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The best damn diet for naturals How to customize your diet for slimming or gaining weight

Die verdammt beste Ernährung für Naturals  Wie Du Deine Ernährung am besten für Schlankheit oder Zuwächse anpasst

After talking about calories, cortisol, insulin and determining the right calorie intake for diet and muscle building in the first part of this article, in this second part we will look at calorie intake for muscle building and the optimal amounts of the macronutrients protein, carbohydrates and fat. We will then look at how the meals of the day should be composed depending on the training time.

The right calorie intake for optimal muscle building

If you gain more than a certain amount of weight, you are likely to gain a significant amount of fat. If you are natural, then you cannot force your body to build muscle faster than your physiology allows.

Dr. Fred Hatfield had a chart that showed how much muscle you could build per week. For men, this averaged 0.25 to 0.5 pounds per week and for women about half of that.

This is accurate for most people. And if you are more advanced, these figures are even lower. An average man can hope to build 20 to 25 kilos of muscle above what his normal adult weight would be. Here we are talking about pure muscle mass. You can of course gain more weight.

There are also exceptions. People with a particularly good genetic predisposition for building muscle (lower myostatin expression, naturally higher testosterone and IGF-1 levels, as well as the ACTN3 RR gene variant) can build more muscle.

People with a correspondingly poor genetic predisposition (the opposite of what I have just described) can count themselves lucky if they manage to build 7 to 8 kilos of muscle during their training career.

It is certainly possible to build muscle without gaining fat. This requires a tremendous amount of precision and control over every variable - stress, recovery, nutritional intake, training, NEAT, etc. - and even if everything falls into place, it can slow down the process.

Even though we don't want to get fat when we build muscle, a small amount of fat gain makes it easier to build muscle. This is not because fat makes you more muscular, but because adequate food intake ensures that you get plenty of nutrients to build muscle.

If you are trying to build muscle, you should aim for a weekly weight gain of 0.5 to 1 pound. This will minimize fat gain and there will be some increase in water weight, muscle glycogen and fat.

  • If you are gaining between 0 and 0.49 pounds per week, then you should increase your calories by a factor of 2. For example, you could go from 33 x body weight in kilos to 35 x body weight in kilos.
  • If you are losing weight, then you should increase your calorie intake by a factor of 3 to 4.
  • If you gain more than 2 pounds per week, you should reduce your calorie intake by a factor of 1.
  • If you gain between 1 and 1.9 pounds per week, then it's a matter of choice. You can either maintain your calorie intake or reduce it by a factor of 0.5 to 1.

If you need to increase your calorie intake, increase protein, carbohydrates and fat equally. For example, if you need to eat 250 kcal more, then you should add 84 calories in the form of protein (21 grams), 84 kcal in the form of carbohydrates (21 grams) and 84 kcal in the form of fat (9 grams) to your daily diet

The protein intake

A high protein intake is the second most important element when it comes to achieving positive changes in the body during both a fat loss phase and a muscle building phase.

During a muscle-building phase, a greater proportion of your weight gain will be muscle (rather than fat) if you consume a higher percentage of protein. During a fat loss phase, higher protein consumption will allow you to better maintain your muscle mass, or even build muscle, meaning your weight loss will be mostly fat.

But here's the catch: if you're natural, it's not about consuming as much protein as you can. You only have a limited capacity to build muscle. Too much protein will therefore have no additional benefit and could even reduce the anabolic effect of protein by increasing deamination and the conversion of amino acids into glucose.

Chemically assisted exercisers don't really have this problem as anabolic steroids increase protein synthesis 7 days a week for 24 hours, allowing them to use a much greater amount of protein to build muscle. This is also the reason why professional bodybuilders are sometimes seen eating 400 grams or more of protein per day.

During a mass-building phase, a protein intake of 2.2 to 2.7 grams per kilogram of body weight is recommended for naturals. During a fat loss phase, you can even go up to 2.7 to 3.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Higher protein consumption during a fat loss diet is a good approach that can reduce potential muscle loss and help maintain stable blood sugar levels, which in turn will lower cortisol levels.

Carbohydrate intake

It's hard to build muscle at an optimal rate if you're natural and not eating enough carbohydrates. I'm not saying you can't build muscle if your protein and calorie intake is high enough - but it will be much harder.

How many carbohydrates should you consume in the window of time around your workout? And aren't muscles ultimately built from protein?

The latter is true, but carbohydrates and the insulin release associated with them lead to an increase in mTOR expression through training. If you consume carbohydrates before and during training, then mTOR will be activated more than without carbohydrates. And the more you activate mTOR, the greater the increase in protein synthesis rate will be as a result of training.

This is important for natural trainers who need to stimulate their protein synthesis through their training. While chemically supported exercisers will also benefit from carbohydrates around their training sessions, they don't need as much of this as they already get a strong increase in protein synthesis from the steroids they use.

Carbohydrates around your training sessions also have other benefits that will positively influence your muscle growth. For example, carbohydrates before and/or during training will reduce the release of cortisol.

During training, the main role of cortisol is to mobilize nutrients to provide energy for the training session. And during exercise, glucose is the most efficient source of energy (yes, even more efficient than ketones). The more energy you need, the higher your cortisol release will be.

If you consume easily absorbable carbohydrates such as branched-chain cyclic dextrin before and during your training session, then you won't need to mobilize as much stored glycogen, which means your body won't need to release as much cortisol - and less cortisol means more growth.

Eating carbohydrates around your training sessions also increases your capacity for higher training volume (more readily available energy, less cortisol) and growth as a result.

Carbohydrates and IGF-1 levels

Low carbohydrate diets can lower levels of systemic IGF-1. This has been well documented in numerous studies. This is probably due to the fact that your body needs both growth hormone and insulin to produce IGF-1.

These do not have to be present at the same time. One theory is that insulin makes the liver more sensitive to the production of IGF-1 when growth hormone is released. Why is this important? Because IGF-1 is the most anabolic hormone in the body.

You don't need huge amounts of carbohydrates throughout the day, but stimulating an insulin release once or twice a day will certainly support the muscle building process.

Carbohydrates and stress management

Another benefit of carbohydrates is that they can help you better manage stress and anxiety by increasing serotonin release and lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels. Carbohydrates can indeed help you relax.

The link between carbohydrates and serotonin is well known and probably the reason behind the term 'feel good foods'. When you are sad, you tend to eat junk and you feel better. This is probably because what you eat increases serotonin levels.

We have two key amino acids - tyrosine and tryptophan. Tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine (which boosts the nervous system) and tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin (which has a calming effect).

When you eat protein, both amino acids are present in the digestive tract and can compete for absorption and transportation. The more carbohydrates you eat with protein, the more tryptophan is favored. If you eat fewer carbohydrates relative to the protein you consume, tyrosine is preferred.

By consuming more carbohydrates with your protein, you promote the production of serotonin, which calms the brain, reduces anxiety and lowers cortisol levels. If you eat protein and few (or no) carbohydrates, you will release more dopamine, which has a stimulating effect.

Eating carbohydrates will also lower your cortisol levels. Eating carbohydrates will keep your blood sugar levels higher, reducing the need for cortisol release.

Last but not least, by reducing your cortisol levels you will also reduce your adrenaline levels. Cortisol increases the conversion of noradrenaline into adrenaline. So you can use carbohydrates to lower your cortisol levels and relax.

The right amount of carbohydrates per day

Depending on your insulin sensitivity, carbohydrates should make up 40 to 60% of your non-protein calories - your daily calorie intake minus the calories you consume in the form of protein.

So if you eat 2200 kcal per day and your protein intake is 250 grams (250 grams of protein = 1000 kcal), that leaves you with 1200 kcal of non-protein calories per day.

  • 40% of 1200 kcal is 480 kcal or 120 grams of carbohydrates
  • 50% of 1200 kcal is 600 kcal or 150 grams of carbohydrates
  • 60% of 1200 kcal is 720 kcal or 180 grams of carbohydrates

The rest of your non-protein calories should be fat.

The more body fat you carry around, the closer your carbohydrate intake should be to 40%, and the leaner you are, the closer it should be to 60%. When I put one of my clients on a diet, we start with fewer carbohydrates. As the diet progresses, the carbohydrate intake usually increases.

Carbohydrate timing

The most important time to consume carbohydrates is around your workout. Immediately before or during your workout you should consume up to 50% of your daily carbohydrate intake. I would take a maximum of 90 grams here. The average is 40-60 grams.

The other time when carbohydrates are most important is in the evening. This may sound counterintuitive, but to maximize recovery, muscle growth and quality of life, this is the best option. This will help you relax at the end of the day and lower cortisol levels. You should not consume your carbohydrates with meals before your training session. Why? Because you want to boost dopamine production so that your nervous system is more activated during exercise.

So if you train at 4pm, you could plan your carbohydrates as follows:

  • Breakfast: Protein and fats
  • Lunch: Protein and fats
  • Snack: protein and fats
  • Training nutrition: protein and carbohydrates
  • Dinner: Protein and carbohydrates
  • Snack: Protein and carbohydrates

The most important rule is: No carbohydrates at pre-workout meals (except immediately before and during training) - and divide your carbohydrates between training time and post-workout meals.

Include carbohydrates in the last two meals of the day to help you relax. Eating carbs at lunchtime could rob you of your mental sharpness when you need it most. If you consume carbohydrates before and during your workout, then you won't need any more carbohydrates after your workout.

In our example above, we consume 2200 kcal, 250 grams of protein and 150 grams of carbohydrates per day. This could look like this throughout the day:

  • Breakfast: 40g protein and fat
  • Lunch: 40g protein and fat
  • Snack: 40g protein and fat
  • Training: 40g protein and 60g carbohydrates
  • Dinner: 40g protein and 60g carbohydrates
  • Snack: 40g protein and 30g carbohydrates

During a mass-building phase, we often add protein and carbohydrates after training, as we generally consume more carbohydrates and calories during this phase.

Carbohydrate types

So far, everything I've said seems to fit with the IIFYM (if it fits your macros) nutritional strategy, where you can eat any food as long as you meet your macronutrient requirements. However, food quality also plays a role in making optimal changes to your body composition.

If you take an obese person who eats 6000 kcal per day in the form of junk food and put them on a 2500 kcal diet with 250 grams of protein, then that person will lose weight regardless of the carbohydrate and fat sources. However, if we are talking about a person who is already in good shape and wants to optimize their body, then food quality does play a role.

When it comes to carbohydrates, apart from the carbohydrates around your workout, you should look for a lower glycemic load, which amounts to primarily natural and unprocessed carbohydrates to minimize the insulin spike. When insulin levels are higher, it takes longer for insulin levels to return to baseline. And as long as insulin levels are elevated, fat mobilization is less efficient.

Try these carbohydrates for non-workout times:

  • Sprouted grains (Ezekiel bread)
  • Oats (oat flakes)
  • rice
  • Rice noodles
  • Quinoa
  • Potatoes (all varieties)
  • beans
  • lentils
  • berries

You can consume more carbohydrates during a muscle-building phase and also eat carbohydrates after training.

Fat intake

The amount of fat you should consume per day is quite easy to determine. You calculate your total calorie intake (let's say 2200 kcal), your protein intake (let's say 250 grams or 1000 kcal) and your carbohydrate intake (50% of your non-protein calories, so 600 kcal or 150 grams).

From there, it's just a matter of filling the gap.

  • You have 2200 kcal per day.
  • Subtract 1000 kcal for the protein.
  • Subtract 600 kcal for carbohydrates.
  • This leaves 600 kcal for fat.

Each gram of fat has roughly 9 kcal, so 600 kcal corresponds to about 67 grams of fat.

If we look at the previous nutrition plan, it now looks like this:

  • Breakfast: 40g protein and 22g fat
  • Lunch: 40g protein and 22g fat
  • Snack: 40g protein and 22g fat
  • Training: 40g protein and 60g carbohydrates
  • Dinner: 40g protein and 60g carbohydrates
  • Snack: 40g protein and 30g carbohydrates

The daily meal plan

I'm not going to give you a sample meal plan as calorie intake will vary based on your body mass and goals. But once you've done these calculations, it's just plug and play. Depending on the time of day you train, you can plan your meals as follows.

Early morning training (no time for breakfast)

  • Training: protein and carbohydrates
  • Lunch: Protein and fat
  • Snack: protein and fat
  • Dinner: Protein and carbohydrates
  • Snack: protein and carbohydrates

Training in the morning (with time for breakfast)

  • Breakfast: protein and fat
  • Training: protein and carbohydrates
  • Lunch: protein and fat Protein and fat
  • Snack: protein and fat
  • Dinner: Protein and carbohydrates
  • Snack: protein and carbohydrates

Training in the afternoon

  • Breakfast: Protein and fat
  • Lunch: protein and fat Protein and fat
  • Training: Protein and carbohydrates
  • Snack: Protein and fat
  • Dinner: Protein and carbohydrates
  • Snack: Protein and carbohydrates

Training in the late afternoon

  • Breakfast: Protein and fat
  • Lunch: protein and fat Protein and fat
  • Snack: Protein and fat
  • Workout: Protein and carbohydrates
  • Dinner: Protein and carbohydrates
  • Snack: Protein and carbohydrates

As you may have noticed, I haven't added an evening workout. For a steroid-free exerciser, this is by far the worst time to train.

The effort and the results

Optimal nutrition takes some effort, as precision is much more important for a steroid-free exerciser than for a chemically supported athlete. You have to calculate your calories, your protein intake, your carbohydrates and your fats. You need to weigh your food and you need to adjust your nutritional intake on a weekly basis.

But if you are serious about optimizing your body, this is what needs to be done. If you're happy with "good enough" then you don't need to be meticulous about your diet, but don't be pissed off if your results are mediocre.

By Christian Thibaudeau

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