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Saturday
Feb062010

MMA's Phillipe Nover talks nutrition

When Phillipe Nover was featured on Season 8 of Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter", he was known for three main things.

  1. Fainting during the orientation speech on the first day  
  2. Having explosive knockout power
  3. Being fanatic about his sushi

One of the other fighters started eating his sushi out of the fridge for a while before a few (gross) measures were taken to teach that fighter a lesson about messing with another man's food.  What wasn't lost on me was Phillipe's belief in eating well and taking care of his body, and the results showed as he advanced to the final round before losing to Efrain Escuadero.

  In an interview with PR Cole of Fuel The Fighter (Twitter: @fuelthefighter), Phillipe outlines his approach to nutrition and trying to keep things "clean" and natural while still having enough in the tank for his intense MMA sessions.

Among other things, he mentions his preference for training early on an empty stomach (or close to it) which I have also found better results with in my own experience.  Phillipe also covers how he gets healthy fruit/vegetable-based carbs in his system as opposed to grains, and how to cook meals based around lean proteins.

Also check out his "Incredible Hulk" shake receipe, which is pretty similar to what I try to get in every day as well.

http://www.mmafighting.com/2009/05/11/fuel-the-fighter-food-fitness-with-phillipe-nover/

Key Takeaway:  It takes slightly more planning and attention to detail, but it is VERY possible to eat a clean diet based around natural foods, fruits, and vegetables and still train at an intense level every day.  Easy-to-access grains like breads and pastas can be a cop-out, since the body does not burn off these processed foods as efficiently as more natural ones.

 

Sunday
Jan172010

Should I stop eating grains? - Part 1

At dinner with friends the other night, I had to explain why I no longer eat grains or processed breads.

This is admittedly a long topic that warrants LOTS of discussion (there are numerous articles and books out there right now) so I'm going to keep things fairly brief.  Even still, I'll have to break this up into a series of mini-posts to give this complicated topic the time it warrants.

To begin - I'll just cover the changes I've experienced in my own body since I quit eating grains.

My entire life I used to begin the day with a giant bowl of cereal.  Giant is not an exaggeration, I used punch bowls or popcorn bowls to eat my cereal.  I also battled allergies and nasal congestion throughout high school and college.  I was also a big fan of french fries, donuts, pasta, and two grains that still call my name to this day - bagels and blueberry muffins. I'm biased, but I also should say that my mother makes the best pancakes available in the continental U.S. 

I was on a cut diet program as recently as a few months ago that (in a nutshell) called for 4-4.5 days of very low carbs and low calories, followed by a full body depletion workout, then immediate carb loading with as many starches and grains as you can put into your system in 48 hours.

It was enjoyable, but I never got as lean as I hoped I would.  I also had extreme energy crashes from the spikes in my insulin and blood sugar.  These carb load days usually fell on Fridays, and I could never last more than an hour before I badly needed another nap. 

I switched to a move high-protein, moderate-fat, low-carb (non-grain) approach, championed by guys like Marc Lobliner with Team Scivation (www.scivation.com) or Mark Sisson (www.marksdailyapple.com) after feeling like there was no way I was going to lean out by gorging on bagels, muffins, pasta, and donuts each week.

Carbohydrates are still required for energy (whether in complex or simple form) so I get them from fruit/plant sources most days like grapefruits, oranges, blueberries, green beans, broccoli, and as many leafy greens like spinach that I can cram into the blender (thanks to advice from guys like Craig Ballantyne and "the Raw Model").

Subsequently, my energy levels are much more steady.  My skin is clearer and I'm as vascular in my arms as I've ever been.  I'm getting closer to having the level of leanness in my abs and torso that I've been chasing.  I don't wake up feeling like I've been in the cage with Brock Lesnar either.  I'm not saying these things are "cause and effect" with eliminating the grains, I'm just providing my experience and letting you draw your own conclusions.

Sunday
Jan172010

Can you really put spinach in a smoothie?

Yes, you can.  And no, it doesn't ruin the taste. 

Seriously.

I wouldn't have believed it myself if I hadn't listened to Craig Ballantyne (and watched his video).

I didn't have as much trouble with my blender as Craig did, but his advice is spot-on.  Adding leafy greens like spinach or kale to your smoothies or blended drinks is a great way to get high volumes of plant nutrients into your daily diet without having to sit down behind a punch bowl-sized salad three times each day. 

This is sure to be only the first in many discussions about "green smoothies", if you are anything like me (or most people) it will probably take a few times for you to get used to the idea of combining spinach in a blender with the rest of your smoothie.

Here's another video of Atlanta Falcons' tight end Tony Gonzalez using spinach (and a bunch of other veggies) in his blender drink:

Sunday
Jan172010

How long after a workout do I have to eat carbs?

Someone asked me today, "how long do I have after a workout to eat my carbs?"

She had just been at the gym taking a lunch hour fitness class and wanted to know just how much of a free "window" she had left to eat a few carbs.  Well, my answer as it almost always seems to be was, "...it depends..."

As anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of post-workout nutrition would tell you, there are several interrelated factors that determine whether the carbs you are eating are going to refuel your muscle glycogen stores, or being stored away as excess body fat (which, since you are reading this I feel safe assuming you do not want to happen).

Factor #1 - How intense was your workout?

Factor #2 - How long has it been since your workout ended?

Factor #3 - What type of carbs are you about to eat?

Factor #4 - What has your carb intake looked like for the past 3-4 days?

There are even more factors than this at play, but I think you get the general concept.  I'll try to attack these one at a time.

Factor #1 - Workout intensity has a number of post-workout effects on one's body.  Generally speaking, high-intensity exercise (sprinting, a spin class, intense circuit training with weights, etc) will deplete your body's glycogen stores moreso than low-intensity exercise (unless you put in a marathon/triathlon-style workout).  So when those glycogen stores are fairly empty, all the more reason your post-workout carbs will be soaked up by the right places (namely your muscles).  Not only that, but in a general sense when you worked up a sweat and raised your heart rate during a workout, your body burns (slightly) more calories post-workout while trying to return to homeostasis.

Factor #2 - There is generally considered to be a one-hour window of time post-workout when your carb intake will be shuttled directly to thirsty muscles.  However the "lower" you fall on factor #1 (ie: lower intensity training) then the shorter time period you will have for your post-workout carbs to go straight to muscles and skip past the fat stores.

Factor #3 - This one is arguably the MOST important in a lot of ways.  So important actually that I'll need to come back to this for another day.  But for now, if you absolutely have to eat simple or starchy carbs (white breads, bagels, muffins, etc) then immediately following an intense workout is the absolute best time.  The "simplicity" of how easily they are broken down and get into the blood stream is in most cases a bad thing (since it's easily converted to fat) however post-intense workout this actually works to your benefit.

Factor #4 - Think of your body's carb stores (muscle capacity to contain glycogen) as fuel tanks.  If you've eaten a carb heavy diet for the past few days, then your tanks are likely either still full, or moderately full even with an intense workout within the past hour.  You won't need more post-workout carbs as much as a person who's been going low carb for the past 3-4 days.

Here is another (longer) read on post-workout nutrition:

http://www.intense-workout.com/post_workout.html

Key Takeaway: The harder you've worked out...and the lower your carb intake has been before today...the better the opportunity you have to consume some "bad carbs" you've normally been avoiding.  Just be sure not to overdo it.

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