a real treat. Dark greens have a significant amount of protein. If you count the grams of protein per 100 calories (% GP2C), greens are a great substitute for meat.
Let's take a look at protein shakes. I searched extensively for a great inexpensive source of protein isolate and found it in the Body Fortress Whey Isolate - it has 30 gp per 35 gram scoop - one of the highest concentrations available (last order was $1.41/100gp - $65.91 for 3 containers included free home shipping) - highly rated everywhere - one of the best tasting isolates too. Each scoop contains 5.5 grams of BCAAs, is 130 cals, contains 10% of days requirements for magnesium, and has only 1.5g carbs.
To give you an idea of what $1.41/100gp represents in terms of price, imagine 1lb of chicken breast at $2/lb - that's about $1.47/100gp - calculated as $2 [for the pound] divided by 16 [oz's in a pound - $0.125/oz] times 100 [100gp is the standard used here to compare the costs of protein in shakes versus chicken] divided by 8.5 [gp per ounce of chicken]. This 3rd grade math used for practical matters is hard to imagine visually, but is very useful once you can figure it out and use it regularly! If you want to try this to check the shake cost above, the missing number is 52 scoops per container!
If you are skinny, about 1g protein per 4g carbs helps you build muscle, but if you are looking to lose fat, a low carb diet with about 30g max of carbs daily will help you lose it quickly. You can search on the Atkins diet, but that's the formula in a nutshell.
Psyllium - some of this in the mix will help make sure it is digested properly. It's pure fiber and has no taste - I don't notice it at all when mixed with shakes. A pure psyllium product has less than 1 carb per teaspoon.
I like to combine the shakes with a multivitamin and C supplement along with some liver and additional amino acid supplements - liver and amino acid pills (4 of each) adds another 14.4 gp - then just real food the rest of the day. All that protein at once, even in the morning, may make you a little sleepy as your body digests it quickly, so some organic coco mix helps add energy and is also good for your heart.
Ultra 40 from Beverly International is a liver supplement unmatched in quality over the last decade since I began using it. I research other supplements frequently, but think these are still the best in my opinion (2.6 gp per pill).
Mass Amino Acids, also from Beverly International, contains a unique combination of amino acids that provides what is necessary for maximizing the effects of strength training, protein absorption and food nutrient absorption (1gp per pill). It's hard to find anything on the market that combines more than a couple amino acids, and this product has them all, except one...
Mass Amino Acids includes the all important L-Arginine as does the shake mixes, but I think L-Orgnithine helps the body absorb amino acids, so I get another supplement just for this.
Nothing can replace real food, but supplementing it to make sure you get the protein and vatimins you need is a viable option, and doesn't take much time to prepare and consume - it's fast food in a good way!